Guardians of the Galaxy #14 (Vol. 2)

GotG1

“To the Death” by Abnett & Lanning, and Walker

Previously, in Guardians of the Galaxy #13, the Guardians split up into two teams, one led by Peter Quill, and one led by Rocket Raccoon, in an attempt to make peace between the Inhuman Royal Family and the Shi’ar empire respectively. The Inhumans seemed uninterested in making peace, and the Shi’ar flagship was teleport shielded, leaving Rocket and his crew stranded, only to be picked up by a group called the Starjammers. Adam Warlock, however, was able to get past the teleport shield, and found himself aboard the Shi’ar ship alone to face the Shi’ar emperor, Vulcan.

GotG2 GotG3

In the royal city of Attilan, Kala, Peter Quill and his crew continue their attempts to convince the Inhumans to stand down against the Shi’ar. Even Bug get’s to try.

GotG4 GotG6 GotG5

Well, it looks like Phyla-vell has lost her damn mind. Back on Knowhere, Cosmo and Mantis are having trouble locating the Guardians, though that’s pretty much par for the course for these guys. Moondragon, meanwhile is having visions of Starhawk.

Back to the Shi’ar flagship, Adam Warlock struggles against Vulcan. Also, he’s purple.

GotG7

Vulcan’s magicians try to contain him, but to no avail.

GotG8

Though he manages to get away, Vulcan’s men were able to attach a witch-mark to Warlock before his escape, allowing them to track him no matter where he goes. Uh oh.

Before the Inhumans can execute Quill and his team, Medusa’s sister Crystal pleads with them to hear them out. Unfortunately, Phyla-vell has, once again, lost control of herself.

GotG9 GotG11 GotG10

Quill calls in to Cosmo to have them teleported back to Knowhere, where Adam Warlock has just reappeared, noticing the witch-mark. Quill and the gang return to Knowhere, Quill furious as ever and Phyla-vell with her new hostage. Before they can sort everything out, though, both the Inhumans and the Shi’ar arrive.

GotG12

Things just keep getting worse and worse for the Guardians. With the war now at their doorstep, they’ve seriously got their work cut out. It’s too bad Rocket, Groot, Major Victory and Drax are out in the middle of space with the Starjammers. The Guardians could really use that kind of muscle right now.

I’ve already expressed my dissatisfaction with the way this series only ever seems to be used as a tie-in for a larger story, and rarely tries to stand on its own, but this book at least put the Guardians at the heart of the issue, giving us a front row seat for the potential destruction of the universe. I like that.

Though most of this issue is reserved for brawling, we do get to see the first real signs that something is definitely wrong with Phyla-vell. First, everyone agreed that the name change from Quasar to Martyr seemed odd, and now she’s become so reckless, Quill is afraid she could ruin everything. She’s certainly become the opposite of the push-over she was as Quasar, that’s for sure.

Also, as Phyla-vell transforms, we also see a change in Adam Warlock. During his fight with Vulcan, he seemed much more ominous, aggressive and purple! I don’t know what’s going on there, but it can’t be good.

No Rocket Raccoon or Groot this time, so the jokes were scarce, however Gamora did manage to sneak one in at Bug’s expense.

Next issue looks to be like all out war, so there’s something to look forward to!

Guardians of the Galaxy #13 (Vol. 2)

GotG1

“Peacemakers” by Abnett & Lanning, and Walker

This issue starts to get to the heart of the War of Kings crossover event that began, in this title at least, with issue 8. A war is brewing between the Shi’ar Imperium and the Kree Stellar Empire, and with the universe in such a fragile state, that could mean the end of everything. That’s where the Guardians of the Galaxy come in…er…

GotG2 GotG3 GotG4

As the Peter Quill and the Guardians brawl it out with some Shi’ar in Knowhere’s bar, Adam Warlock shows up. He informs Quill of Shi’ar attacks on the Kree and the importance of stoping it. Though he’s still a little pissed about Quill’s previous deception, he agrees to work together to stop the common threat.

The group realizes that both sides are made up of powerful warriors. As if to point out the obvious, Bug points out that there are only a dozen Guardians, hardly enough to stop two warring races. But Quill and Warlock have a simpler plan. They’re going to sit down the leaders and talk them out of it somehow.

