All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 1

Today, Ryan M. and Taylor are discussing All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 1, originally released May 3rd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan: The Guardians of the Galaxy are taking up a decent chunk of my brain right now. I am mentally unpacking the movie and all five (!!) post-credit sequences, so I can’t say that I came into All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 1 clean. That said, the timing of the release is not coincidental, so I know I’m not the only one with at least two takes on these characters rattling around in my head. Luckily, this is a first issue, so Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder offer a balance of fresh moments and necessary set up.

There is a lot here to set up. The crew is pretty fractured. Drax has become a pacifist, making his role on the team unclear. Gamora is carrying secrets and isolating herself. Groot is not regenerating. All of this, and their mission is being offered by Grandmaster, whose motives couldn’t be more opaque.

The issue opens on a planet that prides itself on its security and ability to protect wealth, for a healthy fee. The scene between the man trying to haggle on the cost and the officious banker is only a page long but is underscored by the dramatic irony that this is a Guardians of the Galaxy book, so it’s pretty likely someone is about to get robbed on that very very secure planet. The Galactus ruse introduces a theme into Duggan and Kuder’s book. The population of Citopia were secure in thinking themselves impenetrable from other planets, but just the sight of Galactus has them all running to their escape pods.

There is even a panel where Duggan has Drax address it directly.

Peter is not really internalizing what Drax is saying, but the reader can pick up on the potential danger of being caught in an Elder’s scheme. The issue plays that out, revealing that the buyer of the sphere is the Grandmaster and that this theft is only the fodder for blackmail to get them to do the next one. Drax may be the voice of reason, but he is still willing to bust that wall with a single punch. Duggan shows that the team may not like each other or even agree on their goals, but they are in it together.

In quick fashion Duggan establishes the crew dynamics. They immediately head to opposite ends of the ship, as Peter defines each of their issues in context of himself, ex. “Gamora, go be angry at me.” We don’t get a ton of characterization for Gamora in this issue. It’s revealed that her motives for the mission are beyond money and that she is emotionally disconnected from the crew, but no insight is offered for her internal life. Given that this is a first issue, it plays as an effective use of the character. It’s likely that her secrets will be a linchpin in the arc, so there is no need to drop them now.

Overall, the set up aspects of the story don’t impede the bigger moments. They act as sinew between the larger turns that make you do a mental double take. I’m referring, of course, to that huge fish.

The big fish moment is one of surprise and utter weirdness. Duggan and Kuder get us there by starting with the crew hanging up, ragging on Peter and then give us the last thing we could’ve expected. It’s a turn that makes the next scene feel other-worldly in the way that the action on the Milano cannot. The image is presented on a splash page with the fish’s gaping mouth directly below the ship. It puts the crew into perspective and sets the reader up for the Grandmaster, who gets his own splash a couple of pages later. This sequence is fanciful and cool and forces the team to act as a unit since they are so clearly on one side of a dividing line between weird celestial beings who live in huge fish bellies and space thieves.

Taylor, what did you think of the issue? I didn’t get into the final scene with tiny Groot sprouts. What did you make of that moment? Also, why was Peter so engrossed with the view of two aliens making out?

Taylor: Peter was so interested watching some aliens kiss because he’s basically the avatar of the juvenile, male humor the world over. Just as he’s played by Chris Pratt in the movies, the Peter in this issue is immature, willfully stupid, and charming in a manner that is more forced than enchanting. Unfortunately, this type of behavior, which is most often displayed by adolescents and men who refuse to let their college years go, isn’t just a Peter thing. All of the Guardians get into it to an extent.

Rocket laughs, of course, but even the ever-serious Gamora stares in disbelief. I suppose all of these canned reactions are an attempt on Gerry Duggan’s part to infuse this issue with humor, but it falls flat. There’s nothing inherently funny about watching to people make out and it takes a particular immature sense of humor to laugh at such a thing. Even if the joke is that these are “weird aliens” kissing, that goes against the theme of acceptance of all species that makes Guardians of the Galaxy something more than pure fluff.

This episode with the alien make-out session highlights why this issue falls short. As you pointed out Ryan, it’s not a coincidence that a new Guardians series is starting up just as the new movie comes out. I understand the marketing idea behind that, but it feels cheap to launch a series that in so many ways is simply trying to emulate its filmed counterpart. Aside from the similar puerile humor above, this issue is keen on reminding us about the movie in other ways, the most recognizable being the inclusion of Baby Groot.

