Decompression? Check. Pages worth of characters just sitting around eating? Check. Awesome art? Check. Pretty sweet story? Definitely! Strap in for some classic Bendis action! (that sounded different in my head. . .)
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST: Valerio Schiti
COLOR ARTIST: Richard Isanove
LETTERER: VC’s Cory Petit
COVERS by Art Adams & Jason Keith
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Kathleen Wisneski
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Jake Thomas
EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Nick Lowe
REVIEWER’S NOTE: Due both to decompression and the fact that Flash Thompson’s presence in this book is often so minor that any Venom-centric reviewer would be hard-pressed to find much to say about the Agent of the Cosmos on an issue-by-issue basis, the Crawlspace’s reviews of Venom’s adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy will now focus on full stories, rather than single issues.
This book’s written for the trade, so we’ll review the trade. Here we go!
STORY (with commentary): Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #’s6-10: Galaxy’s Most Wanted
GotG#6: Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde talk about their respective failures in politics and fashion as they infiltrate the sewers of a Badoon prison world. Kitty flies off the handle, getting righteously indignant when a bird’s eye view of the prison reveals that it’s more like a concentration camp (wishing them “Chag sameach,” or “a happy and kosher holiday,” as she blasts entire ships to bits with her Black Vortex powers, lol!). Quill is captured and sentenced to death in a public arena. No Venom.
GotG#7: Rocket feigns capture, allowing Thing to ambush the Badoon guards by literally dropping on them from orbit. As Rocket repairs the prison transport ship to rescue the captives, a blue alien woman flirts pretty hard with Thing. After another skirmish with some guards, the two Guardians successfully exfiltrate the prisoners (Thing and the blue lady share a weird brain-gasm on their way off planet, so, yaknow, no one tell Alicia Masters). They intercept a Badoon transmission of Quill’s impending execution and start to plot another rescue op. No Venom.
GotG#8: The book opens with Venom (finally!) and Groot stuck in the middle of a cavern filled with Skrulls.
The day before the events of the last 2.05 issues, the Guardians are all sitting around a table in Knowhere discussing their invasion of the Badoon prison world, because Gamora has apparently located an associate of theirs on the planet. They determine that calling in some favors to mount a full scale invasion would be ill-advised, as the Badoon completely destroyed the last prison planet on which that was attempted, wiping out half of a Shi’ar fleet in the process. They thus decide to split up and do this black-ops style.
Venom and Groot snuggle up in the symbiote together (lol: a Venom-slanket! I want one) to do a halo-jump onto the planet. (How did the Venom symbiote survive a halo-jump?! Schiti actually drew Venom and Groot with flames around them as they entered the atmosphere! Does Nick Lowe not know these things’ weaknesses?) They land in a mountain range full of Super-Skrulls. Flash attacks the aliens, still smarting from that time they abducted and dissected him in the last volume, and from that other time they tried to take the Earth for their empire. Groot holds Venom back, pointing out that there is something wrong with the Skrulls. One of them tells the two Guardians that they have lost their shapeshifting ability since being enslaved by the Badoon (with a Flash noticing a nice bit of irony in the situation: he’s saving Skrulls from slavery despite the Skrulls having tried to enslave humanity). While fuming that he was not informed about this part of the mission, Venom, Groot, and the Skrulls are ambushed by Badoon prison guards. After repelling the attackers, the Guardians are taken into the mines where they meet all the Skrulls from the issue’s beginning, who are ready for war against the Badoon.
GotG#9: Drax and Gamora invade the warden’s tower. Gamora gets “captured” and interrogated about the locations of Thanos and the Black Vortex. She uses the last vestiges of her Vortex power (which apparently fades with time and exertion) to escape and find their captured associate: Angela. Drax shows up with Angela’s stuff. They learn that Quill was captured and taken to the Badoon home-world and start heading that way. No Venom.
