I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I’ve never been the kind of fan to feel adaptations ruined comics. In fact I’m the opposite. Adaptations have led to the comics I love thriving. I was a huge Iron Man fan for a decade before the movie and I hate thinking about how hard it was to find graphic novels until all at once I had an endless supply. Because adaptations shine a light on characters, and not just the ones we’ve thought of as icons, we wind up seeing greater focus on characters who deserve it.
That’s how I find myself writing a review of a novel focused on Gamora and Nebula. Because you know who they are. James Gunn did a tremendous job making them A list characters in Guardians of the Galaxy to the point I don’t even have to explain them like I did Elsa Bloodstone. You’ve got a clear picture in your head. Granted it’s not fully accurate with Nebula having more depth in film but it’s there.
Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzi Lee isn’t a book I need to sell. If you’re a fan of the characters then you’re already in on the idea of seeing them before their adventures in the MCU. And make no mistake, while there’s allusions to comic threads, this is the MCU interpretation. If you read this book, it’s Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, and Josh Brolin you’re picturing and hearing. That’s great.
The plot is pure simplicity. Both Gamora and Nebula are tasked separately with stealing a macguffin at the core of a planet. Why? It’s a game the Grandmaster (you’re thinking blue soul patch and Jeff Goldblum at his most Jeff Goldblum) set up. Of course it’s not what it seems. There’s twists. Nobody can be trusted. The point is this is a book about the conflict between the sisters.
This is what you hope for in a tie-in defined. It never feels for a second like a book that could be retrofitted for any franchise. This is purely about these characters and it’s quite effective. The book centers correctly on their conflict with one sister despising their father and desperate to escape him despite being his favorite with the other desperate for approval never to come. It’s powerful.
The book has a nice style. Lee isn’t an obtrusive writer but she is definitely a writer you notice the skill of. Characters are richly etched. Every description is top notch. The pacing is finely calibrated. It’s a smooth machine.
That said, the plot is a bit of a bother. It’s simple until the last 1/4 where the twists stack. It gets a bit much after the point was made. We know Thanos is abusive. He’s Thanos! It doesn’t destroy the book but it does feel like we pass a logical ending then go for an extra act.
Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms is a potent read for any fan of the two characters. Highly recommended when it lands 6/1.