Although listed as a “War of Kings” tie-in, the connection to that story is loose, focusing more on the meeting between the current incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy and one that resembles the original group that fans are more familiar. However, the encounter between the two teams shows that the future Guardians aren’t exactly the same as everyone remembers them. Why are these Guardians different from the traditional ones? What has gone wrong in the future?
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning answer the question quickly and effectively, crafting a story that explains why Starhawk is a woman now, and why Star-Lord’s group has been brought to the future. Apparently, something goes wrong in the present and it causes a future where the universe is only the size of a solar system as it shrinks, threatening to collapse in on itself. All of the familiar Guardians of the Galaxy elements are on display here, but remixed to create a harsh dystopian future to end all dystopian futures.
The interplay between the two Guardians groups is fantastic as they quickly put aside their differences to prevent this horrible future from occurring, but that means facing off against the Badoon, the only species remaining, and the reason why the universe hasn’t collapsed completely. The means by which they’ve kept a small pocket of space unharmed is epic in scope and a wild idea on Abnett and Lanning's part. It’s the sort of idea you’d expect from Grant Morrison, and handled with the same deft skill.
There’s a sense of doom in this issue with the future Guardians barely clinging to a dim hope that this future will be changed and never happen, while the present Guardians quickly see that they may die in the efforts to prevent this future. Abnett and Lanning give the future Guardians a lot of personality without a lot of space, allowing a panel or two to speak volumes. Things may seem hopeless, but they manage to even get a laugh in here and there.
Wesley Craig’s art doesn’t quite match the skillful writing, but does a good job at conveying the concepts and character beats. Craig’s abilities aren’t quite up to the task of handling so many characters on-panel, sometimes creating confusion. He does illustrate the smaller moments much better, like the wonderful two-panel interaction between Mantis and Yondu. His unique take on the future Guardians is also great, as he updates/changes their looks, while still making them easily identifiable.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” continues to be one of Marvel’s top titles, consistently delivering quality stories and characters, and this issue is no exception. When Jack Flag yells, “Swear to god, I hate cosmic stuff!” here, you can’t help but disagree because Abnett and Lanning are writing one hell of a book.