Guardians of The Galaxy #8Written by Dan Abnett and Andy LanningPenciler: Brad WalkerColorist: Wil QuintanaCover Artist: Clint LangleyVariant Cover Artist: Brandon Peterson Warning: Contains SpoilersThere is a reason that Guardians of the Galaxy ranked #18 on CBR’s 100 Best Comics of 2008. Just pick up any issue and you’ll see why. Consistent epic storytelling, fantastic art, snappy dialogue, and compelling drama make for a great read every month. Issue #8 proves my point.Issue #8 opens with former team leader Star-Lord’s arrival on Hala. He’s on his own after the fragmentation of the team in the last issue. He encounters Emperor Ronan, who is not feeling particularly forgiving about Star-Lord’s role in the Phalanx’s conquest of the Kree; and after an altercation, Star-Lord is banished to the Negative Zone where he is waylaid by King Blastaar and pressed unwillingly into Blastaar’s service. Meanwhile, the core fragment of the team, now lead by Rocket Racoon, finishes the bloody battle with the Badoon that began last issue. Finally, the Warlock and Gamora fragment of the team continues their battle with The Universal Church of Truth; culminating with Warlock demanding an audience with The Holy Matriarch. Disappointingly, we are not treated to an update on what’s happening with the Drax and Quasar (Phyla-Vel version) fragment of the team on their quest to find Moondragon and Cammi.It is a testament to Abnett and Lanning’s writing skills that this much great storytelling could be packed into one book. As a fan of Star-Lord since his 1970’s debut, this issue answered many questions in my mind as to why he has not displayed any of his original powers in his current incarnation. During Annihilation, it was simply implied that he had renounced his Star-Lord identity and powers. In this issue, we learn that Ronan ordered not only Star-Lord’s cybernetic implants to be stripped from him in order to infiltrate the Phalanx during Conquest; but also all his powers. My thanks to Abnett and Lanning for clearing up that nagging question. This issue also cleared up a nagging question that I have had since Civil War – that being how the denizens of the Negative Zone would react to Reed Richards building a prison there. The reaction is predictable of course; and now Star-Lord must clean up yet another mess arising from Civil War. Abnett and Lanning’s portrayal of Star-Lord is truly remarkable. We are able to understand him like never before as a Spartoi-Human Hybrid on a desperate quest for redemption. He has had a storied career; but his choices have had universal consequences resulting in the deaths of millions. He carries this weight heavily on his shoulders; neglecting the fact that though millions have died, he has saved hundreds of millions. I would go so far as to say that Star-Lord is the most interesting, complex, and compelling character in cosmic themed comics currently available through the mass market. In contrast, I must say that I was a bit disappointed in Ronan’s portrayal. I had high hopes for the Ronan character after Annihilation and Conquest; but his treatment in this issue of GOTG (and in the recent Inhumans mini) seems to ignore the complex characterization seen in Annihilation and Conquest; once again reducing him to a semi-insightful but ultimately short-sighted thug unconcerned with the universal consequences of his decision to rebuild Phalanx tech.What can I say about the core fragment of the team’s battle with the Badoon except – WOW! Anything with Rocket Racoon blasting away with an automatic weapon and a fully regrown Groot yelling his battle cry, “I AM GROOT,” while tearing the head off a giantized Badoon Zom has me from the get go. It was also good to see Bug return to the team, Mantis return to active duty, and Major Victory being, well, a cosmic version of Captain America. I keep hoping for a meeting between Major Victory and Nova during one of Nova’s visits to Knowhere in order to see if this alternate universe version of Vance Astrovik knows an alternate universe version of Rich Rider. Maybe we’ll see this in War of Kings? Speaking of War of Kings, this issue was billed as a War of Kings tie-in; but the tie-in was not obvious to me from the events revealed so far in Kingbreaker. I guess we will look back on this issue and say, “Oh, so THAT was a subtle tie-in to War of Kings.”The Warlock and Gamora fragment of the team took down a UCT Cardinal without breaking a sweat. It was nice to see Gamora looking lovely again; almost totally healed from the frying she took in an earlier issue. I’ll be glad when her hair grows back. It is also good to see Gamora being portrayed much more like her Infinity Watch incarnation – as a smart, deadly assassin. I enjoyed the steamy sexuality of her Annihilation and Conquest portrayals; but was frustrated by her bimbo-like intelligence portrayal in those series. She is an intriguing character on a number of levels and this needs to be explored more in the series. Warlock – if this really is Warlock (remember the Universal Church of Truth thinks they have a cocoon containing Warlock) – remains an enigma. Part Dr. Strange and part the Adam Warlock we all know from the past, I just don’t have a good feel for this new incarnation yet and his true motives remain a mystery.The Drax and Phyla-Quasar fragment of the team does not appear in this issue, but we are promised an extended storyline about them in an upcoming issue. In the past, we have seen Drax portrayed as a rather one-dimensional Thanos-obsessed killer and a mindless brute. I like this new more contemplative portrayal of Drax the best. Drax has really grown as a character during the Annihilation, Conquest, and GOTG series. I hope to see more Drax development in future issues. I still don’t have a good feel for Phyla and like many others, I am not sure she is up to the role of Quasar. With Wendell’s recent return in the pages of Nova and with Moondragon’s impending return, maybe we will see her give up the Quantum Bands and join the Nova Corps as portrayed in the possible future flash of the Nova Annual.Turning to interior art, Walker gives a treat for the eyes. Rocket Racoon and Groot have never looked better. Gamora and Mantis look sexier than ever. Quintana’s colors are perfect. Langley’s mass market cover featuring a portrait of Blastaar is appealing enough; but it can’t compare to the Villain Variant cover featuring a portrait of Thanos sporting the Infinity Gauntlet. If you can pick up a copy of the Villain Variant cover, it is highly recommended as the art is magnificent.In conclusion, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those books where you’re truly disappointed that it takes 30 days to get your next installment. Action-packed, fun, funny at times, dramatic, and breath-taking in scope; I simply don’t understand why it is only a mediocre seller. If you’re not reading it, this would be a great issue to jump on board because it’s only going to get better and better.