Writer: Donny Cates
Artists: Cory Smith (penciller), Victor Olazaba (inker)
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’S Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Geoff Shaw, Dean White
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In this week’s Guardians of the Galaxy #12, writer Donny Cates wraps up his year-long run on the title as an explosive family reunion only possible with this ragtag team of cosmic misfits.
After being thrown into a black hole and spread throughout the galaxy, the Guardians are finally all together again, but there’s a problem: Star-Lord’s villainous father J’Son has become the new leader of the Universal Church of Truth, seeking to kill Death itself, which would have grave implications for planet Earth. With a sickly Rocket as their last line of defense, it’s up to the raccoon to save the day — or die trying. (And in true comic book form, it turns out Drax, who was killed in the climax of Infinity Wars, is alive again … and it’s bad news for the Guardians.)
Guardians of the Galaxy #12 isn’t just the grand finale of Cates’s Guardians saga, but it’s also the capstone of an overarching story that includes (deep breath) Death of the Inhumans, Silver Surfer: Black, Thanos, and Cosmic Ghost Rider — as well as predecessor Gerry Duggan’s own Guardians run, which Cates inherited a status quo from. While Cates’s Guardians hasn’t required you to read all of those, this final issue definitely feels more substantive if you’ve picked up at least a few of them. This is a good thing. Most comics that come out these days don’t get to run as long as they probably should, or they aren’t allowed to reach as widely as Cates has with the aforementioned run of titles. There’s a sense of closure here that feels earned.
One thing I’ve liked about Cates’s Guardians is that it felt like a return to the pre-Bendis era of Guardians that’s a little less wacky and more rough-around-the-edges space opera. While there’s still humor, Cates refrained from sticking too closely to the MCU versions of the characters and instead focused on a cast largely untouched by the movies yet. There’s no telling if incoming writer Al Ewing will stick to this tone, but he’ll undoubtedly bring a lot of space weirdness to it regardless, which is what you want from a Guardians book.
Another commendable thing about this Guardians of the Galaxy was the solid art throughout, which began with Geoff Shaw and ends with Cory Smith. Replacing an artist in the middle of a run is always tricky — you either find someone whose aesthetic is compatible with the person they’re replacing, or completely swerve off the path into a new style altogether. They took the former approach here, and Smith has been an exceedingly seamless transition from Shaw that you may not even notice the change if you weren’t paying close enough attention. The fact that he also brought with him a new inker (Victor Olazaba) and colorist (David Curiel) from the departing Shaw and Marte Gracia makes the changeover even more impressive.