So You Want to Read… Guardians of the Galaxy: Part Two: Cosmic Avengers! The Bendis Era: Part One

Brian Michael Bendis just wrapped up his Guardians run a month before the second movie (allowing a new series to be launched just in time, funny how things work out isn’t it?). Lasting from February 2013 to April 2017, his run is massive. I’m splitting it into two sections, this is the first, covering everything before Marvel’s universe resetting Secret Wars event. I believe he has written the Guardians longer than any other writer in Marvel history while leaving very few lasting marks on the franchise. Partly because he was brought on to provide star power, but also to make the comics more like the then upcoming movie. After that, he probably had to keep them in some sort of homeostasis and most character development and story progressions done by him are reset by the end of the series to provide room for the next writer and Artist to make their mark.

Avengers Assemble:

Bendis wrote Avengers for eight years, redefining the franchise. When the Avengers film came out, Marvel wanted to launch a new series to bring in new readers. Meant to be accessible to people who only saw the film, Bendis was the obvious choice. The Avengers face down a new incarnation of the criminal cartel the Zodiac. Turns out they were given powers by Thanos for reasons…? The Guardians show up and Thanos gets his hands on a Cosmic Cube (remember? The Tesseract? From the Movie? Guys, remember?). The two teams team-up and take him down and they’re a team. It’s fine. It serves it purpose, introducing new readers to the comic book versions of the Avengers, provides an introduction for the mid-credits scene dude and introduces their next franchise. It also bridges the gap between Bendis writing Avengers and Guardians. Completely supplementary and aside from one line of dialogue (literally one line of dialogue) has no impact on his Guardians run proper.

It’s not all bad though. The dialogue is solid and Mark Bagley’s art is dynamic and well constructed.

Available in paperback, hardcover and as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis Omnibus.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2011):

When the movie was announced, obviously a comic revival was also announced, and so Bendis and superstar artist Steve McNiven relaunched the series. It’s supposed to follow the events of the Abnett/Lanning run, there are some differences to bring the characters in line with the (then upcoming) movie. Star-Lord and Drax are A)not dead and B) Quill’s personality is completely different than in the previous series. Whereas he was a hardened ex-war hero and deadpan snarker, here he’s more of a joker and womanizer. Also, a blond now, I guess.

So I’m going to be breaking this down in chronological order based on the graphic novel numbering, which is pretty straightforward. Until it’s not. I’ll walk you through it.

Cosmic Avengers

The first volume of the new series is very much a high-action “here is the mission statement” story. The Earth is attacked and the Guardians protect it. Iron Man, in space at the time, and being from Earth, decides to join the Guardians as their representative from Earth and also to get Avengers fans to read the book.
There is also the revised origin of Star-Lord as well as several short stories of Quill recruiting the Guardians back to the team. The team breaking up and reuniting is a recurring motif in Bendis’ run. It does its job and the Star-Lord origin issue is pretty solid. It’s a really fun start.


The Guardians do what they do best (at least in Bendis’ run) sit in a bar and let trouble find them. No, seriously.
Then they get an alert of a cosmic type causing a ruckus. They run into Angela, a warrior woman who doesn’t seem to know where she is or the rules of the universe she’s in. (This is explained in a Thor story. Surprise! She’s Thor’s sister.) Anyway, the Angela stuff is actually a lot better than I make it out to be, partly due to Angela’s creator Neil Gaiman co-writing two issues. Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man collaborator Sara Pichelli does art and it’s gorgeous. Especially the facial expressions, which are important with a book that relies heavily on banter like this one.

Then S.W.O.R.D., Earth’s defense group against space gets attacked during Thanos’ assault on Earth in Infinity (an Avengers event), The Guardians show up and save the station. Francesco Francavilla does god-tier art. Even if you don’t like Bendis’ writing, you should check out these issues for the art because it’s stunning.

There’s also a story that has art by Kevin Maguire and kind of encapsulates the whole run. It’s fun but leaves no lasting impact.

Trial of Jean Grey

Not labeled as a volume of Guardians of the Galaxy or All-New X-Men with which this is a crossover. It’s really an X-Men story and the Guardians just kind of ferry them around. It is a really good X-Men story, mind you, but the only real impact on the Guardians is that Kitty Pryde starts a long distance relationship with Peter.