Quill and Rocket Raccoon will lead their own respective teams.

GotG5 GotG6

Cosmo teleports Rocket’s team directly into a fissure that’s already forming in the Disradi System, part of the Kree Frontier. The fissure is a direct result of a Shi’ar nega-bomb.

GotG7 GotG8

Meanwhile, in the Kree city of Attilan, Star-Lord and his team plan to meet with Black Bolt, the leader of the Kree, for what they expect will be walk in the park.

GotG9

Back in the Disradi System, Mantis teleports Rocket and the gang to a nearby Shi’ar ship as Adam Warlock seals up the fissure. Unfortunately, only Warlock makes it on board due to a teleport shield on the ships, leaving the rest drifting out in space. The Shi’ar spot them and bring them in themselves.

GotG10  GotG11GotG12

It turns out they aren’t Shi’ar at all, but a group of adventurers known as the Starjammers, some of whom are acquaintances of Rocket.

The Starjammers destroy a nearby Shi’ar ship before blasting off into space. It turns out they have a mission all their own which could spell trouble for the Guardians.

GotG13

Sometimes, it seems like this title was created not to stand along, but to exist as supplemental material for crossover events. That said, this issue is still a lot of fun because it plays to everyone’s strengths. Rocket’s team is made up of bruisers who are basically there to tear stuff up and Star-Lord’s got the more diplomatic team, which allows for some fun character moments (apparently Bug can’t understand why he wasn’t originally asked to be a member of the Guardians). In the past few issues, Drax and Gamora, traditionally one-note tough guys (more or less), have been a welcome source of levity, which I’ve really enjoyed.

I’m excited to see what Moondragon and the new (and improved?) Phyla-vell, now Martyr, will bring to the overall group dynamic, especially since Phyla-vell is a member of the Kree. Also, Jack Flag still has plenty of room to grow. From the time he’s been introduced until now, he’s sort of been the “I hate cosmic stuff” guy. I’m getting anxious for him to break out of that and start becoming a little more fleshed out.

Okay, we’re down to our last year of this series. Only 12 more issues to go, the next four of which are all War of Kings tie-ins. Time to make ’em count.

Guardians of the Galaxy #12 (Vol. 2)

GotG1

“Sacrifice” by Abnett & Lanning, and Craig

When last we saw our heroes, Drax and Phyla-vell were stranded in Oblivion, a sort of in-between world on the edge of the universe. Kind of like Limbo. There, they ran into the villain Maelstrom, who gained control of Phyla-vell’s quantum bands. Now, Maelstrom plans to offer them as a sacrifice to the Dragon of the Moon.

This issue opens with a dream sequence, where a memory of Heather, the friend of Phyla-vell who was used as a vessel for the Dragon of the Moon on Earth, urges Phyla not to let it use her too.

Upon waking up, she sees that Maelstrom has Drax and her suspended in the air, over the humongous pit, containing the dragon, which is just starting to wake up. Despite Drax’s promises to gut Maelstrom when he gets free, Phyla is released into the jaws of the dragon.

GotG2

Before Maelstrom can get a chance to feed Drax as well, something or someone, rushes toward him.

GotG3

It’s Wendell Vaughn, the previous Quasar, who was killed by Annihilus. Since he wore the quantum bands for so long, he is linked to them. When he sensed the death of the user (Phyla), he came a-running. Unfortunately he has returned in a quantum light form…and the bands control quantum light.

But Wendell Vaughn isn’t all Maelstrom has to worry about…

GotG4

GotG5

Just as the dragon rears its ugly head, and Drax and Vaughn begin to scramble, a red orb of light surrounds the dragon and something cuts itself out with a glowing sword.

GotG6

Phyla-vell, still alive and sporting a new wardrobe, brings Heather (also still alive) back down to the ground. Vaughn offers the to return the quantum bands back to Phyla, however, she rejects them. She has new powers now (these aren’t explained yet).

Vaughn has some unfinished business to attend to, but first, he’s not exactly sure how to get the rest of them out of Oblivion. Heather reassures him they’ll be fine. They just need to wake up.

