Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 14, originally released April 23rd, 2014.
Drew: Anniversaries tend to be opportunities to look back. In comics, they seem to be opportunities to deconstruct. Detective Comics and Daredevil both had big anniversary issues this year, and both seized on the opportunity to ask what really defines these characters. The answers those issues posited were buoyed by the strength of their characters, but what about a team series — especially a team with a relatively smaller history? Guardians of the Galaxy 14 sets out to answer this question in the most unexpected ways, separating the characters (or even eliminating them altogether) to examine what makes the Guardians work as an abstract concept.
The feature story carries on the narrative Brian Michael Bendis has been spinning from issue one, showing us the fallout of the Guardians’ defiance of Peter’s father. J’son has ordered the capture of every member of the Guardians, offering each of them to their respective worst enemies. The known beats are that Gamora is given to the Brotherhood of the Badoon, Peter is in the custody of Spartax, and Drax’s capture left Flash Thompson stranded in Nowhere. That last beat has to be my favorite — I’m not sure why/how Agent Venom came to be hanging out with Drax in the first place, but Bendis’ extended cantina scene homage sets the perfect “roll with it” tone.
The scene features several teases about the symbiote, but mostly just reminds us how out of his element Flash is in outer space. That he’s basically stuck in some kind of wretched hive of scum and villainy makes me hope that his story is going to continue as part of this series.
The ending sets up the Guardians’ good buddy Captain Marvel as the solution to their current predicaments, which strikes me as a great way to utilize their relationship. I’m vaguely aware of how close Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is with Bendis, and I relish the chance to see them bounce their characters off of one another outside the strictures of a crossover. It’s an exciting prospect, but kind of frustratingly de-emphasizes the Guardians in their own anniversary issue.
Intriguingly, neither of the backups feature the Guardians as we know them, either. Andy Lanning’s “Groot’s Tale” serves as a secret history of sorts for everyone’s favorite tree-man, explaining how he came to space travel in the first place, as well as giving an origin to his fondness of anthropomorphic woodland creatures.
A scene made up of other groot creatures (who can also only say “I am Groot”) doesn’t make for the clearest storytelling (letterer Cory Petit does what he can to separate our Groot from the rest, but it’s an uphill battle), but the emotional beats ring through any confusion.
The final story of the issue, Dan Abnett’s “Fight for the Future” may be the most adventurous, eschewing the Guardians as we know them altogether, instead focusing on the Guardians of the year 3014 — basically giving us a Justice League Beyond story of the guardians. What exactly defines the Guardians as a team beyond its members isn’t exactly clear (the fact that one of the members bears Captain America’s shield only muddies the waters), making this feel like it could just as well be the Avengers of 3014. I absolutely appreciate the stirring meta-commentary, which makes a point of calling the Guardians both stories and myths, but again, Abnett never explains why this is true of the Guardians, specifically. Without that specific link to the Guardians we know them, this story is little more than a list of characters I have no reason to care about. That’s obviously an unfortunate portrait to paint of the Guardians, making me wonder how this story made it into this issue in the first place.
As a whole, this issue had enough fun moments to be on par with the average Guardians installment — I’m particularly fond of the Groot story — but I’m not sure it succeeds as a love letter to the team as a whole. Is a decent issue all that we ask of an anniversary anthology, or does it need to achieve a more in-depth deconstruction? Shelby, am I paying too much attention to the “Anniversary Issue” copy on the cover, or do you agree this issue should have been more than it was?
Shelby: I do think you might be paying too much attention to the anniversary stamp on the cover, but I think that the industry as a whole pays too much attention to too many anniversaries, so I’m not going to hold this one against you. There’s actually no indicator on the issue that I can find what exactly it’s an anniversary of, so I’m not completely sure why we should be celebrating it. Is it the anniversary of the creation of the Guardians? Of the first issue in Marvel Now!? Of Chris Pratt’s birthday? Lordy knows these are all great reasons to celebrate, I would just like to know which one it is.
The timing of this issue was more than a little awkward to me. Without the explanation at the beginning, I wouldn’t have known Flash was on the team; does anyone reading any of the Avengers titles have some insight into how exactly he got up there? And where is Angela? I don’t know that J’son of Spartex would have the resources to capture her and send her to her enemies. I guess we don’t have to have the whole story, but as it is I feel like I missed an issue. Missing story beats aside, there are some nice moments in this issue with Peter. Most of our interactions with the scruffy-looking Starlord are snarky commentary; I love me some snarky commentary, but it doesn’t make for a ton of character development. I really love his musings as he tries to sleep because his brand of worrying is so understandable. I know I have spent many nights worrying about guys I like, my job, my terrible sleep habits.
This page is a lot of fun, not just for Peter’s space-sized versions of all young adults’ problems, but also for the comic books and Starlord memorabilia scattered around his room, like his motorcycle jacket and old mask. I loved the Groot story, because I love Groot and I love seeing a bunch of groots saying, “I am groot,” over and over again. Do you think Groot was sent back to his own people for his punishment from J’son? The future Earth story was interesting, and of course I can’t see a redhead in a Marvel book without thinking “Jean Grey (or Angela, now)” Maybe this Geena Drake is a descendant of one of those ladies, and that’s why she’s important. But Drew, you’re totally right about this story being little more than a list of characters. I care about them even less based on their character designs. Four of the five guys look exactly the same, and three of THOSE guys have mostly blue costumes on. I’m a little curious about how this story fits with the current Guardians team, but ultimately the whole thing is mostly forgettable.
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?