Brian Michael Bendis (a) Steve McNiven
Cosmic adventures are slowly, but surely, creeping into the mainstream of the comic book industry. Even over the past five years, it seemed nearly impossible for intergalactic series to get noticed beyond a devoted, yet small fan base. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning struck gold with their interpretation of Marvel’s cosmic lineup a few years back, but it was unceremoniously ignored by most readers.
**SPOILERS FOR THE AVENGERS  (THOUGH, YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT BY NOW…SERIOUSLY) AND THIS ISSUE**
Enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and — more specifically — The Avengers. Though it was classic Thor villain Loki who was pulling the strings throughout Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, footage shown after a few credits roll infers that it was indeed the mad titan, Thanos, who supplied Loki with an army to invade Earth. Since Marvel took over most of the rights to their character franchises, the MCU has been teasing subsequent movies with brief epilogues at the end of each film that have succeeded in bringing a new level of connectedness to Marvel’s big screen stories. Any moviegoer who stuck around long enough to see the malevolent villain setting his focus on Earth 1) wouldn’t know it was Thanos because he’s never named, and 2) Would merely see it as the connector to the next Avengers film. Marvel fans, on the other hand, understood this brief appearance as the first step towards a more cosmic Marvel comic universe.
The new volume of Guardians of the Galaxy is the next step in this narrative expansion. Not only did the Marvel assemble the powerhouse creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven for the project, they’ve also included Iron Man as a member of the Guardians. Both of these elements give Guardians of the Galaxy a lot more star power behind it, instantly making it one of Marvel’s flagship titles.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 is all about Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord. We got a fairly comprehensive glimpse at Peter’s personal history last month in the #0.1 issue, but it’s really here, in the proper debut, that we get to see Star-Lord’s new characterization under Brian Michael Bendis. Peter is a man with deep-seeded paternal issues that literally stretch across the universe. Pete’s dad wants his wayward son to come home to planet Spartax and claim his rightful place as a royal figure. Obviously, Peter doesn’t have much desire for this life, and thus, basically tells his old man to gent bent. It’s a strikingly grounded relationship made epic by that fact that it’s contextualized amongst alien planets and space-faring adventurers.
Though Star-Lord gets most of the panel time, the other Guardians get their moments in the spotlight as well. Bendis’ main strength is in team books because he’s so able to play the varying personalities against one another. It’s what made the man’s time on Avengers titles so memorable. From Guardians of the Galaxy #1, it’s obvious Bendis’ signature style has translated well in a cosmic setting.
Though I enjoyed it, Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 was less than satisfactory because it was all backstory and it somewhat diluted the effect of a premier issue that hadn’t even come out yet. That being said, after reading Guardians of the Galaxy #1, most of my skepticism has been washed away. It’s now clear that Bendis wanted to put out a prelude issue to set up Peter Quill’s character enough to carry the first issue — readers are familiar enough with Quill to not be lost going into the issue, but also get vital information on the actual rest of the team. Guardians of the Galaxy #1 is a triumph for Bendis and Steve McNiven, pointing to a bright future in the stars for Marvel.