Guardians of the Galaxy: Realm of Kings (Volume 4)
Written by: Dan Abnett; Illustrated by: Andy Lanning, Brad Walker
My Thoughts: And so ends the original run of the Guardians of the Galaxy, not with a bang but an even BIGGER bang. Everything that's been building up in the previous volumes, the wars and the tender, fragile universe, the threats coming from every possible antagonist, explodes in a messy pile of bodies and gunk. There is a bit of a flip flop that I wish they hadn't gone with, it leads them down an interesting path but it does feel a bit like hand-wringing and not wanting to make any serious permanent commitments. It's like modern (like the last 2/3 seasons) Doctor Who, they do something devastating and then wave their wibbley wobbley timey wimey magic wand and make everything go back to normal. It's not a huge flaw in the narrative, more a disappointment*. I saw a comic comparing the Guardians with the team of Firefly and that's such a true comparison. They are these brilliant, absurd characters who care about each other and mean well but they are constantly making everything worse. They are ruled by emotion and stubbornness and they want to do the right thing and they usually do, but sometimes an old enemy or a powerful love throws a wrench in the plan. It's a pleasure to finish out the run of comics, now onto The Thanos Imperative, the Annihilation comics and the latest run of GotG!
Written by: Neil Gaiman; Illustrated by: Andy Kubert
My Thoughts: 1602 re-imagines the Marvel universe as though it existed in 1602. It basically takes the fear and confusion of this particular era and replaces well known events or historical characters with Marvel characters. So we have Doctor Strange as the physician to the ailing Queen Elizabeth while Nicholas (Nick) Fury is the Queen's enforcer/head of intelligence. There's a sub-plot about the troubled Roanoke colony in the 'new world', and the Spanish Inquisition is hunting witchbreeds (X-Men). The facet of the inquisition that we witness is led by a rather well known character who I won't name for fear of spoilers (although I picked it straight away). There's Doom and the Fantastic Four and Captain America and while some are very clearly identifiable (Peter Parquagh for instance), others are much harder to pick and are mostly identifiable through certain skills, clothing choices and the groups they travel with. The actual plot is quite meta, but I'll hold back to leave you something to discover for yourself. Broad picture though, there are a series of storms and weird occurrences which are plaguing London and the rest of Europe and which Strange believes are signs that the world is ending. The key to saving the world apparently lies with a weapon that is being delivered to London by one of the few remaining Knights Templar - but getting it across Europe will require the help of a certain redheaded feller. The story itself is a lot of fun, part action and part mystery, although it does seem to get needlessly complicated from time to time. But truly, the real fun is in working out which characters are which and seeing the inventive careers some of them are given.
Captain America: Winter Soldier (Volume 1)
Written by: Ed Brubaker; Illustrated by: Steve Epting
My Thoughts: While I quite like the Captain America films I've never really had much desire to delve into the comics. Since Cap is one of the earlier incarnations of superheroes it's a pretty tough choice to work out where to even start. But Winter Soldier came up in a related search and since I have an affinity for Ed Brubaker's darker take on realism I figured I'd give it a shot. This Captain America is far, far darker than the one you see in the Marvel movies. Since waking up after half a century frozen in ice the world the Cap knew has changed into something unrecognisable and he finds himself doing the same. He's disillusioned and unsure and as a result he's getting angrier and tougher and more violent. It's bound to cause irreparable damage somewhere down the line, something Agent 13 (Sharon Carter) is more than a little aware on. Throw in Red Skull, a power cube and the haunting re-emergence of some old memories and you've got a rollicking good comic. On to part 2!
*sorry for the vagueness, I don't want to out and out spoil anything from this or the previous volume.