Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #20
“Despite how well writer Brian Michael Bendis manages to capture the voices of the cast in Guardians of the Galaxy issue 20, that characterization can’t save what turns out to be rote, by-the-book superhero fare.”
Guardians of the Galaxy #20
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ed McGuinness and Valerio Schiti
Release Date: Wed, October 29th, 2014
Say what you want about writer Brian Michael Bendis—scribe of such comic book runs as New Avengers, Daredevil, and Ultimate Spider-Man—but the man knows characterization. While he has been criticized, and, at times, rightly so, about his excessive dialogue with plodding story progression, when he concentrates his efforts to effectively capture a character’s voice while adding something new, he nails it. Sadly, however, despite how well he manages to do just that with the cast in Guardians of the Galaxy issue 20, that characterization can’t save what turns out to be rote, by-the-book superhero fare.
In this Original Sin tie-in, Star-Lord continues his story from the previous issue, telling Gamora and the other Guardians the tale of how he and Drax, along with Thanos the Mad Titan, escaped the pocket universe known as the Cancerverse at the end of 2010’s cosmic crossover event The Thanos Imperative, while Richard Rider, the hero known as Nova, did not. Until now, Star-Lord and Drax had kept the secrets of that day to themselves, but Gamora threatened to leave the team if Star-Lord did not level with her concerning what really happened. Breaking a vow he made to Nova before making it back home, Star-Lord comes clean with his fellow Guardians in an effort to keep Gamora from walking out of their lives.
Since the end of Imperative and Star-Lord’s return after his apparent death, fans of Nova the Human Rocket have been curious as to the whereabouts of their hero. When writer Jeph Loeb launched a new Nova comic book series a few years back featuring a young man who was clearly not Richard Rider, Marvel kept readers on the hook for many years wondering what happened to Rider prior to Star-Lord’s return. With that mystery finally unearthed, the whole of the explanation feels serviceable at best, and at worst being more than underwhelming. Marvel has been mum about the events that took place at the end of Imperative for quite some time, leading readers to believe that the comic book company had a grand reveal up its sleeve to make the years of waiting for an explanation worth the anticipation. Instead, Bendis offers up an explanation that feels perfunctory, laying out a story that has the air of being written checklist style.
The aftermath of the tale is that Nova is shown to be the hero we always knew him to be and a backdoor was left open should Marvel ever want to reintroduce the character, because comics. More importantly for the more immediate future, however, is that what Gamora discovers about Richard Rider’s feelings toward her and Star-Lord’s deceit make her conflicted as to whether she wants to stay with her newly chosen family of Guardians. Sadly, while I understand the use of the drama of the revelation surrounding Nova’s fate is meant to move the story of the Guardians for the immediate future, Richard Rider’s tale feels like it has been overshadowed in the process.
The two shining lights of the issue are the humor and the art, both of which contribute to showing the close bond of friendship that had been developing between Nova and Star-Lord prior to the events of Imperative. While I am enjoying Star-Lord’s recently launched solo comic book series, this issue made me long for a buddy comic book featuring the duo, cracking wise and saving the galaxy. Artist Ed McGuinness and Valerio Schiti’s art do a lot to get this humor across, though McGuinness’ beautiful-but-cartoonish style fail to add to the gravitas needed for some of the comic’s more serious moments.
While it’s heartening that Guardians of the Galaxy #20 offers up a clear window for Richard Rider to return to the Marvel Universe fold, the whole affair feels perfunctory, a way to mark something off an “unsolved mysteries” list so that everyone can move on. The real mystery, though, is why Marvel would spend so much time prior to Imperative to revitalize Richard Rider’s character only to give him the brush-off that he’s been given here.