By Zack Quaintance — As I wrote last month, Guardians of the Galaxy #1 was a natural extension of its creative team’s past work, first of the creator-owned God Country and then more directly of the subsequent Thanos Wins story for Marvel. That debut issue was fast-paced, grandiose, and packed with big moments, while at the same time managing to set up a new concept for this run—Thanos is, indeed, dead, and now he will be reincarnated after his consciousness enters someone new. A team of good guys coalesce around mitigating the threat to the universe that so clearly stems from that.
Guardians of the Galaxy #2 is a much slower affair, especially in its first half. The book seems to collectively take a breath, get itself together, and center itself for a long journey to come, rather than the relatively contained story arcs that marked the aforementioned God Country and Thanos Wins. It’s not boring by any means. Cates is such a good writer that he turns the team’s leader, Peter Quill, drunkenly bemoaning his plight into a really funny interaction with Kitty Pryde, whom Quill has recently had a romantic relationship with (Quill says he has trauma from having been dead and come back to life, and Kitty retorts, You’d hate the X-Men...very funny stuff).
These type of character moments and slower bits of development are key facets of long-form team-based superhero comics, and I almost always welcome them. This one caught me a bit off guard with how soon in the run it came, but, also, this wasn’t entirely a stepback and breath issue. No, the second half of the book sees a major development that will have major ramifications throughout the rest of the run. If the first issue brought our good guy team together, well, this second issue gives them a foil, and in a pretty brilliant bit of narrative plotting, Cates makes it so their goals might even overlap.
Indeed, both the good guys and the bad in this new Guardians book are invested in stopping Thanos from again terrorizing the universe. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just note that the tension between them is likely to arise from their very different ideas on the best way to accomplish this. All the setup then culminates in a grandiose (that word again!) last page cliffhanger, the sort of textbook ending for an entertaining superhero comic that Cates and artist Geoff Shaw all but perfected during their run on Thanos. SPOILER: a team of Dark Guardians comes together and sets out to find Richard Rider in order to murder Gamora…thus giving us the characters and the goals that will be at odds with our heroes.
All in all, while I didn’t white knuckle my way through this comic with a huge grin on my face the way I did the debut issue, I still came away from Guardians of the Galaxy #2 basically certain that this will be a major run with these characters. There’s clearly a huge scale and a big plan at work here, and I’ll be happy to follow it through to completion, enjoying Shaw’s outsized artistry and Cates’ clever dialogue throughout.
Overall: A quieter step-back issue that invests in character moments and funny exchanges while still pushing the grandiose plot from Guardians of the Galaxy #1 forward. There’s clearly a huge scale and big plan at work here, and I’m excited to follow it through to its ending. 8.5/10
Guardians of the Galaxy #2
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.