Guardians of the Galaxy #21

You would think that after the previous story arc where half of the team was killed, Abnett and Lanning would take a few issues to slow things down and relax, but you would be wrong. "Guardians of the Galaxy" continues to be that rare mainstream superhero book that is not afraid to change the status quo and put characters in real danger to suit the needs of the story. You literally do not know what to expect when you turn a page and that's refreshing.

In this issue, DnA continue to explore the idea of the Rift, a hole in space created at the end of "War of the Kings" which, it turns out, leads to an alternate universe completely taken over by Lovecraftian creatures. One of those has come through the Rift thanks to the Luminals, a rival group to the Guardians. It's decided that it wants to make Moondragon its new home. I guess there's no "safe period" for new members, either. The resulting conflict between the Guardians and the Luminals is only made worse by the involvement of the Universal Church of Truth, which thinks that the alien creature is their new god waiting to be born.

This comic drips with cynicism, mostly from Star-Lord who would preferably just shoot the Luminals and the members of the Universal Church of Truth rather than put up with their interference. He always seems on the verge of being pushed over the edge here, that one wrong move by someone will result in getting their heads blown off, and it's hard to blame him with the year he's had. Thankfully, this is counterbalanced by Moondragon's selflessness and belief in "doing the right thing," noting that further bloodshed won't make things better. The rest of the time still seems somewhat shaken by recent events and aren't at their best yet, which is a smart touch.

Brad Walker is about as different a replacement for the book's previous artist, Wes Craig, as you can find. Whereas Craig was very loose with his line work, using a quirky cartoony style, Walker is much more grounded in realism. That said, the difference in style doesn't make Walker a step down by any means as he produces great facial expressions and action scenes. In some spots, his layouts get a little too crowded, but it's hard not to with so many characters. He also mixes horror and sci-fi well, like at the beginning of the issue, when the alien lifeform tries to scoop out Moondragon's brains and become her new hat. His depiction of the alternate universe near the end of the issue is also very well done.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" is the book you want to be reading if you want action, excitement, drama, and a sense that anything can happen. Two issues ago, half of the team died and, in this issue, it looks like another death may not be far off. This title is consistently one of the best superhero comics Marvel produces.

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