Today, Scott and Patrick are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 11, originally released January 29th, 2014.
Scott: The call-and-response nature of crossover events can grow a bit tiresome. We all know it. Guardians of the Galaxy 11, the series’ entree into “The Trial of Jean Grey”, is only tasked with answering one question: why did the Shi’ar kidnap Jean Grey? While Brian Michael Bendis ably resolves that question, the rest of the issue winds up feeling rather pointless. Bendis handicaps himself by not allowing this issue to advance the story any further than that, insisting instead on keeping pace with the other half of the crossover, All-New X-Men. Guardians 11 is a necessary issue, to be sure, but also a very flat one. So while “The Trial of Jean Grey” isn’t the Lifetime movie its title suggests, it is off to a slow start.
Still on the lam, Peter Quill is hiding at his favorite watering hole, until he is captured by a bounty hunter disguised as Gamora. Meanwhile, King J-Son has been summoned to a meeting of the Galactic Council. The Shi’ar have learned that the X-Men brought Jean Grey from the past to the present and want her to answer for her crimes against the galaxy- crimes she hasn’t technically committed yet because she traveled from a point in the past before the crimes occurred (time travel is confusing). Angela and Gamora happen to be in the right spot to rescue Quill, and the Guardians are reunited once again, only to discover the Shi’ar are heading towards Earth to collect Jean Grey. They swoop in to protect Jean, but are just a moment too late – finding only some very confused and unhappy X-Men.
With that image, this title and All-New X-Men have officially…wait for it…crossed over. This is the reverse of the final page of All-New X-Men 22, but to get the endings of both issues to line up, Bendis really had to stretch this issue out. The purpose of the issue is, basically, to fill in the blanks left by All- New 22. Why did the Shi’ar kidnap Jean Grey and, in essence, why is this crossover event called “The Trail of Jean Grey”? The answer is simple; Jean committed crimes against the Shi’ar before she died and now that she’s alive again (or is it alive still? I really don’t understand time travel) they’re putting her on trial.
That information is pretty succinctly laid out in one scene, which means the rest of the issue is just Bendis trying to fill enough pages to get to that final shot of the X-Men. I mean, using six pages to show Quill getting drugged by a bounty hunter is excessive, especially when the situation is resolved by Angela and Gamora just happening to be in the area and randomly spotting the bounty hunter dragging Quill through the streets. And while I know that this is a comedy book and gags come with the territory, the last thing this issue needed was another Tony Stark cameo. At this point, Rocket, Drax and Groot ought to be able to carry a comic relief scene on their own. If not, what the heck are we even doing here?
Maybe I’m being a but harsh. Segueing into a crossover event is bound to feel awkward. All-New X-Men 22 was just a normal issue in that series with the Shi-ar surprise coming into play at the end, while this issue had to deal with the audience already knowing the Shi-ar were coming for Jean Grey. It’s hard to write a compelling story when everyone already knows the ending. Now that the Guardians and the X-Men have caught up to each other, their story can, hopefully, move along at a more interesting pace.
The major benefit of this issue’s thin story is that it places more emphasis on Sarah Pichelli’s fantastic art. This is a dialogue dominated issue and yet Pichelli manages to pull of long conversations without the panels ever feeling repetitive (save for that way-too-long opening scene at the bar). This issue is largely devoid of character development, generally favoring sarcastic quips over real emotions, but Pichelli draws such expressive faces that add a ton of subtext to every conversation.
I love the look of confusion on Gamora’s face. It’s so dead on, suggesting that not only is she surprised Angela is being so generous, but that anyone could be so kind to her. When you spend all of your time around a group of ill-mannered men like the Guardians, this sort of altruism probably seems like a foreign concept.
So Patrick, how are you feeling about the Guardians entering into yet another crossover event? It seems like they’re always involved with some event, yet this title is only 11 issues old! Personally, I’m pretty jazzed about seeing the Guardians and the X-Men together, but I’m not exactly sure what the Guardians are going to bring to the story. Can we count on Bendis writing some good character moments for the Guardians, or will they just be a wise-cracking sideshow?
Patrick: Some of the best Rocket character moments can be described as “a wise-cracking sideshow.” He’s such an irascible little jerk in this one, but it’s still hard not to love him. I mean, say what you will about the at-this-point-unnecessary Tony Stark cameo – Rocket was also bored enough by it to click off that communicator mid-sentence.
There’s actually a weird level of self-awareness all around this issue. Scott, you pointed out that Guardians is frequently more effective as a comedy than as a space adventure, and it looks like Bendis might have that same idea in mind, especially when pairing it up with his more plot-driven All-New X-Men series. When the Council of Bad Guys (or… whatever they’re actually called) is discussing what would motivate the X-Men to bring the Jean Grey up from the past, the Supreme Intelligence cuts right through the bullshit.
That is why Jean Grey is here: nostalgia. More specifically, it’s because the writers and editors and creative powers-that-be at Marvel know that we’re suckers for all the shit we used to love. Yes, there is an in-universe reason for these time-travel shenanigans, but even that has mostly been waved away with a causal “because it needs to be this way.” I’m more than happy to accept the ending of the Battle of the Atom (i.e., that the Original X-Men can’t return to their time) as some sort of editorial necessity, but I know it rubbed some of our readers the wrong way. Just because our reality presents a “reason” for something, doesn’t automatically translate to a reason within the fiction. The Supreme Intelligence — and let’s face it: who better to point this out than he? — seems to have an answer for just us. Notice that he turns away from the rest of the Council and give his accurate one word assessment straight to camera.
But Kallark is quick to insert his answer, which more subtly walks the line of is-that-meta-or-not. Calling his colleagues “mad, selfish children” might be a tad indulgent on Bendis’ part; he is, after all, responsible for writing many of the time travel stories that have rocked the universe of late. I guess it’s telling that he puts these words in the mouth of the antagonist of the whole story. Even Kallark’s designs seem to echo the fan-boy-esque outcry over having Jean Grey stomping around — alive, well and unpunished — in the present. She’s a menace to the Universe! Yeah, I mean, she was, but none of us know how the new Jean Grey situation will play out.
Self-awareness or no, I totally get the criticism that this one’s a little too wheel spinny. I actually like the 6-page scene between Quill and the Skrull bounty hunter, even if — as Scott mentioned — it doesn’t paint our hero in the most heroic light. Actually, I might like it because it doesn’t paint him in the most heroic light. It’s almost a Han Solo / Greedo moment, except Quill makes the mistake of not shooting first. He’s clever enough to recognize that that’s not really Gamora (she doesn’t wear that costume anymore, come on), but he’s too taken in by his own vices to get a chance to act on that information. It might not be just his loves of the drink and ladies that get him in to trouble here, but his desire to take matters into his own hands. Turns out that he’s at this Port Town with Gamora and Angela — so he knows damn well that this imposter can’t actually be his friend “looking for him.” But he plays along because… well, he’s got a badass gun and it’s not like he’s going to fucking die, right? If I had to guess, I’d say that feels an awful lot like foreshadowing, and we can expect to see Quill exhibit that same kind of behavior again later in this story.
That’s part of what we’re tuning in for: Peter Quill and the Guardian’s reckless behavior in the of evil cosmic forces. If we’re putting any stock in my “Bendis expressing himself through his characters” theory, then maybe we should take heart in Quill’s response to Drax’s assessment that the whole thing could be a trap:
Well, Jean Grey, Shi’ar, Badoon, Cananda, X-Men… if it is [a trap], it’s a good one.
Fair enough, Peter Quill. Game on.
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?