However, don’t necessarily think you can skip it because the art by Sara Pichelli (Guardians) and Stuart Immonen (X-Men) is great. There’s really good body language, facial expressions, and visual comedy. They’re also two of my favorite artists currently working in the superhero genre. If you’re into comics for the art, which you kinda should be considering the medium, then it’s still worth a read.

Guardians Disassembled
Guardians are split up and have to find each other again, for the second time. Peter’s evil emperor father J’Son sells the Guardians out to their most hated enemies, hoping that their dissolution will make his son embrace his destiny as the Prince of Spartax. It does not go his way.

Nick Bradshaw is the main artist on this arc, with assists by David Marquez, Michael Omeing, Jason Masters, and Cameron Stewart. It’s notable mostly for Venom joining the team and then instantly being ditched, and for having Captain Marvel on the cover of two issues she’s not in, then having a cover she’s not on but is actually in the story. (SIGH.)

There are a couple short stories, first printed as part of issue 14, which would have been the 101st issue if they never renumbered. There’s a beautiful Groot story by Andy Lanning and Phil Jimenz. Also, in the issue (which is how I have it), there’s a story featuring the original Guardians by Dan Abnett and Gerardo Sandovaul. I don’t know if that’s in the trade, it’s in the first Guardians 3000 trade, which I’ll cover later.

Original Sin

This volume is marketed as a tie-in to Original Sin, a Marvel event where character’s greatest secrets were revealed. Good news if you didn’t read Original Sin, it only thematically ties in. Some people did complain, kinda fairly, about that. I like thematic crossovers though, so it’s not an issue for me. Also, Original Sin and most of the comics with the branding kinda rocked…? And I’m not one to usually praise big crossover events.

Anyway, The secret of how Star-Lord, Drax, and Thanos survived the Cancerverse is revealed! And the final fate of Richard Rider (inexplicably spelled as Ryder sometimes, but not all the time in this story) Ed McGuinness draws the “lost chapter” in between The Thanos Imperative and Avengers Assemble. It’s blockbuster action at its finest and probably my favorite Guardians arc by Bendis, which I guess does speak something that my favorite is when he tackles another creators’ version of the characters.

In the second story, the Guardians remember they lost Venom, so they save him from the Skulls that had captured and torture him. The symbiote goes crazy and possesses the Guardians one by one, taking control of the ship, piloting it to destinations unknown. It’s a fun Alien homage and one of the better stories in the run. I actually don’t want to spoil it because the outcome, if not the destination is pretty surprising. Valerio Schiti joins as the new ongoing artist and remains it until Bendis leaves the book. The book really starts to come alive as with Schiti, Bendis finds his groove.

Black Vortex/Through the Looking Glass

The next part of the series is kinda hard to describe. Issues 24 and 25, the next after the Venom story, are part of the Black Vortex crossover, which is mostly a story that affects Legendary Star-Lord, one of Guardians’ sister books (I’ll cover it in an upcoming column). You can get it in two volumes; either the Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex hardcover or paperback, that contains the whole crossover, but then you’re missing out on the last three issues of Guardians. Through the Looking Glass contains just the Guardians issues and wraps up Bendis’ first Guardians series, but then you’re missing most of the context for Black Vortex. I’ll go more into Black Vortex next time, but I will say that I am dissatisfied with this way of publishing crossovers. I don’t mind the crossovers being in a separate volume, but I don’t like the reprinting of material collected otherwise. No one likes double-dippers, not in food and not in books.

Other than that, there’s the annual; a fun one-off story with art by (sigh) Frank Cho. Despite the sigh, the art is good and the story is basically that the gang runs into Nick Fury and the cast of 1970’s S.H.I.E.L.D. (60’s is more accurate, but Jessica Drew is there). They’re recruited to fight some Skulls who apparently S.H.I.E.L.D. has been hunting for years. Obviously, that doesn’t entirely check out, and therein lies the story’ conflict. Also, Captain Marvel does something. She just kinda, doesn’t do much for the rest of the run.

