The Guardians must stand together.
Brian Michael Bendis has been writing Guardians of the Galaxy, in one form or another, for the past five years. That’s a pretty impressive streak, and one that warrants a truly epic series finale to wrap things up. That’s exactly what Guardians of the galaxy #19 provides. It’s basically an entire cosmic Marvel event crammed into one issue and dressed up with some of the best artists Marvel has on tap. What’s not to love about that?
Despite being both the final chapter of “Grounded” and the finale to a long run, this issue works surprisingly well as a standalone story. The team is still divided in the aftermath of Civil War II, but a massive, intergalactic invasion force led by Thanos is just the sort of catalyst the Guardians need to throw themselves back into action. With little in the way of preamble, Bendis and Schiti establish a cosmic threat to rival stories like Annihilation and simply throw the Guardians into the mix.
For the most part, though, this issue is framed as a more personal showdown between Thanos and the Guardians, many of whom have very personal scores to settle with the Mad Titan. The result is a very loud, boisterous issue that still manages to maintain a very intimate feel. The focus is less on playing up the threat Thanos and his armies pose and more about celebrating the Guardians as individuals and as a cohesive (if still highly dysfunctional) family. Bendis’ script delivers a winning blend of humor and heart. The book particularly shines toward the end, where the core Guardians bid farewell to their earthbound teammates. It’s a bittersweet goodbye sequence that’s made all the more effective by the silent approach. That, as much as anything else in this issue, is a testament to the strong creative mojo between Bendis and Schiti. Clearly, these two need to stick together.
Schiti’s art anchors this issue, making the transition between epic shots of superhero carnage, bits of slapstick comedy and more tender, emotional moments with ease. But this issue also features a pretty darned impressive lineup of guest artists, including just about everyone Bendis collaborated over the course of this run. Seeing Ed McGuinness-drawn splash page featuring Drax punching Thanos practically justifies the $5 cover price on its own. Sara Pichelli’s Angela-centric pages also rise to the top. But there’s no weak link in this issue, and each artist makes the most of the epic conflict.
There are a few quibbles to be had with the dialogue here. Thanos delivers a rather bizarre, out-of-character speech towards the beginning (and it’s not even obvious he’s the one talking at first). Another scene featuring Star-Lord vomiting a word salad is clearly meant to be played for comedic effect, but it doesn’t really work. But those complaints aside, this issue offers a very exciting and emotionally satisfying sendoff for the current creative team.