Posted by: Abhay Khosla on April 11, 2013
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, VC’s Cory Petit, Manny Mederos, Ellie Pyle, Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, Axel Alonso, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, Alan Fine, Tom Brevoort, David Bogart, Ruwan Jayatilleke, CB Cebulski, David Gabriel, Jim O’Keefe, Dan Carr, Susan Cespi, Alex Morales, Stan Lee, and Niza Disla, published in March 2013 by Marvel Comics:
I was catching up with SCARLET and the latest POWERS relaunch, so while I was at it, I thought I’d check in with what Bendis was up to in the mainstream. I picked up this, and two of his X-Men comics (issue #3 of UNCANNY X-MEN and issue #3 of SOME MORE X-MEN).
Going in, I was expecting to like GALAXY more than the X(s). Boy, I was wrong– the X(s), Bendis really seemed to show up for those way more. The shifting alliances and competing philosophies / views-of-mankind an X title invites seem really suited to Bendis’s strengths. Bendis writing Magneto in particular seems to make a particular sort of sense, mathematically. Whatever Bendis found exciting about working those comics made it onto the page, and with a noticeable confidence.
GALAXY #1, on the other hand, Bendis focuses on an action scene…? Why? Are there people who tell him he’s good at action scenes? Do those people have their own internet? Why is he writing this comic, other than that there’s a movie coming out soon? After #1, I couldn’t say. The story promised by the last page of GALAXY is a fart: inconsistently designed spaceships attacking London…? Go, Aliens, Go! Blow all those people up, them and their erotic Jon Lewis snowmen. USA! USA! … Will aliens blow up London?? Too much suspense.
Never read any of this generation of GALAXY comics? Reasonable minds differ on this point apparently, but issue #1 didn’t explain who the GALAXY were, why they were a team, what their mission was, or why a talking squirrel or a talking tree were in outer space (??). (Footnote: This has been the third first issue I’ve talked about this week that has been just mystifying, in some respect…)
Granted, he was working with better artists on the X(s)– Stuart Immonen and Chris Bachalo are veterans, whereas GALAXY’s Steve McNiven… McNiven doesn’t draw the moon, in a splash page of the moon. He just pastes a photograph of the moon onto the page; calls it a day… Facepalm: they hired a guy who can’t draw THE MOON to draw a comic set in outer space. (Was it a photo-realistic painting of the moon? It looked like a photo) Plus: science-fiction comics, you want an artist with design skills– those are pretty important for an SF comic. McNiven’s spaceships don’t really reflect him having ever focused much study time on drawing tech before, while his Iron Man armor… No. No.
Sure: I don’t care. I’m not sticking around for any of these. Mainstream comic publishers are too gross; I don’t trust anyone at that company to tell me a story, instead of using the comic I’m reading as a paid advertisement for some rip-off crossover. I don’t want to pay for advertising for a movie I won’t want to see. I was just curious what Bendis was up to. But if you want to be in that world? I’d go with the X(s). Seem more fun.
GALAXY was interesting at least one way, though: it’s another example of how Bendis so often seems to commence his runs with a long-standing status quo becoming unmoored because of a Spoiler Character.
His Daredevil run starts with the Silke character organizing a coup d’état against the Kingpin. His Avengers run starts twice– once with the Scarlet Witch “disassembling” Avengers, and the second time with some shadowy character engineering some jailbreak. Spiderwoman starts with that character trying to recover from having her identity stolen by the Skrull queen, when she gets recruited by SHIELD or somebody right…? GALAXY starts with somebody’s dad showing up and yelling that all the rules of outer space had changed (in what I took to be a visual homage to that staircase shot in Howard Chaykin and Jose-Garcia-Lopez’s TWILIGHT…? yes? no?).
If I were to think of other writer’s opening gambits, I’d think “our old patterns no longer suffice– we must become new” (a Morrison opening), or “a bold new status quo! … and a bold new threat!” (I imagine most mainstream books use this gambit, to diminishing returns) or “a startling new mystery that reveals a sinister expanded world that the main character was previously unaware of” (e.g. Snyder’s BATMAN #1; Fraction-Brubaker IRON FIST #1 back when, maybe?), or “everything we thought we knew about this character is wrong” (e.g. The Anatomy Lesson– which is pretty, pretty close) or “orifices, they need shy boys to fill them” (e.g. hentai).
Who else does “the Spoiler Character unmoors a long-standing status quo” opening other than Bendis? Who else leads with a Karen Page from Born Again?
And say hypothetically that I’m right, and that Bendis has had this career-long opening gambit that’s semi-unique to him. Why has that opening gambit connected repeatedly with readers? Why are they so moved by these Spoiler Characters? The people reading it—what do they get out of it? In my head, I’m just picturing some adult child of divorce, wanting to yell at his mom’s boyfriends. “Everything was great until you got here, Barry!” But that’s.. I would assume Bendis’s 13-year long success streak in mainstream comics isn’t thanks to a guy named Barry having sex on top of everybody’s mom(s). If you take into account Barry’s refractory time, there’s just not enough hours in the day for that to be true. Even for sexy, sexy Barry.
I’m sure all fiction plays to some insecurity or another, but that seems to speak to such a specific, small insecurity, being constantly afraid of a bully coming and kicking over your sand castle. That your destiny is ever controlled by the whims of malevolent strangers, that you’re standing on a rug that someone will come out and pull out from under you, that other people can and will be the source of ruination … It’s just sad, to think about too much– to think that a large swath of this audience all sharing that same insecurity. It’s sad to think some part of us is trapped in our heads that exact same way, prisoners of that same anxiety, cell-mates for life, building walls that don’t need to be there.