So You Want to Read… Guardians of the Galaxy Part One: ANNIHILATION! The Abnett and Lanning Era

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 rapidly approaching I figured it was high time to write another reading guide, this time focused on the cosmic misfits. Then as I remembered that I’ve read almost everything they’ve been in, I decided that I’d write a complete guide. This is the first in a series of Guardians related SYWTR; each covering a different era of the space-faring super-team.

After writer/artist Jim Starlin left Marvel, their space comics (referred to as “cosmic” comics by fans) kind of sputtered out. In the fall of 2005, Marvel relaunched the “universal” part of the Marvel universe with several miniseries under the banner Annihilation. Writers Dan Abnet and Andy Lanning (known collectively as DnA), along with Keith Giffen, were the core architects of the series. The storyline was massively successful and led to a sequel. The sequel, in turn, led to the formation of the modern day Guardians of the Galaxy. This is the era that most directly influenced the movie, and if you don’t feel like reading everything, there’s several good jumping on points. This article provides a reading order for their series. It might seem a bit daunting, what with the amount of series involved, but that’s what this whole thing is here for.

Annihilation:

Annihilus, the warlord king of the alternate dimension, the Negative Zone launches an attack into the positive matter universe. His forces destroy the galactic peacekeepers, the Nova Corps, save for human member Richard Rider. The Annihilation Wave ravages the galaxy, conquering all for Annhilus. The only hope is a ragtag resistance group including Rider, Ronan the Accuser, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, and the former Heralds of the world-devouring Galactus, who is enslaved as the Wave’s power source. But first, they have to survive long enough to meet each other.

The story takes place in several miniseries arranging the players and is resolved in the main series, but the three paperback collections now available collect them in chronological order, as well as the preceding Drax the Destroyer miniseries. Annihilation is a really great story with massive scope, great character work, and sets up the new cosmic order. It has most of the characters you’d expect from a pre-Guardians series. You really only need background on who the Silver Surfer is, otherwise completely accessible.

(Also of note Thanos issues 7-12, are not part of Annihilation or included in the collection, but introduces Star-Lord to the Marvel Universe proper. Not necessary reading.)

Available in three paperbacks or a hardcover omnibus (out of print).
Also available as three volumes digitally and on Marvel Unlimited.

Annihilation Conquest:

The sequel to Annihilation, the galaxy is recovering from the Annihilation Wave, but after Quill and Ronan broker a peace treaty, the technological race, the Phalanx attack and start assimilating the Kree empire and then the Galaxy. Bending beings to their will, the Galaxy’s heroes have to free the universe from being mindless drones and drive back the Phalanx’s leader-Ultron.

This series introduces a proto-Guardians team in Star-Lord’s suicide squad. Assigned a regiment as part of the Kree Military resistance, the team consists of Quill, Mantis, Captain Universe, Deathbird, Rocket Raccoon, King Groot of Planet X. All of the members except two will join the Guardians during their ongoing series.
Conquest reads pretty well without having read the prior series. You will miss some character stuff, but the core story works well if you just want to jump on here and see the beginning of the Guardians.

Available as two (out of print) paperbacks and an omnibus that might still be in print.
Also available as two digital volumes and on Marvel Unlimited.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008-2010):

Abnett and Lanning, now without Giffen, take the name of super-hero team that readers had long since forgotten and created something new with it. Star-Lord. Rocket. Groot. Drax. Gamora. Phyla-Vell. Adam Warlock. Aided by telepathic Cosmo the Russian space dog, they close dimensional rifts in the universe, heretical space religions, as well as any other threats to existence itself. After saving future hero Vance Astro from one of the rifts, they take the name of his team, The Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re caught in between a shifting future timeline, a War of Kings and the eternal battle between the concepts life and death. It’s great stuff that’s really accessible to new readers despite the sci-fi rigamarole and makes great use of Marvel history without being impenetrable. Also worth noting is that several parts of the series take place during the War of Kings crossover. You don’t need to read it, context clues will guide you through, but it will provide background. Also, it’s pretty good.

Available in two paperbacks and an omnibus.
Also available as four digital volumes and on Marvel Unlimited.

The Thanos Imperative:

In the final issues of Guardians of the Galaxy, Adam Magus, a corrupted Guardian attempts to defeat Death itself. Death has other plans and after its avatar, Phyla-Vell dies, it resurrects Thanos as its new avatar. Thanos defeats the Magus, but events in War of Kings and Nova open a breach to the Cancerverse. There, Life had won and the was no more Death. For anything. A nightmarish realm full of corrupted Avengers, The Guardians, Nova, and Thanos enter the undying universe to destroy it before it spreads to ours.

