May 20, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Guarding the Galaxy, Part 14: It Begins!

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Part Fourteen: It Begins!

Following the success of Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest, I can only assume Marvel asked themselves the same question I’ve been asking, what if all of these great reinvigorated characters all starred together in one ongoing book? Well, that’s exactly what happened, and it’s the book I’ve been eagerly teasing since we started this long journey. We got a glimpse of it with the Annihilation: Starlord mini-series, but now we get the real deal in the ongoing Guardians of the Galaxy series. How would Starlord, Adam Warlock, Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, and Quasar work together? As a comic book, excellent, but as a team, not so well.

So, let’s get started, and see if I’ve overhyped this book to levels it can’t possibly reach.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Starlord, Rocket Raccoon, Phyla-Vell, Adam Warlock, Drax, and Gamora are locked in combat against a group of followers aboard a Universal Church of Truth templeship.

(Intercut between the scenes are testimonials from various members of the team.)

Two weeks ago, Starlord pitches his idea to Nova and Phyla, for a proactive force ready and assembled to take on threats before they happen. Two devastating wars in short succession have left the galaxy reeling, and he doesn’t believe it can withstand another one.Nova is too busy, being the last surviving member of the Nova Corps, but he suggests Gamora and Drax, who both could use a purpose in life.

Back to present day, the team humorously tries to decide on a team name, while in the middle of combat.

Flashback, two days after the end of the Phalanx Conquest, Starlord enlists the services of Rocket Raccoon, while the two of them enjoy some drinks.

Back to the action, Adam Warlock clears a path through the crowd. The next room is a massive chamber that houses the U.C.T.’s faith generators, which literally soaks up the faith of their worshippers and converts it into energy.

Three days after the end of the Phalanx invasion, Drax and Phyla meet at the grave of Moondragon. Since he accomplished what he was created to do by killing Thanos, Phyla offers him a new purpose by joining the team.

Back to the templeship, the team has been working to close a fissure in space, which, exacerbated by the templeship’s power battery, is tearing open a sub-fissure.

The U.C.T. occupants of the ship, afraid for their lives, teleport out, leaving behind their followers.

Four days after the end of the war, Nova talks to Gamora about joining the team (who is upset because she thought he called for her up for some post-war lovin’).

Back to their present predicament, the templeship has already breached the fissure. The team has to neutralize the font, and render the craft inert before it ruptures the fissure. Before they can do anything, a massive alien monstrosity appears out of the fissure.

Adam and Phyla hold back the creature, while Rocket Raccoon neutralizes the font with a large explosive device.

Rocket blows up the font, while Phyla and Adam absorb the released energy and use it to push the creature back to where it came from.

Five days after the end of the conquest, Adam Warlock addresses the team. He talks about how space has been damaged. The Annihilation Wave was so destructive, it weakened the fabric of space-time, creating fissures in space. The structure of the universe is in danger of falling apart. Things that exist outside of our universe now have an opportunity to pry their way through these fissures.

Adam believes Starlord’s idea of a proactive force is a good one, and is desperately needed to keep the galaxy stable.

On Sacrosanct, the homeworld of the Universal Church of Truth, one of the individuals that abandoned the templeship addresses their Matriarch. He tells her that the templeship was attacked by super-powered individuals, and that they slaughtered eighty-nine members of the crew.

She orders him to summon the Cardinals, to speak to her about this problem.

The team regroups at their new control center on Knowhere. Its continuum cortex is an ideal method for them to respond quickly anywhere in the galaxy.

Cosmo, head of security (and telepathic Russian dog), greets them upon their return.

A fully recovered Mantis, watering a still growing Groot, greets them when they reach their quarters.

Rocket offers more suggestions for a team name. Mantis, in her confessional, reveals that the team will agree on the Guardians of the Galaxy in three hours. Also, nine months from now they will be betrayed and killed by one of their own.

Adam is reviewing the deep-range monitor, and discovers a temporal fissure in the vicinity of 56 Hydronis. The team prepares to move out to investigate.

During his confessional, Starlord comments that thankfully their first mission wasn’t some complicated alternate reality situation.

Meanwhile, on the floating frozen rock near 56 Hydronis, a figure holding the shield of Captain America is trapped in the ice.

