Where there is Thanos, there is Adam Warlock! This week Marvel is bringing the inverse of one of their biggest baddies back to the Marvel Universe just ahead of the big Infinity even on the horizon. We look to the future of the story and more this week on The Marvel Rundown including the next publishing push for the Black Panther spin-off series!

 Guardians of the Galaxy #150

Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Aaron Kuder and Marcus To
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit

Alexander Jones: AJ, due to recent sales woes, the newest Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing series is facing a premature finale, what did you think of the FINAL installment of the series leading into the next big Marvel event?

AJ Frost: Hey Alex! Happy New Year! The latest installment of Guardians of the Galaxy was a frenetic, weird, and bombastic piece of comics literature, which are the elements of any great Guardians story. Though the issue is definitely more oriented towards loyal readers, there is enough packed within these pages to keep people entertained. That being said, it’s also a densely-plotted issue with many veering story threads. Not everything is tied up in a pretty bow. But it’s an exhilarating ride.

Jones: This installment feels like a conclusion to the series for me. In lots of cases, it is better to end things sooner rather than later, but I was pretty shocked from day one about how much I liked this comic. The series had a more light-hearted tone but elicited a sense of majesty and beauty perfectly encapsulated through Adam Warlock. This particular installment of the book also contained the trademark cliffhanger, which pushed the book towards the next phase of whatever it might take in the future. The comic feels focused on paying off previous plot threads as well, which all come together nicely. Unlike the Bendis run, I feel this Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing took lots of chances.

Frost: Bendis’ stuff, on the whole, didn’t do too much for me, though there were pockets of his writing I enjoyed. This rendition of Guardians feels more unorthodox, a lot more unmoored in a way. In fact, the early pages of this issue reminded me a lot of the work Tom King and Mitch Gerards are doing on Mr. Miracle. That’s a much more experimental comic designed for older readers, while this one skews a tad younger. I still dig it. There’s definitely more techno-jargon in this one, but what’s Guardians without dropping a little bit of Astro-fantasy? And no matter how much writer Gerry Duggan likes to dangle the question mark at the end of the issue, this is a storyline which certainly ends on a note begging to be continued.

Jones: The title still carried a couple of fist-pumping moments with the fun conclusion of the weird Nova arc. Duggan mixed up the status quo of the issue to great effect as there was a consistent amount of strong moments in the narrative. The beginning of the tale really got to me when Warlock first showed up and brought in the nods to other series–this stuff is catnip for me–I’m not even going to pretend to be objective! I’ve eaten up lots of creator Jim Starlin’s Thanos and I’m a big fan of Warlock specifically. His new costume and hairstyle also look fantastic!

Frost: Can’t really argue with that. The Adam Warlock stuff was some of my favorite on the issue. Man… Aaron Kuder creates indelible images in the early pages of the comic. And Ian Herring colors those pages beautifully! Maybe it’s hyperbole, but I’m gonna say it anyway: There’s one splash page in particular borrowing the best of Kirby’s cosmic collages as well as Alex Ross’s gouache treatments. It’s a powerful page. Definitely an impactful one.

Jones: Aaron Kuder is so fantastic I can hardly stand it. Also, Marcus To’s work continues to be fluid and exceptional. Kuder is definitely a Marvel talent to watch in 2018. Just look at the vivid opening sequence showing off Warlock’s current state of mind. This Nova Corps arc did slow the momentum of the series down slightly, but the moment I opened up the issue and saw the colors from Ian Herring and the Warlock scenes, none of what came previously mattered to me. The charisma To brings to the work is fantastic and again the majesty he lends to the final few pages is also quite profound with dynamic layouts and fluid motion. To’s final page is brilliant as well with the artist doling out easter eggs.

Frost:: The art throughout his simply fantastic. Even when the plot gets wonky (and it does at some points), it’s the art which redeems it. There are sequences featuring Ant-Man doing his thing that feel so fresh and classic at the same time. If this is the way Marvel is going, then 2018 is already off to a strong start.

Jones: What kind of problems did you have with the plot? I thought it was fairly solid all the way through. The past arc has been building up to a confrontation with the Nova Corps and the Darkhawks and I thought this issue reached a conclusion that has consequences. Then the twists at the end of the book were also just intriguing enough to keep my interest through the whole thing and leave me happy.

