Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't really read much of what Marvel or DC put out anymore. One title that's always been an exception is the Guardians of the Galaxy. I've been a huge fan of every team that has carried the name Guardians of the Galaxy. Whether it's the classic Guardians of Earth 619 who fought to liberate the Galaxy from the evil Badoon Empire in an alternate future, the re-imagined Guardians brought from the genius writing of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (or DnA for short), or the current cosmic team that is involved more with the Earth based heroes, but still finding time for some epic space adventures, I can't get enough.
I am well aware that there are not many die hard fans of the Guardians like myself out there. With the movie hype, the popularity boom for the cosmic anti-heroes has been great, but there's still a good chance that when you hear that Star-Lord is the leading man saving the day this time around, you might be thinking:
Well I'm here to help by recommending what I believe will be essential reading for those that would like to know more about this new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
First up is...
Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord
This is the book that started what would become the re-imagining of the new Guardians of the Galaxy. While the name Guardians of the Galaxy is never actually used in this book, this is where the seed was planted, that grew into what you will be seeing on the silver screen in a few short weeks.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Annihilation events, I'll give a brief description of what you can expect. DnA took it upon themselves to resurrect the forgotten has-beens of the Cosmic Marvel Universe from D listers, and make them just as important as A listers. They did this with a formula for putting out events, that in my opinion reads better then almost every other event in Marvel history.
Their formula was based upon creating Universe ending threats that would make up the meat of the main book. They would then surround these events with tie-in issues to re-introduce characters who will eventually band together for the finale. The difference between the tie-in issues for Annihilation events then with other Marvel events, is that (with the exception of Nova), none of the tie-ins were current on-going titles. These titles were all specifically created for the event. This was smart, because the stories didn't feel forced into the event, and each issue was designed with the sole purpose of bringing another important piece of the puzzle to the conclusion.
Anyways, one of these tie-ins was Star-Lord. Star-Lord, who was the strategic brains and second in command to Nova behind the original Annihilation Wave rebellion, is asked by Ronan of the Kree to set up a preventive security measure for Hala - the Kree home planet. Star-Lord proposed that planets needed to be pro-active for the next threat, and he designed a security counter-measure, that would essentially seal off the entire planet from the rest of the galaxy with a force-field preventing the type of genocide seen in the Annihilation Wave
His security system ultimately back-fires, when it becomes infected with the Phalanx Virus, that takes over the entire planet of Hala in a matter of minutes. After this disaster, Star-Lord is arrested for his crimes of dooming the Kree home-world. He is given a chance to fight for his freedom, by saving the Kree from the Phalanx. He is joined with several other prisoners, including what would become the original Guardians of the Galaxy of the 616 universe. These characters include Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Mantis, and Bug, along with a few others.
This story has a great surprise villain, and an epic finale that leads right into:
The Guadians of the Galaxy (2008)
Leading right off from where the Annihilation Conquest event left off, Peter Quill (Star-Lord), with the encouragement from Nova, decides to form a pro-active team to prevent disasters like the two Annihilation events from ever happening again.
One of his first recruits was Adam Warlock. Warlock, who uses his cosmic powers and magical abilities, has sensed fissures being ripped in the very fabrics of the Marvel Universe. The Guardians become a strike team that hits hard and fast, while Warlock uses his cosmic mojo to close up these fissures before they can cause havoc in the galaxy.
This is the volume that will introduce you to what appears to be the look and feel of the direction of the Cinematic Guardians of the Galaxy. If you watch the trailers closely, you can even see a giant, almost robotic looking head floating in the cosmos.
In the Guardians of the Galaxy 2008 volume, this floating head is known as Knowhere. It is the decapitated head of a long dead Celestial. This is where the Guardians set up there home-base from where they stage all of their missions. Here's hoping we see Cosmo running security. I'm not going to spoil the surprise of who Cosmo is or why I love that character, because it is something that needs to be experienced by reading this comic.
If you're a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, or Thanos, then this is a must read. Not only does this issue feature the Guardians of the Galaxy heavily, but it sets up the future of the series still going on currently, and even a majority of the events that have happened in the past year for the entire Marvel Universe still.
I'm not going to give much of a description to this book, because of the large amount of spoilers to the previously mentioned issues that would be in any plot lines I would discuss, so all I'll say is that if you have ever been a fan of cosmic stories, read this now! This volume will likely have a substantial influence on the plot-lines of the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it's a must read. It's also just a great all around story with some amazing artwork.
Other Volumes I Recommend
If the three volumes I mentioned above are the "Meat" of the expected Cinematic Universe, the following titles I recommend should be considered the "Special Sauce". These aren't necessary, but it's a great way to get a look at a few origins of the characters you'll see on screen, and get a little more in depth with who they really are.
Rocket Raccoon and Groot: The Complete Collection
This is a great way to learn how the two biggest fan-favorite characters of the Guardians came to be who they are today. They were much different back in their bronze age appearances. Rocket lives on a planet of "loonies", and Groot not only can say more then just "I am Groot!", he barely shuts up. The dialogue might feel a little dated, but if you can get past that, you'll find a couple of great stories in here.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Infinite Comics
These are digital exclusive motion comics through Comixology or the Marvel app. Each title features a different solo story from Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. The art and colors are great, and the motion really does enhance the reading experience in my opinion. This might be a bit much for me if it was too many issues, but for four titles priced to sell, you can't go wrong. It also gives some great insight to what makes these four characters tick.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrows Avengers Vol 1 & 2
This features the less popular Guardains of the 619 universe. These are the characters who started it all. Without them, there wouldn't be the team there is today and ultimately there would be not be a movie. You shouldn't expect to see any of these characters in the movie, but they will always hold a nostalgic place for me. The writing may be a bit dated, but I think it holds up with the times better then most comics of this age. You will also get to see a lot of Yondu, the alien archer, who has been teased for making an appearance in the movie.