The announcement that Marvel’s Cinematic Universe Phase 2 movies would include Guardians of the Galaxy was surprising to many. Unlike Thor, Iron Man and Captain America, the Guardians are a relatively obscure Marvel team-up. As part of the Marvel NOW! initiative, Marvel has recently introduced a Guardians of the Galaxy title, and our reviewers look into issue 1 with this “Issues of the Day with Mike and Day” asking who are the Guardians?
Do you feel this story represents the Guardians of the Galaxy well?
Mike: Yes. When I say that, understand that I came to this issue with absolutely no previous knowledge of the team. No kidding, the only thing I knew about the Guardians before reading this issue was that they will be the subject of Marvel’s next big superhero movie. I came to this issue with no preconceptions or expectations, simply hoping to enjoy myself and end up liking the characters. I enjoyed myself for about half the time (more on that in a moment), but I am happy to report I ended up liking the Guardians, especially Peter Quill and Gamora.
Peter is (at least as Brian Michael Bendis writes him here) a Han Solo-esque adventurer, confident and impulsive. He’s forward with the fairer sex and frank in his frustration with his father. Peter’s father, the King of the Spartax planetary system, is enforcing the decision of an enigmatic alien council (enigmatic to this uninitiated reader, anyway) and orders Peter to stay away from Earth, as all aliens have been ordered to do. Peter, however, is half-human, and feels he has a right and an obligation to help protect his home planet from intergalactic threats. As far as I can gather, he’s assembled a team of folks his father dismisses as “broken friends” to assist him in that task.
I suppose Peter treads close to some cliché territory as a character, but Bendis imbues a spark of genuine likeability in the guy that makes it easy to set such objections aside. I wouldn’t want to be Peter Quill—he’s boastful and hot-headed (not to say I’ve never been those things myself)—but I don’t think I’d mind hanging around him, and I certainly wouldn’t mind having him on the planet’s side when aliens have it in their crosshairs (as they do London on the issue’s closing splash page). Peter seems a hero at heart.
Gamora is “the most dangerous woman in the universe,” and (at least he implies to his father) Peter’s lover (if she actually is, why is Peter coming on so strong to a female Kree in the opening sequence—is he a hero on the battlefield but a bum in personal relationships?). Judging from the impressive Steve McNiven splash page that introduces her, she’s an epic sword-swinger. She’s also kind of sweet: when Peter objects to her bursting onto the scene in such violent fashion, she simply says, “I thought you were in trouble.”
By far she was the most interesting of this issue’s supporting players. To be fair, the others didn’t get much space; but I can’t see myself becoming devotees of Drax (a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Martian Manhunter), Groot (an outer-space Ent) or Rocket Raccoon (I know, comics can get away with some stupid stuff, but, come on… a raccoon space ranger?). At the same time, the team as a team seems to function fairly well, so, yes, I think this first issue presents them in a positive light. (In contrast to some other recent superhero team books I could name…JLA #1, cough, cough!)
Dan: Now I feel a little bit on the spot. It’s true confessions time. So when I heard that Marvel was going to roll out a Guardians of the Galaxy movie I thought, “Wow, Corsair and the Guardians is really an obscure team to base a movie on.” This was followed by, “Since Corsair is Cyclops’ father do they even have the rights to those characters.” So yeah, I was a little confused, especially since Corsair leads the Starjammers.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have any vintage Guardians of the Galaxy stories in my basement.
So I guess I am saying, yeah the issue represents the Guardians great since I have no idea what good or bad really means for this hero team. So, due to pure ignorance, we have agreement sir!
Does this story conform to canon?
Mike: I leave that to Daniel to discuss, but I presume so.
Dan: I guess I really need to quit claiming to be a Marvel guy!
So my motivation to read the issue was tied to me wanting to know more about the team a future Disney/Marvel feature was based on. My experience with them has been limited to an episode of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes which had me wondering why a talking raccoon had joined the Starjammers (you see a trend here) and the free digital Guardians of the Galaxy Infinity comics that Marvel has offered which help establish who Rocket, Drax and Gamora are. In fact the Gamora issue shows that Gamora has a close relationship with Thanos, which could have an impact on Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Likewise I was pleased they did name drop Thanos in this issue. I think it is a great idea to clearly establish the Guardians are tied to Thanos as a villain and that canon.
I had heard chatter that some questioned a title featuring Peter since the last time he was seen in comics he died. But I have not read that storyline or the 0 issue which I assume brought his comic book death full circle. And so I was not committed to Star-Lord’s death! They could have told me he was a clone, robot, or resurrected Quill and I would have not have complained.
So, yes I feel like this story confirms to 3 free comics and a 22 minute cartoon!
What did you like the most?
Mike: Peter’s interaction with his father. Bendis quickly establishes a real conflict that promises to have lasting, story-driven consequences.
Dan: Wow, that is really not a lot to work with here! Let’s see I liked we reviewed a Marvel book!
