Brian Michael Bendis’ much anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy, the newest of the Marvel Now! relaunches, proves just how great obscurity can be. How great is the comic exactly? Using an interstellar-expletive straight from its pages, I’d say Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy is Mother Krutacking Fantastic!
With a new film in development, Marvel has put a lot of stock into Guardians of the Galaxy, one of the strangest, least known superhero teams in the expansive Marvel Universe. It may seem like a risky move, but the fact is, the Guardians are a fascinating group of characters, offering expansive scope to a Marvel team dynamic that reaches far beyond the often earth-based exploits of most other superhero assemblies. Not here. The Guardians are one of the very reasons the Marvel Universe is not referred to as the World of Marvel or some such restrictive canonization. Here, in the pages of Bendis’ Galaxy, is where Marvel gets most wonderfully weird and cosmically massive.
Issue one begins with a two-page panel of a galaxy, with a panel below looking down over a sketchy space outpost populated by all manners of alien scum. Opening the new series in a space bar is Bendis’ way of setting an antiheroic tone in which to introduce the Guardians. This is not your run of the mill group of righteous superheroes. This is what Stallone’s Expendables might look if it was set in space and starred a gun-wielding rodent. That would be Rocket Raccoon, the cult favorite among the Guardians, a wise-cracking three foot tall raccoon who packs a wallop. Then there’s Star-Lord, the leader of the group, a half-human half-alien prince who pretty much does what he pleases but always with strong leadership and proper motives. Gamora, known as the most dangerous woman in the universe, is a tall, green assassin, drawn in the same over sexualized style that most superheroine warrior types are unfortunately depicted. There’s also Groot, a tree. Seriously, the guy is a raging, powerful plant monster who is basically Marvel’s version of Tolkien’s Treebeard. Finally, there is Drax the Destroyer, a tragic warrior created simply to fight.
In this first issue Bendis does well at establishing the team’s unconventional approach to fighting off the alien races that threaten them. Here it’s the Badoon, one of many alien races that may challenge the Guardians along the way. Star-Lord meets with his father, the King of Spartax, who tells him that the Council of Galactic Empires has decided Earth is now off limits to all extraterrestrial interaction. The reasoning for this is explained as the Council’s way to ensure that Earth gains a fighting chance at becoming part of the wider Galactic Civilization. Star-Lord challenges the decision. Here is where the conflict is set up. The Badoon of course target the Earth, and in a fight that penciller Steve McNiven draws with great depth and detail, the Guardians are left in disarray as they wage an all out battle at the end of the book.
Bendis fills his pages with humorous and unobtrusive dialogue and does well at introducing this little known group to a new comics reading generation. Helping them out is Iron Man, who flies out into orbit and happens upon them in a moment of fate. This is Tony Stark’s vacation, a trip he amusingly describes as his way to “get away from ten teams of Avengers” on earth. There are so many places Guardians can go from here and loads of possible tie-ins between the new Guardians film and Marvel’s Phase 2 film docket. There’s literally an entire galaxy of possibilities.
The new Guardians series began with an issue #0.1 prequel last month. Framed as an origin story about Guardians leader Peter Quill, Star-Lord, the prequel in many ways paralleled another new Marvel Now! series; Nova. It’s fitting that Quill and the new Nova, Sam Alexander each have a past full of doubt centered on their father’s supposed ties to the cosmos. Peter wrote off his mothers stories about his father, an alien king, as a crazy story made to cover for their abandonment by a deadbeat dad. Sam, the new Nova wrote off all of his own father’s grand stories of being a galactic superhero as nothing more than the ramblings of a drunk. Peter and Sam each find out the truth about their fathers, and it would be great to see Marvel eventually connect these two titles with Peter being an almost father-like guide (now that it appears Sam’s father may have passed) to the new, young Nova.
Guardians and Nova have existed in the same expansive Marvel Cosmic comics in the past, crossing over to help each other fight Thanos and other intergalactic threats. With the relaunch of Guardians and Nova, the tie-in has already begun, with Rocket Raccoon and Gamora guiding Sam on his way. Next week, Marvel is releasing another new series starring Thanos, the supervillain who has challenged the Guardians in past comics like the Thanos Imperative (referenced by Star-Lords father in the book). I don’t doubt there is a plan for all of these titles (comics and film) to tie together in some grand way. Guardians of the Galaxy is exactly the kind of book that comic fans will fawn over. With its grand scale and quirky antiheroes, the new Guardians of the Galaxy is primed to be a runaway hit that will keep fans eagerly guessing how it will all come together.