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Guardians of the Galaxy #21 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Brad Walker

Colorist: Wil Quintana

Cover Artist: Brad Wilkins

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

It was fitting that this issue was released on the eve of Christmas Eve because it certainly felt like a wonderful early Christmas present.

There’s a lot to love about Issue #21 of Guardians of the Galaxy. First, I must once again heap praise upon master storytellers DnA. Only in their hands could a character with as many intrinsic flaws as Moondragon actually carry a story this complex. Amazingly, for the first time ever I found Moondragon interesting, sympathetic, and relevant. I found myself actually starting to like her and beginning to honestly care about what’s happening to her. It was also nice to see her hold her own in a fight against a vastly more powerful foe.

Walker’s fine renderings go a long way in re-making Moondragon from an arrogant, self-centered, occasional pseudo-villainess into a more heroic character that might actually develop a fan following. Not only does Walker capture Moondragon’s beauty much better than most other artists have in the past; but he also takes the time to make her facial expressions mirror the various internal and external conflicts and turmoil with which she is contending.

I’ll admit that I was at first nervous about Moondragon joining the team and being the pseudo-narrator and focus character of this arc as in the 36 years that I’ve been reading stories featuring the character I’ve always considered her a “story killer.” My fears have been allayed. She strengthens this arc. One thing though – the big goofy earrings have got to go. I don’t know any soldier or law enforcement officer who would engage in hand-to-hand combat wearing something like those big earrings that could easily be grabbed by an opponent and used to inflict disabling pain (and wasn’t this exact scenario portrayed in a fight scene in the otherwise eminently forgettable Aeon Flux movie?). Even setting aside the practical considerations, the big earrings detract from her looks. Let’s just drop them and focus on the lithe sexy bald chic look such as was so perfectly captured by the Ilia character in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Star-Lord’s portrayal is also noteworthy. DnA nicely capture a Peter Quill who is rapidly “fraying around the edges” from the multiple sources of stress coming at him from every angle as well as the inner demons which have always driven him. Thus, vulnerable both psychologically (from recent and historical events) and physically (having been de-powered some time ago) – Quill is easily the most “human” of the cast of characters and therefore the most intrinsically relatable to the readership. I’ve often wondered why DnA have chosen to keep Quill de-powered. I suppose the “human-ness” that I’ve just referenced is at least one reason – but I don’t think a power tweak would make him less relatable and I confess that in 2010 I’d be happy to see Ship find him and return his healing factor, partial invulnerability, and flight powers at the very least. The other Starlord, Singin Quarrel, can keep the Element Gun as I never cared for that poorly conceived weapon. A projectile weapon is the proper side arm for the Peter Quill Star-Lord.

The final breakout character of this issue was Drax the Destroyer. I’ve been a Drax fan for 36 years (yeah I’m old). My favorite incarnation was the original Thanos-obsessed, purple-cape-wearing, skull-cap-sporting, cosmic powered version. My least favorite incarnation was, of course, the poorly conceived brain-damaged pseudo-comedic version from the Infinity Watch era that was thankfully put out of its misery in the pre-Annihilation Drax mini-series (leading to creation of the modern incarnation).

I do like the modern portrayal even though it’s perhaps occasionally a bit too Wolverine-ish for my tastes. I was glad to see Drax get some character development time in this issue. Too often he’s been portrayed as merely the bad-ass guy who shows up and kills all the villains in the room. Don’t get me wrong, I like bad-ass guys (and girls – see the uncensored Kick-Ass trailer featuring Hit-Girl) who show up and kill everyone in the room – I just prefer them to have a better motivation than “because I can.”

The UCT Matriarch really did a number on Drax with the psychological manipulation trick; but that should trigger character development such as we have never before seen from Drax. As a side note, I’m looking forward to seeing how Drax will exact revenge against her. As another side note – what’s with Drax’s alien-looking facial appearance? I prefer the more human facial characteristics such as depicted in his Annihilation appearances.

Of course, Rocket Raccoon and Groot contribute to the humor of the series with assistance from Bug and Jack Flag – all without going overboard to the point that it interferes with the gravity of the situations in which the team finds themselves. I really hope 2010 brings us at least one Rocket-centric and one Groot-centric plot thread as these two intriguing characters are just aching for further development. Rocket has been stellar in his role as Peter’s second in command; but I want to get to know him a little better – learn more about his background and his motivations. Likewise, I want to know why Groot sticks around on Knowhere rather than making efforts to rebuild his Kingdom. While I’m on the subject of anthropomorphic characters, I’ll just come right out and say it. I MISS COSMO!!! Please DnA, bring Cosmo back in 2010 (and while you’re at it – bring back the easy on the eyes Gamora and Mantis).

As in most good science-fiction/science-fantasy, relevant and topical socio-political-religious issues are addressed. Governmental cowardice on the part of Knowhere’s ruling council, government sanctioned treachery on the part of Knowhere’s official super-powered peacekeepers – The Luminals, and the religious fanaticism of The Universal Church of Truth are all touched upon. The consequences of these issues are presented without heavy-handedness or descent into preachiness; and without DnA necessarily taking a side. In other words, DnA use the situation to provoke thought about these complex issues – letting the reader draw their own conclusions. Thought provocation – now that’s a rare commodity in what passes for news programming and popular entertainment these days.

Walker’s photo-realistic style art is among the best I’ve seen in the business. I always look forward to opening up an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoying the eye candy when I see Walker’s name on the cover. Quintana’s coloring makes the art pop off the page and command your attention – adding another layer of depth to the comics reading experience. Wilkens’ cover art is successful in being both attractive and in accomplishing the difficult task of a one-frame capture of the action characteristic of each issue of Guardians of the Galaxy – providing the initial temptation for potential readers to pick this book off the shelf and for long time readers to continue buying it. That’s the acid test for the quality of a cover in my comics worldview.

In closing, I’d like to thank Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker, Wil Quintana, Bill Rosemann, Joe Quesada, and all the other Marvel Artistic and Editorial staff who have worked hard to bring we fans each wonderful issue of Guardians of the Galaxy throughout 2009. Thanks especially to the loyal fans who buy each issue of Guardians of the Galaxy so Marvel can keep these incredible adventures coming to us each month. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t just set the storytelling and art bar for Cosmic comics; it sets the bar for all comics. Let’s all continue to work together to make 2010 an even better year for Marvel Cosmic. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the Marvel Staff and the Cosmic Fans.
 

Article by: Bill Meneese

 

 

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