Now that everyone has gotten a good look at Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, many interested parties are asking the same question: Where do you get started if you want to learn more? This isn’t the simplest question to answer as there’s a lot of Guardians material vying for your attention (with more to come as August draws closer). This week the Countdown is going to break it down for you with what books to read, which ones to ignore, and how to get your Guardians fix before opening day.
Marvel NOW Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel would like you to jump in with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers. This collection contains the first issues of its current monthly series and was conceptualized after the movie was announced. What this means for readers is that there’s not a lot of extraneous baggage from other comics interfering with what’s going on here. Marvel wants people interested in the film to come aboard. You’ll find out the origin story of the team’s leader, Starlord, and you’ll see how Iron Man gets involved with the team against alien savages the Badoon. It’s a fairly welcoming setup.
This initial collection of the 2013 relaunch is written by Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man) with art by Steve McNiven (Civil War) and others. It’s available digitally, for e-readers or through Comixology, as well as hardcover and softcover editions. You can also purchase digital versions of the issues that make up this arc individually through Comixology as well.
If you want to go back to where this team started, that’s when things become a little more complicated. To start, let’s take the team lineup as it appears in the movie (Starlord, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Drax and Groot). The seeds for this roster, assembled from existing Marvel heroes from the fringes of the cosmos, grew out of a multi-part space opera called Annihilation. In Annihilation, the superhero Nova assembles a group that includes Starlord, Drax, Gamora, Ronan the Accuser and others to stop Annihilus (a recognizable foe from Fantastic Four’s rogues gallery) from destroying whole portions of the universe with his “annihilation wave.”
Anticipating renewed interest, Marvel will publish a huge 880-page Annihilation Omnibus in May 2014 with all of the material that ended up telling the epic story (the original three-volume Annihilation collection is out of print). If you’re looking for individual issues, whether digital or in print, the full story of Annihilation was told across the following comics:
Drax the Destroyer: Earthfall #1-4
Annihilation Prologue #1
Annihilation: Nova #1-4
Annihilation: Silver Surfer #1-4
Annihilation: Super Skrull #1-4
Annihilation: Ronan #1-4
Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #1-2
The fallout from the best-selling cosmic crossover included a new monthly series for Nova and an inevitable sequel. It’s the sequel, Annihilation: Conquest, that actually solidifies the new Guardians team into something official. In Annihilation: Conquest, Nova, Starlord, and others do their part to stop the Kree Empire from being subjugated by the Phalanx -- a techno-organic hive-mind virus. When Annihilation: Conquest ends, Starlord makes a formal offer to some of his allies to become a more proactive force against cosmic threats in the Marvel U.
These Annihilation: Conquest books are out of print as well, but can easily be found digitally or in specialty shops:
Annihilation: Conquest Prologue #1
Nova - Annihilation: Conquest #4-7
Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord #1-4
Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith #1-4
Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar #1-4
Annihilation: Conquest #1-6
That’s a lot of comics to read just to get into one team. Honestly, you could just tackle Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord #1-4 as a prologue to the eventual Guardians series that was borne from all of this Annihilation, but I didn’t and I’ve been following the team just fine. Don’t feel overwhelmed!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Legacy
I started with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Legacy, collecting the first six issues of the monthly from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with art by Paul Pelletier. It’s the series that spins out of Annihilation: Conquest and it’s the book that got Marvel interested in making a movie of these guys in the first place. The team lineup differs slightly from the one in the film (no Warlock, sadly) but it establishes them as rowdy adventurers somewhat in the vein of Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
There are four out-of-print volumes collecting this 25-issue series, but it’s still easy to find digitally. Marvel is reprinting this run the week that the film opens (Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Vol. 1), to capitalize on the hype. If there’s one significant knock against this run, it’s that it’s too often saddled with crossover participation (Secret Invasion, War of Kings) that leads it off into tagents that supplement other comics.
The Guardians of the Galaxy on TV
The simplest way to introduce yourself to the team is to fire up Netflix and watch the season two episode of Ultimate Spider-Man titled “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It requires no backstory, no giant stack of crossovers, nor any hunting down of out-of-print material. Spidey’s pal Nova needs Spider-Man’s help against the Chitauri and he introduces him to the Guardians. You get a feel for all of the characters, their world, and how they fit within the larger Marvel universe.
If it’s the movie you’re interested in, I wouldn’t even bother digging into the team that bore the Guardians name originally. That’s not a knock against their adventures, but they’re mostly irrelevant to the film. These freedom fighters from the future first popped up in 1969, had a popular run on their own title in the 1990s, but really have no connection to the new team other than the name (the current Guardians just liked the sound of it).
I’d be remiss without mentioning that Marvel has also collected all of the Rocket Raccoon and Groot appearances prior to them ending up in the Guardians team. Rocket mostly popped up in the Hulk’s book though he did have his own four-issue miniseries in the 1980s. Groot is a holdover from Marvel’s old monster comics and in his original incarnation was more of a giant tree monster than a superhero. Rocket Raccoon and Groot: The Complete Collection was published recently with the thought that audiences would be wanting more of these two before the film. They’re right!
Guardians of the Galaxy, a James Gunn film starring Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, opens August 1, 2014. There are 151 days till release.
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