Patrick: Marvel Studios makes no great secret of their film plans. We already know that a Guardians of the Galaxy movie is to be released in 2014 as part of their second phase of Avengers movies. Unlike Thor or Hulk or Iron Man, regular movie goers have absolutely no idea who these “Guardians” are, and — truth be told — I could use the introduction as well. Enter: Guardians of the Galaxy: Infinite Comic, a series of free digital comics that will introduce the four non-human members of the team.
Patrick: Right out the gate, we’re introduced to the brute of the group: Drax. His story is appropriately bullheaded. He’s minding his business in a sad little bar on Rigel-3, when he’s accosted by a group of locals. For reasons that aren’t ever totally made clear, Drax is no longer welcome in that system. Drax finishes his drink and tries to walk away, but the locals start a tussle. Drax fends them all off pretty well before the leader uses some kind of psychic-magic-whatever to bring the fight in to Drax’ mind. Even though he’s the lumbering tank, Drax proves to be just as strong in mind, and dispatches his opponents there as well. Then Peter Quill, the Star-Lord, shows up and tells Drax that they need to get the band back together to protect the Earth. Seeing the opportunity to do “something worthwhile,” Drax agrees.
That repeated chorus of “something worthwhile” says a lot about this character. Drax starts the issue alone in this sad little bar — it’s not a bustling hell-hole like the Cantina. He’s not looking for work, he’s not drinking with friends, he’s not looking to gain recognition for his many heroic deeds, he’s just having a nice goblet of space-beer. Then the locals come up to him and start spouting off his accomplishments (which sound pretty impressive to me):
I suppose that sorta begs the question of why they thought they could take on such a storied warrior. The fight is clearly beneath Drax, and even when he has to switch-up his tactics, he’s never out of sorts, never overwhelmed. It initially comes off and that action-movie-aloofness a la Jason Statham in every movie you’ve ever seen him in. But I love the idea that he’s bored being so cool. He wants to do something important — getting in bar brawls is his day job and Quill showing up on Rigel-3 is his big break. It’s a big dumb story that becomes much more thoughtful on second look.
Shelby: I think there’s a lot of depth here in Drax. Sure, he’s the brute, I get it, but he’s not just having a brew; dude is fucking sad.
There is something in Drax’s past that haunts him, haunts him enough to get drunk alone in a sad, dingy bar. I suppose I could be projecting, seeing as I don’t know anything about this character, but he strikes me as the Tragic Hero, the one who Has Seen Too Much. That’s why he’s practically pleading with Quill for something worthwhile; it appears his life has become rather empty, and he desperately needs something to fill it.
Brian Michael Bendis’ story is good, it paints a clear picture of this character pretty succinctly, but I was stuck by Mike Oeming’s art. It’s got this great, German-Expressionist-woodcut vibe to it that is really appropriate for the character. It’s bold and heavy-handed, but still very expressive.
Shelby: Meet Rocket Raccoon, everyone’s favorite “genetically altered one of a kind science experiment with a questionable origin story.” He’s a raccoon, a ferocious fighter, and kind of a dick.
Obviously, I love him. He’s in a bar, telling a story about taking down Ronan the Accuser single-handed to impress a lady, when some drunk slob comments that he’s never thought he’d see another guy like Rocket. At first, Rocket cockily replies there isn’t anyone else like him anywhere, but when the guy persists Rocket takes it personal. He follows the guy out, threatening him for more info. The guy gets real nervous and makes the rookie mistake of saying the people he works for wouldn’t want him talking about it. Naturally, this prompts a mysterious, hooded sniper to blow a hole in his gut. Rocket takes chase, but loses the sniper, and is left alone and bewildered that there is someone else like him in the universe.
I love how so alone Rocket looks when he finds out he isn’t truly alone, that there is someone else like him. Personally, I find a great comfort in finding people like me; when my friends have the same weirdo ideas that I do, I feel relieved to know there are other weirdos out there, and that we can be weird together. But I suppose there’s a big leap between knowing there are people like me and knowing I’m not the only person anywhere. Rocket has made his uniqueness an integral part of who he is; instead of being sad he’s the only walking, talking, douchey raccoon in the universe, he is going to aggressively be the only one. Finding out there’s another means what makes him who he is is based on a lie. That’ll knock even the cockiest raccoon down a peg or two.
Mikyzptlk: I know so very little about Rocket’s questionable origins that this issue may as well have been my introduction to the character. As such, I must say, I’m completely hooked on the guy. Besides being a ridiculous, anthropomorphic raccoon character with jet packs, he’s funny, he’s flawed, and he’s sympathetic.
Awww, poor Rocket. I totally dig the idea behind these Infinite Comics. Bendis is using them quite cleverly by presenting fans and newcomers alike with seeds of the various story elements that will undoubtedly play out in the main series. I’m definitely curious to find out what exactly is going on with this other raccoon, and why he or she (though I’m guessing “she” for some reason) is so intent on keeping others from finding out about him or her.
