Sticking the landing is a particularly difficult thing when your endpoint is just another bridge. As the Guardians wrap their summer-long Secret Wars reimagining, it executes with less-than-satisfying results.
For those who may not have been wholly on board with writer Brian Michael Bendis’s non-ending to All-New X-Men, get ready to re-live the sensation. Following a questionable structural formula from that revolutionary run, Bendis again proves so eager to soft-peddle the connecting of dots and selling the next book that the story at hand fails to fully get its due. Granted, of the three books the writer has going during the Event, Guardians of Knowhere certainly has the latitude to be the most “self indulgent” but the eleventh hour, left-field “resolution” undoes much of the gravitas built throughout the four-part run.
To their credit, Bendis and oft-time collaborator, artist Mike Deodato, have effectively created a (mostly) self-contained one act play spread out over eighty-something comic pages. Characters old and new storm on and off the stage, making bold proclamations and exhibiting super-powers almost for the explicit sake of demonstrating to the audience. All in all, it is quite the parade as the marketplace backdrop remains the only fixed setting throughout the escalating afternoon. By keeping things so concise and incidental, though, the creators have kept a kind of artsy “out” very close to the vest yet opt not to pull the trigger. Dissolving with some manner of provocative auteurism would be more in tune with the piece’s “sci-fi noir” overtones rather than the vexingly abrupt shift into commercial shillery that is delivered.
The mismanagement of assets is perhaps best personified in the characterization- or the missed opportunities and gaping holes within. As a character seemingly unchanged from pre-Battleworld reality, Gamora is obviously meant to be the focus yet remains unactualized. In addition to not capitalizing on her still-underdeveloped power upgrade during the semi-recent Black Vortexcrossover, the Most Dangerous Woman in the Universe may also now want to consider adding “Most Upstaged” to her resume…
Insult to injury, her greatest one-upper doesn’t even get a frikkin’ name! This is too bad because Deadato’s depictions of this statuesque warrior woman are indeed striking and calling her “the tall blue alien lady with the cosplay-defying headgear” is far too rambly. Her one line of broken English and a deep-dive into an archival pre-Event interview indicate she is some kind of Kree Accuser and similar to Gamora in her “Incursion survivor” status. While the series’s other all-new adversary, Yotat, receives a proper origin along the way, the aforementioned intuitive leaps regarding “Big Blue” are far from spelled-out on the page. Another minor nitpick is the recycling of stock “alien-ese” glyphs, supplied this time by Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit. Unclear if this is a technical limitation but is there only just the one font available for all intergalactic species? No doubt, our mystery player will probably take exception that this oversight renders her words all Skrull to us.
Despite a vetted, top-flight unit creatively channelling flavors of the cosmic Marvel Cinematic Universe, this installment sadly underperforms. Deodato and color artist Frank Martin yield compositions that are intense and compelling yet ambiguous in severity. Characters suffering brutal fatalities recover without explanation while others take a dirtnap from far less. However, this sort of murkiness pales in light of the tacked-on “drink your Ovaltine” finish. Scenery-chewers (and a considerable body count) abound in this “revolving door” showcase but, really, the roll into the outro just needs to get traded in for a simple “Forget it, Gamora- it’s Knowhere…”.