Under discussion: Various trades featuring Guardians of the Galaxy from the time between the launch of the Brian Michael Bendis run and the end of Secret Wars, including The Black Vortex, Guardians Team-Up: Guardians Assemble, Guardians Team-Up: Unlikely Story, Legendary Star-Lord: Face It, I Rule, Legendary Star-Lord: Rise of the Black Vortex, Rocket Raccoon: A Chasing Tale, Rocket Raccoon: Storytailer, Groot, Guardians 3000, Korvac Saga/Warzones, Guardians of Knowhere/Warzones, Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde/Battleworld.
It’s a little hard to tease out the whys and wherefores of the mainstream comics publishing industries various and sundry decision trees, but, when I look at what evidence there is in front of me, I have two guesses as to why there was such an explosion of storytelling around various Guardians of the Galaxy characters in recent years. The first is the surprisingly strong response to the movie, starring a sitcom star and featuring a talking raccoon and a walking tree, whose global gross outmatched any first-appearance Marvel Cinematic Universe movie except the first Iron Man. The second reason was the strength of the storytelling happening in the main Guardians of the Galaxy title written by Brian Michael Bendis and the sales of that book, which warranted some further experimentation to determine how many titles Marvel readers would be willing to pick each of them up each month.
And Marvel editorial gave each of the series pretty free reign, it seems to me, to do what they wanted to do. There’s the sitcom-in-space feel of the Sam Humphries-written Legendary Star-Lord title; the patent absurdity and cartoon-y style of Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon series; the psychedlic empathy machine that is the Groot solo series (my personal favorite among the lot of these very good books); the goofiness of Guardians Team-Up, which pairs main title Guardians with other characters from main Marvel continuity; and the neofuturistic return of the original Guardians in Guardians 3000, penned by Dan Abnett. (Guardians 3000 also featured painted covers by Alex Ross, all of which are easily frameable as posters.)
Reading all of these together, it’s easy to get a sense that Guardians, sort of like the X-Men in the 80s, feels a bit like a universe within the Marvel universe. Unlike the X-Men, these titles aren’t all penned by the same author (thanks for the yucks, Claremont!), but they do all feed in some way off of the main Guardians title, at least in terms of characterization if not plot.
Getting to this point on the Guardians timeline–specifically, to the launch of the All-New All Different lineup of Marvel series–leaves me really hopeful for the future of the Guardians and of these characters. The original guardians always had a backs-against-the-wall, now-or-never desperation to them, which is a welcome change from the more stentorian tone of some of Marvel’s other cosmic stuff and is effectively deployed throughout the series mentioned here, despite the fact that almost none of them except Guardians 3000 star the original Guardians of the Galaxy. These new Guardianscould easily end up carrying on for years and decades from now, and it’s nice to imagine Marvel editorial seeing this area of the Marvel universe as one to be mined for possibilities, not managed on behalf of invested fans. I’m very excited to keep reading these stories, and to check back in with the entire crew before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 comes out.
I’ll be taking a month off of mainstream comics from here, and starting up again in June covering some high school-aged Spider-Man stories. See you then!
NOTE TO SELF
Here is the long, sweet list of Marvel trade paperbacks that I read ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. For my records, y’all! (I’m not bragging.)