"Guardians of the Galaxy" #11.NOW is the second part of "The Trial of Jean Grey," but really writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli simply give readers the other side of the first chapter, which was already presented in last week's "All-New X-Men" #22.NOW. This issue is more of a #1B to what should have been "The Trial of Jean Grey" #1A. The two installments could have been presented as a flipbook and the end result would certainly have felt more worthy by sheer heft.
The story of the Jean Grey's abduction and looming trial is set to span six issues, with three installments in each title, but at this point, the story is one-third complete with thirty-three percent of each title's contribution delivering exposition that seems unnecessary. Yes, "Guardians of the Galaxy" #11.NOW does showcase a large #1 on its cover, but that #1 is also placed close to the subhead of "The Trial of Jean Grey." This furthers the argument that this issue is the flipside of the rest of the story while also signifying to unfamiliar readers that this might be a good spot to join the title. Bendis commits this issue to being more of the latter than truly moving the eleventh installment of this comic book series forward. Readers are introduced to the Guardians, one by one, and then introduced to the Galactic Council in a four-page sequence that completely stalls this issue.
Something has been missing from Bendis' run on this title since the start. For lack of a better descriptor, this title is missing heart, which is evident in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #11.NOW as the characters mark time from panel to panel and page to page. As for the notion of the Guardians of the Galaxy, this book carries the brand, but doesn't fulfill expectations. True, all of the fan-favorite characters are present. There's action. Intrigue. Adventure. But there's really nothing solid to hook readers into these characters, other than Rocket Raccoon's snark and Groot's comedically timed delivery of his trademark catchphrase. As a matter of fact, the Skrull bounty hunter is the perfect metaphor for Bendis' work on "Guardians of the Galaxy" as this comic book looks like the Guardians, and almost sounds like the Guardians, but when it comes down to it, this just isn't the Guardians of the Galaxy. This might be an assimilation of the concepts of the Guardians or an approximation of their soon-to-be-bigscreen counterparts, but this isn't the Guardians of the Galaxy. It's a comic about a bunch of characters without any character.
At least Sara Pichelli, Justin Ponsor and Cory Petit do a nice job on the visual side of this book. The moody, atmospheric colors accentuate the scenery, making the Galactic Council gathering cold and the bar on Knowhere loud and noisy -- through colors. Pichelli fills the pages with expressive characters who move and emote dynamically, right down to the background players who keep "Guardians of the Galaxy" #11.NOW from having too much space in space. Sharp-eyed readers with acquired history from reading previous versions of "Guardians of the Galaxy" will see a cameo from Cosmo among the Easter eggs Sara Pichelli packs into the insane amounts of detail on every page. Even the prettiest artwork connected to a boring story can't mask the boring nature of that story, as "Guardians of the Galaxy" #11.NOW threatens to sink this title right off my reading list.
"The Trial of Jean Grey" is an acceptable but boring comic that forces Bendis' two franchises to share a tale at a time where the two concepts really have no other reason to cross paths. I have no doubt the emphasis placed in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #11.NOW on a resurgent Skrull Empire will have a heavy hand in this storyline, but for now the paper-thin pretense that smacks of subterfuge and boggles my mind in its ability to appear as a convincing notion between the members of the Galactic Council. With the first chapter and the gigantic exposition complete, I hope "The Trial of Jean Grey" can pick up some speed and that "Guardians of the Galaxy" can find its missing heart along the way.