Guardians of the Galaxy #14

Posted by Donovan McComish 04 August 2014

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of Guardians of the Galaxy #14! This anniversary instalment (celebrating over 100 issues of those lovable, space-faring rogues)  features three seperate tales from Brian Michael Bendis, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, as well as everybody's favourite symbiote superhero, Flash Thompson, aka Agent Venom. Oh, and there's a talking raccoon and a sentient tree here too.

Synopsis:

The main story opens with Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Y'know, the legendary outlaw? Forget it) trying to sleep in his room onboard the Guardians spaceship. He bemoans the lack of a real mattress and considers going back to Earth to get one. He also considers calling Kitty Pryde of the X-Men (who he met and flirted with in the All-New X-Men/Guardians crossover, 'The Trial of Jean Grey'), as he really did like her, as well as just heading back to Earth and trying to be a "normal person" for a bit, which he is sarcastically sure he would have no trouble adjusting to. His thoughts wander to why he isn't attracted to Angela (Neil Gaiman's creation from Image Comics who he brought over to Marvel because why the heck not?), and why he is to Skrull women, before coming full circle back to "why can't I sleep?!"

His thoughts are interrupted by Rocket Raccoon, who asks that he come up front. Quill tells him to get Drax, but Rocket replies that he isn't here. Suddenly, a mysterious 'BOOM' rocks the ship. Turns out that Rocket was trying to tell Peter that they're under attack, from elite Spartax warships no less. As they arrive at the bridge, where Groot also happens to be, Quill quips (hey, that should totally be a thing, 'Quill Quips') that Rocket could have been more "appropriately alarmed". Rocket humours that remark only for Quill to tell him not to be a "flartnard" (I have no idea what that means). Peter begins to ask where Gamora and the rest of the Guardians are, but before he can finish, a bunch of laser blasts strike the bridge, injuring Star-Lord knocking Rocket unconscious. On Planet Spartax meanwhile, Star-Lord's father, J'son is informed that his elite commandos have found and engaged his sons ship. His assistant asks him if they should eliminate the ship and crew, or bring them in punishment for crimes against the Spartax Empire. J'son hesitates in answering as he watches his son lose consciousness.

Elsewhere, in a city on an unnamed planet, Gamora is attempting to call Peter to request "some of that thing you call backup", as she is being pursued on hoverbike by Maxilin the Accuser (Ronan probably hates this guy), the same bounty hunter who previously tried to capture her, and who Rocket seemingly killed, in #4 (the same issue where she got jiggy with Tony Stark). Receiving no response, Gamora is then forced to ditch her vehicle when Maxilin lands a shot on it's engine, causing the hoverbike to crash and explode on a rooftop. Maxilin lands and heads towards the fiery wreckage, at which point Gamora attacks him, only to be electrocuted by her adversaries suit. Maxilin gets to his feet and tells the immobilised Gamora that he is humbled and impressed by her as her reputation matched her actual skill, also noting that if he had failed to capture her, it would have ended him, which he knew when he accepted the bounty. He then marvels briefly over defeating the most dangerous woman in the galaxy (pfft, he totally cheated) before knocking her out with a stun blast from his gun.

Elsewhere still, Drax the Destroyer is visiting a shopping bazaar on Knowhere, a port of call near the end of the universe which is housed in the severed head of a Celestial (WHAT?!), with new addition to the team and Avengers representative, Corporal Flash Thompson, aka Agent Venom, who is in awe of how immensely alien everything is. Reaching their destination, a weapons store, Drax tells Venom to present himself with an "air of authority", which Flash interprets as acting cool, to which Drax replies "I don't know what that means, but if it is the opposite of whatever you are doing right now...then yes." They enter the store, only for the owner to tell them "we don't serve your kind here", referring to the Venom symbiote. He persists for them to take their "parasite" - saying he knows where it came form - and go until Drax drops a bag of coins made of Skrull metal in front of him, requesting new firepower for Venom. Flash protests, saying that there is no other gun like his gun, but Drax insists that he cannot be seen in public with Venom while he carries those weapons. The shop owner also makes a cutting remark that Earth weapons are child's toys and continues to call Flash a parasite, which irritates him. The owner asks if Flash even knows what system his "parasite" is from. Flash's answer, "the symbiote planet"? The ship owner says to Drax that he now knows why he keeps Flash around, calling him funny, before setting them up with some new toys.

