The Art Makes the Issue in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 12

By Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Going to a comic convention can be a dangerous thing. No, I’m not talking about the festering cesspool that is the men’s bathrooms at C2E2 — I’m talking about artist alleys at present at all cons. With so many talented artists in one place, it’s easy to spot at least twelve pieces of art that catch your eye, which are a feast for the senses but a pain for your wallet. The thing is , it’s just hard to say no when you see a piece of artwork that appeals to you. Luckily, sometimes a monthly roles around that’s as easy on the wallet as it is on the eyes, as is the case with Guardians of the Galaxy 12.

To be direct, the art in this is simply gorgeous. Rod Reis does both pencils and colors here and one page after another reveals artwork that is a wonder to behold. As is the case when I see a piece of art at a con that I like, it’s somewhat difficult to express in words exactly why it appeals to me. What makes us appreciate art is a pretty personal thing and it can be difficult to pin down why one artist’s work appeals to us and another’s doesn’t. But putting those feelings into words is the whole point of an article like this, so here goes.

Reis does an excellent job of combining watercolor-like hushes and brushstrokes and heavy outlines to create an effect that is wholly his own yet timeless all at once. There’s several instances of this, particularly in the numerous portraits of guest stars in this issue, yet the full page spread where Manthing shows the Guardians alternate dimensions has to take the cake.

Here we get the best of everything Reis does in this issue. In the center you can see the watercolor affect I was talking about earlier. It lends Manthing an ephemeral quality where the outline and certain parts of his body are clearly defined, but after which all bets are off. The same applies for the alternate dimension guardians all of who share the same quality. This of course fails to mention the excellent composition of this page, which is wonderfully balanced and symmetrical so as to present us with four identical scenes, which are all slightly different from one another. Just like the different in dimensions themselves!

All in all, Reis is on fire this entire issue and a lot more could be written about what makes his artwork so compelling. However, given space constraints, I’m happy to just say I like it and that I’d shell more money than I should if I saw any of this work at his con table.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

3 comments on “The Art Makes the Issue in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 12

  1. Before I write my actual comment on this issue, I think I’ll post part of the Marvel Legacy comment I wrote (and never got to post), because it feels hard to discuss this issue without discussing the wider context it is in. So I want to give my thoughts on the Marvel legacy metaplot first. Not the horrific structure, directionless vision or that terrible, meaningless monologue. But the rest:

    ‘Still, the main story is mostly strong. The best part is how it embraces Marvel’s most modern elements. It is a story being told out of the newest ideas, and the very stuff that has made Marvel so exciting to read since Hawkguy. These moments are the closest that Legacy comes from pushing an actual vision for Marvel. Things like Odin brute forcing Mjolnir builds off the newest ideas of the Thor mythos even as it creates new ones. Building off of characters like post-Gillen Loki, the new Ghost Rider and Starbrand and the ‘new Trinity’, with a smaller spot for newly important Gamora, helps make sure the story something feel new and interesting (hell, even the idea of multiple Iron Fists is a relatively new invention, in the scheme of things). Instead of the same old configurations, this is very obviously a new configuration.
    Which is reflected in the Celestial. I like the choice to move away from Kirby style Celestials for the rabid Celestial. As much as I love the original Kirby designs (they are among my favourite of Kirby’s creations), this more modern look helps distinguish it as different to the rest. A new threat.

    I feel the prologue is the weakest part, as we don’t get to properly explore what this means. With a bunch of characters we have little context for, this feels like a taster more than something that satisfies our appetite. There is so little here that they feel inconsequential in the very story that start. It doesn’t help that they feel particularly limited, being the closest that Legacy ever gets to its threatened ‘everything is connected’. I look at the team, and I can’t help but ask where Captain Caveman is? (Well, Captain Caveman is probably crossing over with some DC character, as one of DC’s best writers bafflingly writes what can only be explained as an attempt to get brief respite from the horrors of Rebirth). What I mean is, where is a character that is uniquely from the time period? Does every Prehistoric Avenger need to have a straight line connection to a current Avenger? Can’t they have something uniquely themselves? Or at least something that doesn’t feel as convenient? Why not change out Iron Fist for Fat Cobra or the Bride of Nine Spiders? Connected to Iron Fist but not so convenient (actually, is Danny technically the Iron Fist at the moment? He goes around calling himself the Iron Fist, but I’m pretty sure that technically, Pei is while Danny is a Thunderer that happens to have Iron Fist abilities. Maybe Danny could get involved because Pei is having dreams. That would feel more interesting, giving him a slightly different motive). Still, if the story will focus on the modern day, I guess the prologue is adequate. Especially as the rest is so much stronger.

