Guardians of the Galaxy #5

Story by
Art by
Rick Magyar, Paul Pelletier
Colors by
Letters by
Joe Caramagna
Cover by
Marvel Comics

I read both "Annihilation" series and every single tie-in. I enjoy Rocket Raccoon, in concept and execution (who doesn't?). I appreciate a well-told space opera, even more so when fourth-rate Marvel heroes are involved. I like Star-Lord's mask. A lot.

So why don't I like "Guardians of the Galaxy" more than I do?

For the first few issues, it was the sit-com like characterizations and dialogue that seemed discordant. Abnett and Lanning have been able to juggle the cosmic and the human effectively in the past (with "Legion Lost" and the middle of their run on "The Legion" as particular highlights), but with "Guardians of the Galaxy" they seem to suffer from having too many characters and not enough for them to do. At least, that was the problem at first, with the "diary room"-style confessionals and the flippant bits of conversation. But issue #4 seemed to show signs of improvement, with the Skrull threat, as tired as it has become in other books, adding a real sense of menace in this series.

But "Guardians of the Galaxy" #5 doesn't seem to build on the low-flung foundation of the previous issue. Or, perhaps, it builds on it too traditionally, taking issue #4's "Alien" riff (who do you trust -- in space?!?!) and setting up Drax to run around through the corridors of the ship, Ripley-style, and bust some alien heads. Chris Claremont spent way too many issues paying his respects to Ridley Scott's sci-fi monster movie in his "X-Men" run, and we don't need to see more of the same here. Although, now that I think about it, Drax running around through the corridors is reminiscent of Wolverine sneaking through the tunnels beneath the Hellfire club. So maybe Abnett and Lanning are just aping Claremont, who, in turn, swiped from the cinema.

Whatever the source -- or inspiration -- it feels tired and worn out by the time it hits the page.

And the scenes in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #5 that don't deal with Drax's one-man martial arts extravaganza focus on the kind of convoluted and hermetically dull continuity shout-outs that twist the series back on itself before its even half-a-year out of its launch. Starhawk reappears, as a female who speaks in riddles from the future. That might seem like an interesting concept, until you actually read her dialogue and the response of the Guardians. It's all gritted teeth and ponderous speeches, like something out of a Marvel comic from a decade and a half ago, but with more shades to the digital coloring (which, by the way, does nothing to accentuate the work of Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar. I assume their art is just fine, since they are established professionals, but it's hard to tell under the murky hues and garish airbrush effects).

This issue is best exemplified by the climax and the "shocking" reveal of the traitor within their ranks. Without giving too much away, I'll say that it's practically the same reveal we saw this summer in "Incredible Hercules," except Abnett and Lanning's version feels diluted and anticlimactic.

That pretty much sums up "Guardians of the Galaxy" #5: it's like other comics you have read in the past, except not quite as good. In space!

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