I'm not a big fan of the "everything you know is wrong" fake-out that seems so popular in comics. You've probably encountered it more times than you can remember, as a shocking moment or a cliffhanger is later turned into a completely different sequence of events. More often than not, it feels like a cheat, a way to wriggle out of an earlier decision. In the case of "Guardians of the Galaxy" #23, though, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning show how this sort of storytelling can end up pleasing to a reader.
When Abnett and Lanning wiped out half the cast of "Guardians of the Galaxy" a few months ago, I remember being impressed. I was afraid it wasn't going to stick, but at least at first the series seemed determined to show that yes, they were dead. As was inevitable, though, Abnett and Lanning have brought the deceased characters back onto center stage, but this time showing the sequence through a different pair of eyes, letting us see what happened behind the manipulations of the Magus. And much to my surprise, it worked. It fit in well with what we'd seen up until now, and I think it helps that even the other characters were equally duped along with the reader.
As for the story itself, it's nicely creepy. Focusing on Phyla-Vell is a smart choice, not only because of her connection with Moondragon but also because she's a character who is still evolving under the hands of Abnett and Lanning. Getting a further glimpse into her new status quo as well as being pitted against the Magus is an intriguing storyline, and it serves to let the reader focus on it instead of the nasty things the Magus is having done to his prisoners. This looks to be leading up to a big storyline against the Magus, and I'm finding myself excited about the character for the first time ever.
Wes Craig steps in to provide pencils this month (something he's done in the past) and I love his sketchy, stripped-down style. The psychic forms of several of the characters hovering about looks eerie and intriguing, with Mantis' individual strands of hair swirling around behind her. Phyla-Vell's outfit has never looked so sharp, either. The real-world sequences look good, too, of course; the page of the Magus unveiling his plans makes the creatures on the far side of the rift look menacing, and that final page is undeniably strong.
Over the past few months I've found myself pulled into the orbit of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and I can see why it's amassed such a loyal following. This is a fun book, through and through. If you haven't read it yet, now's a good place to start.