Guardians of the Galaxy #10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Kevin Maguire
Publisher: Marvel Comics
A lot of writers talk about writing with their artist in mind but in Guardians of the Galaxy #10, you can see just how Brian Michael Bendis slightly changes up his storytelling in this issue to perfectly suit his guest artist Kevin Maguire. Featuring his second “girls night out” story in recent weeks (see also Uncanny X-Men #15,) Bendis shows Gamora, the deadliest woman in the galaxy, teaming up with Angela, a mystery wrapped in a lawsuit-sized enigma, tracking down the now missing Thanos and also fighting a bunch of Badoon slavers. The plot is what it is- a fun character piece to show these two warrior women bonding but the star of the issue is Kevin Maguire as Bendis writes a story that’s perfectly tailored to showcase Maguire’s artwork.
Maguire has done a lot of stuff but he’s primarily known as the third part of the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League ttriumvirate The cover to Justice League #1 may be one of the most iconic covers to come out of the 1980s and has been homaged hundreds of times. And half of those homages are probably drawn by Maguire himself. When you think of all of those books and of Maguire, you think of the humor of those comics. Giffen and DeMatteis did not take the heroes too seriously and Maguire, with his malleable faces and crisp, clean cartooning was the perfect artist for the Justice League of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. While his drawing was humorous, what really pulled everything together in those books was Maguire’s timing and that’s what Bendis picks up on in this Guardians of the Galaxy #10.
The timing that Maguire used humorously in those classic comics is used here in a fight comic. There’s no bwah-ha-ha moment in this issue and no moment where a character gets her comedic comeuppance. Instead Maguire gets a Bendis script that looks like a Bendis comic. There’s multiple two page spreads featuring talking heads. There’s characters spouting off that Bendisian dialogue that you either love or hate. Maguire’s pages look a lot like pages from early issues of Powers, where Michael Avon Oeming was using the page in a lot of different and narratively exciting ways. As Bendis has the two characters express themselves through words and actions, Maguire, whose art is still so crisp and clean, gets to construct pages that are master classes of storytelling. Hardly any page told the same way as the one before it as Maguire gives every page a unique rhythm and flow.
But he does get those typical Bendis pages, full of talking heads that barely move from one panel to the next. Bendis loves these kind of pages but too many artists have used them as excuses to just copy that same panels over and over again to let the letterer just drop in the dialogue. For a while it was being done so much in Bendis’s Avengers that it became a joke but Maguire shows everyone just how to do these sequences. Of course it helps that Maguire can draw a full range of expressions and emotions on a character’s face so even if the characters aren’t physically shifting in a panel, he draws the story of what’s actually being said on figures’ faces. As Angela tries to get information out of a Badoon, Maguire illustrates what’s being said so we can follow the gist of the story without even reading the word balloons. It sounds like such a simple thing to say but for all of the times that Bendis uses this storytelling device, it’s rarely worked because the artists just aren’t good as drawing more expressions other than snarling and stoic.
Maguire is a detailed artist but he doesn’t go crazy, giving Justin Ponsor’s saturated colors a lot of room to set the timbre of the scenes. As he concentrates on the timing of the pages, Maguire draws a nearly perfect pop comic book. He’s got action, he’s got intrigue, he’s got fighting and he’s got a talking raccoon who eventually shows up. This is what Bendis has been doing in Guardians of the Galaxy but while his artists have been excellent, Maguire is able to take a rather simple story make it exciting. Bendis has been trying to craft it into some grand space opera with artists Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli. With Maguire, it becomes about these two fun characters and their exciting adventures as Bendis writes Maguire a story that gives Maguire the room to show that the artist is as fresh and exciting now as he was when Justice League #1 hit the stands all those years ago.