Welcome to So You Want to Read, a series about starting franchise comics, either from the beginning or by my own recommendations. Whenever possible I’m going off of the Trade Paperback/Collected Editions.
In this installment, I’m breaking down the various solo titles and spin-Offs the Guardians have had and helping navigate through those rocky waters, which may just be more confusing than the main series. I have not included Rocket Racoon or Groot’s series, as they’ve had enough to get their own article, and for you long-time fans, I am not forgetting the original Guardians, I’m gonna get to them last. But for now, let’s dive in!
Star-Lord has had appeared in several series over the 30 years before he joined the Guardians. The Peter Quill who appears in these stories is vastly different than the ones who’ve shown up in the movies or newer comics. After his mother is killed by aliens, Peter Quill dedicates his life to getting to space and hunting them down. He gets into NASA and is then fired after being too unstable. Some cosmic schmo named the Master of the Sun offers one human the ability to become the Star-Lord, the representation of a perfect being. So naturally, Peter breaks into NASA and guns down everyone in his way so he can be that person. Taking pity on him, the MoS grants him the power of the Star-Lord and the revelation that revenge won’t fill the void. With that, he decides to be the cosmic protector; Star-Lord.
So yeah, a little different. There’s a lot of weird Sci-Fi stuff like making out with his ship, apparently being the reincarnation of Jesus, and having planet fall in love with him and commit suicide when he leaves. There are a lot of talented people on these books though, Steve Englehart and Carmine Infantino for starters. X-Men Superstars Chris Claremont and John Byrne work together for the first time on Star-Lord. The comics are all interesting, even if they’re not all particularly good.
Every Star-Lord story before 2003 is available in one paperback Star-Lord: Guardian of the Galaxy.
During Bendis’ run on Guardians two solo series were launched at the time of the first movie to capitalize on the success, however, they both turned out to be really solid. Rocket Racoon and the Legendary Star-Lord were two of the most purely enjoyable books at Marvel at the time. I’ll get to Rocket Racoon next time, but under writer Sam Humphries’ pen, Legendary Star-Lord and its two successor series were smart, charming, and sweet. Like actually really sweet. Focusing more on Peter Quill as a character and focusing on his growth and personal relationship with his father, his girlfriend Kitty Pryde, and his distance from Earth, LSL did what a solo series should do. It told stories that could only be told with this character. It explored him in ways, that despite him basically being the main character in Guardians, that book couldn’t.
Also, it was basically a relationship book between Kitty and Peter and was really cute.
Legendary Star-Lord is collected in two volumes Face It, I Rule and Rise of the Black Vortex. And once again the Black Vortex crossover messes up your trade reading. Rise contains the three issues before Black Vortex and the one immediately following it. But once again doesn’t contain the rest of the crossover, which is mostly a Star-Lord story and the first and last chapters, as well as a Guardians Team-Up issue, are written by Humphries making basically part of the series. Once again, those are in the Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Collection. There’s really no good way to get everything without double dipping.
During the Secret Wars event, Legendary was replaced with Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde. While Legendary veered into rom-com, this one crashes full force into it. On Battleworld, the planet made of fragments of alternate universes, Peter Quill has survived the destruction of the multiverse and taken a job as a lounge singer in an attempt to evade the eyes of Emperor Doom. One night, he sees Kitty Pryde, but not his Kitty. This Kitty is an agent for Doom, tracking down artifacts that might disprove Doom’s godhood. Peter reacts in the worst way possible and interrupts her meeting with Gambit the Collector, outing himself as one such anomaly. They end up handcuffed together and using her powers and Peter’s thieving skills, they decide to take down the Collector together and retrieve the artifact she was after, all the while Peter tries to convince her to give him a chance. It was one of my favorite series from Secret Wars and considering how much I loved the entire event that’s saying something.
After Secret Wars, the series was relaunched without the “Legendary” in the title, but the trades had them, so that’s good if you’re a trade reader. Volume 3, First Flight, is an origin story and takes a lot more than you might expect from the original. An 18-year-old, Peter Quill, the janitor at NASA, spends his nights testing flight simulators in attempts to join the space program and find the aliens who killed his mother. After stealing a Kree ship that NASA was attempting to reverse engineer, he launches into space only to be taken in by Yondu Udonta and the Ravagers. After being their janitor for a time, he learns to be a proper space pirate until the NASA crew gets out of our solar system and is captured by the Ravagers. He has to decide to help them or turn them over to the Ravagers, who have the location of his mother’s killers.
