Graphic Novel Review: Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex

Guardians of the Galaxy/X-Men: The Black Vortex

Guardians of the Galaxy/X-Men: The Black Vortex - Credit: Archant

Mutant heroes and spacefaring pirates team up to deal with the ultimate deus ex machina...

(Panini Books)

As we head towards the finale of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on the X-Men, one might expect him to be bringing together the disparate threads of his narrative ready for an epic conclusion, instead of taking a side-step into space for a second crossover with the Guardians, whose book he also writes.

The themes of this storyline are simple enough – the temptations of ultimate power, and whether the end ever justifies the means – and as usual Bendis’ focus is on characterisation as opposed to plot, which means this 13-part story is padded out with various battles between super-powered protagonists, assorted captures and escapes, and plenty of exposition from his protagonists.

Millennia ago, a god-like Celestial created the Black Vortex, a device styled like an antique mirror which offers the gift of cosmic power to whosoever possesses it, albeit with the risk that it may actually awaken the dark side of their personalities, with potentially devastating consequences.

That was what happened to the race known as the Viscardi, which destroyed itself after using the Black Vortex, before the device itself was lost for centuries. The Viscardi known as Gara was the sole survivor of her species, and she made it her lifelong mission to destroy the mirror before it caused further bloodshed.

When the Black Vortex is suddenly discovered in the present day on Kymellia III, it prompted the attention of the former Spartan emperor J’Son, now known as Mister Knife, his deadly Slaughter Lords and his ally Thane, son of the Eternal Thanos.

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X-Man Kitty Pryde and Knife’s son Peter Quill, aka Guardian of the Galaxy Star-Lord, purloin the Vortex and enlist the support of their team-mates and the young hero Nova to determine what should be done with it, prompting assorted X-Men and Guardians to subject themselves to the device’s power.

With forces across the galaxy determined to take control of the Black Vortex for their own purposes, and the alliance of superheroes fractured over whether it should be used to heighten their own abilities, the stage is set for a conflict which will change the Marvel Universe forever…

This is the last big crossover before the reality-altering Secret Wars, and it’s difficult to know at this stage how many of the major developments which take place in this storyline will survive that event. One would expect the status quo to be somewhat restored, albeit with repercussions, but time will tell.

Bendis is joined in this storyline by writers Sam Humphries, Gerry Duggan, John Layman and Kelly Sue DeConnick, supported by a disparate collection of artists including Ed McGuinness, Paco Medina and Andrea Sorrentino, but despite this large pool of contributors there’s nothing here which feels disjointed or out of place, and the narrative flows seamlessly.

The Black Vortex has all the feel of a cinema summer blockbuster – lots of action and explosions, but ultimately very little of substance. It’s by no means a failure, and is certainly an enjoyable way to while away a few hours with a bag of popcorn to hand, but perhaps doesn’t live up to the real potential of its creative talent, which is a shame.