Guardians of the Galaxy #1 has a pretty fantastic opening. Artist Valerio Schiti and colorist Richard Isanove treat readers to a double page of the monstrous Annihilus and Brood Queen (who were relegated to talking heads in the Galactic Council in the previous volume of Guardians) planning domination of the universe. But then they are never heard from again, and this issue is filled with quipping (and repetition of the same jokes sadly), a little action, some arguing, and a third act that is over too early. Also, all the characters seem distilled to one character trait, except for the Thing, who gets a few solo pages to spread his wings and enjoy his freedom in space away from the Fantastic Four. For example, Rocket Raccoon is angry, Drax uses big words, Flash Thompson is awkward in space, and Kitty Pryde has a tense relationship with the absent Peter Quill. In fact, this whole issue is overshadowed by Peter Quill instead of letting him be king of Spartax while the Guardians go on cool adventures.
It’s unfortunate that the Fantastic Four have been split up in the various All-New All-Different Marvel, but Brian Michael Bendis seems happy to be writing the ever loving, blue-eyed Thing. Valerio Schiti even gives him a full page splash to float in space with a cool gun and jetpack against a gorgeous orange and purple backdrop from colorist Isanove. This is Ben Grimm at his most joyous as he gets to savor his dream of being the first person from Yancy Street (and probably Brooklyn) to go to space. Unfortunately, his reverie comes to a close with the usual full team double splash, which is awkwardly positioned by Schiti and looks like a bad case of PhotoShop instead of a heroic team-up pose.
The opening fight scene is above average with some creative use of Kitty Pryde’s phasing ability (She’s nobody’s Star-princess.) and some quick witted jawing between the bad attitude having Rocket Raccoon and Thing. (This pairing would be fun to explore.) However, precious story pages (and a double page spread) end up being wasted on Peter Quill getting bored with politics, and the Guardians doing the comic book equivalent of killing time and arguing about what to do with a MacGuffin they find that could (and predictably ends up as) be a trap. Rocket and Peter Quill even use the exact same joke, and it isn’t cute.
Then, the final three pages introduce some new plot threads involving yet another villain with some extra explosions from Schiti and Isanove. It’s not much of a plot twist and is an unfortunate product of the Spider-Man 3/Amazing Spider-Man 2 philosophy that more villains equals a better story. Instead of exploring Kitty’s history with the Brood or possibly bringing back an old FF foe that Ben Grimm has a relationship with, Bendis and Schiti trot out the Kree yet again.
Awkward pin-ups and pointless character arguments aside, Valerio Schiti’s art can be simultaneously grotesque or adorable. His Groot is blessed with eager, expressive eyes when Kitty silently hints that they are bringing their artifact to Spartax for Peter Quill to check out, and he draws quite the disgusting alien when the Chitauri, Brood Queen, or a random dignitary trying to get Quill to “reproduce” with her. (The dialogue is 60s Star Trek alien-speak unbearable though) However, he and Isanove don’t get much to illustrate as this issue is mostly arguments and MacGuffin finding with some decent Ben Grimm characterization and untapped potential as far as the enemies are concerned. Maybe, the full arc will read better in trade if the rest of the cast gets some semblance of an arc and Bendis and Schiti utilize the villains introduced to their full potential, but Guardians of the Galaxy is worth skipping for now.