The first issue of the latest iteration of Guardians of the Galaxy
comes out this week. I’m a little nervous about it.
The 1990s series was my gateway drug into super-hero comics. Prior to it the comics I read were primarily licensed ones for science fiction or quasi-science fiction properties. There was Transformers
, of course, as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation
, and the Archie published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
. That first issue of Guardians pulled me in with the future setting, aliens, space exploration, and cool outfits, and then proceeded to introduce me to the melodrama of superheroes. The series featured some 31st century versions of modern characters, like Ghost Rider, and also referenced events like The Dark Phoenix Saga which got me interested in checking those out. As if that wasn't enough, the desire to see more of the Guardians themselves made me dig back relatively far back as their previous appearances were from the late seventies and early eighties. Thus I was pretty quickly introduced to some solid Bronze Age comics. The Steve Gerber penned run in Marvel Presents
is a perfect example of the kind of trippy social commentary they were doing at the time. Meanwhile, The Korvac Saga
is to this day still one of my favorite Avengers stories.
The initial writer/artist of the 90s series, Jim Valentino, left after about two years and the follow up creative teams never really settled on a direction. I stuck around for a couple more years but eventually gave up. Rather tellingly the series lasted less than a year after that.
A few years ago another Guardians of the Galaxy
series came out. This one was from the writing pair of Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning. I was already a big fan of theirs going into it. They were well known for their science fiction work, had done fantastic stuff with Legion of Super-Heroes
in the 90s, and were in the midst of a deservedly critically praised Cosmic Marvel multi-part epic, of which Guardians of the Galaxy was just a piece. While only using one of the original members they were able to demonstrate that they were not ignoring the history of the book yet at the same time crafting new, enthralling tales that built upon that major Cosmic arc but were still eminently satisfying as individual issues. The series lasted two years and came to a deliberately planned end. Damn, that book was good.
Last month we got Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1
from the new series’ creative team, Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven. The oddly numbered issue is a bit of a prequel, focused on the origin (as in conception, birth, and early childhood) of the team’s leader, Peter Quill a.k.a. Starlord. The story, as mentioned in a text piece in the back, was originally intended to be an eight page tale in a teaser anthology. But Bendis decided there was too much there and convinced editorial to make it a whole issue. Unfortunately he was wrong. Five pages can be cut in seconds, and I could easily cut this down to eight pages without breaking a sweat. Of course the fact that this wasn’t even a necessary tale and could have simply been a small bit of exposition means there just isn’t as much substance as Bendis thinks there is. And that has me worried. Bendis used to do a pretty good job of judging how much story there was in a tale, but I haven’t seen that skill so much in a number of years. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe I just haven't read the right things lately. Back when I read Ultimate Spider-Man
the story-arcs were of a variety of different lengths ranging from two issues to eight or so and that worked. And while the arcs on his Daredevil
run were typically all the same length none of them felt too long or drawn out. But with his later work on Avengers
there were quite a few times I felt like things were being padded, like the focus was on the next crossover event but they needed to have some books on the shelves between them. And I know that there is a crossover, possibly even an event, in the near future for Guardians of the Galaxy. So, yeah, I'm worried that the book will be light on plot and that individual issues will be about as satisfying as just watching the ten minutes between commercial breaks of an hour long TV show. I'm not a Bendis hater, I've thoroughly enjoyed some books that he's written, and he's not the only guy "writing for the trade" so I can't completely hold that against him. That mentality comes from editorial as much as it does the writers. But I want Guardians of the Galaxy
to be one of my favorite books and I just don't see that as likely.
There is some supremely unexpected news on the horizon, Neil Gaiman is co-writing issue #5. Wow. OK. That should be, well, that should be quite good. There's no word yet on if he's doing more than just that issue.
I guess at this point I'll just take it one issue at a time and hopefully Bendis will prove me wrong.