Friday, 1 November 2013

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2: Angela by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli Review

The ending of Age of Ultron saw time tear and multiple things change as a result, one of them being the introduction of Angela into the Marvel Universe. Who’s Angela, you say? She was a celestial bounty hunter created by Neil Gaiman during his short run on Todd Macfarlane’s Spawn series in the early 90s. She disappeared for several years while Gaiman and Macfarlane fought for who owned the rights to the character with the courts eventually favouring Gaiman. So now she’s back after Gaiman handed her over to Marvel for an appearance in the rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy, and was subsequently touted as co-writer on the Angela issues, eventually getting bumped down to consultant on Angela’s dialogue(!) for some reason. Marvel are trying to make Angela a big deal even though, if we’re all honest, few people heard of her until recently, and even fewer cared. And even though I’m not sure why her introduction had to be such a big event, she has been an ok addition to this increasingly unexciting series. 

The Guardians are momentarily split with Rocket, Gamora, Tony and Groot bumming around on their spaceship while Star-Lord and Drax investigate the time incursions alien planet-side. This book commits one of the most annoying things I hate about superhero comics – arbitrary superhero fights. Angela shows up, is understandably angry at being suddenly displaced and heads to Earth for answers – Gamora then decides to attack Angela for no reason and the two swordfight on the moon. What happened to communication? How about talking to Angela first before trying to slice her head off? The fight is undeniably visually cool but in the aftermath everyone sheepishly realises if they’d just talked to start with, all of the fighting could’ve been averted – DUH! But this is a superhero comic so they’ve got to shoehorn arbitrary superhero fighting, even if it makes the book stupider than it is. 

And let’s talk about Angela’s redesign which is basically a belt, a helmet and a ribbon - they should just call her the Angel of Strippers and be done with it! But when we finally get around to hearing her speak (Gaiman earning his paycheck), it’s fairly unremarkable stuff and there isn’t much more we learn about why she’s here – Age of Ultron happened and boom! suddenly she was in the Marvel U! The depiction of Heven, Angela’s home, is awesome though, suitably abstract and weird for an alien, alternate universe that Earth humans have made into a destination for the afterlife. 

While the art is pretty good throughout – Sara Pichelli is amazing, she gives Steve McNiven a run for his money in this book - Star-Lord’s meeting with Thanos is simply bizarre. Thanos is MASSIVE. Look at the character in Thanos Rising or Infinity – he’s a tall, bulky dude that’s about 7 feet tall max but the way he’s depicted in this book makes him look double that! I don’t understand why he suddenly grew just for this book, and it just looks ridiculous. Then to conclude their meeting, Star-Lord and Thanos fight and the scene immediately cuts - later on Star-Lord shows up, unharmed. What happened in their fight? No clue, we’re not told, it’s just a big ol’ plot hole right there, because in a fight between the two, Thanos is clearly the winner – all Star-Lord has is a gun while Thanos has god-like powers and could kill Star-Lord with his bare hands! 

Bendis has a bad habit of throwing stuff in simply because he thinks it’s cool – Thanos’ appearance, the Angela fight, hell, Angela’s appearance in the first place! – not because it makes for a better story. But one thing he does really well is banter among characters and this book is no different. The interactions among the team like discussions on Rocket’s disturbing new catchphrase “BLAM! Murdered you! You’re dead! BLAM!”, Tony Stark’s outdated (by Guardians’ standards) tech, and the gossip that follows an office romance – Tony and Gamora hook up! – being the highlights. 

However, none of these things hides the fact that there’s no real story to this book. Angela is the story and given that she’s kind of a dull character with no real personality who barely speaks, the book is a pretty stultifying read. This volume features some of Bendis’ laziest plotting this year (and I’ve read Age of Ultron!) which manages to drain the initial excitement of the new series. Great art aside, Guardians of the Galaxy needs a much stronger story if it’s going to make its audience connect and care about this still fairly unknown cast of characters.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2: Angela

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, the one and only thing I liked about this volume was Tony Stark being made to look like an idiot. When the entire of Earth seems to be kissing his feet, it's great to see that he's actually a big fish in a little pond.