Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tie-ins, Part XXIII: Guardians Team-up #3

A scattershot history of
 Guardians of the Galaxy, Part 4
Guardians Team-Up #3

Retro-fitted to appeal to the masses

"The Black Vortex, Chapter 6"
Writer – Sam Humphries
Pencils/Inks – Mike Mayhew
Letters – VC's Cory Petit
Colors – Rain Beredo
Assistant Editor – Xander Jarowey
Editor – Katie Kubert
Group Editor – Mike Marts
Editor-in-Chief – Axel Alonso
May 2015

In recounting Star Lord's history, I skipped over one MAJOR event. An event that lead to the movie more than any other.

That event was called ANNIHILATION.

And that event wouldn't have started without Marvel editor Andy Schmidt.

Schmidt loved the characters of Marvel's cosmic mythos. Seeing untapped potential in them, he came to writer Keith Giffen in 2005 with the idea of doing something "big and bombastic?" Ideas were tossed around and eventually over the course of a year or so, they came up with a huge storyline featuring the space races that Marvel had used in various walk-ons over the decades.

Months before, Giffen had revamped Drax the Destroyer from a green-skinned flying superman in a purple cape to a deadly, ground-bound cage-fighter. Giffen left his hatred of Thanos intact however. Captured and taken to a Xandarian "space jail," Drax ends up fighting the insect-like Annihilus's space armada as it mercilessly marches across the galaxy.

Drax teams with Nova and Quasar in the Annihilation: Nova mini series, Gamora shows up in the Annihilation: Ronan mini, and then both of them meet up with a very stern, depressed Peter Quill. Quill seemed far from the devil-may-care Star Lord as seen in the movies. Almost as far as the original Peter Quill was from the remake in 2016. His appearances in this consisted mostly of standing around rather than punching or shooting. But we had three-fifths of the team standing up to Annilihus and Thanos and…well, eventually they won out. Sort of.

That first series moved from being a story about C and D list characters to the Event that fanboys ate up. It was a huge shot in the arm for Marvel and a sequel quickly came together…

Enter Annihilation: Conquest 

With the entire Kree section of the galaxy weakened, Peter Quill, still eschewing his Star Lord title, sets out to build an alliance with the Galadorian Space Knights (ROM's guys). All appears to be going well. The Galadorians want to upgrade Kree's defense network, which Quill arranges.

And then all heck breaks loose. 

The Galadorians were infected by the Phalanx, a techno-zombie-borg thingamabob, that was now lead by Ultron. Quill finds a new resolution to join the fight as Star Lord, given the grief he feels over his part in the deception. He joins a Dirty Baker's Half-Dozen heroes culled from Kree's prison population that includes Groot and Rocket Racoon as well as Mantis. We even get a Captain Universe, Deathcry from the Shi'ar and our old pal Bug from the Micronauts series. They form a suicide squad tasked with special ops that end up assisting the Kree and Nova with saving the entire galaxy from being overrun.

It was a fun series. As was the former. And out of it rolled a need for more Rocket and Groot. A huge need. A fan based need. A marketing goldmine.

Enter Guardians of the Galaxy, version 2.0…although in the Marvel timeline this was actually the first grouping (discounting time-travel) of heroes calling themselves that. They consisted of Adam Warlock, Drax, Gamora, Quasar (Phyla-Vell), Rocket Racoon and Groot with Mantis as a kind of administrative assistant. In that first issue, the team even bumps into an amnesiac Major Vance Astro, who inspires them to adopt the team name Guardians of the Galaxy.

Much screwed up, crazy history occurs. Then the book is cancelled. Then the team reforms, more additions and subtractions from the roster occur…

And crossovers. Lots and lots of crossovers. Because the Marvel of today is all about "Events" and "Crossovers" and sales-over-story.

Which is what we have here: Chapter 6 of a gawd-awful 13-issue long crossover between Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, and Captain Marvel (along with the brand cannibalizing Guardians Team Up and Legendary Star Lord books) guest starring the X-Men (because "why not?") concerning a celestial artifact called …surprise, surprise….THE BLACK VORTEX.

The Black Vortex is a mirror that if you look into it a certain way, will grant you super-powers. Okay, not just super-powers, but SUPER super-powers. It was given to a race called the Viscardi who used it on themselves and basically destroyed each other afterward because of its influence.

So this thing is sort of a cosmic "monkey's paw," if you will, and currently half-way through this mess of conflicting plotlines and characters from every corner of the Marvel Universe, we have some of the good guys having used the Black Vortex on themselves and the others fending them off. Because.

