Annual issues usually feature one long story, but are you willing to pay full price for a Guardians of the Galaxy annual about Hercules — featuring the backstory of The Prince of Power — and the sixth part of a continuing Nick Fury story? As good as the writing and art are, the whole enterprise gave me pause.
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1
VC’s Joe Caramanga (Letters); Al Ewing (Writing); Juan Ferreyra (Art); Flaviano (Art); Nic Kline (Cover); Ron Lim & Israel Silva (Cover); Jed Mackay (Writer); Mike McKone & Romula Fajardo Jr (Cover); VC’s Cory Petit (Letters); Rachelle Rosenberg (Colors)
August 4, 2021
What a long, strange book this is. This year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Annual focuses on Hercules, which is an interesting choice. Among the many members of the Marvel universe who’ve ended up on the Guardians crew, one would not expect Marvel to center an entire story around him compared to, say, Hulkling, Wiccan, or Quasar, all of whom have better brand familiarity. But since Hercules is part of the current Guardians team, using him does make a certain kind of sense. It also reintroduces a character who will figure heavily into the upcoming Infinite Destinies multi-book arc which will juggle the Marvel landscape around. Again.
In “The Prince of Power” (Ewing/Flaviano/Caramanga/Rosenberg) we spend a little time with Herc. Hercules has always been a beery and brawling Guardian — and as this story shows us, sometimes a little shabby and down at the heel. He’s in a bar getting drunk when the ceiling caves in, and there’s The Prince of Power, ready to brawl. Seems he’s on the run from his past — and in the process, collided with Hercules.
There are oh so many tweaks toward The Masters of The Universe to be had as The Prince of Power explains that he was born second in line to greatness — not even interesting enough to be considered an evil twin to his brother, Majestar. His Prince Valiant-slash-Greek Mythology-lite tragic background is pretty hilarious, involving ingestion of a magical amulet (which turns out to be the purple Infinity Stone) and a career of counting paper clips. His mother names him ‘Prince Otherone.” It’s a goofy script by Al Ewing that’s completely memorable. When The Prince of Power realizes the only way to be more powerful involves having to learn things, he shrugs and starts pumping more iron. He’s dumb in the best of ways and I truly enjoyed him.
Many of this year’s Marvel annuals will work toward introducing or reintroducing the minor heroes who have gotten their hands on the Infinity Stones, which Felicia “Black Cat” Hardy will be chasing down in her own multi-book arc, Infinity Score. The trouble with this is that fans may not be happy with having the annuals for their favorite characters usurped by these minor characters, whose stories take up the front half of each annual and which (as in the case of most annuals) comprises only one of two stories offered. No matter how funny the stories are or how well-drawn they are (Flaviano was clearly having a lot of fun tweaking that Masters of the Universe milieu with its huge muscles — even the CASTLE Prince Otherone grows up in has biceps!), the end result will likely be a frustration for readers who are looking for more of the current Guardians lineup instead. As much fun as I had with The Prince of Power/Prince Otherone, for some fans the issue will likely turn out to be a waste of money.
The other story in Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 focuses on Nick Fury Jr. and is the sixth part of the ongoing “Infinite Fury” series (Ferreyra/Mackay/Caramanga). While it does a decent job summing up what came before it, it’s not a one-and-done. So fans will have to keep collecting issues across Marvel’s various titles to figure out what’s happened, making it an inconvenient piece to track. The brass tacks — S.H.I.E.L.D has dissolved, and Fury has become a hero-for-hire in league with Nighthawk. The writing is decent, the art exemplary — full-blooded and inventively etched with moody red-and-purple colors.
For all of its charm and attractive art, Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 fails at its prime directive — to focus on the Guardians themselves. If you like the group and only have a mild curiosity about outlier characters — or have no interest in Hercules at all — this is not the issue for you.