Guardians of the Galaxy: Must-Reads
Back Issue BenI’ve covered my overwhelming adoration for the Guardians of the Galaxy in much greater detail before, but our illustrious editor, cheapskate taskmaster that he is, charged me with providing a more concise guide for your comic book purchasing benefit. It makes sense, this request, but it fails to take into account my deep and unyielding love for all things Guardians of the Galaxy (modern version). It’s like asking to recommend which of my children should be loved more than the other. It’s like making me choose which limb I need the least. It’s like making me erase all but one Deftones record. Alas, the task will be done, and with my usual level of minimal research and attention to detail.
I considered accessibility when conjuring the following list, but that’s going to be a tough draw when it comes to these specific characters. While I feel anybody can pick up these comics and enjoy them, there will are aspects of each that are at least enhanced by knowledge of past storylines. But we’re splitting hairs here, all of them will have a talking raccoon and a talking tree in them.
In no particular order:
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Volume 3) by Brian Michael Bendis and various
I feel like the current ongoing Guardians of the Galaxy series is probably going to be your most mainstream representation of the team. It’s been subject to an unstable rotation of artists, which may be a detriment for some, but considering the artists that have worked on the book are some of my favorites, it is just fine with me. (Seriously, Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli, Francesco Francavilla, with some help from Olivier Coipel and Valerio Schiti. There’s not an artist in that group that isn’t a favorite of mine.) Bendis has his detractors, but I for the most part enjoy his books, and you can’t say he doesn’t come up with some entertaining ideas. The fourth issue alone is probably one of the best standalone Guardians of the Galaxy issues I’ve ever read. Iron Man fans will enjoy Tony Stark along for the ride at the beginning of the series, and X-Men fans will definitely want to check out the crossover with All New X-Men, The Trial of Jean Grey.
As far as accessibility goes, I think most readers unfamiliar with Angela will know enough from the story to be able to read and enjoy the comics, but to truly understand the full scope of the character and what she represents will require knowing about Spawn, the court battle for the rights of the character, and the end of Age of Ultron. Again, all background stuff that I don’t think is truly essential, but could be a roadblock for some. To me it’s all worth it thanks to the budding friendship between Angela and Gamora, which has been lots of fun.
THE THANOS IMPERATIVE by Abnett & Lanning and Miguel Sepulveda
An excellent mini-series that served as pretty much a capper for the ongoing cosmic storylines that began with Annihilation. Thanos is back and even more unstoppable, and the Guardians are faced with teaming up with him against a universe of familiar opponents attacking from an alternate dimension called the Cancerverse. Many important characters are killed in the battle to save the Marvel universe. The climax between Nova, Starlord, and Thanos is one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
Accessibility might be a bit of an issue with this one, as it is basically the endgame for the past 4-5 years worth of stories. Again, it’s all subjective because it’s enjoyable enough as its own story to be entertaining, but it’s even more so after you’ve spent all that time with the characters before this.
DRAX THE DESTROYER by Keith Giffen and Mitch Breitweiser
This was the mini-series that started it all for the modern reinvention of the cosmic side of the Marvel universe. The first, and best, tie-in to the upcoming Annihilation event, which wasn’t even announced until the final page of the final issue of this series. Giffen was able to take a character I hadn’t even head of, and revamp him into being a character I would count as a favorite over the span of four issues. His smart-mouthed human sidekick Cammi quickly became a favorite as well before eventually disappearing, which made her eventual reappearance in Avengers Arena all the more exciting. A great story, and if you’re able to make the investment both in time and money for Guardians of the Galaxy, this is the place to start.
ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST – STARLORD by Keith Giffen and Timothy Green II
While characters like Starlord and Drax got their reintroduction during the first Annihilation event, the modern version of the Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t truly begin to form until the mini-series tying into Annihilation: Conquest. Here you see previously obscure characters like Mantis, Groot, Bug, and Rocket Raccoon get the fantastic reintroductions that would make them fan favorites. Starlord would be stripped back to basics as well, returning the character to his roots (and no stupid cybernetic implants).
ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST by Abnett & Lanning and Tom Raney
The cosmic event mini-series that would set Adam Warlock and a nascent Guardians of the Galaxy, against Ultron and his army of Phalanx machines for the fate of the entire universe. If I really need to type anything else to sell this one, these books really probably aren’t for you.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Volume 2) by Abnett & Lanning and various
This series spun out of Annihilation: Conquest and combined all the best characters from the preceeding years of stories into one exciting team. The stories were consistently entertaining from the beginning of the series to the end, so much so that I can’t really pick any single arc out of the bunch. The true strength of the series is the interactions between Starlord, Gamora, Rocket Racoon, Groot, Mantis, Bug, Adam Warlock, Drax, and all the others, which makes it hard to differentiate any one storyline. If it can be a detriment for there to be too many good comics, there you have it.
Accessibility might suffer a little bit by the heavy use of the original incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a team of heroes from the future that would occasionally travel back in time and team-up with heroes from the modern day. While it was clever of Abnett & Lanning to integrate the characters the way they did, for anyone that isn’t familiar with the first version of the team, it won’t mean as much as it does to those that are familiar.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Volume 1) by Jim Valentino
Speaking of, our illustrious editor Duy Tano will try and recommend that you read the first ongoing series of the original version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but you should not listen to him. You should never, ever listen to him when it comes to his ‘90s Silver Surfer and Guardians of the Galaxy mania.
That about covers it. While I’d like to recommend books like Annihilation and Nova, they are really slight on the Guardians of the Galaxy relevance. Starlord, Gamora, and Drax play roles in Annihilation, and the story itself is one of the best of the entire cosmic run, but if you’re in it mostly for Rocket Raccoon and Groot, then they are not in it at all. My full recommendation for those that can afford it, is to start with Drax and the Annihilation tie-ins, to Annihilation, to Annihilation: Conquest and all it’s tie-ins, to Guardians of the Galaxy (Volume 2), The Thanos Imperative, and then to Avengers Assemble (by Bendis and Mark Bagley) which revived the Guardians of the Galaxy for the eventual third volume of their own series.
That’s quite a commitment, but if you’re invested in reading good comics, than you can’t really go wrong with that stack of books.
And remember, never ever read ‘90s Guardians of the Galaxy. The first villain they fight is named Taserface.