When a Guardian goes missing, it’s something worth investigating, and that’s just what Carol Ferris, Kyle Rayner and the remaining Guardians did when one of their own went missing. Unfortunately what they found was a ship filled with (barely) living nightmares, some of which were intent on vivisecting the interlopers. All at the behest of...the Guardians?? Operating under some long-forgotten imperative, apparently these creatures were attempting to ascertain all they could about the galaxy’s denizens before cutting them up to see what made them tick. Justin Jordan gave us something different when this story began: a tale of terror within the usual construct of exploration and discovery. Jordan reminds us that sometimes, if you turn over enough rocks, you’ll discover something you’ll wish you hadn’t and, while this is a rescue mission ultimately, I feel that still applies, though this issue ratchets up the action quite a bit. We also get a rather satisfying finale to this self-contained, miniature story arc.
There are quite a few chefs in the kitchen that is this title’s art, but the broth (or chili, if you prefer) is not ruined, in fact it’s quite far from it. Brad Walker, with Rodney Buchemi, handles pencils and something this issue absolutely excels at is being simultaneously dark and glorious. Between the designs of the psions, the creatures they’re experimenting on and the powerful, kinetic impact of the action comes through amazingly, as do the raw displays of power from Kyle, Carol, and even the Guardians. Over on inks we’ve got Andrew Hennessy, Rob Hunter and Buchemi and if we want to talk about raw power on display, these guys need a highlight too. Great inks calcify work and ensure that impact is felt and these do just that. When we’re dealing with subject matter like this, it becomes all the more critical and these are some clean, clear visuals that help the reader’s eye follow what is actually a fairly visually complex storyline. Finally on colors, the place where any book with a color in its title really should shine, we’ve got Wil Quintana making this book...well, REALLY shine. And that’s not easy with how much shadow and darkness there is, but that’s all a part of giving it its own darkly beautiful visual language. He also does a great job unifying the look and tone of the book across so many different artists.
Last issue played out like a good horror story, slowly ratcheting up tension, giving us only glimpses of the mysterious antagonists, and making our usual nigh-omnipotent main characters struggle against a malevolent, unknowable force that not only got the drop on them, but seemed to be a legitimate, credible threat to them.. This issue reverses a lot of that, focusing more on action (good action, admittedly) and less on the creeping feeling that nothing will ever be alright again. I liked this issue a lot, but I feel like that’s a story that can be told at any point in this series, and I really liked the idea that we were going to get a haunted house-in-space kind of story. The ending comes abruptly and without a lot of buildup, and while we get a glimpse at what may be coming in the future, the resolution still has a tremendous amount of finality. Essentially this feels like it went from original Alien to Aliens in the span of one issue. Both great pieces of entertainment, but very different.
Ordinarily an artist team this large creates problems when one shifts into the other, but I actually could barely tell when the transition happened. It was only when I REAAAAALLY looked a second time (after noticing how many names were on the title) that I even noticed, so good on them for that as well. This is an enjoyable issue, but I was a little disappointed by the very sudden tone shift. As much as I’ve enjoyed the smaller, self-contained stories, I’d have liked to have seen another issue focusing on what was happening on the massive, dark station.