My brain thoughts: See, I told you it would be great if all of these characters were in one single book. I remember being initially disappointed that Bug didn’t get the call, but it’s a lot of characters to handle as it is. Plus, I told you Cosmo, Knowhere, and Paul Pelletier would make it over from the Nova series, and here they are. Pelletier does an excellent job on the pencils. (He’s a nice guy to boot. I met him at Megacon in Orlando, FL, and he drew me an awesome sketch of Groot.) The implementation of the “confessionals” turn out to be a useful storytelling technique, used for both exposition and humor.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann

The team arms up, action movie style, and prepares to depart for 56 Hydronis.

When they arrive, the fissure is noticeably worse than they had anticipated. Something is aggravating it.

Adam Warlock attempts to divine the answer. He’s not able to determine the cause, but he does know the mass they are standing on is not native to their reality. The rock is frozen in time, “limbo ice” as he refers to it.

Phyla senses a structure inside the ice and melts it away to see. What they find is the front gate to the Avengers mansion. The team is shaken by the uncertainness of the situation.

A disgusting alien creature breaks free from the ice and attacks.

Phyla’s blasts accelerated the thawing process, and now the things entombed in the ice are waking up, including, the mysterious figure holding the shield of Captain America. The team fights against the giant beast. Suddenly, Cap’s shield comes sailing through, freeing Adam Warlock from the creature’s grasp.

The shield returns to the person that threw it, Vance Astrovik, also known as Major Victory of the original Guardians of the Galaxy.

He collapses. Adam tells the team to prepare to leave. The mass itself is what’s aggravating the fissure, a concentration of frozen time that is expanding as it thaws. He’s going to try and disintegrate the mass completely.

The rest of the team bugs out, while Adam and Phyla stay behind to destroy the mass. They activate their passports and teleport out just as the rock explodes.

On Sacrosanct, the homeworld of the Universal Church of Truth, the Matriarch meets with Cardinal Raker. She tells him of the attack on their templeship, and provides him footage of the attackers. One of the attackers in particular, they find unsettling, and she orders him to bring her confirmation of his or her identity.

Back on Knowhere, Phyla takes some time off to shop for some groceries, accompanied by Cosmo. They run into Drax, having just returned from the continuum cortex and acting strangely.

In the team control center, Starlord wonders if finding Major Victory won’t be the catalyst for the team in the same way the Avengers finding Captain America was.

Rocket comments that the Guardians of the Galaxy is a cool team name. Mantis has finished her examination of Vance Astrovik. She theorizes that he is very old, his suit is the only thing keeping him alive, and that he is temporally dislocated.

She talks to Vance, who can’t remember anything, but is very concerned with the current date. He knows he travelled back through dimensions outside time for something really important, but he can’t remember what.

Gamora discovers another fissure on the deep-range monitor, at Binary Stasis Twelve, which is a Dyson Sphere. The team arrives on the sphere, which is a sun enclosed within an artificial shell. They land in the habitable zone, which is protected by the tinted sun shield. An incoming teleport announces the arrival of Raker, and the other Cardinals of the Universal Church of Truth.

My brain thoughts: The Universal Church of Truth is a fanatical and intolerant religious empire, originally founded by Adam Warlock’s evil self, the Magus. The U.C.T. made its first appearance in Strange Tales#178. Created by Jim Starlin, it originally was a not so-subtle representation of Starlin’s opinions on organized religion. In order to keep myself out of as much trouble as possible, I will refrain from saying anything else about the subject. (Politics and religion, avoid them in social conversations unless you want to start a fight. Money too, I guess. The horribleness of Quasar and Superman are fair game though. That’s right, I put Superman on the same level as Quasar.)

(Duy here. Damn you, Smith.)

Guardians of the Galaxy #3. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann

The Cardinals are powered by belief, drawing on the energy stored in the Universal Church of Truth’s “belief batteries.” Basically, they can do anything if they believe they can. The Guardians are not faring well in battle against them. Drax and the others do what they can to fight back, but the Cardinals are too powerful.

Suddenly, a giant amorphous blob full of skeletal remains comes rumbling up behind them.

Mantis and Vance continue to talk, while she sprays a still re-growing Groot.

A flash of light appears, revealing a figure that blasts Vance to the ground.

The man attacks Mantis, knocking her out, but gives Vance time to counterattack with his shield. Vance is surprised that he knows the man’s name is Starhawk.

Back on the Dyson Sphere, the team flees from the approaching blob. A Cardinal is swallowed up and killed by the unknown substance.

According to Adam Warlock, the blob is all fifty-two hundred residents of the Sphere, fused into one dreadful biomass. They had been conducting genetic research, and opened a fissure in the structure of their own DNA.