This marks the end of the Abnett/Lanning Guardians run as well as their run on Nova. It’s a fantastic climax to the characters’ stories (at least by the authors). Characters from these books would continue on in Annihilators, a series about the cosmic protectorate filling the void left by the disbanded Guardians.

Available in paperback as well as digitally and on Marvel Unlimited.

Further Suggested Reading:
Nova:

Although technically never a member of the Guardians, Nova is their closest ally during this era and a personal friend to Quill, as well as lover to Gamora. It was the flagship book of the Abnett/Lanning era and has some of their best cosmic stories. Well worth the read if you’re starting from Annihilation or Conquest. If not, you can skip it, but you’d be missing out.

War of Kings:

The Inhumans are now the rulers of the Kree Empire and they’re attacked by Vulcan, mad emperor of the Shiar Empire. A galactic war breaks out as the Starjammers, led by Vulcan’s brother Havoc (of the X-Men), attempt to reinstate Lillandra as the head of the empire. The Guardians show up briefly, but their part is mostly covered in their own series. It’s solid space politics and I do so love my space politics. Highly recommended if it’s your thing or you’re confused by the Guardians tie-in.

Annihilators:

I have not actually read this, except for the Rocket and Groot backups, but essentially it’s a team of cosmic heavy hitters formed to take down powerful cosmic threats. Ronan, Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, Gladiator. I keep meaning to read it, but every time I do, I just reread Thanos Imperative.

I’m really hoping that sometime in between Guardians 2 and Avengers 4 Marvel will rerelease all of this stuff in affordable paperbacks. Next time is the just concluded Brian Michael Bendis era, and boy, is there a lot of it.

So You Want To Read…Ghostbusters

Welcome to So You Want to Read, a new series about where to start reading franchise comics, either from the beginning or by my own recommendations. Whenever possible I’m going off of the Trade Paperback/Collected Editions. This is not a recap series, but there will be short descriptions for some of the books if deemed necessary to the rest of the franchise.

We’re starting with Ghostbusters as the eve of the new movie approaches.

1. The Source Material

The Movies-Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II-Classics, both of them, albeit of different quality. Make sure you have seen these before you plunge into the comics. If you haven’t seen them, shame on you. Why are you even here? Go watch them and come back.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009)-Written by Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis and starring the cast of the movies, this game happens before the comic series. It’s very good. The events of the game are referenced and the player character, The Rookie, shows up in the comic. May be hard to find nowadays and is by no means essential to enjoying the comics.

2. The IDW Ongoing Comics by Erick Burnham and Dan Shoeing

Erik Burnham and Dan Shoeing have collaborated on almost every issue of publisher IDW’s Ghostbusters ongoing series and the related spinoff and miniseries. Together they are a creative team to be reckoned with. Burnham has a distinctive writing voice, is able to synthesize the actors perfectly. Shoeing has a cartoony, expressive style well fit to the world of the Ghostbusters and is able to remind you of the actors without ever just drawing them. He’s also adaptable and during scenes in other worlds, changes to fit their art style. Cool stuff. Other artists including Tristan Jones also contribute.

The easiest place to start with the main IDW Ghostbusters comics is Volume One. Could’ve figured that one out right? The paperbacks are pretty linear from Volumes One to Nine. Those Volumes are also available in two hardcovers; Total Containment (Vols 1-4) and Mass Hysteria (5-9). The series starts up a few years after the movies and more directly after the game, The ‘Busters face Gozer once more, battle a new rival ghost hunting group, go on a road trip, get replaced and face the return of some old friends.

After that is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters crossover (co-written by Tom Waltz), available in paperback. Actually part of the ongoing Ghostbusters series and a lot of fun, 100% would suggest.

Next up is Ghostbusters: Get Real, wherein the Real Ghostbusters from the cartoon of the same name meet the “Real Ghostbusters” of the movies/comics.

Get Real is followed by a single issue, Ghostbusters Annual 2015. The annual sees the team facing off against the Sandman as well as some short stories. This is not available in paperback, but your local comic shop may have a copy. Also available digitally on Comixology.

The next series, Ghostbusters International, picks up after Get Real and the Annual and as the name implies, the Ghostbusters go international. The first paperback comes out this month. It’s very fun.

