With this volume of Guardians of the Galaxy, War of Kings comes to a close, leading to a little break in my reviews of this cosmic line of comics and a move to some more Earth-bound Marvel stories until we pick up again for Realm of Kings in the near future. Last time, Nova convinced me that it would be a book worth sticking with – but would this volume of Guardians convince me of the same thing? It’s not as clear cut as I expected, and I’m even more convinced after reading this volume that some of these issues (if not all of them) should have been incorporated into the War of Kings book itself. But, I’m getting ahead of myself – first, let me talk about what happened in this book.
When we last left the Guardians of the Galaxy, Phyla-Vell (formerly Quasar) had taken on the mantle of Avatar of Death, calling herself Martyr – so that her lover Moondragon would be allowed to cross over into the world of the living again. The Guardians are celebrating the return of Moondragon in a bar onboard their headquarters (the Celestial Head called Knowhere) when they wind up in a bar fight – and we first start to see signs that all is not right with Martyr/Phyla. She’s in a much darker place now, not the naive girl she has seemed up until now, but much more cynical and willing to do whatever is necessary, even at the expense of others. This carries over into their next mission, realizing that the war between the Kree and the Shi’ar will bring about the cataclysmic event that the Guardians were formed to prevent – they break into two teams, each tasked with approaching one leader on opposite sides of the war to attempt to talk them out of their hostilities.
But when Phyla decides to take Crystal of the Inhumans as a hostage to force Black Bolt to halt the war, and Warlock finds himself in battle with the very powerful Vulcan – the results are not what the Guardians had hoped for. Warlock finds himself severely out of power and vulnerable to a dark personality called the Magus, which imposes it’s will on him. Meanwhile, the rest of the Guardians wind up bringing the War of Kings right back to Knowhere itself – with both the Shi’ar and the Inhumans fighting it out right on their own backstep. If that isn’t enough, Starhawk gets free during the ensuing chaos – sending some of the Guardians into the future, so they can see firsthand the result of this War. Can those Guardians fighting alongside their future counterparts, find a way back to the past, or at least warn the ones left behind of the threat the Magus poses – and even if they can help send a warning, will it be too late to save some of the Guardian’s lives.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my first thoughts upon reading this volume was that I wished they had put them in order with the rest of the War of Kings storyline in one (or two) books. It would make more sense that way, as it would be very difficult as a reader of just the Guardians book to follow this without reading the main War of Kings event (and I firmly believe this is why the cosmic books were put on hiatus during The Thanos Initiative event going on right now). The art is hit and miss, with Brad Walker being if not as great as Pelletier certainly still very good, and Wesley Craig being too cartoony for my taste. But even then, the writing team of Abnett and Lanning know how to use their artists for the best effect – Craig’s chapters were set in the far future, and his art may have actually fit better with that future version of the Guardians (understanding they were introduced years ago, when comic art was of a totally different style). But the story was choppy, partly because some of these issues led directly into WoK issues, partly because it felt like more time had passed between book 2 and book 3 than we’re led to believe (Phyla seems REALLY significantly different, and while many of the Guardians comment on it, and talk about how she’s got to stop acting this way – I’m surprised none of them do anything about it until it’s long past too late). I didn’t dislike this book, but it’s my least favorite of the Guardians of the Galaxy volumes I’ve read so far – oh sure, all the same humor is there that’s been in this series throughout, along with great space battles, story twists and turns (an old Avengers adversary as savior of the Guardians trapped in the future!), and frankly shocking deaths – it’s still a more than worthwhile cosmic comic. But I’m hoping things get a little more focused in the next volume, Realm of Kings – dealing with the aftermath of this latest war, and the opening of the Rift and what it means for the Marvel universe.