This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on May 4, 2016.
Comics Bulletin critic Chase Magnett has been working his way through Marvel Comic’s biggest franchises since the publisher relaunched (don’t dare use the word “reboot” anywhere Tom Brevoort can see it) their superhero line in the wake of Secret Wars. From the X-Men to the Avengers to the Inhumans, he has tackled five comics in a single week to check up on these big teams along with their individual members. There was at least one big gap left in his series of expeditions though: the Guardians of the Galaxy.
In the last few years the Guardians of the Galaxy have gone from Marvel’s unloved 80s space series and a second-rate knock off of the Suicide Squad to one of the most precious properties in publication thanks to the surprising success of a single movie. Instead of having only one or two series, if any, in publication, now the team has a reliable ongoing and a solo series for almost every one of its members. That’s not to mention other tangential titles that can’t be squeezed into this week. So has the success of the movie Guardians of the Galaxy translated into some quality comics? Let’s find out…
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Javier Garrón
Colors by Antonio Fabela
Letters by Joe Caramagna
If you ever wanted to make the argument that current superhero comics are more derivative than an advance calculus course, Star-Lord #6 could be exhibit A. From start to finish this issue doesn’t contain an original idea, instead banking on a mix of nostalgia, pop culture references, and recycled tricks to endear itself to readers. It reads like the result of people being unable to invest themselves in what they creating, opting to add superficial layers of recognizability in favor of anything real and the result is just as satisfying. The charm of Star-Lord in films doesn’t translate back to comics with the most amusing part of Peter Quill here being his boxers on the first page. That sort of tail wagging the dog goes a long way in explaining how Star-Lord #6 came to be.
In the first pair of panels both of the titular Star-Lords, Kitty Pryde and Peter Quill, strike a very familiar pose in Marvel canon from Uncanny X-Men #168. It is one that has been recycled for more than 30 years, popping up in almost every notable Kitty Pryde story of the last 10. At this point, it is a reassuring pat on the head for Marvel fans reminding them that they are in on the joke. That sets the tone for Star-Lord #6 because those head pats just keep coming. Repeating lyrics from the most popular song of 2015 and referencing decades old YouTube videos, this comic never wants you to dare pick up a dictionary or wonder if there’s something more to the tale. It’s all there on the surface and you’re smart enough to understand everything without thinking twice, gosh darn it.
If the treatment of narrative as pablum-esque salve for easily bruised egos wasn’t bad enough, there’s nothing occurring within the pages of Star-Lord #6 to actually entertain. Approximately two-thirds of the issue is dedicated to mirroring narratives of Kitty and Peter going through the motions of their break up. Complaining to friends, awkwardly texting, and even more awkwardly hooking up, these two are doing shit that you could probably find from your friends on Facebook on any given day. The only real difference is they talk to a green woman and raccoon instead of Rebecca and Tommy from high school. By the time any sort of action actually occurs at the end of the issue, it’s essentially exposition for what’s coming the next time you want to plop down a few dollars.
The parallel stories of the two Star-Lords are framed to reflect one another visually as well as narratively. Taken in one or two pages, this might not grow old, but stretched for close to a dozen it becomes interminable. Both narratives are primarily dialogue-driven and occur in static settings. The horse-like race in Kitty’s tale are pushed to the background and their supposedly magical culture is completely unseen. Peter’s piece takes place in his dirty bedroom. For a comic about amazing, space-based adventures, Star-Lord #6 is a remarkably dull affair with very little to catch the eye.
This doesn’t even tap into the disturbing rendering of The Collector at the end of the story. He has always been a character that skews towards the weird, which made the casting of Benicio del Toro such a coup. Here that strangeness doesn’t veer towards the ambivalent and alien nature of someone like Prince or David Bowie though. It plays into a fear of queerness instead. He is coded like a drag queen or at least a stereotypical gay men in a manner that is meant to make him villainous and frightening. It’s a construction of the other as something to be feared and hated, and the other is shown to be queer. That’s some fucked up shit to load into the last page of Star-Lord #6, and there’s no sign that will be improved in Star-Lord #7.
Star-Lord #6 is the ultimate creation in manufactured superhero comics. It exists not for a reason, but because it is expected to sell. Like the kiddie meal of a fast food restaurant, it is not meant to enrich or nourish, but to fill a little hole long enough for the illusion of satisfaction to occur. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen too many times before, nothing that isn’t made to simply mimic something in the most obvious way possible. If you can drop $4 on Star-Lord #6 and forget that it comes from a place less caring than the cold, dark void its protagonist occupies, then great. That doesn’t make it less true.