PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

A Colorful Cosmic Convergence: "Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Alpha #1"

The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy come together again in a story that's as volatile as it is fun.


Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Alpha #1

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $4.99
Writer: Sam Humphries, Ed McGuinness
Publication Date: 2015-04
Amazon

What is it about power that makes it so corruptive? Like a drug with well-known side-effects that everybody ignores, its capacity for abuse makes heroin look like a bag of gummy worms. Many epic stories, both fiction and non-fiction alike, are structured around those who succumb to this corruption. It’s a story that’s present in every culture and every civilization for some form or another. Yet for some reason, every king and despot ignores it.

The same can be said for a long list of characters in the Marvel Universe. There’s Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force, Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, and Tony Stark and a bottle of bourbon. Time and again, they are overwhelmed by immense power and eventually abuse it. At this point, it’s gotten downright predictable. Any character who attains any level of power whose name isn’t Superman is going to get corrupted by it. So how can that story remain compelling? Well if Spinal Tap has taught us anything, turning the volume up to 11 can sometimes mix things up.

This is premise for Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex #1, the first issue in another major crossover event between Marvel’s breakout stars and the stars that Fox has securely in their greedy clutches. The Trial of Jean Grey showed that these two unlikely teams can create a compelling narrative. This time, they’re not dealing with something as inane as the grossly unfair Shi’ar justice system. They’re dealing with the Black Vortex, an ancient relic capable of giving anyone an overdose of cosmic-powered heroin. It sounds like one of those serious threats that deserves its own Congressional sub-committee. However, the end result is actually a lot more fun and a lot less corrupt.

The narrative is predictable in some respects. Starlord and Kitty Pryde find out that Mr. Knife, who also happens to be Starlord’s now-deposed father, managed to obtain the Black Vortex with the help of the Slaughter Squad. Knowing that a cosmically powered father would ruin every one of his and Kitty’s date nights, they steal it from him. They then enlist the help of the X-men to help them deal with it. Given their experience with cosmic powered people, it saves them the trouble of placing an awkwardly worded Craigslist ad. But the predictability doesn’t keep the story from being fun.

The tone and dynamics of the story are rich in detail. There is some exposition, but it never feels excessive. There is some humor as well, but it never seems overly juvenile, even when Iceman plays a joke on Groot. There’s a fairly solid balance of character interactions and conflict that help make the Black Vortex feel like it’s not just an Infinity Gauntlet rip-off. There is a unique history to this relic that makes it feel unique in a universe full of obscenely powerful artifacts, most of which are probably in Odin’s dresser drawer. It doesn’t try to reinvent the concept that writers like Chris Claremont have perfected with the Phoenix Saga, but it doesn’t have to.

While the concept and execution of the story itself is sound, there are some issues with the overall setup. The manner in which the X-men enter the conflict isn’t as fluid as it was in their previous encounter with the Guardians of the Galaxy in The Trial of Jean Grey. It’s not entirely forced, seeing as how Starlord happens to be dating Kitty Pryde. However, the way in which they get involved is somewhat rushed. It’s like they skipped a few steps between just hanging out with their space buddies and confronting an ancient relic.

Even the concept of the Black Vortex itself might seem somewhat rushed. It’s oddly convenient how Starlord and Kitty Pryde drop in on Mr. Knife after he somehow got his hands on this ancient artifact. It’s actually not quite as convenient as it looks. The Black Vortex has actually been part of a number of stories preceding this one. It has been a driving force for the plot in Starlord’s solo series and it also was mentioned in Cyclops’ solo series. But those who don’t follow these books will likely miss that so it makes the story feel forced when it actually has a couple of prequels. And unlike other sci-fi prequels that involve Jar Jar Binks, these prequels actually contribute something meaningful to the narrative.

It’s still possible to follow this story without following the supporting books. It just makes the story feel more forced than it actually is. It succeeds in bringing the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy together in another compelling conflict. Once again, they’re up against a powerful enemy with strong personal ties to certain characters. It has all the elements that made The Trial of Jean Grey work so well. It just has a more chaotic and disheveled structure. It’s like starting a movie after skipping 20 minutes ahead. Unless it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie, it’ll still make sense.

There are some aspects of the story that could use more detail and depth, but it isn’t horribly lacking in any particular area. It also has plenty of strengths beyond just throwing a bunch of well-known characters together in a way Donald Trump can make a reality show out of. There’s the relationship between Kitty Pryde and Starlord. There’s Jean Grey’s history of being overwhelmed by cosmic power. There’s Hank McCoy’s lingering baggage about messing up the time stream. There’s a lot more going on here than just fighting over an ancient relic.

The structure of Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex #1 may seem confusing, but it throws all the right ingredients into the mix. For a crossover story of this scale, that’s important. No cake was ever made delicious by skimping on the frosting. It’s safe to say that the first layer of frosting has been spread on this story. Whether it’ll add the hot fudge and sprinkles remains to be seen.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.