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There are quite a few Guardians of the Galaxy comics on the market right now as Marvel amps up publicity for the characters about to hit the big screen in less than a month. In addition to the main Guardians of the Galaxy series, which began in 2013 and is sixteen issues deep, there are four digital Marvel Infinite comics, released this past spring, and the very new Guardians of the Galaxy: Galaxy’s Most Wanted #1, Rocket Raccoon #1, and Legendary Star-Lord #1. Marvel also just released what they’re calling Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude, which collects some of the prequel comics they released previously and a few classic issues that address certain characters or potential plot points. One of Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day issues was also a Guardians of the Galaxy story by Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Bradshaw. (Be warned: the company has also mysteriously made digital copies of Guardians of the Galaxy comics from a 90s run by Jim Valentino available. They feature a roster of characters that is entirely different from the ones in the upcoming movie.)
If you have the time and interest (and money), it might not be a bad idea to read Brian Michael Bendis’ current Guardians run, as it features the full crew of soon-to-be-familiar characters and he’s quite a good author of comics. The series has been collected into two volumes so far and won’t spoil anything in the movie because, as with most comics, it operates separately from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It will, however, introduce you to the comics version of the Guardians and maybe give you a feel for how they might translate to film. The series also features a number of great artists and pulls in characters one might recognize from Earth. (Hint: Iron Man builds suits that work in space for a reason.)
If you’re looking for a shorter reading list, then I suggest the four Marvel Infinite comics that feature Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot. These are available digitally and are formatted accordingly (meaning they probably work best on a handheld device rather than a computer screen). Each issue contains a short story that gives readers an introduction to who these characters are and what their goals tend to be. I felt that each one was nicely different in tone, thanks largely to the great art, and really did highlight the different strengths and quirks of these characters. Groot’s story in particular, since he doesn’t really do dialogue, felt like a nice slice of galaxy life that hinted at all sorts of problems happening around the Guardians. As you probably noticed, Peter Quill, A.K.A Star-Lord, did not get a Marvel Infinite comic, but he did get a #0.1 issue that came out right before the start of the Guardians of the Galaxy main series.
As for the newest installments, Guardians of the Galaxy: Galaxy’s Most Wanted #1 is listed as a one shot and advertised specifically in tandem with the upcoming movie. (Marvel actually has a whole Rocket and Groot collection for those who want it.) I personally did not feel the need to pick up the one shot, but I did buy Rocket Raccoon #1 by Skottie Young, an amusing read, and Legendary Star-Lord #1 , a fairly enjoyable, by-the-numbers introduction comic.
Skottie Young’s art is a great match for Rocket and his story so far, as he seems to be the “Adult Swim” animated version of Han Solo or Mal Reynolds with a tail. The dialogue is fun and the action is swift in this first issue, but one can’t really tell whether the comic is headed into more serious territory or if it will continue to bounce between quips about whiskers and the existential crisis of a genetic experiment. The latter would probably be a lot better story-wise, but strikes me as a hard balance to maintain.
Sam Humphries and Paco Medina’s Legendary Star-Lord #1 is also pretty action-packed, but I find myself wondering why Marvel felt it was necessary to give Star-Lord a solo run if it doesn’t truly differentiate him from other space flyboys. As a first issue, it covered the basics: his past, his knack for getting in and out of sticky situations, his intergalactic playboy image, and the fact that he’s more a free spirit than a lone wolf. But it could have been done in a less hackneyed fashion. I have no idea whether Marvel is banking the nearness of the film to scare people into picking this up rather than going back to start with Bendis, but my advice is don’t jump on this unwieldy spaceship too fast. Maybe a few issues in, when the plot is in full gear, this series will be worth it. Whether you want better writing or you’re just looking for some idea as to who Star-Lord is before you line up in a theater, I suggest you go back and read either Bendis’ series or the digital intro comics.
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