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Review: In Marvel’s The Black Vortex Alpha, Cosmically Enhanced Rocket Raccoon Will Haunt Your Dreams

The Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men (and... everyone else, basically) team up!


As a relative newcomer to comics, I’m grateful that The Black Vortex is the first Marvel event I’m reading issue-by-issue. We’re only one third of the way in but already The Black Vortex is setting itself apart from other cosmic events with a rare and refreshing balance of character and action.

The multiverse is in peril and the Marvel cosmic universe’s latest MacGuffin is to blame: the Black Vortex, an ancient mirror with the ability to unlock an individual’s cosmic potential. In the wrong hands it could lay waste to the universe (or something terrible like that … consequences have so far been vague) but in the right hands it could be a tool to create a better world, and it’s this duality that is the source of conflict for the majority of the first four issues. Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde have already stolen the Black Vortex from Quill’s father, J-Son, aka Mr. Knife, as revealed in a flashback. So, the paradigm-altering MacGuffin spends the better part of four issues “safely” in the custody of the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men, who can’t agree on what to do with it. Matters get more complicated when three of our heroes (spoiler) Gamora, Beast and Angel submit themselves to the Vortex and receive cosmically enhanced physiology and fighting skills and the “enlightened” mindset of stoned college freshmen.

From there the story does, admittedly, drag a bit, as the ensuing conversation for two issues can be summarized thusly:

Kitty Pryde & Company:

Gamora, Beast and Angel:

*Fighting ensues*
Overall, though, it’s an intriguing set up to what could prove to be an exceptional story. Often, major comic book events, particularly those in the cosmic universe, focus so much on the overly elaborate plots that the characters and interpersonal dynamics (the things that drew me to the series in the first place) have to be put on the backburner. What’s so engaging about the Black Vortex as a MacGuffin is that its power is its effect on the characters and, consequently, their interpersonal dynamics and so these elements have to remain integral to the plot.

Furthermore, I’ve always found stories that pit heroes against their mind-altered companions — whether by brainwashing, zombifying or, uh, submitting to the Black Vortex, terrifying and therefore engrossing.

It’s early days yet, but the first four chapters of The Black Vortex have set the event off to a great start, leaving me legitimately and thoroughly excited to know what happens next.

Petra Halbur is an undergraduate at Hofstra University pursuing a BA in journalism and presently trapped in the world-building phase of writing her science-fantasy novel. You can read more from her at Ponderings of a Cinephile or follow her on Twitter.

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