Guardians of the Galaxy is back with a new #1, and it is excellent. Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Kev Walker have brought us a fantastic spin on the team of heroes, thrusting them into a Western-inspired setting in this first issue. We follow the Guardians on a dusty planet called Galilee IV in the Manifold Territories, Starlord riding into town and evoking the energy of a space-bound Clint Eastwood. We soon see the rest of the familiar cast, Gamora, Nebula, Mantis, and Drax all with their own style in this setting and with all the personality and fun you’d hope for in a Guardians of the Galaxy comic as they try to evacuate the town from an incoming threat.
One thing you’ve probably already picked up on is the lack of Rocket and Groot, a fan-favourite duo. While the first issue doesn’t show us Rocket, we do see Groot. The issue dives into a bit of cosmic horror with the tree-like Guardian, revealing that the incoming threat to the planet of Galilee IV is in fact, Groot. With a wake of destruction that seems almost assimilative in nature, whatever has happened to Groot has made the guardian an indiscriminate and powerful threat that cannot be stopped, only run from.
As a long-time Guardians of the Galaxy fan, I am ecstatic with the direction this story is taking. The ways it’s using the characters, the aesthetics and the twist on the guardians present here have drawn me in and make me want to learn what exactly happened to put the universe and the characters in their current position. The one thing I hope is that the run doesn’t abandon its current theming, as I feel the Western influence is a big part of what makes this story feel particularly unique.
Alongside the excellent writing, we get some excellent art, with the aforementioned aesthetics shining through in a style that balances a certain drab grittiness with the bombastic, colourful action you’d expect from an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, and one I am excited to see more of, especially with the excellent character design work that has gone into the guardians in this run. It feels like the perfect artistic choice for the story they’re telling.
I feel that this will be a great run for newcomers to the comics, but maybe not for those entirely unfamiliar with the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. The revelation of Groot being a destructive force opposing the guardians and the absence of Rocket from the team will hold little impact for those who don’t yet care about the cast of characters. They will not be asking the same questions existing fans are asking, and instead will be wondering why they ought to care beyond being told the Guardians are more than a team, but a family. Hell, they might not even care because of that. They wouldn’t know that Rocket is missing necessarily, and they wouldn’t know Groot was a part of the team. Overall, I’d recommend brand new fans check out an older run of the comics (such as Al Ewing’s) or the movies to familiarize themselves with the characters, but those already familiar will have a great time.
On the subject of Ewing’s run, some are probably wondering how it compares. On the art front, it’s somewhat stylistically different, with a bit less of that realism look in my opinion, so those that prefer that may not be a fan of the difference. When it comes to writing, I’d say it definitely holds its ground. One issue in and you can already see the Guardian’s chemistry and the fact they have a history together. You can see that they are a family beyond being textually told so in the opening panels. Ewing’s run is one of my all-time favourites, being incredible in the way it used and represented the characters. It was incredibly refreshing, and this new run feels just as refreshing as that. I’m incredibly excited to see the writing that this run will bring forward and hope it keeps the same level as the first issue contains.
The issue will likely leave readers with a lot of questions, the biggest of which is, what exactly happened to the Guardians? It’s a question I’m sure will be answered in due time, and one I’m itching to know the answer to. Guardians of the Galaxy #1 has me hooked, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.