Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Sara Pichelli & Stuart Immonen
Inks by Sara Pichelli & Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Sara Pichelli & Justin Ponsor
Published by Marvel Comics
Guardians of the Galaxy #12, the fourth part of the “Trial of Jean Grey” crossover, is an issue intended to move pieces into place for the story’s climax. While the titular trial does begin in this issue, it also moves the combined X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, along with the their allies the Starjammers, into place for an attempted rescue, while Starlord’s father, the king of the planet Spartax, grapples with the political fallout of the Shi’ar’s actions.
This “moving the pieces” plotting slows down the narrative, which gives Bendis the space to inject some scenes of genuine emotion into the comic. The centerpiece of this effort is the reunion between Cyclops and his father, Corsair, leader of the Starjammers. The pair first came face-to-face in the cliffhanger ending of All New X-Men #23. While the adult Cyclops met and reconciled with his father decades ago (in publication time), this is the first time the time-lost teenaged Cyclops is seeing his father since he was a child and believed his father to have died. It’s a powerful moment, the kind of thing that takes full advantage of the “time-traveling young X-Men” premise, and one which feels important to the characters rather than just a tossed off moment in the midst of an otherwise noisy crossover. The art helps sell it as well, staging Cyclops and Corsair in the center of the room, such that, even though they’re surrounded by dozens of individuals, including sentiment racoons and talking trees, the focus is clearly on them and their interactions.
Along similar lines, as Jean’s trial begins, she comes to face-to-face with the crimes of her future self, and while she doesn’t get much room to react verbally, the art does a wonderful job at selling her shock and horror at her future actions. An effort is even made this issue to humanize the antagonists somewhat, as Imperial Guardsmen Oracle, who questioned Jean in the previous chapter, is revealed to essentially be her defense attorney and shows some genuine affection towards the young woman. She even argues with Gladiator over the sense in picking a fight with the X-Men. It’s a small but important beat as it establishes the functional villains of the story as self-aware and more than cookie-cutter bad guys.
So while this issue only moves the plot ahead incrementally (and might be a tough slog for Guardians-only fans picking it up as they’re mostly relegated to the background as X-Men characters takes center stage), it lays some important emotional groundwork for the crossover, making us care about the characters involved as it speeds towards its climax.