Frost:: The dialogue gets a little jangly at times and muddled up the story for me a tad, but that’s probably more inherent to epic fantasy milieu we’re dealing with. It wasn’t a big problem, by any means, just something I noticed and accepted for what it was.

Jones: If I were to nitpick this comic, my biggest problem would be how quickly this seemed to wrap up. But, as I alluded to earlier, that may not have been a creative decision by Duggan. The epic battle here doesn’t feel like it has the amount of weight it probably should. Other than that, I like the Warlock plot & it wasn’t incredibly predictable despite the main plot point of the issue kind of being plastered on the front of the comic. With the hand this creative team has been dealt and factoring in the constraints of monthly comics, my expectations here have been exceeded. What are your final thoughts AJ?

Frost:: A well, constructed and fitting end for this run, sprinkled with fantastic art, this issue of Guardians of the Galaxy closes the door on one era while opening one for the next.

Jones: I’m going to say buy, are you going to say the same?

Frost:: Correctamundo!

Verdict: BUY

Rise of the Black Panther #1

Written by Evan Narcisse
Consultant Ta-Nehisi Coates
Illustrated by Paul Renaud
Colored by Stephanie Paitreau
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

I like the Black Panther, but I don’t feel I know the Black Panther very well. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s early part of their run on the character has made me feel isolated from T’Challa. Aside from past solo titles, this was the narrative making the story of the Black Panther more personal for me. Getting to know the backstory behind T’Chaka is something I’m not very well versed in and writer Evan Narcisse should acclimate readers to the character’s comic book origins with ease. I wish this comic was released sooner and Marvel would have this trade ready to go for people who have seen the movie and want to get to know the T’Challa in the comics and the beginnings of how he entered the Marvel Universe as this comic is accessible enough to hand to someone off the street and have them get behind Wakanda. In this comic alone, Wakanda finally feels more tangible and real, the nation has a better a sense of place and physicality in this issue alone than I have seen previous titles starring the character. The greater connections to the older Marvel Universe bring out this issue’s sweeping, grandiose narrative in an endearing manner making me excited to continue reading this mini-series.

Rise of the Black Panther #1 takes a page from Coates’ run and dials up the political intrigue surrounding Wakanda to keep the tension of the story high throughout the work. However, the book lobs some more tangible, external threats at the story as well which should keep readers interested. Similar to a Spider-Man or any number of Marvel heroes, T’Challa’s life is full of tragedy. If you aren’t particularly caught up in his backstory of the hero, this comic’s sweeping plot should still carry a powerful emotional effect. There is something special about the Black Panther mantle passing down over generations some writers explore better than others. Unlike most stories zeroing in on the origin of a character, this mini-series has it all. The title doesn’t compromise emotion for the sake of plot and still contributes excellent caption boxes and personality towards each member of the cast.

Paul Renaud’s artwork is an excellent contribution to the title, he makes the storytelling in the interiors of the issue clear and direct. Renaud draws plenty of great action sequences and capitalizes on the intriguing moment’s writer Evan Narcisse passes him along on the first page (see the opening sequence for evidence of this for evidence.) Renaud’s work across the series while strong can have some generic faces making it difficult to tell some of the cast of characters apart when they don’t have defined facial features. This book needs an editor’s box explaining how much time has passed from page-to-page as it can be slightly difficult to comprehend at times and I think otherwise, this is the perfect comic to convert new readers.

Rise of the Black Panther #1 is a wonderful comic to get longtime readers needing a history course on Wakanda up to speed on some of the developments leading to T’Challa’s time in power just ahead of the film. The tale covers a lot of ground and switches protagonists but still feels grounded and important. If you are looking to catch up to speed on the Marvel comics starring the character, this is the best entry point possibly ever published.

Verdict: Buy. Rise of the Black Panther #1 is a whole lot more fun than your average history lesson.

Lots of strong comics came out today! If time permitted I would have given Astonishing X-Men #7 a proper review which really surprised me with a twisting and turning plot making the title feel like a true successor to Rick Remender and Jerome Opena’s Uncanny X-force.  Marvel Rundown favorites Captain America and Black Bolt had new issues today–I’m going to crack open just as soon as I’m done writing this monster of a column!

Next week: Avengers: No Surrender and Old Man Hawkeye!