In this over sized anniversary issue (although technically it’s the 101st Guardian comic or the 14th, depending on how you want to look at it), Agent Venom joins the Guardians of the Galaxy, just in time for the team to be dismantled.
Guardians of the Galaxy #14: New Recruits
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Nick Bradshaw & Jason Masters & Todd Nauck & Walden Wong (Inker)
Colorists: Justin Ponsor & Jason Keith
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Nick Bradshaw & Justin Ponsor
Editors: Xander Jarowey & Mike Marts & Devin Lewis (Groot’s Tale) & Ellie Pyle (Groot’s Tale)
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Back Up 1: Groot’s Tale
Writer: Andy Lanning
Artists: Phil Jimenez & Livesay (Inker)
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Cory Petit
Back Up 2: Fight for the Future
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story So Far: After perishing alongside Richard Ryder in the Cancerverse to stop Thanos, Peter Quill mysteriously returned from the dead and reassembled his team, the Guardians of the Galaxy. The team was temporarily aided by Iron-Man, who wanted to explore space more after discovering that Earth was the focal point of universal collapse. Even though Iron-Man eventually left the team, he wanted the Guardians to have an Avengers liaison and Flash Thompson (Agent Venom) was the one chosen. Even as Agent Venom joins the team, several forces wait in the shadows, planning to attack when the Guardians are weakest.
Our Guardians: Peter Quill (Star Lord), Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora (Daughter of Thanos), Drax (The Destroyer), Angela, Flash Thompson (Agent Venom), Major Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie 27, Yondau, Starhawk, & Geena Drake
Threats from All Sides: The issue begins with a resting Peter Quill forced to fight a fleet of Spartax warships, sent by Peter’s father, J’Son, Warlord of Spartax. Though he tries to flee, their ship is captured and Peter, Rocket, and Groot are taken into custody.
At the same time, Gamora is being hunted by a unnamed assassian, who is able to best Gamora and delivers her to the Badoon, a race that Gamora has a bloody history with.
Also occurring simultaneously is Flash’s shopping spree with Drax. Flash is meet by hostility because of his ‘parasite’, but Drax is able to procure new weapons for Flash since human weaponry is child’s play compared to alien weaponry. Flash asks Drax what he knows about the symbiote, but before Drax can share what he knows, he is captured by unknown assailants, leaving Flash alone in an alien environment.
Peter is greeted by his father on Spartax and explains that he will never stop fighting his warlord of a father, because he believes that people should have the right to freedom. J’Son explains that Peter is a disappointment and tells him he will be on trial for crimes against the Spartax empire, while also revealing that organized the dismantling of his team.
Groot’s Roots: One of the backups detail the story of a young Groot, who is shown as a bit of a social recluse, preferring to spend his time in the woods alone. When he discovers others of his kind picking on a squirrel like alien race, Groot defends them. Groot is pushed too far in his defense of the creatures and ends up murdering others of his own species. As punishment, young Groot is banished from his home.
Saving the Past from the Future: The second backup is the story of Geena Drake, a young adult in the year 3014. In this future, a group known as the Brotherhood has enslaved most of humanity and Geena is due for execution when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive and save the day. This group consists of the classic members: Major Astro, Martinex, Charlie 27, Yondau, and Starhawk. They reveal that the time-stream is eroding because of events in 2014 and they need Geena Drake to help stop them.
Thoughts: There is a lot to digest here. I’ve been following the Guardians of the Galaxy on and off since Bendis took over (huge fan of the DnA era) and I must say that Guardians is some of the weakest stuff I’ve ever read by Bendis. It’s all over the place, trying to accomplish too many things at once. The biggest mystery (for me at least) is what the hell Peter Quill is doing back in the 616 Universe and why the hell didn’t Richard Rider make it out of the Cancerverse if Quill and Thanos did. Bendis has teased this a few times and Infinity looked like it was going to answer it, but it didn’t. Instead, we were given plot lines dealing with the Spartax Empire, Gamora’s hunt for Thanos, the Badoon doing things and stuff, the arrival of Angela (from Spawn) into the Marvel Universe, team ups with Iron-Man and Captain Marvel, and a crossover with the All New X-Men (which is really the All Classic X-Men). This issue doesn’t really help on that front and it throws the Guardians of the Galaxy from the future into the fray as well by creating yet another “the timeline is failing” storyline (Bendis, as well as pretty much every Marvel writer out there, seems to be a huge fan of these types of story.)
