By Evan Dickson
Only a few weeks until Guardians of the Galaxy is released, guys and gals! Did you see the new, strangely unfamiliar trailer yet?
At this stage in the game, MarvelDisney's hype machine has been going long enough that most of us have at least a passing familiarity with the cast and characters of Guardians of the Galaxy. Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt has to forge a team out of a bizarro crew including buff green psycho, Drax (WWE's Dave Bautista), slender green psycho, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, who hopefully won't start a fight with her boyfriend in the middle of a mission this time), tree man Groot (Vin Diesel saying "I am Groot" a hundred different ways) and Rocket Raccoon, who's basically Han Solo in raccoon form voiced by Bradley Cooper.
Unless you've actually been in outer space, you already knew all that. But do you know the back story? There is a reason why Marvel has decided to bring barely-known group of B-listers the big screen: the comics are fantastic! While most of the world greeted the announcement with a collective "Really?" us comic readers were all like "OMG yes!" and also, "Really?"
Don't wait for the movie to get to know Star-Lord and his band of misfits. Follow this handy guide to get up to speed on the Guardians' adventures.
Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord (2007)
Right here. Before Star-Lord even had a hyphen. This is the seed that eventually grew into the Guardians of the Galaxy that we'll see in the film. Star-Lord plays a role in the Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest stories before this book (spoiler: the conquest is sort of his fault) but this series introduces a lot of the foundation that we'll see in the movie, including the helmet and uniform design, the team of misfit prisoners and the ever-lovin' duo of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. (Fun fact: Groot has actual lines in this series, with sentences and everything! Imagine what could have been, Vin.)
Aside from Rocket and Groot, Star-Lord's cosmic dirty dozen includes the irritating Loverbug, Deathcry, the Captain Universe du jour and Mantis, the "celestial madonna" (don't ask). The Kree give them a suicide mission to infiltrate a planet occupied by the Phalanx, a robotic race that is kicking butt across a war torn Marvel cosmos.
Timothy Green's understated art pairs perfectly with the dry humour in Keith Giffen's dialogue, setting a tone that will continue after all this Phalanx mess gets sorted out and Star-Lord decides the galaxy needs more guarding.
Extra credit: The full Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest series. Annihilation was the big multi-title event that took place in Marvel's cosmic universe while all of Earth's heroes were busy having a Civil War because America thought world-killing superpowers needed some kind of gun control—er, because freedom. It provides a fantastic introduction to the characters that populate Marvel's far out cosmic stories, including Drax and Gamora who eventually join the Guardians. A great read, but more than is really "necessary" to get into the movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Abnett and Lanning run, 2008-2010)
According to Chris Pratt, James Gunn pointed to this series to be the primary inspiration for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The team includes everyone from the film, plus Gamora's ex BF Adam Warlock (whose trademark cocoon sharp-eyed true believers spotted on the Collector's ship at the end of Thor: The Dark World) and Phyla Vell, the original Captain Marvel's daughter temporarily filling in as Quasar while Wendell Vaughan was dead (he got better).
The plot involves your typical dire threat to the balance of the universe. Specifically, the Guardians are trying to prevent dimensional tears that turn out to lead to a "cancerverse" where nothing dies because the very concept of life has defeated death. The cancerverse is ruled by the Lovecratfian "Many-Angled Ones," who feel a little cramped in their life-jammed dimension and are looking to stretch their tentacles.
The story has all the alternate dimensions, time travel, super science, space magic and psychic dogs you want from a good cosmic yarn, but it's unlikely to have much in common with the plot of the movie. Nonetheless, you get the full team, plus two, as well as the Guardians' home base of Knowhere, which is the severed head of a cosmic giant called a Celestial and is located at the edge of the universe. Note that I didn't say the edge of the known universe. Knowhere is actually located at the edge of reality. I'm getting stoned just from typing that.
Guardians of the Galaxy (current Bendis run, 2013-present)
The more recent re-launch doesn't seem to have had as much aesthetic influence on James Gunn's version of the Guardians, but it does feature the same team as the movie (with Iron Man tagging along) and it's written by the Avengers disassembler himself, Brian Michael Bendis. It also has Thanos in a more villainous role than we've seen in a while — purple-puss had been more of an anti-hero in the Annihilation and cancerverse storylines. As we know, Thanos is the brains behind Ronan in the Guardians movie, as he was with Loki in Avengers. With Josh Brolin cast as his voice, it stands to reason that we'll get to see a little more of Thanos than the quick post-credits smirk Avengers gave us.
Also, this happens. Sure you don't want to take a pay cut to be in this one, Robert Downey Jr.?
Marvel's cosmic universe is rich with colourful characters, bizarre technology, space gods, grand stories, and people who can fly around the vacuum of space at faster than light speed wearing nothing but spandex. It's a blast and a welcome addition to the cinematic universe.