Yes the world seems obsessed with the the little guy so he gets his requisite cameo here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the inclusion of Baby Groot, but I can’t shake the feeling that his sole purpose in this issue is to look cute and remind people that they can see him in the movie. For some, that might not be an issue, but others might prefer comic series that is charting its own course instead of retreading the plot points hit at in the movie. After all, Marvel movies take most of their source material from comics themselves, so it’s a little upsetting to see that hierarchy upended for the sake of fan favorite.

However much this might be displeasing, Duggan does make an effort to actually explain why Groot is a baby in this issue and why he seems to not be growing. As we find out at the end of the issue, someone is planting other Groots to make what appears to be an army.

It’s far to early to speculate who this mysterious figure may be or the hows and whys concerning their Groot army. Still, I can at least appreciate that Duggan is making and effort to explain the perpetual youth of Groot.

If this issue fails to impress in many regards, it’s certainly not because of the art. Aaron Kuder puts in some great work while fleshing out the galaxy the Guardians inhabit. One thing that the Guardians movies did well is create a sense of a deep universe with a myriad of lifeforms and Kuder adds to mystique in significant ways. In particular, Kuder has a good sense of the grandiose.

When the Grandmaster first reveals himself Kuder makes sure his entrance lives up the character’s name. Among flying orbs of light floats the Grandmaster with ships and plants and weird technology populating the background. Taken as a whole, this is an epic panel that gives a sense of the grandiose and bizarre that even the movies fail to truly convey. Just as with the panel showing the giant space fish above, this one hints at a universe that is much weirder and stranger than we were first led to believe. This type of artwork adds much to the issue and the series as a whole. By establishing early on that anything can happen, Kuder has freed Duggen to basically do whatever the hell he wants in the series.

Whether this series lives up to this promise of being big and bizarre remains to be seen. If it continues to look toward the movies as its source material, then limits on its creativity will be set, possibly to the detriment of the series. However, if Kuder and Duggan really let it all go, as is glimpsed occasionally in this first issue, then it the series could be a fun ride.

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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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4 comments on “All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 1

  1. If any series could justify a Rebirth style approach (naturally, ignoring the racism, sexism and homophobia that can’t be ignored when discussing Rebirth), it is Guardians of the Galaxy. They are a title in a weird place, for a couple of reason.THey are very new, only being created in 2008. And while Taylor is right that generally, the comics drive the movies, Guardians is the major exception. James Gunn turned an elite paramilitary commando squad into a band of pirate and thieves, finding a brand new take while constantly changing the lore of the comics (Pater’s age upon leaving Earth, Peter’s father, the Sovereign, Nebula. Hell, one of Volume 2’s post credit scenes seeds a new Cosmic franchise that we don’t even know what the name is, because things have been changed so much that they can’t use the name they have in the comics). Here, the comics follow the movies. But it also means that the differences are problematic. THe Guardians currently lack a major touchpoint run, as the only run that counts is of an old iteration. And Bendis, for a variety of reasons, never had his run come together enough to work well enough for thepurposes I’m discussing here. Duggan would be fully justified doing a basic run, Rebirthing and following the movies and doing everything that usually would be REALLY, REALLY bad.

    But he does something cleverer. There are two Guardians teams here. One real, one a ghost. The Guardians we read, and that ‘iconic’ version that successfully reconciles the movies and the comics, defined by their absence. To me, the comic truly came together, became something I was unsure about to something I loved, at the contemplative ending. Rosket walking through the ship, discussing how everything is wrong. Gamora is closed off and keeping secrets. Drax is suddenly a pacifist. Groot can’t regrow. Rocket is being hunted. Peter is the one who is the most put together. THis feels like a run that can give the Guardians the definition they are struggling with, while taking things in new directions.

    To use Baby Groot as an example, both because it is the one we learn the most about, and the one where the nature of this book becomes very clear. Yeah, the movie influence is clear, and had me nervous before reading. But that ignores all the ways it is different to the movies. Like how in the first Guardians, Groot died. He actually died. Dead as a doornail. The Groot in Volume 2 isn’t the same Groot as the first movie. It is Groot’s son. ANother example of the ways that Gunn has changed things. Duggan is taking the same premise, but using the comic rules to find a new direction, with its own interesting story. A Groot who has his strength stolen from him, and a mystery around that.

    This books find the careful balance between defining a franchise that really needs defining in the comics, and finding the new take, through some really clever stuff. It understands that a key idea has to be mixing the hero side with the crook side, so we get a hiest for a danngerous superweapon. We get the mix between small people armed with only guns and giant Cosmic sights. We get all teh pieces the comic Guardians need to truly become their own franchise, now that we have abandoned the initial premise. But it is similtaenously subverted to make sure we aren’t jsut copying the movie as closely as we can, and we are exploring new and interesting directions. TO be able to build the foundation and subvert it at the same time is honestly impressive. All the while rooting it inthe theme that Gunn developed around awkward outsiders and nontraditional families etc. THat’s what stuck out for me.

