Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 3, originally released June 12th, 2013.
Shelby: I AM GROOT!
The Guardians (plus Iron Man) have been taken prisoner by Spartax, and J-Son means to make an example of them all. He scolds the Badoon member of his little galaxy council for the attack on Earth, and tells them his son will receive no leniency. The rest of the council wonders what makes J-Son think he is king of everyone instead of king of Spartax while the Guardians are loaded in stasis tubes and their ship stripped of weapons. Groot gets a growth spurt just in time to free the rest of the team, who in turn manage to take the battleship upon which they were imprisoned. Quill sends out a message to the rest of the Spartaxian fleet, asking them if their king was willing to imprison his own son for helping people who needed it, what would he do to them if they stepped out of line?
What sort of game is Spartax playing at, here? There are some definite space shenanigans going on, and all revolving around Earth. Dickish though it may be, technically J-Son was right to arrest Quill and the rest of the Guardians; we can argue about why he issued his “hands off” rule all we want, but it was the law and Quill broke it to fight the Badoon. But why on Earth would he take Tony prisoner for defending his own home? More importantly, why would the king not care in the least if Tony lived or died under their guard?
It’s looking like J-Son wants to start the very conflict with Earth he claimed to avoid with his no touching rule. Maybe he and the Badoon are up to something; that line about the Sisterhood executing the attack is a load of bull. I re-read the last couple issues, and it was definitely the Brotherhood who attacked London. This has to be beyond J-Son looking for some father/son time with Quill, there are machinations, schemes even, going on in the background.
Nefarious plotting aside, Brian Michael Bendis is fast becoming one of my favorites. The team dynamic he’s developed here in just three issues is outstanding. The Guardians are a casual lot, as rag-tag space pirates tend to be, but they still trust and respect Quill, who leads them well. It’s interesting to compare his leadership style to that of his father’s; J-Son seems to rule through brute strength and bullying, whereas Quill leads by establishing that mutual trust between him and his followers. One is the king of an entire planetary system, the other the captain of a small group of outsiders, but I’d argue the latter is the more successful. Bendis’ exploration of “outsiders” is also quite interesting. As the Spartaxian guards ransack the Guardians’ ship, one claims it’s the groups’ otherness that “holds them together.” He says there’s poetry to that, the idea of finding others no one wants and being alone together. The other guard replies he can “think of [nothing] more lonely and sad” than to be the only one of your kind. Personally, I agree with the first guard; there’s a certain harmony to finding people who are the same kind of weird as you are. If you have to be the only upright, sentient, asshole raccoon in the galaxy, you might as well team up with Thanos’ only daughter and whatever Groot is.
I love all the guys on the team, but I think Groot might be my favorite. Artists Steve McNiven and Sarah Pichelli do beautiful work, but as much as I love their wide, cinematic panels, Groot is where they really shine. When you have a character with virtually no dialog, it’s up to the art to show us we aren’t dealing with some sort of robot.
The acting in these panels is astounding. First, Groot is concerned for his friend. Next is consternation as he tries to figure out which unmarked button will let everyone out. This quickly changes to panic when he realizes he turned off life support, followed by worry and fear that he was too late in smashing open the stasis pods, that his friends might be gone. All that from a tree with a three-word vocabulary. It’s impressive work, and it makes Groot just as well-rounded a member of the team as anyone else.
This book has a little bit of everything I like in comic books. There’s epic battle scenes, complicated political dealings, deeper themes, and even some quieter character moments. Simply put, it’s just a heckuva lot of fun to read. I can’t believe how enamored I am with this title, considering I had never even heard of any of these characters five months ago. What do you think, Patrick? Are you as GROOT as I am about this book?
Groot’s great. We haven’t had many opportunities to see what he’s about, but it seems like he’s just the sweetest creature in the galaxy, with an innate sense of justice and doing right by his friends. We saw him deliver a similar ass-whooping in the Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic 4, so I was impossibly excited when he exploded on the scene halfway through this issue. [Incidentally, we are covering all four of those Infinite Comics today. The short version is that they’re a ton of fun, absolutely worth the ZERO DOLLARS you have to pay for them, and a great introduction to the non-humans on the team.]
There does appear to be an awful lot of space-intrigue behind Spartax’s actions, and while we don’t have the whole picture yet, I trust that we can cobble together a handful of half-answers from a number of the other series we’re reading. The council of what-are-unquestionably-bad-guys might have established that they need to keep an eye on earth because Earthlings have rebuffed countless extraterrestrial invasions with their unique superheroes, but I suspect there’s Something Bigger at play here. We’re coming up to the dawning of Infinity, and Johnathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers titles both play different high-stakes games with the Earth at the center. Maybe I’m looking for connections that aren’t there, but wouldn’t it be fun if all of these Earth-Is-Special phenomenon could be collapsed into one governing concept?
Shelby, you mentioned how well the whole team is written, but I found Tony’s dialogue to be a particular standout. Even if he only gets a few panels before they slap him in a stasis-tube, Tony rattles off a bunch of attempts to change his fortune with his captors, switching tactics ON THE FLY, and usually while announcing that that’s what he’s doing. Mostly, though, Tony’s just having fun with his enemies – he even gets to ask about the universal translator with a sense of childlike wonder that jumps right off the page.
The coloring on Tony once he gets in that tube is pretty ccccccoooll too. In fact, the coloring throughout this issue is incredibly dynamic. Justin Ponsor adopts a separate color palette for Spartax City, the Spartax Battle Cruiser and the bad-guy council, giving each location a distinct visual and emotional vibe. But some of the simplest coloring decisions are also the most pleasing. Here’s my favorite:
Not only are our heroes’ colorful blasts a stark contrast to the white and gray uniforms of their Spartax captors, but they’re all different colors. It highlights the notion that they’re a group of weirdos that happened to find a commonalities in their shared outsider-statuses. There’s a full-team panel a few pages earlier, but for my money – this is the series of panels that cuts to the quick of what this team is.
Between the 0.1 issue, the Infinite Comics and now this first story arc, I feel like I’m sufficiently introduced to this team and how they work together. They seem like a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what they get up to when they’re masters of their own destiny and not just reacting to whatever shitty thing Papa Quill’s just done. Bendis obviously lets himself have a little more fun with these characters than he does with X-Men, even though a pervasive theme of otherness pervades both titles. I guess “fitting in” has never been an option for the Guardians.
(Also, one of the Spartax guards asked if the Guardians traveled with a “Kaliklakian,” which is a reference to Bug, a character that used to run around with Peter Quill back in the day. The line-up for the Guardians could always see some expansion — we already know that Angela will be joining up with them in the next story arc — so Bug could be on the docket in the future. My real point for bringing this up is just to point out how fun it is to say “Kaliklakian.” Go ahead – say it: you’ll be happy you did.)
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?