    The most important note of the present day sections is how they treat their characters, generally diverse and if not new characters, new contexts (like Jane as Thor, Sam as Cap and post Gillen Loki). Rebirth had brief moments focusing on characters like these, but only to stab them in the back. The context of each of those scenes is to make clear how lesser they are. Here, they are the story. Hell, to jump ahead briefly to a future point, I just want to note how badly Aaron fails to justify Sam not being Captain America. He tries, but ultimately, there is too much love and respect of Sam, too much focus on him being important, to treat him as anything other than an equal part of the trinity.

    But let’s focus on the Ghost Rider/Starbrand stuff first, though. Which is interesting, as Starbrand is so atrociously written. I wondered if he was mind controlled or something at first, because he had the completely wrong personality and seemed to have a lot more information on things for a character whose primary idea is ‘malfunctioning powers meant I didn’t get an instruction manual’ (I mentioned finding more interesting ways to do the Primeval Avengers, and that would be a great way of doing it. Instead of killing off Starbrand, have him be the guy who is missing the connection to the past, because of bugs in his powers). And yet, it respects Starbrand enough to treat him as a character worthy of importance. The idea of him being the Planetary Defence Mechanism is treated seriously, even if he’s an obscure character whose book got cancelled after 6 issues. Would things be better if he was written well? Hell yes. This issue needs improvements. But at least it treats characters with enough respect that Ghost Rider v Starbrand is a big deal. And Ghost Rider seems to be well written. Even gets a major character moment with what appears to be his first Penance Stare. I mentioned the advantage of new configurations, and to centre the ‘main’ story as a fight between these two is a great idea. This is the sort of section, where there was never going to be a lot of story. Just the fight. Without plot or theme, it comes down to the characters. Which means finding new configurations matters a lot. As much as Legacy has a vision, it at least has this.

    The other plotline has a lot more to it. While the fight between Ghost Rider and Starbrand is just to raise the stakes, this one is all about showing all the pieces in play before revealing how it is connected. Loki is cleverly used, balancing Aaron’s own use of him in the Thor book with the complex heroism that defines post-Gillen Loki. Heroic goals, but ambiguous means. He is positioned as the villain, working for his father, and yet his motives are honestly good. Loki seems like he is going to be very interesting, considering both what he has done recently and what he seems like he is about to do.
    Meanwhile, the heart of Marvel is represented through Sam, Jane and Riri. Aaron gets them all right. Sam is the more low key, mature one. Always thinking first, caring more about the greater context. Professional. With Jane, Aaron has some fun with telling a story with Jane not connected to the War of Realms. Where Jane can enjoy being Thor. It makes her a bit more smashy than we are used to (especially in the same week as an issue all about Jane choosing non-violence against the War Thor, but is recognizably Jane. And I’m surprised how much of Riri Aaron manages to fit inside this issue. Her obsession with her work, her youth and immaturity, the balance of the fangirl aspect of becoming the hero you want to be with the fact that Riri is exactly the sort of person who has tunnel vision to the point of not knowing the Avengers catchphrase. She’s interested in science, in being heroic, in politics etc, but she isn’t someone who cares for trivia. And has the exact sort of tunnel vision to be immune to learning by osmosis (also, the panel of Riri annoyed when Jane and Sam abandon her to kiss when they are supposed to be celebrating together is brilliant). Aaron positions the three of them as the heart of Marvel (which works a hell of a lot better than Rebirth’s use of Minstrel Flash). This is the sort of stuff that really builds faith in Marvel Legacy. Despite the more regressive moments, in shows us a progressive and modern heart. Especially as they are all great fun to enjoy.
    And then there is Logan. I am surprised how much I liked his introduction. I was not looking forward to Logan returning. Never the biggest fan of him (even if I’ve been the biggest fan of Laura for the longest time). And more importantly, with Old Man Logan running around, front and centre, I’ve never felt like there has been reason to miss Logan. He has been treated as much more important than Laura, and it meant I don’t think we’ve properly explored what a Loganless universe is really like.
    But I really liked his intro there. Old Man Logan was an obvious attempt to exploit the recent movie, but this feels more like the movie than anything I’ve seen with Old Man. Logan has always been a character that works best when leaning into the samurai/western tropes. The idea of the ronin/lone gunslinger. And that’s the approach here. No costume, nothing distinctly superhero. No X-Men in sight. Instead, just a focus on keeping things small. He has no epic fight scene. Despite fighting a frost giant, everything is small. Ram someone with a beer truck. Simple stabbing. And the suggestion of a sort of road trip style story. Logan has one of the most powerful artefacts in the universe, he’s alone and isolated. The juxtaposition feels great, and this is the sort of story that feels so distinctly Logan. Let’s hope it stays full Western, and that they keep Logan away from others for the next while. Embrace the beauty of Logan here, and not rush him back to being yet another superhero. I’m not usually up for Logan, but I’m up for this.