Now armed with a pair of space pistols, Venom bounds out of the store (with a new look no less), requesting target practice. Drax however wants to get off-planet, saying they've made too much of a show of themselves already. Venom asks him what the Crakili shop owner meant about him and his symbiote. Drax tries to dodge around the question, but Flash demands he answer, reminding him that he left everything behind on Earth to go into space and help the Guardians be Guardians, all of which he adds he's grateful for, but if Drax knows something about him that he doesn't, he owes it to Flash to tell him. Drax smiles, saying that Flash spoke well, and asks him what exactly he knows about it. Before Flash can finish answering, the pair are attacked by a group of Shi'ar spaceships, which abduct Drax and briefly incapacitate Venom, leaving the latter stranded on Knowhere.

Gamora meanwhile is violently awakened by her captor, who has arrived at his destination. Maxilin tells Gamora that he wants her to be awake for the delivering, to see who paid him to ruin her. These mystery employers are in fact the Brotherhood of the Badoon, whose homeworld Maxilin's ship has arrived at, and apparently are very eager to see the daughter of Thanos again.

Back to Star-Lord, who wakes ups on what appears to be an actual bed with an actual mattress (at least his dad is accommodating), on which his dad is also sat, wanting a talk with his son that he believes is long overdue. He acknowledges that Peter blames him for his mothers death, saying he can understand that from a human perspective, which angers Peter. He responds that the reason he might blame J'son for his mothers death is because he came to Earth, got her pregnant and left, not doing anything when the Badoon killed her and tried to kill his son because, in Peter's words, he was busy "building this galactic empire of blood". J'son argues back that he was at war, protecting the universe, and that keeping Peter and his mother on Earth was keeping them safe. But that's not what's really got Peter mad. He's angry that he grew up to discover that his father is a conniving warlord who thinks the galaxy should answer to him alone, whereas Peter believes that this galaxy should be allowed to be free to think and create without worrying what J'son will do about it.

J'son retorts that he leads because it it the nature of things. If not him, it would be Thanos, or the Skrulls or Badoon would run amok. He points out that Peter could easily join him and embrace all of the good fortune their position in life has to offer, that he could use his birthright to make the galaxy to a better place. He brands his son "a punishing disappointment", a sentiment Peter gladly returns, before informing him that the Guardians of the Galaxy are no more. Each of the team's enemies have been rewarded with the capture of one of their members (as we just saw with Gamora). As for Peter Quill, he will apparently be "dealt with" according to Spartax laws, with no special courtesy or favour according to his father, who then leaves, telling Peter that he is an enemy of "the Empire" ("dun dun dun, dun d-dun, dun d-dun!") and that no one will come to save him. Little does J'son know that help is coming, in the form of the super-powerful, totally badass Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel!

Groot's Tale:

Some time ago, on Planet X, the capital of the Branch Worlds, Groot is seen living amongst the rest of his kind. At sunrise, the inhabitants of Planet X are shown absorbing the collective conciousness of generations of Arbor Masters from their sun through photosynthesis. The Arbor Masters are the custodians of the Branch Worlds, as well as teachers, protectors and monarchs of their people. 

While walking through the Herbaceous Habitats, Groot is seen by several small, furry animals who he waves too fondly. Later, after singing in a tree, Groot goes for another walk, spotting four of his brethren, who have cornered one of the creatures from earlier, with the clear intent of doing it harm. A furious Groot springs to the little one's defence, attacking the other tree-people and driving them away. He then returns the small animal to his friends, who crawl all over Groot's body as a way of thanks (I guess so anyway?). One of Groot's brethren however, refuses to take no for an answer and attacks all of Groot's little friends, laughing as he terrorises them. Overcome with rage, Groot fights and kills the bully by removing his head, at which point the other three flee. 

