Guardians of the Galaxy 16 was cover dated September 1991 and was on sale in July 1991, sharing the spinner racks with The Fly #1, Mighty Thor #436, New Gods #38, Sensational She-Hulk #31, Superman #59 and Wonderman #1.
Should one of us Fall was written and drawn by Jim Valentino, inked by Steve Montano and inspired by Jim Starlin. It opens with a tense stand-off between Yondu Udonta and Photon, the last known Centaurians in the galaxy. After an exposition filled staring competition, Yondu swipes at Photon and opens her jugular. And that is how this issue starts!
All the other fights brewing from the last issue pause as Interface rushes over to save her adopted daughter. She puts a cast over Photon’s neck and as Yondu tries to help, shocked and ashamed of what he has done, Interface reduces his hand to vapour. Martinex arrives and guides the three of them to the Captain America II’s sickbay. As this happens, Starhawk calms Eighty-Five and Replica, suggesting that they have to end the cycle of hate between the Kree and the Skrull.
There is a truce on the ship and on Homeworld, Aleta and Malevolence battle for the right to tutor and guide the Protege. The Protege demands to know who Aleta is and the two of them bond quickly. In sick bay, Photon is stablilised and Yondu’s missing hand is replaced with a golden stump, with hidden weapons. Things are getting tense, so Martinex and Interface talk about the Protege, his power and his origins. He was genetically engineered to be the new Magus and he has the power to absorb skills and powers on sight, meaning that the more powers and powerful he sees, the more powerful he becomes. If he should meet someone like.. Galactus.
The two teams work decide to work together and stop the Protege, but due to the Protege’s powers, they shouldn’t use their own superhuman abilities. As this is discussed, Aleta continues to bond with the Protege, teaching him how benevolence and love are important to all, gods and mortals alike. As she starts to get through to him, Malevolence points out that the Guardians of the Galaxy, mostly non-believers are on their way to attack him, calling Aleta a traitor. By the time the Guardians and Force teleport down to the planet (minus Yondu and Photon) the Protege’s guards are ready for them and a battle quickly ensues.
Upon seeing the Protege in front of her, Replica bows in supplication in mid-battle. Martinex covers her in an ice dome, allowing everyone else to use their powers and the Protege observes and absorbs all the powers and skills of the attackers. By this point, Aleta loses it and attacks Mavelonce with ferocity. Seeing Aleta lose control and asserting that the child is her’s Vance becomes very concerned about her state of mind and rushes to help her see reason before she does something she’ll regret. He does get far, Aleta blasts him back and he’s left in slack-jawed amazement. Just as Aleta is about to finish Malevolence, Starhawk appears behind Aleta and re-absorbs her. Begging forgiveness, he leaves, feeling that the re-absorbtion hasn’t gone as planned and something is wrong.
Facing the Guardians and Force, the Protege demands that Aleta be brought before him, wanting Starhawk’s location, since no one knows, he prepares to kill the Guardians until Replica begs for their lives. Offering to stay and be his friend to save them, Replica takes her leave of the Guardians of the Galaxy, saying her goodbyes to everyone, including Vance who has just lost the love of his life and the first happiness he had known in over a thousand years.
The Protege banishes the Guardians and Force and declares Malevolence as his matricarch. The Guardians and Force say their goodbyes, with Broadside and Charlie-27 having a sweet moment. Force departs and in a very Fantastic Four moment, Vance Astro requests that he be taken back to Earth as he quits the Guardians of the Galaxy.
There’s little epilogue featuring the personification of Eternity and a mainstay of the Marvel Universe, the Living Tribunal, who discuss the threat posed by the Protege, but neither actually do anything, assuming it’s either not their problem, or there’s no problem as yet.
Notes: I loved this issue when I first read it over 20 years ago and I still love it now, so much happens, lots of action and drama.
This is one of Jim Valentino’s best issues, the team looks great and everyone has something to do, leaving nothing wasted.
This issue is a strange comment on religion, with the Universalites searching for their god for so long, they just make one. It’s less in your face than Jim Starlin’s take on the dark side of organised religions, but worth noting nonetheless.
Despite Vance’s concerns, I don’t see how Aleta lost it as badly as he does. She was raised on a warrior’s world and is clearly quite a passionate person. She has also lost children in the past and feels understandably worried about the risks to this child she clearly cares for, being exposed to lets be honest Satan’s daughter.
One thing that bothers me about the issue is that the teams go to Homeworld to stop the Protege and then without much protest just leave and everyone seems ok with this. Really?
I don’t have anything to say here beyond just gushing about how great this issue was, but I can say that this is a real status change for the team for quite some time.
Next Time: For the first time since Marvel Presents #3: Earth