Gimmick is Given Purpose in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 5

by Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

In general, I’m not big on comic books aligning with their big screen counterparts — that kind of streamlined homogeny I can do without. But let’s be honest here, the Guardians of the Galaxy movie probably made Star-Lord more interesting than he ever was before 2014. In All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 5, Gerry Duggan embraces Peter Quill’s status as swash-buckling space pirate with an affinity for classic Earth tunes.

The “classic rock” vibe of Star-Lord/Guardians is very appealing, but it also has a slight whiff of cashing in on nostalgia. However, in a few caption boxes spread across two panels, Duggan gives a tremendous amount of weight and meaning to Quill’s proclivity for cassette tapes.

There’s something that’s both beautiful and fatalistic about this idea. We all want our cars, computers, phones etc. to last as long as possible — get the most bang for your buck. Quill on the other hand doesn’t see the inevitable decay of his cassette tapes as a nuisance but rather as a natural stage in life’s cycle.

Duggan writes Star-Lord as a soulful music-lover who can sometimes verge on edge of self-awareness. He acknowledges that he never makes “quality deep thoughts” when no one else is around. And while he says he “refuses to live in the past,” he also admits that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do: relive a broadcast tribute to John Lennon shortly after he died.

Thus far, All-New Guardians of the Galaxy has had a very interesting, unconventional narrative approach with a slew of talented artists. This time around he’s paired with Chris Samnee whose classic, pulpy style suits both Quill’s charm and his taste in music. Samnee also does a nice bit of bookending on the first and last pages, showing young Quill floating in the lake listening to tunes and then later floating in zero gravity listening to John Lennon.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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3 comments on “Gimmick is Given Purpose in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 5

  1. This run begun with a simple idea. What if stuff had happened, so that Peter of all people was the one who had everything together? Which is the problem with this issue. Gamora is trapped in the soul stone, Drax is suddenly a pacifist and Groot is tuck in baby form, and it is seemingly Rocket’s fault. There is no solo Peter story to tell, so this issue has no story. The only way it affects the overarching story is foreshadow some future stuff with the Nova Corp (and possibly the Terran Cyborg Virus. Is that a reference to the Phalanx? Ultron and the Phalanx again could be fun).

    Instead, we get a character piece. And it is a fucking amazing character piece. But completely lacking in story. I’ve been frustrated at how the music aspect of Peter has been carried over to the comics, it doesn’t translate well in a medium with no audio. But Duggan has been very clever, and worked out how to address it. In part, by the now expected great, cosmic ideas. This time, it is realistic. And yet, it still strikes our imaginations, like so many others.

    But more importantly, Duggan really leans into the nostalgic aspect to an extreme no one else has, and found meaning in it. Ultimately, that is why the movie works so well, and Duggan finds a new approach that works for comics.
    Like how comics Peter doesn’t have mixtapes. Instead, he is capturing moments of time. He isn’t listening to a set of Lennon songs, but a very specific line up on the radio, bookended by a host discussing the day’s events. Ultimately, Peter is listening to a historical record of key moments of music history. The issue opens with Peter listening to music at the lake in his youth, and that is what he is stealing that youth back by going back to that very specific moment in time. Combine that with Peter’s discussion on the temporary nature of physical media and you have something meditative about life and death. Peter accepts the limited nature of life, yeah seeks to memorialize specific moments, because once those moments are over, they are over. Peter will die. The tape will degrade. And the day that Lennon died will be forgotten. Faced with the unstoppable force of entropy, Peter does what he can to hold on, saving as much as he can.

    I once did a speech about how Peter Quill represents hedonism, because it is a key idea since James Gunn took over that was is so key to Peter’s identity, what Peter fights for, is having the opportunity to dance. That these moments of pop culture are important because pop culture has value. That nothing is more meaningful than enjoying the moment with a good song, or a good comic, or anything gives you joy, no matter how vapid it is. So it is fitting that Peter does everything he can to save those moments of pop culture. Because, to Peter, what can be more important to fight fight that the moment the world united to mourn the singer they loved so much? Why is he guarding the galaxy, if not to protect those moments?

    While, there is one thing more important. The true, key page is the spread of all his tapes. This is amazing work by both Duggan and Samnee (isn’t it great to have Samnee away from Mark Waid? He deserves more scripts like this). Duggan puts the effort into each tape, while Samnee perfectly depicts every aspect of each individual cassette case, so that we understand each one. And it is brilliant. There is a tape specific to each of the important people in Peter’s life. Yondu, Richard Rider, Drax, Rocket and Groot, Gamora (and I think the bottom one is supposed to be Kitty. The art isn’t immediately clear, but the early Bendis era, surprisingly cool Star Lord design suggests Kitty). And tapes for specific, important times. Awesome Mix Volume 1 reflects Peter’s travels in space, while the DNA tape reflects the early days of the Guardians of the Galaxy (as written by… DNA).

    If there is one thing Peter would rather fight for than the opportunity to come together through a shared joy of art, it is this. The opportunity for art to connect us to the people we care about most, the times that mattered the most, no matter where in the galaxy we are. Beautiful

    • Wow, this issue really grew on me as I thought more about it. At first, I was disappointed that half of it wasn’t as actual story, butnthenother half was so meditative and beautiful that, over time, I fell in love with it.

      Also, on the point about Peter being more interesting than he ever was after 2014 is something I kind of disagree with. In the movies, Peter Quill is one of the best, most complex and interesting characters of the entire greater cinematic universe. And movie Peter Quill is the most interesting version of Peter Quill there is. But I think comics Peter Quill has been seriously hurt by movie Peter Quill. James Gunn’s approach to the movies, unlike a lot of the rest of the MCU, is very willing to play very loose very the original franchise. And because of this, trying to apply Gunn’s Peter Quill to comics doesn’t work. You need that combination of cancer and abduction by Yondu for this version of Peter to work, and the comics don’t have that (And their attempts to reconcile the two versions doesn’t change the fact that Yondu finding Peter as an adult doesn’t work anywhere near as well). So instead, all of the superficial elements have been taken, instead of the stuff that makes movie Peter interesting. Which is especially bad when one to those is a love of music. In a medium without sound.

      Peter has never been more interesting than movie Peter. But the old ‘I’ve always got a joke on my tongue and a cosmic level of responsibility because it’s the only way I can survive after the things I’ve seen and the mistakes I’ve made, and I’m going to juggle cosmic forces despite the fact that the deck stacked against me because it is the only thing I can do’ Peter is more interesting to me than the bastardised version of the movie Peter that the current comics used, made up of the superficial elements of the movie.

      On the other hand, if more issues can write Comics Peter like this, I will happily change my mind

    • Yeah, that double page spread of the tapes is great. Packed with so many jokes! I loved the “Skankin mix, volume 1” tape the best. Star-Lord is a rudeboy!

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