    And then the ending draws our attention to the Fantastic Four. I’d say that the narration has been leading us there, but the narration is just meaningless garbage. Designed to look like ti means something, to give the appearance of importance without actually being important. None of it feels rooted in character or matter in any way. But, it lets us pretend there is a reveal, before introducing us to our final part. The Fantastic Four are returning. Not much to say, except there has been a Fantastic Four shaped hole in their schedule in a way that there hasn’t been for other characters, and I hope they pull it off. But that I’m not going to be invested until we get some reason to care about the story of them coming back. There needs to be more than just ‘they’ll be back soon’.’

    • So yeah, a big part of this issue is building on Marvel Legacy. You really can’t escape it. Both Loki and the Infinity Stones play key parts of this issue. Which is good, and is bad. Solicitations have already shown that the Reality Stone may be dealt with in a different book. This search of the Infinity Stones is going to affect so many books, that we don’t know what that means for the Guardians. And this issue’s plot is affected by it. Certain parts feel like trying to explain why the Guardians aren’t going to be involved in another story’s plot. The last thing we want is for this book to turn in Steve Rogers, Captain America, a book where nothing happened because every important plot point had been given to Sam Wilson, Uncanny Avengers and Thunderbolts.

      But an amazing amount of time in this issue is wasted. The Doctor Strange/Gamora scene is important, but elsewhere, wheels seem to spin. I mean, Deadpool’s cameo was literally a two page set up where the punchline was Scott Lang. Fun, but not useful.

      Oh, and let’s talk about Scott Lang. I was disappointed hearing that he was gong to be joining the Guardians. After Bendis’ Cosmic Avengers era, I wanted a Guardians book that distanced itself from Earth a bit. Partly to differentiate it from what came before, and partly because I think too many Earth people undercut the Guardians. They are supposed to be cosmic, supposed to be part of a much larger universe where Earth is just a small part of it. And I want them to feel intergalactic. Which means minimising Earth connections (there is a reason Rocket has gone from buying Collector Edition DVDs on eBay to hating Earth, and why we try and forget that Drax is actually a human called Arthur Douglas. Because the Guardians work better when they are intergalactic.
      But not only are we increasing the Earth connection with Scott Lang, but there isn’t even a story reason for him to join the team. The character reasons make sense, but there is no story reason. He joins because he wants to, and this has nothing to do with any other element of the issue or the grander plotline. I had hoped that we would at least get that.

      And yet, the page you showed is exactly the redeeming feature. Reis’ art is always great, and he does such a fantastic job in a range of different situations. Can’t be easy to be asked to depict the inside of the Soul Gem after Irving’s fantastic job. And he kicks that page out of the park.