I could sound a little cynical here. But I see this as a movie tie-in. August 2014 is not that far away and I want Guardians of the Galaxy to both be a quality film and fare well in the box office. But I find them to be a fairly obscure group, see my earlier belief that they were the Starjammers, and I think Marvel will actually have to work harder to market the movie than they had to with The Avengers which was full of heroes and actors that the public was familiar with. So I really like Marvel getting ahead of the film publicity and getting the comic fan base ready and mobilized for hopefully a very good movie. Honestly, the fact that Iron Man is included in this storyline to me is a clear indicator that they are trying to get the movie fans who have wandered into the books educated to who the Guardians are.
I really wish that my favorite things included the story. But much like Star Wars #1 this is really chapter one of a bigger story. And I find it hard to evaluate without seeing the sum of its parts. There is a lot of setup in this first issue so I just don’t feel like they in the flow of the story yet.
I really liked my Deadpool variant cover.
What did you like the least?
Dan: I disliked that Deadpool is not in this story! Talk about false advertising! No Deadpool and no tacos, I felt scammed! And I don’t think I am the only one. When you glance through the variant cover gallery it becomes clear that adding Deadpool is the most popular variant. But do not be fooled, Deadpool is not in the building. Clearly Marvel is playing on the huge celebrity of Deadpool to bring readers to this Guardians plus Iron Man book. Now is the time for Ryan Reynolds to give Deadpool the proper big screen portrayal he needs! No Deadpool I feel dirty!
Mike: Iron Man’s inclusion in the action felt incredibly forced, motivated only by the fact that (if I understand correctly) Iron Man will figure into the on-screen version of the team. Readers like myself who don’t follow Tony Stark’s current print adventures or who (also like myself) frankly have little interest in the character will find his intrusion into the book half-way through a confusing distraction. (Why is the in-suit computerized guidance system now named after Pepper Potts? Is she still among the living, or is Gwyneth Paltrow out of a job?)
Dan: Apparently since 1963, Tony Stark has never thought it might be cool to joyride in space. It seems it takes Peter Quill to give him the idea, even though Stark has had adventures in spaces. So despite being one of the smartest guys in the world, he needs someone else to tell him what every 5 year old knows. If you can fly in space, fly in space! Who’s the futurist now? Mind Blown!
Mike: Also, a minor quibble: not that I’m really in favor of profanity, but if one is going to invent an extraterrestrial curse word, surely one can do better than “krutack.” All the most satisfying profanity is monosyllabic. I’m just sayin’.
Dan: Krutack you make a good point!
Do you see spiritual applications in this story?
Mike: Not especially, although I feel that Peter’s conflict with his father may bear some, if not spiritual, at least moral grist for someone’s theological mill down the road. The two men spend some time arguing over whether Peter should quit “gallivanting all over the galaxy” in order to claim his birthright as “the star-lord of Spartax… the firstborn of the Spartax Empire.” I know nothing about the Spartax, but I now know, their king, Peter’s father, is something of a villain. Peter is forsaking a chance at personal aggrandizement in favor of a higher calling. I am reminded of Moses, whom the letter to the Hebrews tells us chose “rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (11.25, NRSV). Don’t get me wrong: Peter seems to enjoy pleasures, including those of the “fleeting” variety. But he isn’t, it seems, a fundamentally immoral character, as his father appears to be. Like Moses, Peter is focused on a “greater wealth”—the wealth of freedom, for Earth and for himself. He might understand Jesus’ question, “Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?” (Mark 8.36, CEB).
Dan: Congratulations to you sir, congratulations. I am a big fan of teaching truth through superhero stories. But since this story really just sets up future action it does take a lot of work to find a spiritual application. As I reread this issue specifically to find that spiritual truth, I did get a Saul and Jonathan vibe as Peter and his father interacted. The King and Saul both made foolish vows that impacted their sons. But it began to break down as Peter’s father is clearly setting Peter up potentially for death and Saul was simply being foolish.
Do you plan to stick with the series?
Mike: If money and time were no objects, I would at least try to for a few months. I’d like to see how Peter’s conflict with his father resolves, and I’d like to learn more about Gamora. Who knows? Maybe even the raccoon would grow on me after a while.
Dan: Seriously, I don’t even think he really is a raccoon! Honestly, I think I’m out of here for now. I look forward to checking out the collected first trade from the library. But I don’t think I will keep up month after month. It simply did not get me excited like I hoped it would.
Mike and Dan have come to agreement. They really had no idea who the Guardians, Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon were and still need a lot more preparation for the 2014 film. The movie’s inclusion does make more sense now thanks to the connections with Thanos, but the team is still one somewhat shaded in mystery. The first issue of the new series caught the interest of Mike and Dan, but not enough to follow the series on a monthly basis. But perhaps some (cough cough Mike) are simply not ready for a raccoon space warrior!