Following events in “Age of Ultron” #10, writer Brian Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli are faced with the unenviable task of introducing a former “Spawn” character into the Marvel Universe in “Guardians of the Galaxy” #5, as Angela makes her first appearance since “AoE’s” conclusion. Although rather optimistically billed as “co-written” by Neil Gaiman in the solicits, the comic now sees him credited as “Consultant,” which is cute but seems largely meaningless in the context of the creative process. It’s not quite Gaiman’s return to comics, that’s for sure.
Still, it doesn’t necessarily take Neil Gaiman to make a comic about space-faring superheroes entertaining, and Bendis clearly enjoys his time with the characters. The story picks up from the conclusion of the previous arc, but it also gives a nod to the time-quake caused by the end of “Age of Ultron.” Indeed, it’s a far more direct sequel to it than any other comic so far, as Star-Lord sets out to find out what exactly happened and discovers a dire consequence that has the potential to alter the direction of the entire series — and indeed, the Marvel Universe itself.
Sadly, Angela’s appearances are more sparing than her cover treatment might suggest, restricted only to a few pages, and mostly silent. The glimpses may intrigue newcomers, but don’t necessarily satisfy those looking for answers about the character. There are only the barest slivers of information about who she is and why she’s here. At this point, a little more would’ve been better — two appearances in, there’s no more information about her than after reading the original press release.
In general, though, the comic is good. Bendis is on his best form, delivering strong characterization, snappy dialogue and engaging ideas. Every character has a role to play, and feels individual in their reactions. It’s a far cry from his weaker moments, which were all-too-common during the latter half of “New Avengers.” Instalments like this remind you why Marvel trusts Bendis — because when he gets it, he really gets it.
Pichelli’s artwork is a huge asset to the book’s quality as well. Her artwork is near-flawless, and adapts beautifully to the (literally) more alien subject matter against her turns on the likes of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.” Her reliance on double-page spreads could be grating in any other artist (indeed, their abundance in Bryan Hitch’s recent work has made them somewhat wearying reads) but here, they’re so well-constructed that readers will barely notice anything but the flow of the page. Pichelli is quite clearly one of Marvel’s top artists.
Despite the slow-burn of Angela’s appearance, there’s very little here that doesn’t work, and to cap it all off, there’s a final page twist that can’t help but have readers excited for the next issue. If space-opera superheroics are your thing, “Guardians of the Galaxy” #5 is definitely worth picking up.