    Yeah, not all the comedy hit. The ‘Guardians run into a couple inappropriately having sex at the wrong time’ joke is clishe, and doing any joke around Peter’s music fails because comics are not an auditory medium and therefore we should stop doing that. But honestly, I’m happy. THis is the book that Guardians need

  2. By the way, what’should everyone’s opinion of Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2, now that it is out in America

    • I’ve seen it three times already, if that tells you anything.

      Seriously though, I bawled at the end of my first viewing. I don’t know if this one is quite as funny as the first (or maybe that’s inaccurate — I probably laughed just as much as the first, but I don’t think it has as many memorable lines), but it’s got so much more heart and a much better villain. And I adore the Gamora/Nebula storyline. I feel like this one has a much better handle on the women in general: Gamora’s moment wielding the ship’s turret guns solo is the spotlight moment she desperately needed in the first film, where I wasn’t sure whether she actually even had super strength or not. And I’m so glad they fully embraced Drax as the comic relief.

      Also, I’ve had to explain to SO MANY PEOPLE who Adam Warlock is this week

      • Seen it twice. And yeah, it is a movie to cry to.

        On the humour side, it is definitely aiming for a different style of comedy (in fact, I read a guy who lives in Hong Kong discuss how he feels that the comedy has been changed to be more international, so you have a different sort of humour. It is hard not to think that Vol 2 is missing something that Vol 1 had, because it is. It just also has a lot of different jokes that Guardians 1 wouldn’t have done. Especially with Drax.

        But even if it isn’t as funny, that doesn’t matter. Because you are too busy crying. That final half an hour is just fighting through the tears. Yondu and Nebula are fighting for the position of best character in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, they are so amazing.

        After the first movie being disappointing with its approach to Gamora, it was fantastic to see Gamora and Nebula get such powerful stuff (I think the reason Gamora can lift the turret is that she has cybernetic enhancements. Not to Nebula’s level, but according to the line up scene in the first movie, she has a cybernetic skeleton). Just wish Mantis got more time. I think she was a great character – so wonderfully easy to empathise with. But never got time to show off. Her job in the climax was to crouch down and touch the ground. And the story about Drax finding a surrogate daughter in Mantis gets a bit backgrounded but all the other major plotlines.

        And yeah, the villain is much better. I didn’t say much about him in my first post, because of spoilers. But Ego is one of, if not the, best Marvel villain. Kurt Russel’s performance is amazing, in that he actually gets you loving him so much that it ends up being a shock that he’s evil. When he reveals that he is the bad guy, it actually hurts. And as a villain, he’s perfect. Ego as the guy who is totally ego, who can’t get over himself, is the perfect foil for Peter, Gamora, Rocket and Drax’s arcs all about getting over themselves and seeing what is right in front of them (a father, a sister, a family and a daughter respectively)

        And then there is Yondu. Sensational. ‘I’m Mary Poppins, y’all’. I love how Gunn ended the Peter’s father stuff with Yondu. Beautiful. So is Nebula. “I wanted a sister’. She was throughout a compelling wild card, shocking us with deep character from what was a generic henchmen last movie. Out of all the Marvel movies, no movie did a better job at building Thanos for Infinity War. Because Nebula’s story of abuse is that powerful. I really hope she gets to be important in Infinity War. She needs to be. Yondu and Nebula are pitch perfect throughout. I truly love them. Two best characters, and I can talk about them

        Marvel had a disappointing year with their movies last year. But Guardians was so powerful, so emotional, that it may be my favourite. Honestly, Guardians will go down as their best trilogy, if Gunn can keep up the consistency.

        And yeah, I had to explain who Adam Warlock is as well. Not actually a big fan of him, and a bit nervous. The stuff I’ve read (mostly his stuff in Guardians of the Galaxy) made him feel like a generic cosmic guy. A guy who was more important than interesting. And whose powers were vague and ill defined. Hope they pull him off.

        But the really fun one to explain was Stallone. That was crazy. All signs suggest that he is getting his own movie. What would it even be called? Those characters are so different to their original comics self that they can’t be called the Guardians 3000. Because they aren’t Guardians, nor are they in the year 3000. Ravagers? I dunno, but that amazing cast is going to be so much fun. Space Opera Expendables, but good

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