Review: Marvel's The Black Vortex - Alpha by Humphries, McGuinnes, Anka, Farmer, Gracia, and Maiolo | Fanboys Anonymous
The Black Vortex -The All-New X-Men and Gurdians of the Galaxy
The Black Vortex - Alpha cover
by Ed McGuinnes and Justin Ponsor
The saga begins here!

It's one last hit out for the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy before Secret Wars envelopes the Marvel Universe. If our heroes aren't successful in staving off disaster from Mr. Knife and the Slaughter Lords, then there may not be a universe to left to fall into for the next major Marvel event.

"The Black Vortex" has been hyped up enough to have a certain amount of expectations as a large crossover event, and it is issue heavy. Consider the list on the back page of each issue of the event, which reveals a total of 13 issues. Given this, does the Alpha issue deliver on the hype?

Ultimately you will be the judge, but as far as the setup goes, this feels like it is missing some back story. The events immediately proceeding this issue have been built up in Sam Humphries's story from The Legendary Star-Lord series. While you certainly can jump straight into the event from this issue, the context is glossed over so quickly that it has to be compromised in some way. However, in the writer's defense, we get to see a good deal of action and he does have to incorporate two large teams of Marvel heroes and one made up of villains within the confines of this single issue.

A long time ago, in a differnet galaxy far away...The Black Vortex
A Celestial stands on Viscardi

Humphries delves into a story that is full of action and intrigue. Important plot points are carefully revealed early on, including the origin of the Black Vortex, a mirror-like object that unleashes the cosmic power within any individual who submits to it. It is great to see Humphries show solid character performances. Many of the characters of the All-New X-Men, Jean Grey School and Guardians of the Galaxy have strong individual personalities, so to see each have their unique voice come through is a triumph of coordination.

The VIscardi try to probe space travel
Failure breeds determination
The first part of this crossover event flows well through this issue. There is a deliberate pace that encompasses the various aspects. We have a slower, winding speed with Thane, Mr. Knife, and the Slaughter Lords at the beginning. As the issue ramps up, the X-Men are sped into place for a showdown with the Guardians of the Galaxy as the two teams must decide what to do with the Black Vortex. Meanwhile, the Slaughter Lords come to the fore again. The development of the story and manner in which it proceeds feels good; by the end of the issue, we are left hanging on the desperate actions of one of the Guardians, who is trying to resolve an unwinnable situation.

A lot of the pace and storytelling dynamics are also attributed to the art from Ed McGuinnes and Kris Anka. The pair have a division of pages, and at some points it seems to blur together. The artists have distinct styles, and the differences between them are a little jarring as they crossover in this issue. However, by the end it isn't a deal breaker. There is some wonderful art on show here. McGuinnes provides a great back story for the Black Vortex as an object of desire; there is a sense of him taking the establishing pages while Anka gets to finish off with the big action piece.

The Viscardi provoke a Celestial
Anger at the Celestial will bring
about an unexpected consequence
A highlight was the three-quarter page panel that depicts the reuniting of the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Here Anka and Humphries insert the comic relief that is necessary to bring the serious galaxy-worrying event back to a grounded state. The final page is also another notable piece of the art, with a full-page splash showing a refined Gamora. The colors here are gorgeous to behold, as they are throughout this issue.

As soon as the issue opens it is easily recognizable that Marte Gracia is on point, even without glancing at the credits on the preceding page. However, when joined with Marcelo Maiolo, this is a strong colorist team that brings depth and weight to the issue. The pages shimmer with a vibrancy and hue that is so often found in the pages of Marvel's stories set in space. The colors pop in a sublime way and make this a very attractive issue to read.

The Black Vortex appears
Gaze into the mirror of power
"The Black Vortex: Alpha" issue feels like a good start to this event. It is not a perfect issue but a solid one nonetheless. With the artistic team on board, it delivers for the extra length and higher cover price. I hope the series keeps at least to the standard set here or gets better.

What did you like about this issue? Do you feel the setup has hit the mark? How did you like the art and colors? Tell us below or head over to the Fanboys Anonymous Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment. Make sure you come back for the next installment of "The Black Vortex" with Guardians of the Galaxy #24.

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