Realising the severity of his actions, Groot sinks to his knees and sobs while his small friends try to comfort him. The Arbor Masters suddenly arrive, shocked by what Groot has done.The next morning, at the Planet X Spaceport, Groot stows away aboard one of the ships there, sadly looking upon the surface of his homeworld one last time as the ship leaves Planet X and heads onto pastures new...  

Fight For the Future:

In the year 3014, on Planet Earth, a young woman named Geena Drake narrates about how the future used to look bright, but now there isn't a future at all. Thanks to the Brotherhood of Badoon, Earth burned along with the other peaceful worlds of the United System and human culture collapsed overnight. The planet is now a dystopian mess (now why doesn't that surprise me) with humans forced into labor camps with a life expectancy of three days. As she is forced out of a cage by one of the Badoon and put to work, Geena's narration continues, saying that people speak of a resistance war, and rumours speak of the Guardians of the Galaxy, fighting to liberate Earth from the Badoon. The workers in the camp cling to those stories to keep their spirits up, but Geena believes that that's all they are, stories, manufactured by hope to keep them all going. 

Geena's work isn't fast enough for one Badoon, who kicks her to the ground and prepares to shoot her despite her pleas, branding her as worthless human filth (well she's certainly nicer-looking than you, you ugly S.O.B). Before the alien can shoot her though, a familiar shield strikes him in the back, knocking him to the ground. The shield returns to it's wielder, not Captain America, but in this case the leader of the Guardians, Vance Astro, aka Major Victory who tells Geena and the others to get to cover. He then makes a psionic-amplified call to his teammates before kicking some serious Badoon ass! Another Guardian soon arrives in the form of Martinex T'Naga, who alerts Astro that the Brotherhood are deploying Gun-Tracks (more like space tanks really), making sure to blow one of them up. Another Gun-Track falls to the muscle-bound, genetically engineered Charlie-27, while the Centauri warrior Yondu Undonta takes out the guard towers. 

With the Badoon troops vanquished, Vance Astro instructs the prisoners to head to "the wastelands" where resistance cells are waiting to take them to safety underground. One of the prisoners asks how four people can guard the galaxy when the Badoon number millions, to which Major Victory responds that they are just the figureheads, the rallying point. He continues that the real Guardians are the survivors who take up arms and join the growing resistance, requesting to the now-liberated prisoners that they join them and become Guardians. Astro then asks for Geena, who is naturally surprised that he knows who she is. It turns out that the Guardians chose to liberate this particular camp because Geena was in it, as they apparently require her help. At this point the fifth member of the team, Starhawk, appears, confirming that Geena is the one they're after. Starhawk explains that his divination has shown that centuries may pass before they overthrow the Badoon. Worse still, it appears they have fought this war before, many times, maybe even won it. According to Starhawk, the future is refusing to align, the timestream eroding, and the Guardians are being forced to replay their struggles over and over again. To save their future and win the war forever, they must venture into the past, find whatever it disrupting history and stop it, and to do that, they need Geena. How and why they do not know, but Starhawk's divination has shown that she plays a vital role. All Geena can ask at this point is "And if I join you?" "Then maybe Earth will overcome" answers Vance Astro as he stands with his fellow Guardians, finally asking "What do you say?" (Yes, obviously)...

Thoughts:

It's safe to say that Marvel's resident 'Space Avengers' are going from strength to strength right now. With a feature film from Marvel Studios out now in cinemas, a sequel that's been greenlit for release in 2017 and an animated TV series in the works, not to mention this brand-new series written by the superstar writer that is Brian Michael Bendis, the Guardians of the Galaxy have got it good. And as this issue celebrates over 100 issues of the comic book, it's not hard to see why.

