"Guardians of the Galaxy" #2 by the superstar team of Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven continues the pair's attempt to bring a whole new flavor to Marvel Universe superheroics by setting the galactic adventurers on a course that recalls, if anything, the likes of "Star Wars."
Given his past form, in which characters are introduced by spending entire issues on visiting each one in turn for a brief chat about their powers and motivation, it's particularly enjoyable that Bendis has clearly decided to show rather than tell. Iron Man may be familiar to most, but the likes of Rocket Racoon and Star-Lord clearly benefit from sequences that give them a moment in the spotlight. This may be the first time I've read a comic with Rocket Racoon in it, but the appeal of the character -- at least as Bendis writes him -- is instant. Similarly, Bendis packs widescreen, blockbuster action moments in this issue. An Earth-invading alien attack is well realized through expert choreography and timing, while elsewhere the leaders of various galactic empires meet to discuss Earth's fate.
Clearly, it helps to have McNiven on art, delivering page after page of explosive action without ever stumbling or repeating himself. Although it's a shame McNiven isn't drawing the entire issue, it's hard to complain when the second artist is Sara Pichelli, one of the few artists who could genuinely claim to challenge McNiven's skill with this sort of material. Finally, colourist Justin Ponsor retains his claim to being one of the industry's best. It's near-impossible to read this issue and not be wowed by the way the palettes are chosen and how they influence the mood of scenes.
If anything's slowing the book down, it's the fact that it's been seen before. It's bound to be a problem with any superhero title sooner or later, but the story elements feel like a remix of existing stories rather than anything new. It's a bit "Star Wars," a bit "Secret Invasion," a bit "Maximum Security" -- good, but not necessarily new.
Still, originality isn't the only quality worth looking for in a story, and between the rock-solid skill on display and a well-told story, "Guardians of the Galaxy" #2 is more than worth the price of admission. It's a gamble, particularly if you're not massively interested in Marvel's cosmic titles -- but as long as you like reading well-made comics, it's a gamble that should pay off.