Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 16, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Patrick: I very vividly remember being first introduced to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – it was late in the summer of 2003, and I was visiting my buddy Scott at his parents’ house between our Freshman and Sophomore years of college. Scottie had been playing the game on a borrowed console and the whole thing felt like a kind of wish fulfillment: suddenly there was a whole galaxy of Star Wars characters, stories and locations to explore, and all without leaving the confines of a single video game. There’s a promise inherent in KotOR’s premise – the depths of your imagination are already on display here, you only need look hard enough. This immediately becomes overwhelming. Even when alien races and spaceship designs look the way you remember them, you realize that any emotional connection you make with the material must be generated in-game. Without my core band of plucky rebels to get my automatic-love, I was left without a rudder, and instead of sailing the high seas of Star Wars adventures, I was mired in meaningless ephemera. This is often how I feel about the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. I may be able to recognize Broods and Spartax and Skrulls and Grand Inquisitors, but without someone to actually care about at the heart of it? Not a lot to hang a story on. Brian Michael Bendis addresses this issue head-on by spreading the Guardians of the Galaxy out among the cosmos. Suddenly, even the muddiest mythology has emotional resonance.
The issue starts with each individual member of the team scattered – the “PREVIOUSLY” does a really nice job of summing it all up. That actually makes this an oddly compelling starting point for new readers: all you really need to know is that our heroes are outlaws under various states of arrest. The beauty of the story is that each one of them starts alone: Flash is separated from the Venom Symboite and being experimented on by Skrulls; Gamora is locked in unending gladiatorial combat with the Badoon; Drax is being tried by the Shi’ar; Rocket is being vivisected by the Kree; and Peter Quill has to throw himself out a window to escape his father’s soldiers. I love seeing the individual strength of character each one of them shows in their isolation. Gamora especially. She goes on an exhausting rampage, fighting until her last ounce of strength. Or like Drax, before even hearing what he’s been accused of, insisting that he is executed by combat with Gladiator. Even Peter’s act of rebellion is uniquely Star-Lord – who else is going to toss themselves out a window?
But that’s also when the strength of the relationships come into play. The clearest and best example is Angela coming to Gamora’s rescue. Not only does this pair have a pretty extensive history of murdering Badoon together, it makes the most obvious case for the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Alone, Gamora is totally overwhelmed, but with her battle buddy? Oh, then she’s got time to grab a sword and get to work on some very specific revenge.
Elsewhere, we’ve got Peter executing on his escape plan with an assist from Captain Marvel, and Flash rejoined by an eager Symbiote (you guys, even the Symbiote is a team player!). That’s all variations on the same thing: while the individual characters are neat, it’s the team that’s important.
I was actually about to use the phrase “team of misfits” to describe the Guardians, but I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped to consider what that phrase means. Are they mis-fits because they don’t fit in with the general population or with each other? Or both! I’ve always been tickled by how mis-matched Rocket is with Drax, or Groot with Gamora. They almost feel like they shouldn’t exist in the same universe, let alone the same team. The more recent additions make the make-up of the group even stranger: a Spider-Man anti-hero, a straight-up hero and some kind of interdimensional angel.
Actually, it’s pretty cool to take that kind of macro view of the Guardians. A few weeks ago, we were confused by the special anniversary issue, which seemed to lack an answer to the question: what quintessential quality makes the Guardians of the Galaxy unique and necessary? I think we could glibly reduce the answer to “the Avengers, but in space” but this issue addresses that complaint directly, when Flash tries to use his status as an Avenger to get some sway over the Skrulls.
“Avenger” doesn’t mean the same thing as “Guardian.” Partially, that’s because you’d never use the name Guardian to evoke respect or fear, but — as Peter Quill points out — justice and compassion. The Guardians are decidedly less authoritarian than the Avengers. Effectively, they are the band of rebels I was missing in Knights of the Old Republic. Okay, I can do this: to get the Cosmic Comics, you need to get the Guardians; to get the Guardians, all you need to get are these eight loveable characters. Seems fair.
Shelby, I hope you’re feeling a little more connected to the Marvel Cosmos too! This issue was something of a revelation to me, and I’m actually really excited to see what all the Guardian-verse as in store for us in the months to come. Hell, there are three new Guaridans books starting tomorrow (Rocket Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy: Guardians Most Wanted and Legendary Star-Lord), plus Guardians 3000 in October. Oh, and some kind of movie in August. I know this is me totally falling victim to hype-fever, but I’m pretty excited to be a Guardians of the Galaxy fan right now.
Shelby: Oh, me too. I even feel a little bit of the hipster indie music fan rising inside me, as I think, “I was into the Guardians of the Galaxy before it was cool.” If this issue were an inspirational sports movie from our childhood, it would be the moment right after the team falls apart when the coach/star player pulls himself up by his bootstraps and begins to bring everyone back together. I just love Gamora and Angela’s badass ladyfriendship. You know how awesome it feel when you find someone who’s the same kind of weird you are? You know, that friend who’s one hundred percent behind you on every misadventure? That’s these two gals, and I can’t get enough. Look at how Angela doesn’t even look up or stop what she’s doing to toss a sword to her best gal pal!
I really like the way Bendis legitimizes the Guardians as an entity. Patrick, I understand your need for a ragtag band of outlaws with a heart of gold, and the Guardians more than fit the bill. But this issue takes us beyond the Guardians as the loveable, emotional core of this space opera and highlights their necessity. This whole story J’son has defined the Guardians in relation to his own goals, his own self-perceived role as protector of his people. Finally, I think Peter is able to get his father to look past that, to see how he is perceived compared to the work Peter is doing. There’s a real chance J’son had never before considered that he was the bad guy in the story, not until Peter laid it out for him.
More importantly, the rest of J’son’s empire is beginning to realize J’son is the bad guy here. It was such a beautiful moment, when J’son realized his awful words about Peter and his mother had been broadcast across the empire. It’s so satisfying, to see him hoisted by his own petard like that. J’son was very right about one thing, however; he may be a warlord, but he’s a warlord who’s holding his empire together. If there’s going to be a revolution, and J’son is removed from his position, what will happen to the Spartex empire? They are going to turn to Peter for leadership, and I don’t see him as the type to want to sit still in one place and be a responsible ruler. I absolutely respect and admire his fight against his father, but I don’t think he’s really thought through what that will mean for him.
Unfortunately, the most important question this arc has raised remains: IS GROOT OK?!?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?