I’m not sure if you’ve heard this, but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is coming to theaters. I’d be amazed if anyone has managed to avoid the seeming deluge of marketing surrounding the film. It feels like there have been at least 20 trailers and television spots. But, they’re effective. The ragtag group of outlaws who act heroically seem so entertaining and fun that I wanted to dive into their comic book beginnings. As it turns out, that wasn’t so straightforward.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Any superhero or villain group in comics has changed members over the years, and the Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t an exception. A brief look through their history shows a confusing amount of shuffling around dating back to their introduction in 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes #18. In order to get more in line with the group planned for the upcoming film – Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, and Gamora – I skipped way ahead. A friend (and editor of this site, Scott Tipton) recommended starting my Guardians exploration with the most recent run by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, and Sara Pichelli.
Accessible jumping on points make me happy, and the first trade did a pretty fine job of setting up the universe and characters. The motivations for the members of the team being there weren’t immediately apparent, but the Tomorrow’s Avengers short stories in the back filled in the gaps. Actually, those pages did a surprisingly wonderful job at showing a lot of personality with few words. I’m impressed with how much emotion the art conveys with a character like Groot who only repeats the same phrase. Groot was the original Hodor.
Back to the Cosmic Avengers story, it started at the beginning – as in the way back beginning, with Star-Lord’s origin. Peter Quill is the son of a human mother and a Spartax father. Quill has been around the Marvel universe since 1976 so I was surprised to later learn that his origin story hadn’t been retold a million times as has happened with nearly every other comic book character I’ve read. I realize Star-Lord isn’t on the scale of Captain America or Spider-Man, but that doesn’t always matter.
Quill didn’t know the identity of his father until his mother was killed by the Badoon when he was ten years old. It turns out that the kid was next in line for the Spartax throne and the Badoon didn’t want him to rule. Anger over how his father abandoned his mother and him on Earth and his mother’s death, drove Quill to do everything possible to get off the planet. He joined NASA. He was determined and made it his mission to make sure the Badoon and other aliens stay away from Earth, and the fellow Guardians help him.
It’s not an unfamiliar story: an everyday guy takes a horrible thing that happened to him and channels his anger into something worthy. However, it would have been all too easy for him to take the path of revenge. He strikes me as the type who would absolutely exact retribution if the opportunity arose (and it does), but I don’t get the impression he would seek it out if it at all affected Earth.
While he and the other members of the Guardians of the Galaxy seem to walk a fine line in the realm of chaotic good, they don’t seem like the outlaws that the movie trailers paint them to be. They disobey the law, but it’s usually for a decent reason. At least, that’s the way it is in this series. Quill’s actions set the tone for the group. He doesn’t obey all rules and regulations without question but instead follows a mix of a personal code and what is right for the greatest number of people. I would sleep better knowing him and the rest of the gang have our backs.