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‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ #23 is a major status quo change for a fan-favorite character

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ #23 is a major status quo change for a fan-favorite character


Guardians of the Galaxy #23

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Valerio Schiti and Jason Keith

Published by Marvel Comics

Ever since since it’s introduction in 1984’s Secret Wars, the Venom symbiote and it’s offspring have been shrouded in mystery. Despite it’s popularity, the origin of the symbiote species has never been definitively explained. That all changes in Guardians of the Galaxy #23, when after causing it’s latest host, Flash Thompson to lose both control and consciousness, and attacking and possessing his new teammates, the Guardians of the Galaxy, it commandeers their ship and finally makes a sojourn to the fabled symbiote homeworld. But is it worth the 30 year wait?

It’s been a long time coming, not just since it’s first appearance, but in the “Planet of the Symbiotes” arc itself; two out of three issues were spent on Knowhere and the Guardians’ spaceship. Thankfully, this entire issue is spent entirely on the anticipated homeworld. Jumping ahead a few hours from the end of last issue is a welcome move from Bendis, moving the plot right along from the last issue’s cliffhanger, and allows the issue time for several in-depth reveals. These revelations are fairly intriguing, especially for long-time fans of the symbiotes, and allow for some solid character development, something all too rare in superhero comics. Bendis also manages to explain the nature and history of the symbiotes without retconning or ignoring prior canon. Everything he reveals here adds to the canon of the Marvel Universe, rather than cluttering or subtracting from it.

Unfortunately, these long-awaited revelations about the origin of the symbiote race come in the form of a gargantuan info-dump, explaining the complicated history of the symbiotes in all of 4 pages. Once that’s done, the arc ends abruptly, and the plot is hurried along to the next big crossover. In addition, while the end goal of fleshing out the Marvel Universe is welcome, the origins of the symbiotes should be told in a larger, more devoted storylike, and not in a small arc that feels like a segway towards a larger event. However, the massive info-dump, while cumbersome, does it’s job well enough, and provides a new dynamic for the team going forward.


Valerio Schiti, as regular penciller on the series, proves once again that he is one of the most versatile artists working today, and certainly one of the greatest symbiote artists in Marvel’s history. Humans, raccoons, and trees all manage to have varying ranges of emotion, from scowls of barely-controlled rage to humorous and skeptical confusion. Those expressions do a lot to sell the team’s hesitation to be anywhere near this strange world. His symbiote forms also come in varying forms, like terrifying spider-like monstrosities and angelic butterfly/manta ray hybrids, all of which never lose the slimy black consistency that makes the symbiote what it is. The homeworld itself looks appropriately Giger-esque, and Schiti’s pencils and Jason Keith’s colors come together to make the planet feel truly alien and otherworldly, something to respect considering the multitude of alien worlds and races that populate the Marvel Universe.

With “Planet of the Symbiotes” all wrapped up, hopefully it’s effects won’t be ignored or forgotten by future writers. Only a fraction of the symbiote homeworld was explored by the Guardians, and it would be a waste to never re-visit it down the road, given the role it plays in the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. However, this arc shows a real willingness on the part of Bendis to take the Guardians of the Galaxy to truly unknown sides of the cosmos, rather than simply reacting to the latest crossover, and has been one of the book’s best arcs in recent memory. Hopefully the series retains this sense of adventure and mystery going forward.