By Zack Quaintance — There is a special alchemy in (semi-) monthly comics between certain writers and certain artists, a working relationship that takes hold and helps the members of a team feed off each other’s work, rising through the industry and earning new fans together. I could list examples, but you probably have your own favorites in mind as you read this. I know I’m thinking of mine, and rarely have I seen a team entrench itself as quickly among my personal favorites as Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw.
I know they’d worked together previously on The Paybacks (a well-regarded comic that I’ve been meaning to read for a while now but just haven’t...sorry), but my own first exposure to both of them was God Country #1. Released in January 2017, the creator-owned book through Image Comics was a tour de force of good vs. evil, inter-dimensional sword fighting, and Texas braggadocio and swagger. The book found an audience, quickly, setting both of its creators on the path that has lead them to us today, two years later, doing Guardians of the Galaxy #1 for Marvel (in between, they also made one of my personal favorite recent Marvel runs, Thanos WIns).
If ever there were a franchise in need of some new excitement, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s been a few years since the team had a memorable comics run, owing to some chaos in the Marvel line (they’ve gotten a new E-I-C) and a sort of backseat for the company’s cosmic properties. The Guardians of the Galaxy physical comics have also suffered a bit from being too-specifically tailored to match the lineup in the movie.
Since that film came out in 2014, we’ve basically been getting lineups that feature all the characters from the movie...plus Venom; or all the characters from the movie...plus The Thing, etc. It was a way to try and offer comics fans something new without really deviating to an unfamiliar place for the presumed new fans of the movie, who could be seeking the comic. The result was a book that felt hamstrung by its own status quo, which is never a good thing but is especially bad for cosmic-set comics where exploration, discovery, and literally out-of-this-world surprises are a currency.
Today’s Guardians of the Galaxy #1, however, is just about as good of an injection of new excitement as I can imagine for this team. As we’ve come to expect from the duo, it’s a fantastically-executed comic, one that uses Shaw’s propensity for big moments of chaos and destruction to great effect. Cates is also evolving as a writer here, with nary a sign of the omniscient Texas-voiced narrator that has driven much of his best work. It’s a great thing to see, two young rising creators at the tops of their game relaxing into a story.
The concept for this new run is also strong, in that it grows directly from my personal favorite Cates story, Thanos Wins. It’s very much a Guardians of the Galaxy book (the presence of Peter Quill and Groot sees to that), but the problems the new team seems destined to face stem from the events of the earlier story, creating multiple mysteries (always a good thing) as well as fearsome inter-galactic threats. Simply put, this is the type of streamlining that justifies a Big 2 superhero #1 issue and reboot, and I can’t wait to see where the creators take it.
Overall: The first exciting new chapter for the Guardians in I don’t know how long, Guardians of the Galaxy #1 sees two of Marvel’s best young creators operating with giant ambitions, and they absolutely deliver. This is a big story, one worthy of involving the entire galaxy. 9.5/10
Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Check out some of other thoughts about this comic from both this week and the past in our reviews archive.
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.