Review by Frank Plowright
A fifth hardcover collection concludes Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Guardians of the Galaxy, and over the first half it dips even lower than before, much of the content coasting and tie-ins with crossovers, ensuring the bright spots are extremely limited.
In Vol. 4 Star-Lord came clean about knowing Thanos was still alive, and not telling the remainder of the Guardians. It splits them apart, which isn’t great news when their spacecraft is beyond repair, stranding them on Earth while assorted superheroes are at each other’s throats during a second Civil War. The best aspect of this collection is the final story, a widescreen epic in forty pages as Thanos invades Earth yet again. If only Bendis had produced more stories like this during his run. It’s action packed, page-turning, funny, and features plenty of surprises in getting the Guardians back together again.
Before then we have what are in effect a bunch of solo tales for some the Guardians, bypassing the ones Bendis has no time for, and a space filling team-up with Spider-Man. These solo stories at least force Bendis to concentrate on individual personalities, and while the sometimes too snappy comebacks are still present, they’re minimised as Gamora takes on Captain Marvel (twice), the Thing wistfully finds a place back on Earth and Angela looks into her past. Valerio Schiti draws the hell out of them all. In the opening chapter of the Guardians still together, he’s a real workhorse as the team arrive on Earth, filling the pages with other superheroes to create great pin-ups, including a couple of dozen characters without them looking messy. As the solo stories arrive they’re each different in tone, and Schiti gives them all the appropriate mood, even what’s in effect a Groot children’s story told in rhyme. Kevin Maguire’s art is nice, but wasted on the inconsequential Spider-Man team-up, and the remaining artists all contribute sections to the Thanos story. For some it’s a brief farewell to a series they’ve drawn earlier, and others are new.
Paperbacks titled Civil War II and Grounded provide a cheaper option, and if you just buy the latter you’ll be getting all the better material here, although missing out on some of Schiti’s spectacular art. While so good for so long on whichever title he wrote for Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy is Bendis’ win streak coming to an end, the highlights being in moments rather than any consistency.