"Guardians of the Galaxy" #16 spans the Marvel Universe, from the Shi'ar Throneworld to Hala and back again as Brian Bendis checks in on the Guardians in their various states of captivity. Captain Marvel and Venom make their presence known throughout the issue, but Bendis skips a status check on Groot in the process.
After being divided and apparently conquered, each of the Guardians has been placed into the custody of one of the races represented within the Galactic Council: Venom is with the Skrulls, Gamora the Badoon, Drax the Shi'ar, Rocket to the Kree and Star-Lord, naturally, to the Spartoi. Star-Lord and Venom have the most panel time as Bendis provides another standoff between Peter Quill and his father while the Skrulls find their hands full with the symbiote. Clearly Bendis has plans to flesh out the symbiote plot as the Skrulls tease clues. Bendis does a decent job with Venom, Gamora, Angela and Drax, but the stalemate between Quill and his dad is getting stale.
During that confrontation, the art shifts in this issue from Nick Bradshaw's playful pencils to David Marquez's more reality-infused drawings. Actually Marquez's work comes across rather like early Kevin Maguire, driven more by detail and composition than emotion and character flair that Maguire is prominently known for today. Marquez's work is a nice change-up from Bradshaw's exaggerated style -- both are great additions, but each serves the creative team in a different manner. If duties continue to be split, Bradshaw is more adept at the wild anatomy and bombastic situations that surround Drax, Gamora and Rocket, while Marquez's clean, thinner lines would do well with Star-Lord, Venom and Captain Marvel. Aside from a dynamic shift in style and linework, the art for "Guardians of the Galaxy" #16 is filled with great storytelling. However, with the exception of the six action-packed pages devoted to Venom fighting Skrulls, the story itself just needs a little more pep.
The best part of the issue is the continuation of the friendship between Gamora and Angela. Despite splintering the team to face divergent threats, the series still seems hesitant and afraid of committing to actually doing something. The team is set against Badoon, Kree, Skrulls, Spartoi and Shi'ar, but the threat never seems elevated. These are vast empires, but they're easily thwarted and surprisingly gullible, which simply becomes a disappointment when there isn't truly a reason for the protagonists to step up. There's no cause or quest to rally the Guardians, just more of the same old head-butting that's happened for sixteen issues, which leaves this title -- still -- treading water.