Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #18 (Bendis)
Bendis has earned praise writing street-level crime fantasy books – such as Daredevil. He’s unquestionably talented at producing such fare. Sadly, he has no “street cred” as a science-fiction writer. And it shows. It’s what people mean when they say they don’t like the “voice” of this series – especially in comparison to Volume II (you know, the Non-Bendis-Written material upon which the summer’s biggest movie was based).
Volume II soared into the awe and wonder of the cosmos with the Guardians directly – often single-handedly – involved in competently handling universe changing events. With Volume III, Bendis has reduced the Guardians to a marginally competent, third-rate Avengers-lite team; only slightly less obsessively Earthcentric than the actual Avengers and definitely not ready for prime time. He stuffs as many Avengers as possible into the team and has Star-Lord taking marching orders from the Avengers or worrying about what the Avengers will think about his actions. I’m sure at some point he’ll have the Guardians take on Kingpin in Hell’s Kitchen – and probably lose the fight. His conception of the Guardians has them taking on small problems mostly concerning Earth – and barely being able to handle these small problems. Of course, lots don’t like this “voice.” Face it, if not for the movie hype, this book would’ve been cancelled six ssues ago due to lack of interest/sales as nothing much of consequence has happened up to now. Even Brevoort has admitted that sales of this book are primarily due to movie hype.
This issue has been eagerly anticipated by several different factions. Rich Rider fans have hoped it will bring his return to full duty status in the Marvel Universe as the powerful, bad-ass hero he was in Volume IV of the Nova series. NINO fans hope it will be Rich’s death story so as to cement NINO in place once and for all. Neither faction will be satisfied by this issue. It’s just a long lead-in to a larger story arc that only begins to answer the question posed by Gamora at the beginning of the issue: “Where is Nova? What happened to Richard Ryder?” At least Gamora knows who the REAL Nova is. And apparently Bendis has spelling problems. Hey Bendis – it’s spelled R-i-d-e-r.
Unless Bendis uncharacteristically resists the obvious clichés being telegraphed in this issue, this story arc will likely be a gift to the NINO fans who want Rich gone once and for all. Star-Lord appears to be under the influence of a Cosmic Cube trying to protect itself – and (the actual) Nova appears to be getting ready to take the Cube away from him before Thanos can gain possession of it. You can guess what happens next. Particularly with the Revengers set to guest-star next issue.
I will say that this issue is the best issue of the worst GotG series to date. It has more competently performed action than all previous issues combined. And Rich’s brief action sequences and panel time are better than all 20 issues of NINO combined. I also enjoyed seeing Star-Lord back in uniform and actually acting like his Volume II self rather than the 20-something-year-old doofus that he has been morphed into by Bendis. I enjoyed seeing Drax in his intelligent, muscular, tattoo-less, purple-skull-cap-wearing incarnation obsessed with killing Thanos. Thanos himself came across as less menacing/powerful than he should have been. Thanos’ portrayal is the big disappointment in this issue. Thanos plans for all possible contingencies. He should’ve already found several ways to exit the Cancerverse independent of the Cube and harassment from Star-Lord, (the real) Nova, and Drax. He’s pretty much an ineffectual talker at this point.
The art and coloring are outstanding. As always, McGuinness and Ponsor do not disappoint. As is typical, the art is the best feature of Volume III.
So, it’s a mixed bag with Bendis apparently setting up to flip the bird to the Rider fans once again. Hold on – because it’s going to be a rocky ride for the next couple of months as both fan factions invested in the outcome of this storyline engage in some bruising fights in comic book forums.