I feel like one of the most overused science fiction tropes is for the second banana female character to be a hell of a lot more interesting than the main protagonist. Starbuck in the BSG reboot, Trinity in The Matrix, and most of the Doctor’s companions are prime examples of this. This was proven true again in Guardians of the Galaxy, when Zoe Saldana – fresh off playing second banana in Star Trek and Avatar – once again became a very interesting character overshadowed by the male lead.
She’s green, she’s Thanos’ adopted daughter, the last surviving member of her whole race, and she is the most skilled fighter on the team, but Star-lord can quip, so he’s the best? Blah.
With this trope in mind I figured that when Gamora finally got a starring role in her own book, she should shine. Unfortunately, in Memento Mori she gets overshadowed by multiple secondary characters while still putting together a solid sci-fi yarn.
Art wise – this book is excellent. Huge expanses of alien worlds and space vistas combine with a doomed planet about to be engulfed in a black hole, all shown in amazing color. Gamora herself is a very kinetic character, always drawn in motion and almost dancing on every page. The various aliens and strange inhabitants also get large and complex designs, making everything feel like a slowly disintegrating backwater, or a palatial hideaway on a conflicted planet.
This is a flashback book, to when the green G was still in Thanos’ good graces, and was jaunting across the universe to kill and maim for him. This also introduces the first big overshadowing problem, in that Thanos is a hell of a compelling monster to read about. The scenes he appears in are layered with a great deal of plans and intrigue mixed with a near uncontainable rage. In contrast, Gamora stays pretty even keeled and emotionless throughout the book, outside of the driving force of revenge for her species. One note characters are never as impactful as the multifaceted ones we’re used to from Marvel’s catalog, and I found myself wishing for more Thanos interaction throughout.
Gamora’s quest itself is quite entertaining. Involving a lost scion from a planetary dynasty, a perceived assassination target for Gamora’s revenge, and a planet slowly being dragged into the event horizon of a black hole – this is a chewy space book. Thankfully, there’s no cheesy Marvel earth-hero cameos to ruin the flow of what is and should stay a space tale.
Watching G carve a path through all that oppose her, discover some long lost allies, and feel a tiny sense of humanity over the course of the trade made for a good read, but the second overshadowing problem arises when the target of her revenge ends up being a hell of a lot more interesting than her. I want to root for Gamora herself, but since this is before her true redemptive arc in GotG, there’s not a hell of a lot to connect to.
To be fair to the book itself, I’m not the biggest fan of anti-heroes. The complex morality of a Spider-Man or a Batman is always more interesting to me than the sheer brutality of the Punisher or Moon Knight. Gamora finds herself in that same headspace for me, so as a character I felt very little engagement. Still, the story itself was interesting, and I put the book down enjoying the insight into a character that usually gets buried in back panels. More than anything though, it got me wondering more about Thanos, a character I’ve not really spent any time with since the old Infinity Gauntlet days. If you’re a fan of the Marvel Space pantheon, or just looking for something else from the minds that created the Guardians, this was decent, but not amazing.