Long-standing continuity, confusing backstories and some truly WTF moments make comics a unique medium, but by the same token, truly painstaking for new readers. That being said, when publishers restart a series at issue one, it’s usually a good opportunity for new readers to add that title to their pull lists.
This isn’t the case with “Guardians of the Galaxy” No. 1, which offers a universe of juicy reveals and requires at least a passing understanding of Marvel Comics’ most recent storylines. Ideally, readers who pick up this issue will have read “Infinity Countdown” and “Infinity Wars,” which are 2018 comic book storylines that have no relation to the film “Avengers: Infinity War” — except, perhaps, corporate synergy.
The events of both series are too convoluted to recap here, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” No. 1 picks up their narrative threads. The comic opens with the reading of Thanos’ last will and testament — the Mad Titan was beheaded during the events of “Infinity Wars”; it was a whole thing — to an audience of the universe’s most powerful beings. But Thanos, Marvel’s most feared villain, isn’t one to simply die. Instead, his will offers a new threat — that his consciousness will possess an as-of-yet unknown being, thus allowing him to return and menace the universe anew.
It wouldn’t be a comic book without a resurrection or two, and such a trope is usually tiresome — but not so in this issue. “Guardians of the Galaxy” No. 1 derives its drama from the mystery surrounding who will bear Thanos’ consciousness, which immediately raises the stakes for future issues. Will it be Gamora or the Silver Surfer? Or perhaps the unlucky soul will be Beta Ray Bill or Moondragon. Just for fun, one shouldn’t count out Howard the Duck, either. Writer Donny Cates effectively sets up taut threads of tension as Marvel’s cosmic heroes scramble to save the universe from Thanos’ post-mortem contrivances.
Despite the intergalactic chaos, “Guardians of the Galaxy” No. 1 addresses the state of its titular space-faring team, which was left in shambles after the events of “Infinity Wars.” Of the original group, only Peter Quill and Groot remain and, by the issue’s end, we’re left with the latest roster of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The new lineup is quite a doozy and, while the classic team will be missed, it’s undeniable that Cates is taking the series in a bold new direction. Without spoiling the reveal of the Guardians’ latest iteration, this new team is a goldmine for the banter that’s central to the series. And most importantly, Cates lays the groundwork for high stakes emotional drama.
Additionally, for an issue that is predicated on a number of surprises, visual artist Geoff Shaw makes great use of splash pages, rendering the comic’s revelations much more impactful. With the epic scale that the comic’s galactic setting affords, Shaw lets loose with gonzo visuals that make “Guardians of the Galaxy” No. 1 an enjoyable read from the get-go.
Ultimately, while “Guardians of the Galaxy” No. 1 will be most rewarding for longtime readers, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe might also be pleased with an iteration of the Guardians that is wholly different from that of the films. The comic takes some big swings, and it’s hard to imagine that future issues won’t follow suit.
Harrison Tunggal covers comic books. Contact him at [email protected].