GotG7 GotG8

Two hours later, in Oblivion, Maelstrom’s detached limbs find their way back to him…

GotG9 GotG10

Okay, well, that ends a two issue detour that dealt with some remaining plot threads from (I’m guessing) Annihilation: Conquest. Anyone who read my thoughts on issue #11 knows how I feel about all of this. I’m just glad the gang will be back together next issue, with the addition of Moondragon, it would seem.

Guardians of the Galaxy #11 (Vol. 2)

GotG1

“Welcome to Oblivion” by Abnett & Lanning, and Craig

When we last saw Drax and Phyla-vell, they had traveled to the planet Titan, looking for Moondragon, Phyla’s lover and Drax’s daughter. Upon their arrival, Mentor, Moondragon’s step-father, killed them.

Here, start with Phyla waking up in some sort of celestial netherworld.

GotG2

Immediately, her quantum bands, the source of her power, fall off and are lost in the sand beneath her. Behind her, she hears a familiar voice, the voice of her father, Captain Mar-vell…

GotG3

Ohmygod, it’s EVIL ZOMBIE CAPTAIN MAR-VELL! He and his army of evil zombie creatures pounce on the vulnerable Phyla-vell. Right on cue, Drax leaps into the fray and kicks their asses. He explains to Phyla that what she saw were ghosts, representative of all of her doubts and fears, and her regrets. Drax does not seem to have have any fears or regrets himself.

As they make their way through the weird in-between world, Drax explains that it is not the realm of death, or limbo, but one of the “half-way” places that exist on the fringes of reality. Everything about them is symbolic, to help give itself meaning and structure.

In the middle of all his existential mumbo jumbo, he notices Phyla’s quantum bands are gone. Not a good sign. Because they aren’t alone.

GotG4 GotG5

Maelstrom is, for all intents and purposes, Drax’s opposite. While Drax was created to “limit Death by destroying its champion” (Thanos), Maelstrom was created as an “instrument of cosmic finality” (basically, the Loki to Drax’s Thor) and he has lured Drax and Phyla to him in order to get out of Oblivion (it turns out he was the one responsible for the trail of clues about Moondragon).

He assures Drax and Phyla that Moondragon does, in fact, exist and offers to take them to her.

GotG6 GotG7 GotG8

 

Turns out the Moondragon they knew was just a conduit for this “Dragon of the Moon.” She ultimately would have changed into draconian form, had Ultron not killed her when he did. Maelstrom explains that when it reawakens, in another million years, it will search for another Heather Douglas and try again, and potentially “wreak cosmic Armageddon.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, Maelstrom discovers the quantum bands…

GotG9 GotG10

Okay, I think this might be my least favorite book in the series so far. Not because it focuses entirely on Drax and Quasar and none of the rest, but because the entire story deals with threads leftover from (I’m guessing) Annihilation: Conquest. Abnett and Lanning don’t do much in this series to catch new readers up to speed, so I’m left wondering who some of these people are. I wasn’t sure why Drax and Quasar decided to postpone their search for Cammi to find this other girl named Heather (aka Moondragon). I learned from the summary at the beginning of the book that Heather (Moondragon) was Phyla’s lover and Drax’s daughter. I still don’t have a very good idea of who she was, even through context clues.

While I get that this book was spawned from the Annihilation: Conquest event, and it’s going to have some residual elements, it relies too heavily on that. I’m sure when this series was first published, there were people like me who picked it up, not having read the Annihilation: Conquest books and were just as confused as I am. I hope this arc doesn’t last long. This series needs to establish itself a little more. I mean, I’ve read almost a year’s worth of comics and they’re still hanging on to the past.

On the plus side, I enjoyed the change in the artwork. Wes Craig brings a new, sorta sleek, sorta glossy look to the characters, which I like. It works well with all the spacey content. I know he does the pencilling for the next issue, and then we’re back to Brad Walker, who I like, but I’d like to see more from Craig at some point.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy #10 (Vol. 2)

GotG1

“Blastaared!” by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, and Brad Walker

With 42 breached by Blastaar and his army, Peter Quill and Jack Flag continue to hold them off, however, time is starting to run out and they know it.

GotG2

Most of the prisoners surrender, in the hopes that their lives will be spared. Without any backup or extra ammo, Quill and Flag retreat. Unfortunately, they run into Flag’s former henchmen, who aren’t too happy about being knocked out last issue.

