If you want a jam-packed, over-the-top, ridiculously big-action, summer blockbuster imagery in comic book form, Ed McGuinness is the artist to call, which is exactly what Marvel does for “Guardians of the Galaxy” #18, featuring film stars Star-Lord, Drax and Thanos. Unfortunately, Bendis also packs in overly verbose characters. That keeps letterer Cory Petit plenty busy, but when readers are expecting the “grand reveal” of what happened in the Cancerverse almost five years ago (our time) a page of melting shadows filled with word balloons from Gamora isn’t exactly an attention-grabber.
To his credit, Bendis begins the issue with Gamora admitting to changing and evolving, but one-tenth of this book is filled with preamble to revelation readers have been clamoring for since at least 2012 when Star-Lord and Thanos returned from the Cancerverse without Richard Rider. Perhaps realizing that McGuinness excels with superhero combat action, Bendis gets out of the way at that point, leaving plenty of room for big action bits, which come in handy for a comic that features Nova and the aforementioned trio of Star-Lord, Drax and Thanos. The first splashy moment for McGuinness is filled with a seething Thanos standing his ground as Nova and Star-Lord charge their foe.
The action and fisticuffs reveal to readers that this is the type of story that is worthy of an Annual, but is unnecessarily disrupted by the confines of monthly comics. Just as the story digs in and gains some traction, the “To Be Continued…” blurb appears on-page, making this twenty-page story seem bitterly short. There are moments where Bendis and Petit get out of the way, letting McGuinness, inker Mark Farmer and colorist Justin Ponsor go nuts on the page. At other points, Bendis puts an astonishing amount of flowery, over-burdened dialog, including a scene-shifting exchange where Thanos apparently changes his battle tactics to talking his opponents to death.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” #18 is one of the best issues of this current volume featuring Peter Quill and his band of vagabonds, which is interesting considering this is actually a flashback story told between the panels and after the closing cover of a previous volume of Guardians. At least Bendis and McGuinness are putting a significant amount of effort into the story and making it a fun read in the process. This is exactly the type of story that fans of the motion picture need to trip across. It gives the characters familiar ground to cover, but does so in a way that is almost as big and explosive as the movie itself. If this were an Annual, I’d be re-reading it right now. As a multi-part tale, I’m temporarily satisfied, but anxious for more. “Guardians of the Galaxy” #18 is a fine appetizer.