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.
In a sentence, Ultimatum is the superhero comic that will make you hate superhero comics and will have you reading nothing but Harvey Pekar, R. Crumb, and Daniel Clowes for the rest of your comics reading career. (My apologies to Fantagraphics.) Jeph Loeb really should have apologized to Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis for destroying their carefully crafted, simultaneously optimistic and nihilistic universe with all the skill of a child knocking over sand castles and then pulling its pants down to take a piss on the wretched ruins.
Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1 is maybe worth checking out if you’re a huge Star-Lord (not Kitty Pryde) fan and has a couple laughs and a shimmering color palette. But for the most part, it’s a tie-in with a quirky setting that doesn’t add anything new to the “doubt” plotline surrounding god emperor and inconsistently characterizes both its leads with a by the numbers plot.
Astonishing X-Men “Gifted” is one of those storylines that will make long term X-Men fans purr with delight beginning the Claremont era flashbacks in issue one. (Cassaday mimics Byrne’s art quite well.) It also can turn fans (like me five years ago) of the films and cartoons into mutie and comics junkies. Whedon pays homage to older X-Men stories without getting mired in continuity and quickly places his own stamp on the franchise by creating a new alien foe for them (Ord of the Breakworld), exploring the mutant as outsider metaphor with the cure of the X-gene, giving SHIELD a new branch (SWORD), and also bringing a beloved character back from the dead (Colossus) in a touching, visceral way that serves the long term storyline. However, the best part of Astonishing X-Men “Gifted” other than John Cassaday’s detailed, cinematically composed art and Whedon’s insanely quotable dialogue is the character arcs for each X-Man nestled in the bigger plot.