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: Darren Shan
EDITOR: Jordan D. White
STORY (with commentary): Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #’s15-19: Grounded
GotG#15: A lonely Ben Grimm wanders the streets of a New York he no longer recognizes. He is evidently interested in the Inhumans’ destruction of Stark Tower during Civil War II, so he calls in some obscure Iron Man supporting cast character to figure out what happened. I think its Gwyneth Pottstrow or something? Who cares. (I don’t know if this is a direct reference to the OMD mind wipe or a direct reference to Bendis’ sporadic onset Continuity Alzheimer’s, but he has Ben wonder if he’s ever met MJ. MJ says they haven’t. They have. Several times.) Amidst his perusal of the ruins of Stark Tower, the Thing runs afoul of Whiplash, whom he soundly dispatches with a single punch. Its comes up in conversation with MJ that Dr. Doom has gone straight and was in close association with Stark before Carol Danvers blasted him into a coma. Grimm joins S.H.I.E.L.D. to find his old foe, beginning his investigation with Dr. Amara Perrera, a known associate of Doom’s (from Bendis’ pre-Affirmative Action Iron Man book). To be continued in Infamous Iron Man. No Venom.
GotG#16: Groot pretends to be a tree in Central Park. Then he beats up the Armadillo (basically Captain America’s Rhino) and makes friends with some kid. Some kid swings on Groot’s branches back in the Park. No Venom.
GotG#17: Gamora is captured by Alpha Flight when she tries to investigate reports of Thanos’ incarceration in the Triskellion. Captain Marvel tells her that Thanos escaped his cell during Civil War II and is now off-planet. Gamora escapes captivity to sneak into Thanos’ cell to confirm this. Thanos is gone. Gamora is locked in Thanos’ cell by Alpha Flight. To be continued. No Venom.
GotG#18: After the Triskellion fight back in Civil War II, Angela shares a bromantic moment with Gamora and then takes her leave of the Guardians. Amidst her search for her girlfriend Sera (from Angela: Queen of Hel) in their old apartment, Angela is attacked by a random alien who’s trying to leave the planet before something horrible happens. Angela takes the alien down and learns that Thanos is on way back with an invasion force to take the Earth. To be concluded. No Venom.
GotG#19: Turns out Annihilus, the Brood Queen, and a Badoon overlord snatched up Thanos into their cosmic version of the Cabal from Dark Reign and convinced themselves that Earth was their only obstacle to galactic conquest. The Cabal wants to destroy it. Thanos wants to dominate it. Back in a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, Captain Marvel tells Rocket and Quill about a spaceship graveyard in Indonesia (convenient). Alarms blare when Thanos’ invasion force arrives. Kitty, Thing, and Groot all notice of the aliens’ arrival from their respective locales. As does, wait for it… Flash Thompson! Turns out (presumably sometime between the conclusion of Venom: Space Knight and the beginning of the current Venom book), Flash left New York (and Philly) to go to Paramus, NJ to find work. (Maybe he couldn’t find work in the city and wanted to be close to his mom and sister? – again, no reason is given) Anyways, Captain Marvel and Rocket fly off to Indonesia to redneck-engineer a spaceship. Quill, Drax, Groot, and Agent Venom (yay!) all show up at the helicarrier to take their shot at Thanos. (Easily Flash’s biggest baddy he’s gone up against in his tenure with the symbiote) As Kitty and Thing join the fray, the Cosmic Cabal decides to pull the plug on this op and destroy the planet with Thanos still on it. This fails when Angela kills off all of the Brood, including their Queen (basically the exact same thing she did to the Badoon in #10), while Rocket, with a new ship he put together inexplicably fast (convenient), and Captain Marvel destroy the rest of the invasion force with Alpha Flight. The assembled Guardians corner Thanos when Gamora finally shows up and inexplicably refuses to fight him (maybe she was trying to be the “bigger man”, but this still felt absurdly out-of-character for her). The Guardians bring Thanos down (even though the Hickman Avengers, who had much heavier hitters on their squad, failed to do so back in Infinity #6). Later, the Nova Corps shows up to take the Titan into custody. The core five Guardians say their goodbyes to the rest of the team and fly off to space. In the epilogue, Annihilus and the Badoon guy decide not to mess with Earth anymore (convenient). The end.
This was OK. It was very characteristic of the end of a Bendis run: not completely disappointing but not really all that satisfying. On the one hand, I was happy to learn that Flash got one more appearance as Agent Venom before his goodbye with the alien in Venom #150. It was nice to get an official farewell moment between Agent Venom and the rest of the team. And there were some nice, little character moments, like Quill and Kitty hugging it out at the end of their relationship, but that, unfortunately, is all this issue has going for it, as far as the writing is concerned: little moments. And not all of them, such as Gamora’s disarmed approach to dealing with Thanos or Rocket getting behind the wheel of a new ship, came across as cathartic as I’m sure they were intended to because they weren’t earned. There was no build-up. And regarding our boy Flash, his appearance here is all that it ever really has been in this title: a cameo.
Even the final battle wasn’t really all that cathartic because it wasn’t really earned in Bendis’ run. The conflict here should really have been between the Guardians and the Cabal in the Negative Zone, not Thanos. I mean, yes, there is some build up to Thanos’ presence here, but only in other books. Thanos has been on Earth since FCBD:Civil War II, but to understand his reasons (He wants the Cosmic Cube. Original), you need to have read Nick Spencer’s “Silent Hill” arc and his Captain America books. So, really, Thanos’ story should have unfolded there, not in Guardians. There was no real story reason to specifically use Thanos here. You could have exchanged him for any other cosmic baddie and this issue would have been the same, which sucks. Thanos, next to Doom, is arguably the Marvel Universe’s biggest threat. Anytime he shows up it should be something huge. Using him in so dismissive a manner diminishes his menace (not to mention the poor way his dialogue is written: “Citizens of Earth. Hi!” is not something Thanos would say!). I understand Bendis’ desire to bookend his Guardians run (which kind of began in Avengers Assemble #’s1-8) with Thanos, but there’s a right way and wrong way to do this. DnA’s Guardians run was the former. This is the latter.
The art, however, was unsurprisingly phenominal. Valerio Schiti has really hit his stride in this series and he finishes his tenure with the Guardians on a high note. And getting a murderer’s row of top talent on display in the last issue, including the likes of Mark Bagley, Ed McGuinness, Kevin Maguire, and Nick Bradshaw (who draws one sweet looking Agent Venom) among others, was such a treat. And considering the common complaint among comic fans when we don’t get a consistence look (and oftentimes a consistent voice) in our books nowadays, I hold up Bendis & Schiti’s Guardians of the Galaxy as a prime example of two top talents who can provide this for us month-to-month despite the requisite deadlines of professional storytelling in the Big Two.
And so, before we say a final goodbye to the partnership between Flash and the symbiote next month in Venom #150, we say again “farewell” to the good Mr. Thompson. His time with the symbiote was certainly a highlight in both his and the alien’s stories. And while they weren’t really used to great effect in the book at hand, I’m sure there’s certainly some great dramatic potential for future creative teams to pick up on and retroactively explore regarding Agent Venom’s time with Guardians of the Galaxy.
One more time: Thank you Brian Bendis! Thank you Valerio Schiti! Thank you to all members of the creative team for putting this book on the stands for us! And thank you to the Crawlspace for giving us a forum to voice our love of Spider-Man! See you all around the site!
Average (a sufficient, if not exactly substantial, conclusion to Bendis’ run on Guardians of the Galaxy)