Guardians of the Galaxy #5 was cover dated October 1990 and was on sale August 1990, sharing the spinner racks with Action Comics #657, Amazing Spider-Man #340, Captain Atom #45, Foolkiller #1, Legion of Superheroes #12 and Uncanny X-Men #289.
A Force to be reckoned with was written and drawn by Jim Valentino with inks by Steve Montano and opens with the Guardians of the Galaxy arriving at the world they were told about in the last panel of the last issue. It’s now a month later and they’re on the planet being addressed by a disembodied voice referring to itself as Mainframe. Mainframe identifies each Guardian seperately and tells them that they must face Force to be able to lay claim to their prize.
The team is then split into pairs and sent off to different parts of the planet by some form of teleportation, which is at this point unexplained. Charlie-27 and Martinex appear first and they are met by Broadside and Brahl of Force. Martinex takes on Brahl who’s viscious nature and power of intangibility leaves Martinex badly injured with facets being blasted off his body.
Charlie meets Broadside, a large and curvaceous woman who instead of seeing an enemy, sees the most handsome man she’s seen since leaving Mobius. Charlie however is a born soldier and sees only an enemy and against his better judgement strikes Broadside. IMMEDIATELY he realises that was a mistake. A shocked and scorned Broadside absorbs the gravitational mass of Mainframe’s world and hits him back, HARD. Charlie is punched through several walls and falls. Both he and Martinex are teleported to a third location.
Nikki and Yondu appear outside at the bottom of a rocky canyon. Nikki looks to climb out when they are both confronted by a Centaurian female. Identifying herself as Photon, she makes a lot of noise about rejecting the Centaurian way of life and her intention to kill Yondu.
Yondu is clearly shaken by her very existence and refuses to fight and is blasted by red eye beams from Photon for his trouble.
Nikki has no such qualms about her opponent, the Snark called Scanner, she’s almost gleeful at the chance to kill this reptile. After ambushing him, Nikki tries to kill him with an improvised spear and is teleported away, finding her spear about to strike Yondu’s chest.
Yondu barely seems to care, heartbroken over his encounter with Photon, claiming she has taken his very soul. He begins to cry and Nikki is distraught that she can’t hold him. It’s at that point that both of them see that they’re not alone and Charlie-27 is there cradling a critically injured Martinex, who seems at the brink of death.
Notes: Mainframe’s world is quite a distance away from Courg and takes over a month for the Guardians to get there.
A contest seems to be the best way to decide who the best team to have the shield is?
Each Guardian is pitted against their opposite. The intelligent and peaceful Martinex is faced by the viscious Brahl. The disciplined Charlie-27 faces Broadside, a less committed enemy with a hotter temper. The fiery Nikki faces the cold blooded Scanner and the spiritual Yondu is met with an angry heretic, who also happens to be the last hope for the Centauri people.
Yondu now wears Kospah, which are ceremonial ear-rings which are split between a couple during their wedding ceremony, she wears one and he wears the other. When a male Centauri comes of age he wears both until chosing a mate, even though he knows of no Centauri women in existence, Yondu wears them when of age, showing him to deeply respect his culture, keeping its traditions alive.
Nikki witnessed her people’s extinction by the Badoon and harbours great hatred for them, which seems to extend to reptiles of any kind, hence her reaction to Scanner.
Too much of this story happens off panel. Vance has his whole body suit replaced with a thin layer of Adamantium, the ship arrives at Mainframe’s world, they beam down and begin a conversation with Mainframe all off panel. The last page of #4 and the first page of #5 is a month apart. What? Did nothing happen for that whole month? The pacing is just a little off and a lot happens in caption boxes. That said there’s a lot to like about this issue. Valentino’s pencilling is at its best here, the figure work is spot on each character having their own clearly distinct look in both hair clothes and body type. A more rounding appearance to the faces looks better than a lot of the more angular work of other artists. You learn stuff about the characters and so do they and there’s a great cliffhanger. That’s one of the strength of these mid-tier character teams. You know that Captain America will be ok and that Iron Man will recover, but on a team like the Guardians, do you know that they won’t kill off Martinex? There is a genuine sense of threat and that brings you back for the next issue.
Next time: Guardains of the Galaxy #6 To the Victor, the Shield