“Guardians of the Galaxy” #20 brings about the conclusion of the Cancerverse recap as Brian Michael Bendis brings in Valerio Schiti to assist Ed McGuinness with the art chores. The problem being that this three-part story could have very easily been a two-parter.
Schiti’s work essentially serves as a framing sequence, as the three remaining Guardians are brought up to speed following Gamora’s “conversation” with Star-Lord. Through those few lead-in pages, Bendis essentially renders the two prior issues of this series moot, bringing readers up to speed but barely adding anything to the story in the process. The climax of the battle in the Cancerverse plays out here, as does the final(ish) fate of Richard Rider. Bendis leaves plenty of wiggle room for the character, but does more than enough to make it very clear to readers that Nova did not return from the trip, and that it was at his request that this information hadn’t yet come to light. The reasons driving Richard Rider’s quest for secrecy are surprising, but relevant, adding additional emotional baggage to this mismatched team of misfits.
The art is serviceable, but unspectacular. There are moments of brilliance where McGuinness, inker Mark Farmer and colorist Jason Keith merge to perfection, but it’s buried in hand-wringing and tooth-grinding. McGuinness does handle the most entertaining visual sequence of “Guardians of the Galaxy” #20 as Star-Lord and Rider play keepaway from Thanos, perpetuating the Mad Titan’s agonized attempts at claiming a Cosmic Cube. McGuinness’ storytelling wins that scene, as he installs enough detail to make it all credible, while using a wide range of line to make the characters extensively animated. Schiti’s characters, by comparison, are rigid and tense, but no less detailed. The penciling pair is a nice match for one another stylistically, especially in a tale that is cleanly divided for a trade of art chores, but this story keeps either one of them from providing excellent work.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” #20 is yet another example of this title not hitting its potential. I don’t know if this is because of the “Original Sin” tie-in or if Bendis is marching out beats between “Original Sin” and the next crossover, but this comic book treads water, reflecting on the past without enhancing it. Additionally, Bendis chips away at the relationships in the Guardians once more, but seems to be doing so more to generate a story than letting the story generate the emotional turmoil. “Guardians of the Galaxy” #20 perpetuates the need for this series to find its direction, and soon. As the feature film closes in on one billion dollars in worldwide revenue, there’s an expectation for the comic to explore new worlds and sew seeds for stories to come — not unlike what Marvel did with the “Star Wars” series back in the late 1970s. Everyone knows these characters now, and it’s time create some wild adventures for them. Otherwise, they may as well just be photos of action figures collecting dust on someone’s shelf.