That’s not to say that it’s all bad. The material with Quill and Rocket is fun, though I think Bendis doesn’t have quite a handle on the wonderful bromance that they share yet (mostly because his Rocket Raccoon gets annoying, fast.) The material with Quill and his father is strong stuff, as both make a case for why they do what they do. It does seem like J’Son wants to be closer to his son, but his duties and greed as a Warlord comes first.
The material with Gamora was simple, but might be confusing to some since they mention a past encounter with the assassin after her, but never reference him by name nor is there any editor’s notes letting you know to “check out Issue #whatever to see the first encounter with Billy, the Badoon Bounty-Hunter.” Also, they make the “words only you Earthlings use” joke way too many times in this issue, with Gamora referencing backup as if she had never heard the word before. It’s a bad joke the first time, it’s frustrating after numerous uses.
The strongest material in the main story is definitely Drax and Flash shopping for weapons together. Flash is used rather well as the ‘fish out of water’ character and while his interactions with Drax are littered with those awful jokes I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is fun to see him realize just out of his element he is when he discovers his weapons are nothing more than children’s toys to other species. It’s also amusing to see Flash realize that the aliens don’t dislike him because he’s human but because he’s the host of a symbiote. Bendis definitely hints that big things are coming in relation to the symbiotes but of course, before we can get an exposition dump from Drax, he’s kidnapped. Still, we were given enough of a taste of what’s to come that I’m satisfied for now. It also looks like Bendis will end up using Flash the same way Remender did with the Secret Avengers, having him save the day when everyone counts him out, but I’m hoping he does new things with him too.
As for the art in this main segment, I can’t say I was a fan. Nick Bradshaw’s art is more cartoonish than I would have liked, especially after having artists like Sara Pichelli on the series. There’s a big huff made about how puny Venom’s weapons are, but when he receives new weapons, they look exactly like the old. I also don’t like how Bradshaw draws Agent Venom, he doesn’t have the menace that other artists give Venom and it looks weird when the suit pulls back to reveal Flash’s face. Not to mention Bradshaw draws Peter Quill and Flash Thompson very similarly. There’s also a sudden change in art styles for the final scene and it’s very jarring.
Before jumping into my verdict, I’d like to look at the two back-up stories written by the DnA writers themselves, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. The first was Lanning and Jimenez’s Groot’s tale. Lanning definitely took a step back and let Jimenez go nuts here, delivering some beautiful and emotionally engaging art. The fact that there was only four words used in several different contexts was a nice refresher after the heavy handed script from Bendis, but it makes being hundred percent certain of what was going on hard. Still, it was my favorite of the three stories, it really delivers on the emotional front and there is strong unity between the creative team on show here.
The second is a look at the Guardians of old from Abnett and Sandoval, which was a surprising treat just because it seemed to be setting the stage for a much larger Guardians of the Galaxy story further down the line, when the old and the new Guardians will cross paths. Once again, the art team shines here. Sandoval and colorist Rachelle Rosenburg make the action come alive, especially when they illustrate how Yondau’s arrows work. Abnett’s script is nothing special, but it gives us a good “outsider looking in” perspective thanks to the newest member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Geena Drake, which thankfully brings a female presence to a mostly male story (it seems several of the older female guardians got lost in the chasm of forgotten comic book characters.) Still, as a new member of the Guardians, she’s a pretty weak character and we don’t get to spend a lot of time with any of the characters. Whether this will be continued by Abnett or Bendis remains unclear, but it definitely ends on a note that says we will see these characters again soon.
Conclusion: With a lot to digest in this anniversary issue, a lot of things don’t deliver quite the impact it’s meant to have. Thankfully, Agent Venom’s initiation to the Guardians with Drax is amongst some of the stronger material, as is both the back ups by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. However, Bendis really needs to set his ship straight and start delivering some answers, before he dives into the story lines set up in this issue.
- DnA return to the Guardians for the backups
- Art teams on the backups
- Agent Venom
- Strong material between the Quill family
- Too much going on
- Not enough answers
- Art in main segment weak
- No information on who is hunting Gamora
- Does a poor job catching new readers up
- Another “The Timeline is failing” story
- Nearly all the jokes fall flat