Asgardians of the Galaxy #1 Review

by Charles Martin on September 05, 2018

Asgardians of the Galaxy #1 Review
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colourist: Federico Blee
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Today, a crack commando unit was assembled by Angela for a purpose they don't fully understand. These heroes promptly attacked a Mystery Villain after hijacking a Bifrost-powered ship. Today, disavowed by Odin and Asgard, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire … the Asgardians of the Galaxy.

That's basically the premise that motivates this new team: Outcasts of the Thor mythology assembled into an A-Team that proactively chases down cosmic threats. 

This introductory issue does a solid job of assembling the cast and setting up their first challenge. Out of respect for the strong plotting work, I won't reveal the two big twists - the identity of their antagonist and the identity of their Destroyer Pilot. 

It's a fun story, paced fast and structured with a skillful flashback to line up the twists right where they belong, at the end. If anybody on the announced lineup makes you go, "oooh, cool," this is well worth checking out. It's an especially good pick for fans of the underrated Fearless Defenders series. 

That title contributes the point-of-view character for this one, Dr. Annabelle Riggs. She's an Indiana Jones type, and after the Fearless Defenders, she's stuck in a body-sharing gig with Valkyrie. She's far better-utilized than, say, Rick Jones in his "Captain Marvel's Delivery Boy" days. Her archeological expertise is already playing a crucial role in the Asgardians' work.

That work is flyin' and fightin' and figurin' things out, and it's all illustrated in vivid style by Matteo Lolli and Federico Blee. It has the same visual splendour as the 2015 Guardians of the Galaxy series. Though that title had its faults, they rarely came out of the artistic side of the creative team. 

Here, I especially like the close collaboration between artist and colourist in building expressive, engaging faces using both lines and colour shading. The fight scenes are equally impressive, delivering an even balance of cool poses, dynamic motion, and high-intensity colour. Cosmic Marvel should always look bolder and bigger than life, and that's exactly how it appears here.

In the past few weeks, I've been trying to talk about creators less in my reviews. My aim was to emphasize the work over the personalities. I think it's fairer that way, especially when discussing single issues on their own. But in discussing this issue and the series to come, I have to talk about Cullen Bunn.

I think Cullen Bunn and I have hugely divergent opinions on how to treat characters. I like my characters with tons of characterization, with quirky interactions, and with clear demonstrations of how they think. Mr. Bunn is much more action-oriented, to the point that I think of many of his characters as blank slates. 

That's certainly what I'm thinking about the Asgardians so far; the sole piece of illuminating character work in this comic (going beyond biographical data) is a cute but all-too-brief joke where Skurge gleefully snitches on Valkyrie when she's trying to keep secrets from Dr. Riggs.

But this comic also shows that Mr. Bunn's potentially-flat character work has advantages. He's able to get through a tremendous amount of plot development, and the challenges facing the team are more inventive and elaborate than those that might feature in a character-centric book.

I may not learn a lot about Throg's motivation here, but I do get to see him tear through a ton of Kronan mercenaries like an Uru ping-pong ball, and that's pretty dang cool.

Flatter characters are also potentially more inclusive than obsessively-detailed ones. If you love a character already, a flat presentation is unlikely to offend that pre-existing love. You can project whatever feelings you like onto the character, and that can be a powerful asset for a title that needs to build up an audience. 

Of course, if you don't already know and love a flat character, it can be tough to care about her current predicament. In Asgardians #1, Mr. Bunn steers clear of that pitfall by making the predicament itself enthralling. I can admit that's admirably talented writing even if it's not my usual cup of tea.

The identity of the Mystery Destroyer Pilot is going to make character development an ongoing challenge in this title. I still refuse to spoil, but I will say the MDP has been previously developed by authors that hew far closer to my preferred sort of deeply introspective character work. I'm eager to find out how Cullen Bunn handles the character in the future.

The Asgardians of the Galaxy debut in a splashy, fast, action-packed A-Team adventure. The plot and art are great high-octane stuff, but the characters are, so far, a bit flat. There's more than enough potential here to satisfy and to justify signing on for the full story arc. This team and its mission are both fascinating; I hope their story gets even more engaging in future chapters.

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Throg! He's Thor, but as a frog! Thunderstrike! He's Thor, but with a trendy haircut!