Today, Scott and Patrick are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 8, originally released October 30th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Scott: I always know I like a comic when it stops feeling “new”. There comes a point in every series where I’m no longer reading because it has potential to be good, but because it actually has become good (either that, or it never realizes that potential and I stop reading altogether). Eight issues in, and I feel like Guardians of the Galaxy is no longer getting by on merely being new. Without Iron Man to buoy it any longer, this is something of a sink or swim moment for this series, and it doesn’t miss a beat. Everything is clicking- the writing, the characters, the humor and the art. Especially the art. This is the issue that moves Guardians from my “Intriguing New Titles” column to my “Must Read!” column.
Guardians 8 is a rescue mission. Peter Quill is contacted by S.W.O.R.D. Agent Abigail Brand, who says she has been captured by Thanos’ Armada and the S.W.O.R.D. orbital headquarters, known as The Peak, has been seized. The Peak has potential to cause serious damage to Earth in the wrong hands, so she needs Quill’s help to reclaim it. The Guardians- minus Gamora who thinks it’s a trap- head to The Peak, rescue Agent Brand and start fighting their way through Thanos’ army towards the control center. Unfortunately, they are vastly outnumbered, and just when it looks like all is lost for the Guardians, they themselves are rescued…by Angela.
This issue is something of a test for this still-young series. It’s the first issue that doesn’t feature Tony Stark, instead relying solely on Peter Quill and his ragtag group to cary the story. It’s a little bit like that first bike ride without training wheels, when your dad guides you down the sidewalk and then slowly lets go. “Guardians of the Galaxy, you’re on your own!” In case you’re worried, the Guardians are more than up to the challenge. Stark served his purpose, which was to act as a surrogate for us readers, introducing us to these characters and this crazy space-world. At this point, the cast is pretty well-established. The funny thing is, we find out Peter Quill is actually quite a bit like Tony Stark. They’re both quick-witted, pretty boy Earthlings who have inherited great fame. Having grown up on Earth, Quill is even able to provide those two or three pop-culture references Stark was good for each issue. Which reminds me of Starks other important role in the series so far: providing humor. Well, Quill, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon are making me laugh plenty, so no problem there. And if you want to see just how similar Quill and Stark are, just picture Stark in place of Quill in the panels below. It totally works!
In terms of plot developments, this issue is relatively light. The concerns over the tears in space-time, which have occupied Quill in recent issues, are basically ignored. We get a break from all the confusing stuff by way of a pretty straightforward mission. The big conflict among the Guardians centers around Gamora’s frustrations with Quill having visited her father, Thanos. Oddly, she mostly seems upset that they didn’t kill each other during the meeting. She has absolutely no trust in her father, and just thinking about him drives her mad, until she simply floats off into space, not to be seen again.
I might have minded that Gamora’s storyline went unresolved, but it’s hard to complain about anything when an issue looks as incredible as this one. Francesco Francavilla’s art is an absolute masterclass in the power of complimentary colors. This issue mostly takes place in the dark, to the point which the characters’ skin/fur/bark color is rarely seen. Rather, they take on the the color of the various screens or far-off planets from which light is emanating. Francavilla’s minimalist approach is mesmerizing, and sets a perfect stage for the issue’s moody first act. He uses hot and cold colors to great effect, visually contrasting Gamora’s rising anger with Quill’s calm demeanor. Check out this page, which sandwiches four long vertical cyan panels between two horizontal orange panels.
You can pick out just about any page and it will have a unique set of dominant colors that look totally awesome. Francavilla also goes back to this method of stacking several thin panels time and time again, and it works really well with the style of his art. There are so many great moments in the action heavy second half, but I particularly like one instance where this technique is employed. Francavilla uses the same still frame through five straight panels: first showing a couple of Armada goons running past, then Rocket Raccoon, Quill and Brand running through the background undetected, then more goons, before the good guys finally come up the rear.
Patrick, I love this issue. It’s incredibly fun to read, and even more fun just to look at. That said, I don’t know if it’s an issue I’ll really remember a few months from now. Is it enough for an issue just to be fun, if it doesn’t carry a lot of weight plot-wise?Patrick: The only way we’ll be looking back on the plot of this issue a few months from now will be if we’re talking about Infinity and are trying to remember what everyone was up to. Like, I kinda doubt that Abigail Brand, or Quill’s relationship with S.W.O.R.D., or this little rescue mission is going to mean all that much to the Guardians in a few months, but as you say Scott, it’s good fun right now. Further, Bendis seems to have a great relationship with the Infinity event itself – immediately identifying what’s fun about it, and demonstrating how he’s not just delivering the same thing, re-skinned with the Guardians of the Galaxy (even if, y’know, he sorta is).
The first moment that caught my eye was the discussion of Rocket’s “Murdered you!” catch-phrase. Brand and Quill share a mutual disgust over the crassness of the little guy’s battle cry, and it’s a charming little exchange that made me chuckle. Rocket insists “it’ll grow on you” – and he’s right. But why does it grow on us? It shouldn’t – that’s a repulsive thing to shout at people. Ah, there’s the rub: people. Rocket’s not murdering people. Last time we saw him deploy his catch-phrase it was against swarms of Badoon, and now we’re seeing him wipe out Thanos’ henchmonsters. Here’s strong thematic connection number one: in both Infinity and Guardians of the Galaxy, the heroes fight entire swarms of bad guys, all of whom deserve to die – so much so, that we’re able to blindly cheer every time an enemy soldier is killed. “Blam! Murdered you!” In any other context, it’d be so wrong, but during the invasion of Thanos, it’s so right.
The second moment I noticed falls under the category “Inevitable Star Wars Reference.” Back when Infinity first started, Starbrand needed a little extra convincing to get him excited about taking the battle into space, at which point Cannonball and Sunspot respond “It’ll be fun. Like Star Wars but with much handsomer protagonists.” It’s one of the more graceless moments of the issue, as though writer Brian Michael Bendis knew he wanted to tip his hat to his inspiration, but wasn’t sure how to make it happen organically. So he just let one of his character’s say “it’ll be like Star Wars!” and called it a day. Bendis inserts a similar moment into this issue, but applies so much more subtly, speaking more strongly to the reality of his characters.
In this moment, Brand is commending Quill for resisting the obvious reference — pointedly, a reference to Star Wars. Bendis gets to make the same kind of lazy reference to Star Wars, but by having his characters not make it (even though they want to). Then it’s capped with a Han Solo-esque “I know,” which is just beautiful. If the point of pop-culture references is to make the audience feel like they have a connection to the characters, then you can’t really do better than that. It’s a vast improvement on “Star Wars with handsomer protagonists.”
Scott covered Francavilla’s art so well, but I just wanted to add a little more. Guardians of the Galaxy has always been something of a genre book – comedic-superhero-sci-fi. While the “sci-fi” components of this series have been largely cosmetic, it’s great to see them amplified through Francavilla’s horror-centric filter. I’m used to seeing his grindhouse style applied to something street-level, like Swamp Thing or Hawkeye – series that are already playing it gritty and real. In Guardians, Francavilla taps into another genre entirely, the sci-fi horror flick, and there are echoes of Alien, Gravity and Sunshine throughout.
That’s a super compelling way to broaden the tonal spectrum of what Guardians is capable of. I’m guessing that we should get ready to enter that kind of territory – after all, our new friend claims to be an angel from Capital-H Heaven. Shit’s gonna get weird and dark, and Francavilla has proved that even these wacky characters are ready for it.
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?