Meanwhile, outside the prison walls, Rocket and the Guardians are fighting their own battle, while trying to find Quill.

GotG3

Using her mentat abilities, Mantis locates Quill. The Guardians are then transferred by Cosmo, who’s still back on Knowhere. They arrive just in time to kick some ass and save Quill and Flag. They all get a moment to rest, but, of course, more trouble is right around the corner.

GotG4

Just as Blastaar and his army burst through the wall, the Guardians are transported back to Knowehere.

Meanwhile, Adam Warlock and Gamora pay a little visit to the Universal Church of Truth…

GotG5 GotG6

After Adam Warlock and Gamora leave, the Matriarch is ready to call shenanigans on Adam’s news. After all, the very existence of the cocoon that resides in the Church should prove that he is a false messiah. Though her attendants require another month or two before they can open the cocoon, the Matriarch orders that it be opened immediately.

Back in The Negative Zone, Blastaar intends to break through 42’s dimensional portal to Earth. And he knows just the man for the job: Skeleton Ki. Back on the Earth side of the portal, Star-Lord explains exactly why the portal needs to stay shut.

GotG7GotG8

(5 bucks says the movie will end with a line like that.)

Jack Flag, whose legs have been repaired by the doctors on Knowhere, decides to stay with the Guardians for a while, since returning to Earth would mean instant incarceration for him. Turns out the “cosmic stuff” might be starting to grow on him.

Major Victory returns to where Starhawk is being held…

GotG9

You know, I’m starting to wonder just when the Adam Warlock/Gamora and Drax/Quasar arcs are going to amount to something. Itt seems like they’re just being dragged along until Abnett and Lanning figure out how to pay them off. I suppose those aspects of the book will tie into the War of Kings event more than the adventures of Peter Quill and the Guardians of the Galaxy, but so far, they’ve been a bit of a bore.

The best parts of this issue are, of course, those involving the battle at the prison. Peter Quill is finally reunited with his team, which looks a little different than it did when he left it, and they are starting to function much better as a unit. There’s still that element of unpredictability, though (like Cosmo transporting them to the exact place they don’t want to be), which makes them a lot of fun to read. I know Bug and Jack Flag are supposed to be temporary, but I enjoy what they bring to the team. I also hope Mantis stays on as an active member as well.

Side note: Much better art this week! No one looked like a melted action figure! Hooray!

Guardians of the Galaxy #9 (Vol. 2)

GotG1

“Prison Break” by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, and Brad Walker & Carlos Magno

With Blastaar’s attack on 42 under way, this issue begins with a shift in perspective. The prison’s wardens and guards are gone and the freed inmates are defending their fortress against Blastaar’s army. Their leader (sort of) is a man by the name of Jack Flag (aka Jack Harrison) and he doesn’t really dig the cosmic stuff.

GotG2 GotG3 GotG4

Outside the prison walls, a buck ass naked Peter Quill approaches the gate. Inside, he learns that the prisoners have sort of banded together for the sake of self-preservation. Though he claims there are no leaders, Jack Flag appears to hold some sway over some of them. He assembles a group of cons as a sort of makeshift council to hear what Quill has to say.

GotG5GotG6

It’s not long before they’re exchanging punches, but Flag quickly takes them all down with a pistol he had (set to stun, of course). He takes Quill to the one of the prison’s telepaths so he can get a message to the Guardians. Meanwhile, one of his henchman, Skeleton Ki, opens the front door to 42.

On Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, we catch up with Drax and Quasar who are still looking for a girl named Heather.

GotG7

With a blast of energy, Father Mentor kills them both.

Back on Knowhere, Major Victory sits with Starhawk (remember her? or him? er…whatever). Despite Starhawk’s attempt at conversation, Major Victory hopes that by just sitting down, looking at her, his memory will come back to him. He is interrupted by the return of the Guardians from their meeting with a Kree ambassador. So, far, there’s no trace of the Star-Lord.