As well, Peter's dad, a jerky-mac-jerkface known as Mister Knife or J'Son (chee-chee-chee, haa-haa-haa), was the original possessor of the Black Vortex and wants it back. His evil plan is to use it to destroy as many races as possible so the Brood can take over, cutting him in for a 10th of the profits or something like that. Humans working with the Brood. Never seen that kind of action before.

Okay, maybe once.

Also Thanos' son, Thane who joined a religious cult now wants to…something, something…AND the last living Viscardi, Gara (which Wikipedia insists is Gala) wants the Black Vortex never to be used and ….something else, something else….MEANWHILE, Ronan…

Aww, to heck with it. Just start with people hitting each other.

*People punching things! This is what comics are about!*

Thank you. Do I care to know what's going on here? Oh, I do.

Seems Gamora, Beast and Angel have all exposed themselves to the Black Vortex, and like any druggie, they've become consumed with power. They want to take the magic mirror and reshape the universe in their new image. Everyone else wants the mirror kept as far away from these overpowered nutjobs as possible, and so have taken it to the planet Hala below.

While all this transpires, Ronan the Accuser goes before the Supreme Intelligence, that disembodied floating head that rules the Kree. He asks Supreme potato-head if he can use the Black Mirror on himself to take on the three crazed super superheroes by becoming a crazed super superhero himself. Let's see how that goes, shall we?

To which Supremor says…

This leads to an argument with Quill joining Ronan's side of using the Black Vortex and Storm on the opposing side. But finally The Supreme Intelligence has had enough debate (and of Peter calling him "slimer")…

Meanwhile, Kitty Pryde, X-23, and Venom, Space Ranger (or whatever he's called at this point in the MCU) show up on Spartax, where this kindly old alien has a varmit problem.

OMG! It is Space Hillbillies! (And technically the person she is shooting at is on TOP of her home, not inside it.). Venom tries to help out, which is so weird to watch because…I don't know, maybe I'm just old school and think a gun wielding Venom is …overkill?

Anyway, it doesn't work because whatever it is decides to TALK to the people shooting at it (novel concept)…

…and they find out it is GARA, last of the Viscardi (not Gala, thank you very much Wikipedia), and she is here to destroy the Black Vortex.

Say, if she destroys it this issue, can we quit all this crossover nonsense and get back to a real story? Please?

Back on Hala, Ronan looks depressed. He slumps away from Supremor's supreme chamber of supremeness.

That is until Star Lord makes sure he's committed to using the Black Vortex on himself.

Then Quill does this "wacky thing that he is known for" which was never a thing MY Star Lord would do, humping an inanimate object like this, but whatever. 

And that means the guards are busy escorting him from the park giving Ronan the opportunity to do THIS:

Which makes him into THIS

Totally Righteous Dude! Cowabunga!

But wait! Isn't this what CAUSED the issue they are defending against in the first place, someone exposing themselves to the Black Vortex and then going slightly off their rocker?

And while I'm thankful the next page isn't more of this silliness, with heroes making the same mistakes over and over again… It is silliness of a different kind as Thane, son of Thanos, comes back to his flock of followers to find them all massacred. Some floating guy shows up and offers him power from Mister Knife again, and we know it's a trap engineered by Mister Knife to get Thane to take the Black Vortex plunge which is transparent to everyone in the audience and should be transparent to Thane.

Looks like it isn't though.

Back to our "main" plotline though, as Ronan starts using his new butt-kicking powers to defend Hala's right to keep the Black Vortex from people who would use the Black Vortex by using the Black Vortex to defend itself.

Wait. What does Beast mean?

Who cares! Ronan is kicking ass and taking names. Look at him routing Super Angel. 

Beast appears happy here at his hyper-universe thingie but suddenly that all changes.

Oops! I broke the universe.

With that, Beast runs away looking a bit crazed, Gamora back stabs Ronan as a distraction and then makes off with the unconscious Angel and the rest of us sit around wondering what has really happened.

Well, I mean besides that. Note, I really wish Gamora was wrong and this WAS over, but it appears Ronan on the last page is getting all super self-confident and I know it's only a matter of time until he's going to get Black Vortex delusions of grandeur.

This was just a weak issue and an impossibly hard jumping on point. Half of what I got about the issue was from the "last issue" page at the front of the book and the other half was from web searches/Wikipedia. Just a mess story wise with too many unfamiliar elements and good guys who aren't good guys.

Messy. Just like the Guardian's past.


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