The opening page of “Guardians of the Galaxy Annual” #1 plays up artist Frank Cho’s lively, expressive linework, blending it with iconic poses of the Guardians of the Galaxy to maximize reader connectivity between the characters in the annual issue and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” home video release. The comic version of the Guardians, however, has an extra pair of characters who feature prominently: Captain Marvel and Venom.
The story opens with Carol Danvers recording a video log to send back to her Avengers comrades on Earth. As she is recording the message, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Frank Cho find ways to insert sly cameos (and not-so-sly cameos) from the other Guardians. This includes a throwback to Cho’s “Liberty Meadows” as Rocket Raccoon takes on the role of Dean to Carol Danvers’ Brandy Carter. That exchange might be slightly more farcical than Bendis’ script calls for, but Cho makes it all work and cements his purpose for drawing this book all in the span of a few panels.
Eventually, Bendis inserts a calamity that requires fixing, delivering a mysterious threat to the Guardians quarter in the form of a spacefaring S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Without spoiling the crux of the adventure, it’s safe to say Nick Fury comes with the helicarrier and happens to be accompanied by a hall of fame assembly of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. A spacebound firefight ensues as Bendis and Cho gives readers a “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic that is fun and wild, bombastic and exciting. Some portions get a bit predictable, but the payoff is in how Bendis pulls it together for Cho to draw the heck out of.
No “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic is going to roll out without some sticking points though. They are somewhat minor in “Guardians of the Galaxy Annual” #1, but are here nonetheless. When hailing their apparent foe, Carol Danvers introduces herself as Captain of the Air Force. The problem here is Danvers left the service a full bird colonel, a point that was really hammered home in 2013’s “Captain Marvel” #1. On Cho’s side of this adventure, he draws the most George Takei-looking Jimmy Woo ever. That said, Cho makes it work and even sells it with a wink and a nod by putting Woo at a console on the helicarrier.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Annual” #1 is one of the more enjoyable, compact Guardians stories from Bendis and also happens to be a nice, tight, well-drawn, oversized one-shot adventure. While there may be consequences or subplots spinning out of this comic book at some point in the future, there is no denying the satisfying tale delivered. Not only do readers get a complete story, an appearance from a vital Nick Fury and a space-fight, but Cho and Bendis also present some well-polished character moments.