The last story in here is a two-parter that mostly just sets up the next series. If your evil emperor is deposed and defeated seemingly for good? Well, if you’re the people of Spartax, you vote his son who deposed him in the first place to be your new king. Peter, at the urging of his then finance Kitty Pryde (It does seem sudden unless you’re reading Legendary Star-Lord too), takes responsibility for his people. Him actually ruling? That’s covered in our next installment.
There are also series of hardcovers containing two volumes of the graphic novels each, this series includes the Trial of Jean Grey, but not Avengers Assemble or Guardians of Knowhere. Three volumes are currently out, with a fourth in November, volume five, probably releasing next year, will wrap up Bendis’ entire run.
Conversely, there is a Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis Omnibus containing everything from Avengers Assemble to Guardians of Knowhere. I’d assume a second, containing the All-New All-Different series will eventually be released.

Next time: Secret Wars and Emperor Quill!


Comic Reviews-Week of April 6th

TheWicked + The Divine 18-Kieron Gillen (W) Jaimie McKelvie (A) Matthew Wilson (C)

Short version: I have no idea what’s going on anymore and it’s amazing.

Long Version: Gods how I missed Wic/Div. And I didn’t even realize how much I missed McKelvie. The guest artists were stellar, but man, I forgot how incredible McKelvie was as a draftsman. The writing was on point as usual and this book wouldn’t be half as good without Matthew Wilson’s colors.

The start of this arc brought everything together introduced new stuff and-honestly, I can’t write a cohesive review of this. I was gushing the whole time.

It was so good I’m at a loss for words. If you know me, you know that I don’t shut up, so this is a big deal.

Instead have some random thoughts about the book:

I’m a fan of the recap page.

Minerva’s parents were a nice inclusion. I like seeing the parents of child stars that are absorbed in it, but they generally mean well, even if they’re exploiting their kid. Also, Minerva is the best.

Baphomet. I finally like Baphomet.


What if it’s not Laura? WHAT IF IT’S NOT LAURA?

“Persephone’s in Hell?” Lucifer ruled Hell. Coincidence? ARRRGH!


Shakmet slays with her new ‘do and that outfit.

The energy of the fight was palpable. Shakmet’s predatory attacks vs. Persophone’s graceful movements.


It ends with not a bang, but….what comes directly after.

Don’t Call it a Comeback.

Black Panther #1– Ta-Nehisi Coates (W) Brian Stelfreeze (A) Laura Martin (C)

It’s as good as everyone said it is.

As opposed to the “AAAAAHHHH, OMG” of Wic/Div, Panther offers weightier content. (I was predispositioned to say headier, but Wic/Div is by Kieron Gillen, so that’s a hard call.)

It is a dense comic and hard to describe without an active conversation. Lots of things happen. It’s a book you’re going to want to buy for yourself. You will want to own it.

Stelfreeze shows a lot of nuance and definitely helps elevate the material. Coates knows how to write politics, the book feels like an essay, but a really compelling one that you want to rush through so you know how it ends. Then you’ll want to read it again to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Structurally, the backup and cliffhanger make me wonder how this is going to read in trade. It’ll probably be fine, but from the first issue, single issues might be the way to go.

Vision #6-Tom King (W) Gabriel Hernandaz Walta (A), Jordie Bellaire (C)

Oh, man, it’s creepy. King, Walta, and Bellaire continue their stellar run, the end of the first arc, isn’t even the end. It’s the beginning. Of the end, presumably with King signing an exclusive contract with DC.

Walta’s art is sterile, portraying the normal in a most unnerving way. The lines are thin and ghostly in quiet moments, but deep and thick when things get bloody. And Bellaire’s colors have defined the book. It’s as much her book as Walta or King’s. The subtle variations in the house and the deep red of the blood make the book.

It’s a book with a clearly defined identity, which begs the question, “will it survive King’s departure?” Also the question, “when is King leaving”?

Uncanny X-Men #6-Cullen Bunn (W) Ken Lashley (A) Nolan Woodward (C) Paco Medina (A) Juan Vlasco (I) Jesus Aburtov (C)

Picked this up only because of the Apocalypse Wars crossover. I am not a fan of Bunn’s writing, although I did enjoy his Magneto series, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Angel stuff was really enjoyable and Bunn shows a real understanding of the characters, they all seem really well written, except Sabertooth, but I haven’t read much with him post-inversion, so it might be spot-on.

