(Marvel Comics, 2015)
Writer - Brian Michael Mendis
Artist - Frank Cho
Colors - Jason Keith
Let me begin this review with an apology; I am sorry if I offend, annoy or otherwise displease anyone with my gushing admiration of this book and its stellar creative team. With that out of the way, let the love fest begin, this issue has it all, huge action, intelligent humor, razor sharp wit and some of the most eye popping pages ever created by artiste extraordinaire, Frank Cho. I know this is the pinnacle of fanboyism but, hey this is why I love comic books so much. Bendis and Cho really knock this one out of the park; they take all the elements that made this summer’s GotG movie so much fun with the addition of setting the story firmly in current continuity.
The issue opens with a clever page composition featuring Star Lord bursting with kinetic energy as he quite literally leaps across the page where the rest of his teammates are depicted rather dramatically in a column of equally sized panels; Gamora gazes icily into the distance, Drax peers stoically from the page, Captain Marvel appears poised, ready for anything, Venom hangs inverted his head enters from the top of the panel and finally Groot and Rocket share a panel playing up their vastly differing statures. The page acts as an introduction, though none is needed, and sets a break-neck pace that never slows until the final panel of the issue.
The story begins on the following two page spread which cleverly depicts Carol Danvers recording a sort of video journal to send back to her fellow Avengers bringing them up to speed on her space faring tenure as an honorary Guardian. Bendis uses this storytelling device to wonderfully entertaining results, not only does the grid-like layout of the page work extremely well with the script but Frank Cho shows off his ability to get a laugh with sight gags as several uninvited teammates make impromptu cameos, popping their heads into panels at semi-regular intervals to deliver a stern glare, an innocuous proclamation or in Rocket’s just to intrude on a quiet moment with an exchange those of us familiar with Cho’s Liberty Meadows will certainly appreciate. This light hearted tone is pretty much par for the course as Bendis and Cho never really get oppressively heavy at any point in the story, though there are certainly moments of peril and conflict, the tonal quality remains more or less upbeat.
Without spoiling an amazingly entertaining narrative by giving too much away, suffice to say that when peril does arise it is in the form of a very out of place S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier accompanied by an even more out of place, and living I might add, Nick Fury. Fury is not alone he is attended by an entourage of famous fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including an Agent Woo bearing a striking resemblance to the Enterprise’s Sulu. Some pretty bombastic Skrull fuelled excitement ensues which Frank Cho renders in stunningly meticulous detail; his line work is super clean and extremely slick giving the action a cinematic impression. Jason Keith’s intensely vibrant colors punch up the overall electricity of the spectacle making every panel a brain busting feast of intergalactic eye candy.
Annuals are often irrelevant romps featuring second string characters and third rate creators but that couldn’t be further from the truth in this instance. This annual is an incredibly drawn, well developed and scripted narrative with genuine characterizations that zooms along at warp speed delivering real laughs and big thrills. Bendis, Cho and Keith are an all-star creative team that score big with a satisfying and wildly entertaining story told in one jam packed issue; don’t miss this one True Believers. (5/5)
Reviewed by Shawn Warner (@shawnwarner629)