It’s appropriate that the Guardians of the Galaxy’s 100th anniversary issue hits the stands 100 days before the movie releases. This double sized issue has three stories. Brian Michael Bendis writes the main story, with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning returning to the franchise for a short story each. This is also the issue where Agent Venom joins the team, and while Captain Marvel unofficially joined them in Captain Marvel 2, she makes a quick cameo here. The question remains, is this issue worth the extra dollar?
The main story is better than most of Bendis’s Guardians issues so far. The bulk of the series has had little character development, instead focusing on action, story and jokes. It’s been fun, but the odd characterization and a lack of drama hold it back. This issue actually delves into the relationship between Starlord and his father, the king of Spartex. Their conversation is genuinely well-written, and shows that the king may not be as cold hearted as earlier issues have suggested. The venom scene is kind of fun, but it does little to explain when or how he joined the team. Gamora’s scene has her pursued by a bounty hunter she’s previously fought in the series, and it’s odd that “the most dangerous woman in the universe” falls prey to the same trick he used before. Bendis still needs to work on her characterization a bit.
The side-stories are both great though. Lanning’s story serves as an origin for both Groot and Rocket Raccoon. There’s a real charm in the simplistic language both Groot’s race and the young raccoons use forcing the art to tell the story. Abnett’s story takes place 1000 years in the future, when the Earth has been overtaken by the Badoon. A future Guardians of the Galaxy team are working to retake Earth for what’s left of humanity. It’s a fun story that might actually impact the main series down the road, plus the future Guardians’ powers are interesting.
While the three stories are drawn by different artists, all the art in this issue is great. The main story, drawn by Nick Bradshaw, has a realistic feel with plenty of environmental detail. The fire and electricity flying around during the action scenes really ads to the intensity, and when Gamora is captured, the foam from her mouth gives the sense that she’s experiencing intense pain. The second story, drawn by Phil Jimenez, has a simpler look. Still, it does a great job at telling the story through Groot’s facial expressions and mannerisms. The one fight scene where the panels are in the shape of the letters in “I am Groot” is pure genius. The third story is drawn by Gerardo Sandoval, and has a slightly cartoony look yet it still feels appropriate for a post-apocalyptic Earth.
For the most part this is a worthy anniversary special. For $1 extra, you’re getting a decent main story, and two side-stories that are well worth the read. It’s not perfect, but it’s a solid jumping on point that’s at least worth a read for any Guardians fans, even if you haven’t really enjoyed Bendis’s take on them.