There was a lot of fun stuff in the book, the archangel flock, the cool memeory two page spread, and the Morlock sewer stuff was a fun callback to one of my favorite X-stories. And that ending.

Lashley’s art was brutal and beautiful, although I think a bit too much empathis on the latter. Psylocke was a little pin-up-y at times. I was pretty much X-pecting this from a “Not an X-Force” book, and I’m sure it’s more tame than Land’s.

On the flip side, I love Paco Medina’s art in the backup strip. It was his ormal quality of work, which is to say, phenomenal. Bun iid some fun stuff with the Fact Channel and Xorn. Oh yeah, Xorn?!?!

Scarlet Witch #5-James Robinson (credited for Script) Javier Pulido (A) Munta Vicente (C)

Javier Pulido. Wanda saving ghost nuns from undead inquisitors. A near silent issue. Buy it. Even if you have no interest in the rest of the series, read this one.

Spider-Man #3-Brian Micheal Bendis (W) Sara Pichelli (A) Justin Ponsor (C)

This is a lot better considering the ahhh, weird portrayal of the internet youth last issue. Bendis shows his penchant for dialogue, which always engages me, even when the story is lax. That being said, the story isn’t lax here. Miles’ family life Post-SW isn’t something we’ve seen a lot of, so an issue devoted to just that is a nice cool down. (I mean, look guys, I love Blackheart and him being the first villain got me really excited, so I needed some cool down time at least.)

Miles’ Grandma is fantastic and she is everything a superhero cannot win against. AAAAHHH I love her.The tension between Jefferson and Rio about her rang as particularly true and I hope to see her and the hurricane that follows her a lot more.

Ms. Marvel seemed a little out of character, but I liked that she “got it”. If anyone would understand family getting in the way of heroics, it’s Kamala.

Pichelli thrives on the interpersonal moments and this issue is full of them. Like entirely. The pages with Jefferson, Rio, and Gloria she just raises the tension. It’s palpable just from the art. Her Kamala’s stretchiness is the right amount of gross and cool and I love it. And when she draws Felicia, I can think of only one word: Slay.


Spider-Women Alpha-Dennis Hopeless, Jason Latour, Robbie Thompson (Story) Robbie Thompson (W) Vanesa Del Ray (A) Jordie Bellaire (C)

Clowntown. Oh, how I long to be in thee.

This was a really fun issue and looks to be a great crossover. Gwen, Jess, and Cindy are a really fun combo and they play off of eachother really well. Each of them has different dynamics together and with just one of the others and that shows deft writing. Cindy, playing the fun-because-it-hurts type, Gwen who just doesn’t get it and she’s jealous of the time her mentor is giving Cindy, and Jess who just wants a girl’s day. Even if their lunch went as planned, the dynamics would have been enough to keep me hooked.

The tiny differences between the worlds were really fun to see (the come see sunny Wakanda/Latveria made me laugh) and I loved the little nods. (I don’t know why the Adaptoid isn’t used more. He’s so goofy.)

The art was really good. There’s a kind of Indie style to all of the books and it’s good to see that style continued in this, especially by a woman, as all of the writers are male. I’d also like to note that Jordie Bellaire is my favorite colorist and this book shows why. She is so, so good at blending tones together. She’s so good.

I am more than intrigued by this, I am actively invested. All three of the books are solid series and I recommend both them and Spider-Women Alpha.

Deadpool/Cable: Split Second– Fabian Nicieza (W) Reilly Brown (W,A)

Only because like, all of my books gave a free digital copy. It was fine. I don’t care much about Deadpool or Cable. If you don’t know Cable, I’m not sure this is a good into. This one didn’t seem to use the Infinite format that well. The writing and art were both fine, not good, not bad, just fine. I wasn’t drawn into it. If you’re a Deadpool fan, I’m sure you’ll like it, if not feel free to skip it

Header art by Stacy Lee. All rights belong to Marvel.

Nicoli Raymond is a writer based out of Illinois. He writes scripts, short stories, and articles on pop culture. He tweets at @NicoliRaymond Contact him at . He’s sorry this came out so late. It’s been a busy week.

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