The biomass has now engulfed two Cardinals and their belief power, which is accelerating the entire biomass to critical. They have to destroy it before it opens a full-on fissure. Before they can, the Cardinals confront them again. They accuse Adam of summoning the mass, and attack Starlord with a blast, sending him reeling. When Adam rushes to save Starlord from falling into the mass, the Cardinals stab him in the back.

With the both of them laying there bleeding, the Cardinals depart.

With Warlock out of commission, it’s now up to Phyla, Drax, Gamora, and Rocket to figure out a way to destroy the mass.

Back on Knowhere, the fight between Vance and Starhawk rips through the facility, spilling into the continuum cortex. Starhawk teleports away, but too much damage has already been done to the teleportation batteries, leaving the Guardians stranded.

Back on the sphere, Starlord comes up with a plan to lift the sun shield, frying the biomass as well as everything else. They locate the controls and open the shield. The biomass ignites, as the team runs in the other direction. Unfortunately, their passports are not working, and they are stuck.

Phyla seals them in an energy field, but she won’t be able to hold it for long. The biomass is fried, so Drax asks Phyla to shield him while he returns to the control panel to lower the shield back down. Phyla isn’t sure she can shield anyone, and before anyone can make another move, Gamora runs off into the flames. Phyla protects her as much as she can, but the rest is going to be up to Gamora’s healing factor.

Her body burning to a crisp, Gamora makes it to the control panel and lowers the shield.

Later, in their confessionals, the team praises Gamora’s dedication and heart. Cosmo regrets that the team was stuck for fifteen hours while the continuum cortex was repaired. A crispy-fried Gamora hides under a cloak. Adam is recovering, and angry that the U.C.T. interfered with yet another one of their missions.

Back on the homeworld of the Universal Church of Truth, Raker confirms the identity of Adam Warlock to the Matriarch, using the blood and tissue samples he obtained when he stabbed him.

Leaving them to wonder, if the true Adam Warlock is working with the Guardians, then who is it they have in their cocoon?

My brain thoughts: Just like in the Starlord mini-series, the full wonderfulness of the book can’t be determined just by a beat-by-beat recap of the events of the books. The special sauce comes in the characters interactions with each other, and the humor. The confessionals really provide a great vehicle for humorous commentary throughout the action, and insights into characterization. Old school Guardians of the Galaxy fans (like that Tano — [Duy here. Yes, I admit it. I have an almost full run of the 90s Guardians series.]) should be intrigued about the inclusion of classic characters like Vance Astrovik and Starhawk. (I know I read old Guardians comics as a kid, but I couldn’t tell you if it was the ‘70s/’80s appearances, or the more popular ‘90s version. Regardless, I remember next to nothing about any of them. They had their shot, and they blew it. It’s time for Rocket and friends to shine.)

My final brain thoughts: Enclosed suns, crispy-fried Gamora, limbo ice, alien monsters, angry Starhawk, talking Russian dogs, bomb-tossing raccoons, and religious cults of death.

It’s entirely possible I may have overhyped this book to disappointing levels for you, but I doubt it. If you don’t like this book there is something wrong with your brain. (Or you just don’t like good comics. Or you don’t like the comics I like, which is the more sane and logical answer, but those things have no place on the internet. I say good day to you sir. I say good day!) Reading the books all the way through, going all the way back to the Drax mini-series, really helps you develop a deep appreciation for every single character in the book, which only makes it that much more satisfying when they all combine together into one team. The only thing you could even compare it to is when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby assembled the original Avengers into one spectacular comic all the way back in the olden times. Even then, I don’t think those characters had the years of development at that time, that the Guardians got throughout the course of two crossover events. It’s really quite impressive. Anyway, if you can’t get excited about a comic starring a talking raccoon, a telepathic Russian dog, a walking tree, Mantis, the decapitated head of a Celestial, and a hot green woman wearing a bikini, then you need to find another hobby. (May I suggest coin-collecting?!) All that, plus a distinct lack of Marv Wolfman and Tobey Maguire, what more could you ask for?

Next time, Skrulls!

Back Issue Ben kept typing "Adam Strange" instead of "Adam Warlock" throughout this. I'm convinced he did it to give me more work to do. In the meantime, you can get the TPB of the series here:

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments on The Comics Cube need approval (mostly because of spam) and no anonymous comments are allowed. Please leave your name if you wish to leave a comment. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.