The main story by Bendis mainly serves as a jumping on point for new fans regarding the current storylines, though importantly like the FCBD issue, it doesn't feel like a re-hash of information. Star-Lord's previous encounter with his father was more subdued. They even shared a bit of banter that time, whereas here, things are brought to a logical head and the encounter is more direct. There's definitely a Star Wars-like vibe to this father/son conflict. J'son even wants Peter to join him so that with their combined strength, they can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy (Sorry...I just really really like quoting Star Wars). Peter also feels like a fusion of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, though he has his own likeable and snarky personality as well as an awesome costume (I'm a sucker for trench coats).

The rest of the Guardians fare well here, though Rocket and Groot don't have much to do other than share banter. Gamora's fight and capture by Maxilin the Accuser is exciting and unexpected, though it does beg the question as to why she would leave the team and go off on her own when she knows there is a bounty on her head. I'm hoping Bendis will give her the chance for revenge against Maxilin in future issues. Venom's visit to Knowhere with Drax meanwhile is the highlight of the issue. Unlike Iron Man, who had already journeyed into space multiple times before joining the Guardians, this is a first for Flash and it's funny to see how, even equipped with a symbiote, he's pretty out of his depth. Bendis' voice for Agent Venom is a bit more playful than Cullen Bunn and Rick Remender's interpretations of the character, but it doesn't feel out of character, the guy's walking around an interstellar market housed in the head of a Celestial after all!

As for the supporting tales, Andy Lanning's origin story for Groot is simple, but very effective in telling us what kind of being Groot is and his defence of the furry creatures of Planet X is a nice foreshadowing of his friendship with Rocket. The mythology behind the Branch Worlds is a little confusing at times, but it's still very interesting and it's something I'd like to see the series visit again in the future. It's also surprising how cohesive the story is considering the only line of dialogue we hear is "I am Groot". Finally, Dan Abnett's future-set tale involving the first incarnation Guardians of the Galaxy is pretty by-the-numbers, but it does have an energetic pace and seasoned Marvelite's will no doubt revel at the sight of Vance Astro, Yondu, Charlie-27 and co, though the lack of any female members here is a little glaring. The reveal at the end once again builds on the events of Age of Ultron, showing how all of time and space has been affected by Wolverine's meddling with it, and the prospect of the original Guardians visiting the present-day Marvel Universe and interacting with their modern counterparts is both intriguing and exciting, especially since Abnett will be continuing this plotline in the recently announced Guardians 3000, due to arrive in October.

Art-wise this issue is pretty good also. Nick Bradshaw's zany and detailed style is a really good fit for this comic. The characters all look great. Venom receives a new look for this series and while I much prefer his previous appearance, it perhaps suits this series better to have more of an alien look to the character. There's also a bunch of cool easter eggs in the panel where the Guardian's ship is hit with laser fire and Star-Lord and Rocket are thrown across the former's room along with a bunch of his stuff. If you look closely you can see the Ninth/Tenth Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver from Doctor Who and the Golden Idol from Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well as an old Iron Man figure (still boxed), and the issue of the Incredible Hulk depicting the first, full appearance of Wolverine. Jason Masters & Todd Nauck take over pencilling duties towards the end of the first story and while their work is a little rushed in places, that final page of Captain Marvel looked absolutely awesome! Phil Jimenez & Gerado Sandoval provide the art for 'Groot's Tale' & 'Fight For the Future' respectively and they also acquit themselves well. Jimenez's work really adds to the heart and depth of Lanning's script, while Sandoval's suits the dystopian setting as well as the larger-than-life nature of the original Guardians, though I have to say, Vance Astro's face when he first appears looks a little...weird, like he forgot to see a man about a space-dog. I also liked the little touch in the Badoon's word balloons showing the artificial nature of their translators.

Overall, this is a really good celebration of over 100 issues of the Guardians and the Galaxy. If you're a fan of this series, or you're looking for a jumping on point, this will serve you well, and like me, you'll likely be hooked enough to carry on to the next issue (I tried for a "Hooked on a Feeling" reference, but it just would have been too awkward, better luck next time?)...
Let's make this quick, I need the space-john.

Score: 4.0/5.0

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