The Guardians of the Galaxy was this summer’s blockbuster hit, bringing in almost $800 million worldwide. Before this movie, most people (including comic book fans) have never even heard of the ragtag space group, and now they’re encroaching on Avengers territory among the mainstream moviegoing public. This is great news for the comics, since interest in these characters naturally encourage people to pick up the comics so they can read more about them.
The current Guardians of the Galaxy series by Brian Michael Bendis is an ongoing series, 21 issues in at the time of this post, but it’s never too late to jump into the story! If you watched the movie, then you have all the familiarity you need to pick up this series and start reading along. Also, the first four arcs of the run have been collected in trade paperbacks, so you don’t have to go hunting down individual back issues if you want to start from the beginning – just pick up the trades and you’ll be caught up nice and quick.
For the sake of this review, I’m covering the entire run as a whole, and not focusing on individual issues. I’ve broken it down by each arc, which are collected in four trade paperbacks, with a fifth one being released in March 2015. I give a quick intro and commentary on each of the arcs after the jump.
Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers
The opening arc (issues 1-3), written by Brian Michael Bendis, assumes the reader has some familiarity with the characters, as it doesn’t retell any origin stories. If you’ve watched the movie, then you’ve got more than enough background needed. Fairly standard storyline – the alien race the Badoon are invading Earth, but the best part of this arc is the introduction of Tony Stark, yes Iron Man, to the Guardians. He’s grown tired of Earth life and wants to explore the cosmos, so he links up with the Guardians and realizes his Earth technology is super old school, and for once he’s not the smartest guy in the room – Rocket Raccoon is! Star-Lord also manages to shame his father, an intergalactic ruler, and goes on the run – which is a storyline that continues throughout the series. The most enjoyable parts of the story are the witty exchanges between Rocket and Iron Man. Seeing them interact is worth the price of admission. The artwork is great, and that’s because it’s by Steve McNiven, who recently illustrated the Death of Wolverine and is also well known for illustrating Civil War. It’s detailed, a bit gritty and fairly realistic – which is very much his style.
Volume 2: Angela
The second arc (issues 4-10), written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Sara Pichelli (who continues where Steve McNiven left off and does a great job keeping a consistent look, but is still very much her own), pits the Guardians against the powerful cosmic angel Angela. The story continues from the events of Age of Ultron, although you don’t need to have read it. The best part of this arc is the battle between Gamora and Angela out in space – it’s exciting and you never know who will win or how it will end. This is also the arc where Thanos makes an appearance that can be felt throughout the galaxy – but just what is he up to?
The Trial of Jean Grey
“Jean Grey? Isn’t she part of the X-Men?” Yep – it’s that Jean Grey. The third arc takes a “break” from the regular storyline and is actually a crossover between Guardians of the Galaxy (issues 11-13) and All-New X-Men (issues 22-24). When an alien race discovers that Jean Grey, host of the destructive Phoenix Force that destroys their planet in the future, is back on Earth, they decide to hold the young Jean Grey accountable for the heinous acts of the future Dark Phoenix. This is where the Guardians come in to help the All-New X-Men save Jean Grey! We also see a blossoming romance between Star-Lord of the Guardians and Kitty Pryde of the X-Men. This has been my favorite arc so far – Bendis (who writes both series) does a great job of keeping a good pace and balancing the many intertwined characters and you never feel lost or confused.
Volume 3: Guardians Disassembled
The fourth arc (issues 14-17) presents us with a new-look team that’s split up – Star-Lord and Drax are missing, and Nova, Captain Marvel and Venom join the Guardians. Yes, I said Venom! Thanos is still up to no good, the group is in shambles, and they don’t know what to do next or how to get reunited. This arc is a little all over the place, which is a bit expected because now the team is in multiple locations and there are new characters involved, but it was a bit hard to keep track of everything going on. The most enjoyable parts are the introduction of Venom (and the mystery involved with his appearance) and the always bad-ass Captain Marvel.
Volume 4: Original Sin
The fifth arc (issues 18-23) is a tie-in with the Original Sin event that spanned the entire Marvel Universe. This volume comes out in March 2015. Official description:
Remember when Star-Lord, Thanos, and Nova had been trapped in the horrific Cancerverse? When Star-Lord and Nova were going to sacrifice their lives to take out Thanos once and for all? And remember how Drax was supposed to have died? But Star-Lord, Drax and Thanos seem to be running around just fine nowadays. So what exactly happened to Richard Rider? You know you want to know! And finally, it’s time to get some answers about the true ending of the Cancerverse saga! But the truth may just be stranger than fiction…or maybe Star-Lord’s just not into the whole “no man left behind” thing.
So far, Brian Michael Bendis has written a very fun, entertaining and action-packed story about our favorite space group. Each arc is decidedly unique in its own right, and can stand on their own, but it still retains common threads throughout, like Star-Lord’s relationship with his royal father. If you enjoyed the movie, then you’ll love reading this series – the characters are the same and it introduces new ones to keep things fresh. The Guardians have their own personality, and they are very different from the Avengers and X-Men, so if you want to try something new, then the Guardians are a great intro to the Marvel cosmic universe.
Does this get Shortboxed?
Guardians of the Galaxy is still an ongoing series, and one that has the potential for a very long run. It may be a bit difficult to try and track down all the individual back issues starting with #1, and a very long run takes up a lot of space! Thankfully there are only 4 trade paperbacks to collect – and those should definitely be read and owned by anyone that enjoyed the movie and became a fan of the Guardians.
Where to get it
If you’re a completist or just prefer individual issues, then you’ll have to do some back issue hunting on eBay, your local comic store or at comic book conventions to complete the run. It’s much easier to just buy the trades, which are all available on Amazon via the links below, in order:
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers
Guardians of the Galaxy: Angela Volume 2
Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3: Guardians Disassembled
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