Monday, February 23, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Alpha #1 (HERE BESPOILERS!)

Humphries covers a really amazing amount of ground in this issue, hitting everything from the history of the Black Vortex to why the Guardians and the X-Men came together in the first place.

First, let me get my complaints on the table, because they're fairly minor.  Bendis is obviously going to have to resolve, in fairly short order, how the original X-Men go from lost in the Ultimate Universe to holding classes in outer space with Professor Kitty.  Bendis actually has two issues of "All-New X-Men" left to tell that story before it has its first cross-over issue (in issue #38), but it's still weird to see them here given where they are in their own book at the moment.  Moreover, I have to say that I was really disappointed with the art.  Some of it is beautiful, like the scenes on Viscardi.  Some of it, however, is just horribly rushed.  I'm not Anka's biggest fan, but it's not entirely his fault.  He and McGuinness have very different styles, and the transition between the two of them is jarring, to say the least.  The number of inkers doesn't help matters, given us a larger number of combinations than advisable if you're trying to keep a consistent art style.    (That said, Rocket riding Lockheed is pretty much the greatest thing to happen in comics ever.)

Now, let's get to the good.  Humphries uses flashbacks to the creation of the Black Vortex to great effect, showing how a Celestial created it at the request of a frustrated young Viscardi, named Gara, who hoped that her species would one day reach the stars.  It seems clear that, when one submits to the Vortex, one becomes an idealized form on oneself.  However, we learn that this version comes with incredible darkness, obvious from the destruction that occurs on Viscardi after Gara submits to the Vortex.  It raises some interesting questions about the impact that it's going to have on Gamora, as she submits here to the Vortex for the power to fight off the Slaughter Lords (as the Squad is now called after getting their own Vortex-induced upgrades).  Humphries doesn't answer why the Celestial granted this boon to Gara or if he knew that it would corrupt as completely as it clearly does.  I hope that we get those answers in this event, since it really lies at the heart of the story.

In the present, Humphries picks up where we last saw Kitty and Peter, in "Legendary Star-Lord" #9, as they go about trying to steal the Black Vortex from J'Son.  They successfully do so, but no longer for a lark:  they overheard enough of J'Son's attempt to get Thane to submit to the Vortex to realize that it's dangerous.  I'll note that we still don't know much about J'Son's plan; for example, we don't know what this "one job" that J'Son wants Thane to do for him is.  But, it's enough to freak out Kitty and Peter, causing them to call for help from their respective teams.  They also call in Hank to take a look at the Vortex, and Storm comes for the ride (and conveniently becomes the one to realize the Vortex's evil when she sees a reflection of herself as a goddess that goes Phoenix on a planet).  At this point, the plan seems to play keep-away with the Lords, but I'm sure it'll get more complicated as we go.

In other words, Humphries establishes the threat, gets all the players on the same board, and maps out the initial phase of the story.  Away we go!

*** (three of five stars)

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