Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Geoff Shaw and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
In the farthest corners of the Marvel Universe, death is not an ending — it’s a new frontier, rife with fear and violence and possibility and change. And it’s these themes that writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw use to great effect with Guardians of the Galaxy #1, a giant-sized story that not only clears the continuity decks for Marvel’s favorite gang of space heroes, but remixes the team’s lineup and purpose against an all-new threat.
Rising from the ashes of Infinity Wars, Cates’ story starts off with an intriguing mystery — because even though Thanos himself has been laid low, killed by his own daughter Gamora, we discover that the Mad Titan has a contingency plan that has set a chill through the spines of all of Marvel’s cosmic heroes. A new Titan hides among the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, and the hushed, horrified reactions Cates writes does just as much to build Thanos’ reputation as a gauntlet full of Infinity Stones.
But while some might think of the beginning of this issue as mainly expositional, I would argue that Cates is positioning characters deliberately — particularly Thanos’ brother Starfox, whose lampshading about excluding Earth’s Avengers feels a shade malevolent, when you stop to think about it. But amassing all of Marvel’s cosmic heroes lets Cates kill two birds with one stone — not only is he then able to cherry-pick his favorites to line up the new Guardians of the Galaxy team (in one of the book’s most thrilling sequences), but he’s also able to shake up the rest of Marvel’s cosmic landscape in one fell swoop. To be honest, seeing characters like Star-Lord and Groot might be comforting for fans of the films, but I’d also say they might be the least interesting of the bunch, given the possibilities with Cates’ new roster.
The other thing is that this script is dense — and it’s a wonder that artist Geoff Shaw is able to keep up. The number of crowd scenes in this book feels intimidating, and given that this first issue is largely dialogue-driven with only a burst of action towards the end, you’d be forgiven in thinking that Shaw is just biding his time. But even the way that Shaw positions his characters says a lot about the hierarchy of things out in the vastness of the Marvel Universe — the Silver Surfer, armed with the Power Cosmic, seems to take point in much of Shaw’s compositions, while Beta Ray Bill looms over much of the other characters who scurry around the sidelines. Occasionally, Shaw does buckle a little under the massive script he’s tackling — the end of the battle royale took me a few reads to really understand what was happening — but for the most part, he does a really terrific job shouldering so many characters and making them all feel exciting.
For what’s essentially a table-setting issue, Cates and Shaw do a great job at instilling a sense of stakes and dread in Guardians of the Galaxy #1, a story that not only resurrects the threat of Thanos, but brings a new life and sense of purpose to a team that has been fractured and manhandled frequently since their big screen homecoming. There’s a lot going on in this giant-sized debut, but if you’re a fan of the Marvel Cosmic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy #1 is absolutely a must-read.