Of course, I’m only assuming the shooter in this issue is the new racoon. Can you blame me though? The shooter looked fairly short, and definitely had some kind of racoon-eyes thing going on. The point is, something is definitely up, and in only a few short pages, Bendis has managed to get me to care an awful lot about this strange little racoon dude.
Mikyzptlk: The same can be said for Gamora, though for entirely different reasons. Like Rocket, and hell, everyone else in the GotG, I know very little about this character. Fortunately, Bendis gives an introduction that is both succinct and exciting. On an inhabited moon ravaged by the Phoenix Force, some evil space aliens have enslaved the survivors who are being forced to mine natural resources for the galactic tyrant Thanos. Unfortunately for him, his daughter does not approve. Meet…well, you know.
There is very little dialogue in this issue, which serves it well. Aside from a bit of quick exposition is the first few panels, the issue is basically Gamora kicking ass without even bothering to take names. This issue is incredibly fast paced and it is a blast to see Gamora, the most dangerous woman in the universe, illustrate exactly why she is described as such. The art, provided by Yves Bigerel and Michael Del Mundo, is incredibly fluid. That, combined with how the digital comic actually transitions between panels almost makes this feel like it’s animated. I don’t want to say “motion comic” because it’s not quite that, but there’s definitely a sense of motion, which totally works to sell just how skilled and dangerous Gamora is in a fight.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Gamora is the daughter of Thanos. That’s a pretty interesting and unique trait for character, not to mention the fact that it’s cool. Not only that, but this is bound be perfect for future story fodder, especially with a little project known as Infinity on the horizon. I would imagine that Thanos’ daughter is going to have something to say about her father trying to take over the universe yet again.
Drew: Oh, without a doubt. Bendis establishes that her whole motivation is to be a thorn in her father’s side (I really loved the compressed origin story here — it balanced out the action beautifully), and even her ascent to Quill revolves around her dear old dad.
I’m glad you brought up how fluid Bigerel and Del Mundo’s art is here. Indeed, they’ve incorporated the capabilities of these Infinite Comics in inventive ways. Throughout the issue, we’ll see almost identical panels with just a single “animation” change — a character turns her head, a camera pans, etc. (Rocket’s issue played with this to, but not nearly to the same degree). Bigerel and Del Mundo are clearly thinking about this differently than a standard print comic — some of the effects that they manage here simply wouldn’t work in print — which allows them to really take advantage of the medium. More importantly, it lends a fluidity to the action that perfectly suits the most dangerous woman in the universe.
Drew: Del Mundo carries that same sensibility over to the Groot issue. His loose, distinctive style is such a perfect match for the gentle giant, it’s hard for me to imagine him drawn any other way. The story finds Groot stranded on a remote planet after some battle — only the story is told from the perspective of a poor farm girl who discovers a recovering sapling Groot. The girl’s family is being terrorized by a group of shakedown artists, so Groot steps in to save the day. It’s a cute, goofy story, but it serves as a great introduction to the character. Or, rather, he’s his own best introduction:
He’s a man — er, tree — of few words, but he has a heart of gold. He’s the classic big lug — part Ludo, part Iron Giant, ALL PLANT — and Bendis is happy to let that shorthand speak for itself. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but Groot is more than endearing enough to carry the action.
Patrick: I love that Groot just knows that there’s injustice afoot that he needs to combat. He had been a happy little sapling for while, but when it comes time to protect those who cannot protect themselves — BAM: huge. And then his characterization is straightforward — he’s a plant that fights for the little guy. He’s like some kind of awesome reverse-Lorax.
Drew you mentioned Del Mundo’s innovative approach to the Infinite medium, making good use of small movements between panels or scrolling to suggestion motion or scale. My favorite example of this comes early in the issue, when D’vorak and her father are out in the field and they look up to the sky to see space debris falling down on them. The camera starts low with the father and daughter, then it pans up to space-trash burning up on re-entry, but when it pans back down, D’vorak is alone. Her father’s gone back to work, but it seems like that action happened when we looked away for that split second: we’re as surprised as D’vorak is. It’s just neat.
Del Mundo also piles on tons of great details. I don’t know why it pleases me so much that this alien race wears the exact same thing Earth farmers wear, but I totally belly-laughed when I saw D’vorak’s father sporting a wide-brimmed straw hat and overalls. And in D’vorak’s room, we’re treated to even more fun details.
Yes yes yes, sapling Groot is adorable and looks like he’s a Studio Ghibli creation — let’s try to get past the cuteness to see that she’s got an anti-Skrull poster on one wall and a Deadpool poster on another wall. That’s right — even aliens you’ve never heard of before love Deadpool.
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?