GotG#10: The Badoon attempt to execute Quill on an intergalactic broadcast. The rest of the Guardians escape the prison world with thousands of slaves and prisoners to come rescue him (Flash evidently understands Groot now too). Together, the Guardians and slaves absolutely wreck the Badoon homeworld (but Schiti yet again draws Venom on-fire-and-unperturbed! Blurg!), all the while broadcasting the Badoon’s defeat throughout the galaxy (Angela decidedly deals the crushing blow when she brandishes the decapitated head of the Badoon leader and tells the rest of the Brotherhood that they will be left to change their ways or face total destruction). As the Guardians party back aboard their ship, Captain Marvel telecoms in to ask them for help against Tony Stark back on Earth. Venom gets 5 lines and they’re all practically throw-aways, although he does kick some serious ass in this issue, but, then again, so does everyone else.
To be continued. . .
ANALYSIS: This story was full of awesome visuals and really fun character interactions. And yet, it feels like Bendis realized he’s running out of time to finish his run. The Badoon were present as a threat at the beginning of his tenure on this book, but then the focus shifted to affairs with the Spartax government, then we got sidetracked by the obligatory crossover with Bendis’ X-books, Black Vortex, and Secret Wars, so it’s like he ran out of time to continue to build the Badoon up as a credible threat. As cool as this arc was, the Guardians’ victory over the Brotherhood doesn’t quite have the catharsis it should, and I blame whoever keeps pushing events and crossovers at Marvel for that.
What a waste too, not seeing the Venom symbiote’s reaction to working with Ben Grimm, who was responsible for separating it from its first host. And vice versa: Ben knows the threat that Venom poses more than the other Guardians (maybe Kitty, but when Venom was at his height, she was wrapped up in X-Men stuff). This is a good chance for some tension amidst the team that’s gone untapped (Ben just fraternally refers to Venom as “Inky” and “the big, symbioty, Army guy”). And we’re not going to get it apparently, as Bendis’ last arc on this book looks to be coming this Fall.
And while we finally got an issue that focused on Venom, his limelight was relatively shorter than the other Guardians. I understand that by the time it was Venom and Groot’s turn to shine, and I admittedly really enjoyed their interplay, we needed to be caught up on why the Guardians are infiltrating this planet. But this still took away from Flash’s panel time. This just adds to my speculation that Bendis isn’t quite sure what to do with Agent Venom in this book, as though he saved the two characters that he can say the least with for the issue that he used a third of to catch us up on the plot. This is, obviously, just conjecture, and understandable really, but I still wish we’d get more Venom in this series. Whatever. Go get Space Knight (and read Shaun’s reviews!)
That being said, Flash is a soldier, and I appreciate that Bendis gets that (much more like Remender and less like Bunn’s handling of the character, the latter of which described Flash as still a bully at heart, failing to understand Flash’s development over the years). Fading into the background and not grabbing the glory so that the mission can be accomplished is indicative of Flash’s character growth from B.M.O.C. to the selfless soldier who won the Medal of Honor. So, with that in mind, his minor presence in this team book is a nice bit of commentary on his character. But I may be giving the creative team too much credit here as that hardly seems intentional on their part.
CROWNING MOMENT OF KLYNTAR AWESOME: Venom’s halo jump. Grievous omission of his weakness to fire aside, it was a pretty sweet sequence. Seeing Venom sprout wings and glide into a safe landing after jumping from the upper atmosphere was really cool. Plus, Schiti’s rendering of Flash and Groot’s Tandem Skydive Venom looked really good. I’d buy that action figure. And having Groot written and drawn so nervously with Flash being so focused and cool was pretty funny, and set the tone really well for the dynamic between the two Guardians for the rest of the issue.
A big “Thank You” to Brian Bendis, Valerio Schiti, and the rest of the creative team for putting this book on the stands for us symbiote and Cosmic Marvel fans. See you all at the conclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy’s tie-in with Civil War II.
Good (filled with fun character work and great artwork, with an especially action-packed conclusion, the latest arc of Guardians of the Galaxy delivers plenty of entertainment value, albeit suffers a bit from having to abruptly reopen and resolve the team’s conflict with the Badoon)