“Guardians 3000” #1 doesn’t have a single panel with Groot, Rocket, Gamora or Drax in it, but writer Dan Abnett and artist Gerardo Sandoval deliver a fast-moving story with likeable characters, intense action and unpredictable occurrences. The Guardians in this comic book are the “original” Guardians of the Galaxy, created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan long before Star-Lord was ever on the scene — except these Guardians’ adventures occur centuries after Star-Lord’s Guardians. Confused? It will help buffer your brain from the rest of the time-travel turmoil.
Turmoil in time is at the heart of this debut issue, as Abnett gives readers fair warning that anything can — and will — happen. One scene in particular involving fan-favorite character Yondu is jaw-droppingly unexpected and brutally final. Abnett uses Geena Drake as the point of view character, but doesn’t temper her slang or provide a sense of surroundings for readers, who are forced to learn on the fly when “Guardians 3000” opens with a full-blown firefight. Drake, a tribute to original “Guardians of the Galaxy” creators Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, was introduced in the anniversary-sized “Guardians of the Galaxy” #14, from earlier in 2014.
Geena brings “Terminator” undertones with her, as she apparently is the key to the trouble times the Guardians are experiencing. Rather than being pursued by robots, Geena is the target of the Badoon, but the Guardians are on hand to help Geena find her true purpose. The time turmoil surrounding her and weaving throughout “Guardians 3000” #1 brings the Hideaway Parliament together. The Parliament is a collection of characters that provides ties to various titles, characters and points of history throughout the Marvel U, underscoring the importance of this story to the universe’s future.
Gerardo Sandoval sets the tone early, giving “Guardians 3000” #1 a style evocative of 1990s comics, but skewed in such a manner as to make this appear to be both homage and experiment. In some cases, it works. In other segments of the story, it falls apart. Sandoval gives each character a solid debut, but gets a little too carried away with sneers, scowls and painful grimaces that it almost becomes difficult to imagine any of the characters in a relaxed state. That plays to the tension in the story, but combined with art that devours the pages, it doesn’t allow for much breathing room or digesting space for the readers.
Sandoval employs some wild anatomy, but not where it should be, as Vance Astro, Martinex, Starhawk (the male version) and Yondu all share the same physique, with Charlie-27 bearing a larger scale, but similarly proportioned, version of their body-type. Costumes distinguish the characters, as do their power sets, but everyone could use a little more room to maneuver.
Edgar Delgado keeps pace with Sandoval throughout “Guardians 3000” #1, tinting the landscape of the Hideaway Parliament’s base of operations with sickly green hues and underscoring the shadows Sandoval liberally splashes throughout the story. The colorist employs a nice array of light-based effects, giving Starhawk’s headdress a radiant glow, adding heat to the sonic beamers and eerie coldness to the depths of space in Deneb.
Rounding out the visuals, complete with a smartly appointed font for locations, Clayton Cowles visually describes the soundtrack of “Guardians 3000” #1. In addition to expected sound effects and chilling, sharp emptiness of Starhawk’s word balloons, Cowles cracks the tongue of the Badoon using the comic book equivalent of subtitles to define the dialog of the Elite Phase Cadre while they bear down on the Guardians. Cowles tackles all the slang, sound effects and tones throughout “Guardians 3000” #1, adding the shocking cottony surprise to Astro’s telepathy and measured, rounded intention to words of A-Sentience.
A thick read for newbies, but a rewarding one for seasoned fans of the Arnold Drake/Gene Colan version of the Guardians, “Guardians 3000” #1 gives readers a great deal of new characters, ideas and situations to sift through. This is not the most friendly debut issue of the Marvel NOW! era, but it doesn’t have to be, as there is a distinctly targeted audience. From here, though, there is no shortage of ideas to explore and concepts to dig into as Abnett, Sandoval, Delgado and Cowles serve as guides through the thirty-first century.