It sure seems like this series has been around for longer than nine issues. I suppose that’s a bit of a tribute to the creative team, which was shaken a little bit with last issue’s departure of Paul Pelletier and introduction of Brad Walker.
Walker returns for the art chores in this issue, or at least part of them. Walker continues the story from last issue as Star-Lord makes his appeal to the denizens of Initiative Prison 42 on behalf of King Blastaar. Abnett and Lanning have placed Blastaar and his cronies in a plot to invade Earth through the dimensional apparatuses that must reside in 42. Except 42 is being protected by a bunch a z-list villains, like Jack Flag, Gorilla Man (not the Agents of Atlas version), Condor, Bison and Skeleton Ki. Earth is certainly doomed.
Except Abnett and Lanning have faith in their character of Star-Lord and his assemblage of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Their faith in this oddball character makes for interesting reading and certainly presents a challenge unlike anything this character has faced. After all, Blastaar alone has taken on the Fantastic Four on more than one occasion.
Among the subplots in this issue, and victim to one of the most jarring art handoffs ever, is Drax’s and Phyla-Vell Quasar’s quest to find Moondragon, whom they believe returned from the dead. Their quest takes them to Titan and a conversation with Mentor that doesn’t bode well for Drax, Quasar or Moondragon.
Now about that jarring shift in art. Take a young Joe Quesada, with his cross-hatching and flair for a more sketchy storytelling and have him illustrate the second half of a book illustrated by Barry Kitson. Very disconnected reading ensues. Luckily, the editorial staff of Horwitz and Rosemann were crafty enough to have the disparate art styles used on the different plots within this issue. Star-Lord’s adventure is handled cleanly (even though the environment is the hideously war-ravaged battlefields surrounding 42 in the Negative Zone). Carlos Magno steps in to draw Quasar and Drax, as well as the rest of Star-Lord’s team of Guardians while they attempt to draw a bead on Star-Lord. Magno provides and edgy, dingy, chaotic visual, completely divergent from Walker’s work. Not to pile on, but Magno could stand to practice his raccoons and dogs a little. Cosmo looks like a hybrid amphibian/canine and Rocket is the most cartoonishly rendered visage of him I have ever seen.
In all, this book is still an exciting high-octane read, but the art needs to find solid footing akin to what this title enjoyed through Pelletier’s dedication to this book. I’m not saying that Pelletier’s style has to be aped or imitated here, I’m just saying that “Guardians of the Galaxy” needs solid art that is stable month in and month out. Otherwise, this title could be doomed before it really has a chance to reel in new fans from the “War of Kings” event.