Today, Ryan M. and Taylor are discussing All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 1, originally released May 3rd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan: The Guardians of the Galaxy are taking up a decent chunk of my brain right now. I am mentally unpacking the movie and all five (!!) post-credit sequences, so I can’t say that I came into All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 1 clean. That said, the timing of the release is not coincidental, so I know I’m not the only one with at least two takes on these characters rattling around in my head. Luckily, this is a first issue, so Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder offer a balance of fresh moments and necessary set up.
There is a lot here to set up. The crew is pretty fractured. Drax has become a pacifist, making his role on the team unclear. Gamora is carrying secrets and isolating herself. Groot is not regenerating. All of this, and their mission is being offered by Grandmaster, whose motives couldn’t be more opaque.
The issue opens on a planet that prides itself on its security and ability to protect wealth, for a healthy fee. The scene between the man trying to haggle on the cost and the officious banker is only a page long but is underscored by the dramatic irony that this is a Guardians of the Galaxy book, so it’s pretty likely someone is about to get robbed on that very very secure planet. The Galactus ruse introduces a theme into Duggan and Kuder’s book. The population of Citopia were secure in thinking themselves impenetrable from other planets, but just the sight of Galactus has them all running to their escape pods.
There is even a panel where Duggan has Drax address it directly.
Peter is not really internalizing what Drax is saying, but the reader can pick up on the potential danger of being caught in an Elder’s scheme. The issue plays that out, revealing that the buyer of the sphere is the Grandmaster and that this theft is only the fodder for blackmail to get them to do the next one. Drax may be the voice of reason, but he is still willing to bust that wall with a single punch. Duggan shows that the team may not like each other or even agree on their goals, but they are in it together.
In quick fashion Duggan establishes the crew dynamics. They immediately head to opposite ends of the ship, as Peter defines each of their issues in context of himself, ex. “Gamora, go be angry at me.” We don’t get a ton of characterization for Gamora in this issue. It’s revealed that her motives for the mission are beyond money and that she is emotionally disconnected from the crew, but no insight is offered for her internal life. Given that this is a first issue, it plays as an effective use of the character. It’s likely that her secrets will be a linchpin in the arc, so there is no need to drop them now.
Overall, the set up aspects of the story don’t impede the bigger moments. They act as sinew between the larger turns that make you do a mental double take. I’m referring, of course, to that huge fish.
The big fish moment is one of surprise and utter weirdness. Duggan and Kuder get us there by starting with the crew hanging up, ragging on Peter and then give us the last thing we could’ve expected. It’s a turn that makes the next scene feel other-worldly in the way that the action on the Milano cannot. The image is presented on a splash page with the fish’s gaping mouth directly below the ship. It puts the crew into perspective and sets the reader up for the Grandmaster, who gets his own splash a couple of pages later. This sequence is fanciful and cool and forces the team to act as a unit since they are so clearly on one side of a dividing line between weird celestial beings who live in huge fish bellies and space thieves.
Taylor, what did you think of the issue? I didn’t get into the final scene with tiny Groot sprouts. What did you make of that moment? Also, why was Peter so engrossed with the view of two aliens making out?
Taylor: Peter was so interested watching some aliens kiss because he’s basically the avatar of the juvenile, male humor the world over. Just as he’s played by Chris Pratt in the movies, the Peter in this issue is immature, willfully stupid, and charming in a manner that is more forced than enchanting. Unfortunately, this type of behavior, which is most often displayed by adolescents and men who refuse to let their college years go, isn’t just a Peter thing. All of the Guardians get into it to an extent.
Rocket laughs, of course, but even the ever-serious Gamora stares in disbelief. I suppose all of these canned reactions are an attempt on Gerry Duggan’s part to infuse this issue with humor, but it falls flat. There’s nothing inherently funny about watching to people make out and it takes a particular immature sense of humor to laugh at such a thing. Even if the joke is that these are “weird aliens” kissing, that goes against the theme of acceptance of all species that makes Guardians of the Galaxy something more than pure fluff.
This episode with the alien make-out session highlights why this issue falls short. As you pointed out Ryan, it’s not a coincidence that a new Guardians series is starting up just as the new movie comes out. I understand the marketing idea behind that, but it feels cheap to launch a series that in so many ways is simply trying to emulate its filmed counterpart. Aside from the similar puerile humor above, this issue is keen on reminding us about the movie in other ways, the most recognizable being the inclusion of Baby Groot.
Yes the world seems obsessed with the the little guy so he gets his requisite cameo here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the inclusion of Baby Groot, but I can’t shake the feeling that his sole purpose in this issue is to look cute and remind people that they can see him in the movie. For some, that might not be an issue, but others might prefer comic series that is charting its own course instead of retreading the plot points hit at in the movie. After all, Marvel movies take most of their source material from comics themselves, so it’s a little upsetting to see that hierarchy upended for the sake of fan favorite.
However much this might be displeasing, Duggan does make an effort to actually explain why Groot is a baby in this issue and why he seems to not be growing. As we find out at the end of the issue, someone is planting other Groots to make what appears to be an army.
It’s far to early to speculate who this mysterious figure may be or the hows and whys concerning their Groot army. Still, I can at least appreciate that Duggan is making and effort to explain the perpetual youth of Groot.
If this issue fails to impress in many regards, it’s certainly not because of the art. Aaron Kuder puts in some great work while fleshing out the galaxy the Guardians inhabit. One thing that the Guardians movies did well is create a sense of a deep universe with a myriad of lifeforms and Kuder adds to mystique in significant ways. In particular, Kuder has a good sense of the grandiose.
When the Grandmaster first reveals himself Kuder makes sure his entrance lives up the character’s name. Among flying orbs of light floats the Grandmaster with ships and plants and weird technology populating the background. Taken as a whole, this is an epic panel that gives a sense of the grandiose and bizarre that even the movies fail to truly convey. Just as with the panel showing the giant space fish above, this one hints at a universe that is much weirder and stranger than we were first led to believe. This type of artwork adds much to the issue and the series as a whole. By establishing early on that anything can happen, Kuder has freed Duggen to basically do whatever the hell he wants in the series.
Whether this series lives up to this promise of being big and bizarre remains to be seen. If it continues to look toward the movies as its source material, then limits on its creativity will be set, possibly to the detriment of the series. However, if Kuder and Duggan really let it all go, as is glimpsed occasionally in this first issue, then it the series could be a fun ride.
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?