Something really cool happened, guys. We promise.
Brian Michael Bendis (W), Valerio Schiti (P), Richard Isanove (C)
Cover by Arthur Adams and Jason Keith
Publisher: Marvel Comics
We’re talking about a high-profile Marvel comic book again, so you know what that means! It’s time to discuss a tie-in to a mediocre story that has failed to engage me despite a good premise and one of my favorite Marvel writers being at the steering wheel.
Despite the intense cynicism of that opening, I have actually liked a lot of the Civil War II tie-in comics that have come out. Power Man and Iron Fist, the Ultimates, and All-New, All-Different Avengers have all put out good comics with the Civil War II banner at the top. That being said, the last of those three barely relates to the Civil War II story, and the first two sort of take place with the big story happening in the background.
I wanted to talk about Guardians of the Galaxy again since I haven’t reviewed an issue of it since the earliest days of the site. It’s a comic that does give me some mixed feelings; it has a great cast and creative team, and it does a lot of things right. However, it also has a streak of putting out some pretty underwhelming books and stories that span at least five issues. It has the potential for great character interactions, but it shirks that for big action set pieces that are all flash and no substance. I do want to reiterate that it has had some good issues, and the most recent ones have given some strong character moments. It’s just that the truly good issues only make up about 50% of the series.
Also, this particular issue of the title is a heinous perpetrator of the “cover not relating to the interior in any way” crime. I haven’t discussed that yet because, in the realm of comic books, that feels like so much pissing in the wind. But when the cover is this misleading, it’s worth mentioning.
This issue finds our heroes waiting on a signal from Captain Marvel to engage Iron Man and his allies. While they wait, Rocket opens up with some pretty profound philosophizing about the state of Earth and the human race. It then turns to the Guardians questioning whether or not they are doing the right thing by supporting Captain Marvel on this crusade, with Flash Thompson being the one who seems the most hesitant.
When Iron Man arrives with a large cadre of heroes, there is a stare down between he and Carol Danvers. The Guardians jump out of their cloaked ship to support her and a battle ensues. There are a couple of time skips, and the battle ends with the Guardians’ ship being completely destroyed. This leaves Rocket despondent, as the Guardians of the Galaxy are now stuck on Earth. Iron Man and his team presumably escaped, and Star-Lord tells Captain Marvel that he completely supports her fight. The issue ends with Gamora overhearing from a couple of agents that Thanos is being held within the Triskellion, Captain Marvel’s base of operations.
I waited a while to talk about Guardians of the Galaxy again, and I ended up reviewing a pretty mediocre issue. It’s very much caught up with the big crossover story of the moment, and it doesn’t have too much of a story to tell of its own. The parts that are about the team and their interactions work really well, but that is wrapped around what equates to an advertisement for the most recent issue of Civil War II with a four-dollar price tag.
That’s all okay, because it also gives me an opportunity to discuss the state the do’s and don’ts of setting up a big story tie-in.
This issue commits a lot of the don’ts.
A good tie-in will still tell its own story. It will just relate to the big crossover in some way, or it will take place in the world that the crossover creates. It will still be a worthwhile read, and it won’t feel like a break from the series. Examples of good tie-ins to Civil War II are the aforementioned Power Man and Iron Fist, the Ultimates, and All-New, All-Different Avengers as well as All-New Wolverine and Gods of War.
A bad tie-in will essentially be an ad for the big crossover. It will allude to something big and dramatic that happened in the main story, and it won’t tell its own tale. It will essentially be an arbitrary read that will leave you feeling swindled.
Guardians of the Galaxy #12 commits these crimes in spades. The first half of the comic, while entertaining for its dialogue, is all build-up to a big battle that presumably happened in a recent issue of Civil War II. The climax does not happen in this book. Think about this for a second. In the three act structure this issue sets up, the actual second act and climax that is essential to the story of this comic is not in this comic. They essentially sold an incomplete product, an incomplete story. The second half of this comic and the third act of this plot structure is the Guardians dealing with the aftermath of this battle. This includes their ship being destroyed. Something so relevant to the book and characters is not included. I don’t know how or why it happened. This isn’t even mentioning that the next Guardians of the Galaxy story is about them being stranded on Earth because of this.
Now, you may be thinking, “Gee B-List Defender, don’t comics split up their stories across multiple issues all the time?” To that, I would say “Yes they do, for better or worse. But they also split up the three act structure across multiple issues that I would buy anyway.” While I think both halves of that statement are important, I would like to focus on that first half. A comic book story deliberately splits up its plot across its own issues for various reasons. If you read a single issue, you get a whole part of the story that tells its own plot to some capacity. This issue of Guardians contains the majority of a “plot” without the emotional height of the story, trying to coax its reader into purchasing a five-dollar issue of a story they might not even care about (and I really don’t).
Next, you may be thinking, “Well, B, that’s the risk you run when you read about characters that are so heavily featured in a story.” Then, I would slap you and say, “Stop being such an apologist, and let me drop some fairly obvious knowledge on you.” Like painting, writing a story is starting with a blank canvas. While you have already-created characters and worlds, there is an infinite amount of things you can do with a story. You don’t have to make a comic simply about another comic. No one is forcing this to be the case. There is no law of physics that says this must happen.
Now, I am sympathetic to the fact that Bendis might be overworked with the big story, or this was mandated from the higher ups. If it’s the first, temporary writers take over comics during big stories all the time. If it’s the second, that simply shifts the blame to the corporate folks, which I like doing anyway, those monkey-suited stooges. Regardless of the true cause, this product is of lesser quality as a result.
For an example of a comic about a character that is heavily featured in a big crossover, we have to look no further than my golden comic child, Magneto written by Cullen Bunn. I did not read AXIS for a number of reasons. I didn’t even realize how important Magneto was to that story until after it ended. Despite this, Magneto still told complete and enthralling stories on its own when it tied-in to AXIS, and I never felt lost for not having read AXIS. The tie-in issues still felt important to Magneto’s story, and they were high-quality issues, just like the rest of the series.
I can’t recommend this issue of Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not horrible, but it feels intensely shallow and lacks in story. There are good character moments, but the overall comic is just an advertisement for Civil War II. Give it a pass.
Final Score: 5/10