      But it is also just a genuinely great page of a story level. In an issue suffocating slightly under Legacy, it opens up and expands the story in new directions. THis book has always been about scale, and seeing the same fight events happen in multiple different realities is a really interesting wrinkle. I wonder how deep the book is going into this, because there is a hell of a lot of potential. I love how much story ir presented with jsut a couple of choice groupings. The first one looks to be classic DnA Guardians, the second and third are both highly anarchronistic, mashing together different eras. Modern Richard Rider next to original Peter Quill (damn, that was an ugly costume). Kitty Pryde next to Bug and what appears to be Annihilation era Groot, just before he spoke entirely in I Am Groot. Stuff like this gives hope that this book will continue to be great.

      This book appears to be the lynchpin of Marvel Legacy, the spine that every other book will connect to in the build up to whatever story they are telling. THis issue seems to make it very clear, and things like the parallel universe stuff are therefore going to be very important. Because the last thing we want is for this book to make the same mistake that Steve Rogers, Captain America did, and get trapped merely as set up for whatever event everything is building up to.

  2. Oh, adn the other thing I wanted to post about. Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Episode 4, Who Needs You, came out. And damn, this was the episode the series needed.

    The problem with Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy is complicated, made worse by the recent movie doing everything it did better. There is a bunch of stuff it has done well, but never as well as the recent movie. ANd it never fully managed to take advantage of tis premise. WHat started as a story about what happens to the Guardians after killing Thanos turned into a generic adventure.

    I think a massive problem has been the villain, Hala. Hala is a fantastically realised villain. She has an understandable motivation, but is a monster. Her high concept of resurrecting her dead species is given greater emotional meaning through her dead son, that makes her a complex villain. But, a villain is the last thing this series needed. As great as she was, she ended up creating excuses for the Guardians to unite. Which is a problem, as it speaks against hte very value in the premise. WHat would happen to the Guardians if they lose th ething that unites them? THe amazing main menu of the game looks like this:

    It is perfect. All the Guardians fighting and wrestling each other over a magical artefact. This is what has been missing. But the fourth episode finally provides that.

    It does that quite simply, by having Hala fly off and bury the Guardians under the temple they were in. There is no plot movement, just a story about how they get out. And all of a sudden, every conflict that is breaking the Guardians up can be confronted without distraction. Gamora and Rocket are never more at odds than they are at this point. And they are breaking up the Guardians as they do so. And Drax’s existential Crisis becomes an even greater threat, as he is reminded of everything he lost while being aware he has lost purpose.

    And so, they argue and confront each other. Deal with their baggage. Both emotional and otherwise. One of the best parts is making a key part of escape requiring them to lighten the Milano, which means that every Guardian is arguing about why their stuff shouldn’t be thrown out. Why everyone else should throw out their stuff.

    It is brilliant. All you need is the six Guardians in a room together, arguing at each other because they can’t get past their issues. COmbine that with an ending that really pushes things, taking advantage of their ability to create their own rules that they can do things no one else will (like they do with Batman), and you end up with a truly powerful ending.

    And that ending is truly powerful. The Guardians break up, even as the universe is in danger. Because despite an entire episode about dealing with their baggage, they can’t. Because they do what they always do. They avoid. They do everything they can to avoid their own issues, to deflect away and instead only distracted. But by the end, they cannot distract any longer. The emotional labour of being with the Guardians is too much for the psychic Mantis, and she can’t handle it (this is a truly amazing idea, focusing on the idea of emotional labour, building on the idea of Mantis as the Guardians in team therapist idea from Abnett and Lanning’s run. I really miss Mantis in the Guardians. THe comics need to return Mantis and Phyla-Vel pronto). And this forces the rest to confront the underlying problems they face, and everyone walks away. The Guardians choose to run instead of face their problems, because this has always been the fatal flaw of the Guardians, the thing they have to work past. And they didn’t. And Peter stands with just one friend left. One person who wants to stay as part of the Guardians.

    This episode does everything right. Even is really funny, with some great gags built on the dysfunctions. Mantis is hilarious this episode, at many times. Finally, they found what they needed to do to truly make this series work. Double down. Triple down on the character work. And the moment they did, they created a truly special episode.

    In some ways, not a lot happens. The plot doesn’t move forward fast. But that doesn’t matter. Because the character work is amazing, that the ending breaks your heart as you see the Guardians try to deal with their baggage but refuse to confront it, and the sad, logical consequence of the behaviour. For the first time since the first episode, I am really looking forward to the next episode

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