Today, Scott and Taylor are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 13, originally released March 26th, 2014.
Scott: It always amuses me when a character voices my same feelings towards an in-story event. It can be so tragically ironic. In this case, Gamora wondering if the Guardians’ involvement in rescuing Jean Grey is worth the heat it’s going to draw from the Shi-ar echoed the feelings I’ve had towards their role in ‘The Trial of Jean Grey’. The finale to this six-part event hits some emotional beats, but like the previous installments, the personal moments tend to revolve around the X-Men, leaving this series’ protagonists feeling left out. Ultimately, it’s an awkward goodbye to a crossover that never quite gelled and, frankly, probably wasn’t worth three issues the Guardians’ time. Oh, and Groot gets weird with some trees.
All-New X-Men 24 ended with Jean Grey appearing to admit guilt in the murders the Shi’ar have accused her of committing. That’s not exactly how it plays out. The real monster, she says, is the Phoenix, a force that would have found a way to kill no matter what — her body was just the vessel. Jean’s anger with the Shi’ar for killing her family causes her to reach a new level of power, a harmony between her telepathy and telekinesis that allows her to control pretty much anything. The Shi’ar concede the fight and allow the Guardians to take the X-Men, including Jean, back home. After returning to Earth, they say their goodbyes and Scott Summers makes a shocking announcement: he’s leaving the X-men to travel the galaxy with his father, Corsair of the Starjammers.
It was never hard to see where this crossover would come up short; combining two ensemble casts means that not every character will get the focus they deserve. Tossing the Starjammers into the mix all but guaranteed this event would leave some group feeling underused. Heck, you could use up an entire issue just having all these characters introduce themselves, a la an icebreaker game on the first day of a new semester.
In this case, it’s the Guardians’ who wind up underutilized, feeling more like chauffeurs than co-headliners. Consider the issue’s two emotionally charged revelations: Jean’s appeal to the Shi’ar Imperial Guard and Scott’s decision to join his father’s crew. The Guardians are completely non-essential in Jean’s learning about her history with the Phoenix, and they serve only as catalysts in Scott’s decision, having inadvertently reunited him with his father.
This is a crossover, after all, so it’s not as if the X-Men’s big moments don’t have their place. Jean’s discovery of her true potential is the highlight of the issue, largely because of Sarah Pichelli’s breathtaking art.
After Jean’s emotional plea to the deaf ears of the Gladiator, this demonstration is especially powerful. The back and forth efforts of Pichelli and All-New X-Men artist Stuart Immonen have been consistently excellent, and this final battle makes for a worthy climax (even if it comes too early in the issue). Pichelli draws with great detail, making apocalyptic alien-landscapes seem as real as the wintry Earth backdrop later in the issue. And these characters will all be wishing for another hair-day as good as this one.
The only plot-thread suggesting that any of the Guardians will have a reason to remember this team-up with the X-Men is the budding romance between Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde. It’s pretty transparent that their burgeoning relationship was included for precisely that reason — the two only share about 1.5 conversations prior to Kitty’s surprise kiss on the cheek — but I have to say, I don’t hate it. This series has been strangely devoid of true romantic interests for any of it’s leads (Groot’s fondness for Earth-trees notwithstanding), so I kind of like the idea of Peter getting involved with someone cool like Kitty Pryde. A Peter-Gamora pairing seems inevitable, but Bendis has been hinting at least as much at a Gamora-Angela romance, so I don’t want to assume anything. Plus, Kitty is potentially a more interesting match for Peter. They’re both the de facto leaders of their groups, with a lot more weighing on their minds than they’re willing to admit.
Taylor, did you find the Guardians’ role in this crossover as forgettable as I did? Or is Groot’s relationship with that douglas fir deeper than I realize?
Taylor: Scott, I too found that the X-Men and the Guardians made for awkward bed fellows. When you boil down this issue to its bare bones, we have Jean’s revelation, Scott’s departure, and a bunch of Guardians jokes thrown in on the side. The result is an issue that fails to satisfy fans of either the X-Men or the Guardians since neither are really given their fare shake here.
I think the biggest problem is that Bendis really is just trying to cram too much into one issue. At first that seems a bit odd, given that Bendis devotes a large amount of space in this issue to his trademark wit, but then you realize the gravity of what’s happened. Jean has transformed herself into something completely different from what she believed she was destined to become. Sure, the Phoenix still likes to use her body as a vessel for destruction and murder, but now she also has something else. She can tap into some previously unknown power in herself that, for once, she can actually control. It gives us hope that maybe, just maybe, Jean finally will have the power to tame the beast that lies within. It’s a huge step could easily take up an entire issue, but rather is just a plot point in this issue.
Later, Scott breaks the news of his departure to from the X-Men to gallivant around the galaxy with his old man.
And just like that, Scott Summers, Cyclops, founding X-Man and leader, exits the series (for now). What?! Again, this is some fucking big news here! While ancillary characters get carted off of series all the time, it’s kind of rare for a primary character to abandon ship mid-voyage. We could all see Angel fly off into the sunset and not really bat a lash, but Cyclops is a different matter. His narrative DNA is so entwined with the X-Men that it’s odd to ponder a future without him. However, we do have OE Scott still hanging around, blasting people with his x-shape face, so not all is lost, I suppose. Perhaps Bendis and those at Marvel think one helping of Cyclops is more than enough — and maybe they’re right. I’ve always been a one of those who leans towards the Wolverine side of things, so a little less of Scott Summer’s and his high horse is a wise choice. Still, dude should probably get a better send off than a “oh by the way” moment.
For all that — the quick endings, the unsatisfying collaboration, the Groot tree sex — I think Bendis did do a good job of finally tying up some loose ends. Ever since these X-Men were brought to the future from the past they’ve been living under the shadow of what they are doomed to become or what they are supposed to be. But when Jean Grey makes her last stand midway through the issue, she has a revelation:
Yes, the X-Men of the past finally are beginning to blaze a trail of their own. Nothing they’re doing now has been done before and because of that they are finally free. No longer do they have to worry about who they are “destined” to become. They can just be. This bit of narrative detritus had been hovering around the X-Men series for a bit now and it’s really nice to see it finally all tied up. With that knowledge and the departure of Scott, it will be interesting to see where the series goes from here.
P.S. — Notice that I really spent little to no time discussing the Guardians. Fact is, like Scott said, just not that much to discuss. Now that this event is tied up, it seems like all they were really useful for was transporting the X-Men across the universe. I can appreciate that it’s hard to reconcile two series, but it would have been nice to see a more balanced event.
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?