Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist(s): Matteo Lolli, Andre Lima Araujo, Jill Thompson, Mike Del Munch, Stephanie Hans, Natacha Bustos, Muca Maresca
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Release Date: 6th March 2019
Spinning out of Marvel’s 2018 “Infinity Wars” event, Cullen Bunn and Matteo Lolli’s ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is pretty much exactly what you might expect. Namely, a new team of Guardians made up of an assortment of characters who have (sometimes fairly tenuous) links to the realm of Asgard.
This first five-part arc does a great job of bringing the individual members together and galavanising them as a team by having them overcome their first threat. A threat which, in this case, comes in the form of Nebula, desperate to prove her worth following her hated sister Gamora’s recent success in killing Thanos. To do this, she manages to get her hands on an ancient relic; a horn which summons the soulless husks of former Asgardian gods who have died in the various Ragnaroks over the ages, and sets out to wreak some serious havoc on the galaxy.
The team itself is full of the same kind of quirky, eclectic characters that you’d probably expect from a title like this, from Thor’s sister Angela (the de facto “leader” of the group) to reformed villain Skurge and the weird-but-undeniably-cute Throg. It’s a fun bunch, but some of the members perhaps feel a little surplus to requirements, and while there are some interesting interactions and sub-plots, nobody’s thread is treated like the main one, which makes it all feel a tiny bit diluted.
The story is a fast paced, action packed romp, which manages to be both the greatest strength of the series and its greatest weakness. There’s a sense of cosmic adventure here that feels reminiscent of classic Jim Starlin, but the breakneck pace means that a lot of the interesting moments and storyline beats get lost in the shuffle as we find ourselves whipping along the to the next set-piece. I mean, the main Guardian roster alone is massive, and when you throw the likes of the Shi’ar, The Nova Corps, Nebula, Kid Loki and a certain God of Thunder into the mix, you can start to see why things sometimes become a little chaotic.
That said, Bunn’s story does more than enough to keep the pages turning throughout, and each team member’s skills and abilities are utilised to their fullest potential, whether it be kicking ass (Skurge, Angela and the Destroyer make a particularly formidable triumvirate in that respect), or providing some chuckles along the way (Gladiator trying and failing to lift Throg’s tiny hammer is brilliant).
Visually, Matteo Lolli does a great job of delivering a striking aesthetic throughout, with an ever-so-slightly scratchy style that works well alongside the frequently unconventional tone. There’s a real sense of energy and cosmic chaos through the frequent action scenes, and Lolli deserves a lot of credit for keeping his tightly packed pages flowing as coherently as they do. This is a book packed with wild explosions and panel-stuffing onomatopoeia, and colourist Cory Petit deserves just as much credit as Lolli for making the pages pop like they do.
Also, in a neat wrinkle, the series also features a plethora of guest artists – including the likes of Stephanie Hans and Jill Thompson – hopping on board to illustrate some of the ‘recruitment’ scenes which see Angela and The Destroyer approaching the various team members. These sequences add an extra flavour to the proceedings, both visually and narratively, and I’d love to see more of these kind of moments as the series unfolds.
After all the chaos and witty banter, the resolution to the arc is satisfying enough, and perfectly underscores the frequently tragic nature of Nebula’s motivations. Even with the backing of her legions of vengeful gods, she still hesitates when faced with the human side of her actions, and her inherent insecurity about how she compares to her sister – the main motivator for her crusade in the first place – plays beautifully into the denouement.
If you’re a fan of the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, you’re gonna love this. It’s a ton of fun from start to finish, with a colourful cast of characters, some lively artwork and a nice blend of character drama and silly comedy. Not without its flaws, but still well worth a look.