GotG8

It turns out Peter Quill and Jack Flag have gone all Guantanamo Bay on a telepathic prisoner, Quill beating the man to make sure he isn’t lying about sending his message to the Guardians. He wasn’t lying, though. Mantis got the message and was able to deduce that Quill is in The Negative Zone. Using Knowhere’s Continuum Cortex, Cosmo transports the team to The Negative Zone, however, his coordinates are just a little off…

GotG9

Aside from the introduction of a new character, this issue was pretty by-the-numbers. Not that I’m complaining, though. There were definitely some great character moments. It just looks like they’re getting the pieces in place for what should be a more explosive issue. At the very least, we should get to see Star-Lord back in action with Rocket and the gang. I like this new character Jack Flag, though. As a former “mask” who has done some time, he should fit right in, if he’s brought into the fold. He is a prisoner, after all. I’m curious to see what happens with him.

If there’s one thing about this issue that I’ve got some beef with, though, it’s the art. Most of it is pretty consistent from the last issue, but here, we’ve got the addition of penciller Carlos Magno. Now, I can’t be sure it’s him, or if it’s one of the inkers, but why do most of the Guardians look like they have down syndrome? I mean, look at Rocket. He looks awful.

GotG10

I don’t know how art that sloppy and inconsistent made it into the final draft of this book. Fortunately, Magno is not credited on the next issue, so hopefully, we’ll go back to the better pencilling, but good lord. I still can’t get over how bad this is.

GotG11

Ugh.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy #8 (Vol. 2)

GotG1

“Past Mistakes” by Abnett & Lanning, and Walker

At the end of the last issue, we found Star-Lord as a prisoner on some alien planet. Issue 8, the first of the “War of Kings” cross-over event, backtracks a little and explains just how Star-Lord finds himself in that predicament.

Feeling guilty about allowing the Phalanx to effectively destroy the Kree empire (see Annihilation: Conquest), Star-Lord returns to Hala, the Kree capital, to atone for his sins and, hopefully, prevent an attack from the Skrulls. Unfortunately, the Kree haven’t forgotten his mistake and are still pretty bitter about it.

GotG2 GotG3

Star-Lord, outclassed and outmatched by Ronan, is then banished from the Kree empire, and sent into “the zone,” a place where he can never be found should anyone come looking for him.

This is where we first saw Star-Lord at the end of issue #7. He is suddenly faced with an enormous hulking creature known as Blastaar, (“King Blastaar, if you please”), a former acquaintance of Star-Lord’s, who now rules the Negative Zone.

Meanwhile, back at Benthus Colony, things are going about as well as you’d expect for Rocket Raccoon and the Guardians of the Galaxy…

GotG4 GotG5 GotG6

Just after Groot destroys the big bad zombie robot monster, they are interrupted by a Badoon transmission. It turns out these Badoon are some bad mothers. The Guardians were “interrupting” their weapons test against a peaceful colony world. Well, Rocket Raccoon isn’t about to stand for that, so he declares Benthus Colony off limits to the Badoon as it is now under protection by the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Badoon pack up and leave without another word.

Back in the Negative Zone, Star-Lord discovers that Blastaar (who, by the way, can “blast kinetic force from his hands like a living bomb”) has been appointed by the Kree to rule the Negative Zone.

GotG7

Elsewhere in the universe, at the Dyatom Shrine, an outpost for the Universal Church of Truth, Adam Warlock is making his presence known.

GotG8 GotG9

In the Negative Zone, Blastaar starts to make his master plan a little more clear…

GotG10 GotG11

Whew, okay, now we’re getting into some really cool stuff. Of course, I’m sure for anyone who read Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest the majority of what’s going on here makes a little more sense, but Abnett and Lanning do a pretty great job of fleshing out the important bits of the backstory through context clues for those who haven’t (like me). For those of you who may not have read the Marvel Civil War event, that’s where “42” was introduced.

I’m really glad to see that every major thread was touched on in this issue. In Issues #1-6, I think they struggled a little with setting up a bunch of potential conflicts and then trying to balance them all, but now that the original group has disbanded, it’s a little easier to focus on each thread since they are each being dealt with by the different parties.

This is the first issue without Paul Pelletier and, I have to say, there’s really not much of a difference. It feels very much like Brad Walker trying to emulate Pelletier’s style, though he does seem to use ten lines where Pelletier would use one or two. Overall, not too much to comment on.