The fourth and final (or fifth and final) volume, Out of Orbit, reveals the reason behind Peter and Kitty’s break up as they’re captured by the Collector, who now collects emotions, forces them to relive it. It’s a fun short story, but the rest of the graphic novel is padded by old Collector appearances, which is a little disappointing. Still a solid read.
At this point, Humphries left Marvel and began writing Green Lanterns for DC, which is good and you should read, but there is one Star-Lord book left. Writer Chip Zdarsky (Jughead, Sex Criminals, Howard the Duck) and artist Kris Anka (Captain Marvel, Uncanny X-Men) launched a new series. After the Guardians split up, Peter is stuck on Earth and as the only two people on Earth he knows are Howard the Duck and Kitty, he gets a job as a bartender and has to fulfill court-ordered community service. After bonding with the old man he has for service hours, turns out the old dude is an ex-supervillain and the two of them get involved in a heist. Guest-starring Daredevil and Old Man Logan! It’s a gorgeous book, Anka designs a new uniform for Star-Lord and NAILS it. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s emotional, Zdarksy is on point. Only real problem is it was too short as the series was canceled after six issues and an annual. The whole series is coming out in June as a paperback titled Star-Lord: Grounded.
Written by wrestler CM Punk and comics author Cullen Bunn, Drax’s ongoing series, launched in 2015, has Drax to detective his way and find some missing children, and then use his parenting skills to corral them back home. Meanwhile, he has to deal with assassins, the dragon Fin Fang Foom, and his ex-sidekick Cammi. It’s actually a really fun series. Completely available in two volumes; Galaxy’s Best Detective and Children’s Crusade.
There is also a Drax miniseries collected in Annihilation Volume One. It’s the series that relaunched Marvel Cosmic in addition to making Drax the alien dude we know him as today.
Gamora has only had one series, Gamora: Memento Mori, but it’s written by the co-writer of the first film, Nicole Perlman and that’s pretty cool. Delving into Gamora’s past as the daughter of Thanos, it was announced shortly after the movie but was delayed until last year. It sadly only ran for five issues. The trade is out in July.
There are also two different trades that contain Drax and Gamora’s earliest appearances by Jim Starlin, but I’m saving the Starlin stuff for Infinity War. If you’re interested, those are called Drax: Guardian of the Galaxy and Gamora: Guardian of the Galaxy respectively.
Also available is the Guardians of the Galaxy Solo Omnibus, which contains all of the [Character]:Guardian of the Galaxy trades as well as early Rocket and Groot appearances.
Other Team Stuff:
The last two Team based Guardians series (excluding the original Guardians) is a short, but fun team-up series and mini that only tangentially ties in, but is fun and completists might want to read.
During the Bendis run, a spin-off, Guardians Team-Up was launched. It’s a fun series of mostly one-shots, with the exception of the first two issues, written by Bendis with art by James Lestein and comics legend Art Adams. The two-parter has the Guardians teaming up with the Avengers to take on a Chitari invasion, led by Nebula. It’s a good jump-in point if you’ve only seen the movies. There is also a really good issue by Javier Pulido in which Spider-Man and Star-Lord team up to recover Quill’s Element Gun after it’s stolen by Black Cat. Other highlights include a Pet Avengers team-up (co-written by Andy Lanning), the hilarious pairing of Drax and Ant-Man, and a Groot/Silver Surfer team-up. Collected in Two volumes; Guardians Assemble and Unlikely Story.
During Secret Wars there was a series called The Infinity Gauntlet (not to be confused with the 1991 series of the same name) that featured alternate versions of the Guardians and Thanos but mostly focused on a family trying to stay together in a bug-infested wasteland. The long-lost mother, member of the Nova Corps., returns to the family and grants them powers, but also enlists them in tracking down and protecting the Infinity Stones. The family’s new traveling companion a Titan named Thanos might have over plans for the Stones. The writer of Infinity Gauntlet is now writing the Guardians ongoing series and has hinted elements from it may appear. So maybe check that one out if you’re inclined. It’s completely self-contained and well worth a read.
There’s also a collection called Best Story Ever, but I’m not sure what’s in it. I’ve said, I’ve read almost everything after all.
If you’ve enjoyed this, give me holler, comment with what you liked and how I can improve.
Next time: Rocket and Groot