3.Other IDW Comics

Before publishing the current ongoing series IDW published a few miniseries. These are The Other Side by Keith Champagne (W) and Tom Nguyen (A), Displaced Aggression by Scott Lobdell (W) and Ilias Kyriazis (A), and Haunted Holidays by Various. I have not read any of these so I can’t suggest any of them. I can say I’m not a fan of Lobdell, but that’s neither here nor there. Also Available is Ghostbusters Omnibus that collects all three of the series.

There are also two other Ghostbusters comics by Burnham; Ghostbusters: Infestation with Kyle Hotz on art. Taking place before volume one, this was a company-wide crossover without any crossover where zombies invade the dimensions of IDW’s different published properties including Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, and Transformers. The franchises never actually meet or crossover, only the zombies do, but it’s a ton of fun. The Ghostbusters story is available in the paperback Infestation Volume Two or the Hardcover collecting the entire crossover. Very briefly mentioned in Ghostbusters Volume One with no real effect on the plot.

Also by Burnham is The X-Files Conspirary: Ghostbusters with art by Salvador Navrro, in which shadowy organization The Lone Gunmen investigate the paranormal instigators…The ones in New York. I haven’t actually read this; It’s just sitting there waiting for me to… Anyway, it’s available in the X-Files Conspiracy Paperback. Another company-wide not-crossover, except they do crossover, but only with X-Files.

Finally, there’s the alternate universe tale, Ghostbusters Deviations, a one shot comic which asks ‘What if the Ghostbusters didn’t cross the streams?” It is a stupendous single issue written by Kelly Thompson with art by Nelson Daniel. It is amazing, I can’t recommend this enough. Available at your local comic shop or digitally through Comixology.

4. Real Ghostbusters and Misc. Reading

There are a couple of other Ghostbusters comics out there. There is an American Manga Ghostbusters: Ghostbusted by Tokyopop. I’ve read it. It’s all right. That’s all that’s worth saying.

While the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters was airing, there was a companion comic book published by NOW Comics, now defunct (finally. The history of NOW is really interesting and worth reading up on, especially if you’re a fan of Speed Racer). IDW has reprinted the series in two volumes, appropriately named The Real Ghostbusters Omnibus Volumes One and Two. Have not read, but I’ve heard good things.

Finally, not a comic book, but super cool is Tobin’s Spirit Guide: Ghostbusters Edition. This is an abridged version of the paranormal reference guide from the movie and comics, it’s written by Burnham with gorgeous illustrations by Kyle Hotz. Tobin’s is really cool, and there’s tons of ghosts from across the franchise covered. It’s filled with fun easter eggs and references to the comics, so if you’ve read those you’re in for some extra fun.

That’s all the currently available (in-print) Ghostbusters comics, broken down into a rough reading order. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I did!

 

As always, feedback is welcome.

Image copyright IDW and Sony Pictures

Why I’m not writing about Batman v. Superman

I had the outline of an article decrying the film before I even saw Batman V. Superman. The set up was great. I thought Snyder misunderstood Superman and Batman, having them kill. I though he misunderstood the tone of the DC Universe with the general bleakness of the movie.

I was going to use the opening lines of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” to contrast between who Superman and Batman should be and who they were in the film. It was a cool idea and had I the hate I thought I would, it would have been fun to write.

But I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would.

To be clear, I didn’t like it. It was a beautifully shot film, but I didn’t care for the tone or the characterization.

Wonder Woman and the score are fantastic though.

There’s nothing new I can say about any of that. There’s nothing I really gained or lost out of the movie except squealing like a child when Wonder Woman showed up. (Man, I loved Diana.) I was able to distance my inner fan from my moviegoing self. There is one thing that bugs me, though.

I said before that I thought Zack Snyder misunderstands them and after consideration, I don’t think that’s true. He wanted to make his own thing. Which is fine, but it didn’t work for me.

Superman doesn’t kill. Batman doesn’t use guns. That’s central to the characters. This movie and its predecessor broke those rules.

There’s a phrase that I’ve heard tossed around from people who liked the versions of the characters in the film, “Well, that’s the comics”, as if they didn’t matter. They do to me. More than the films. For me, the films are exciting because I get to see characters I care about and stories I love in real life. It isn’t so much about the movies as it is the characters. They’re not the “Real Versions” though. That’s the comics.

The comics aren’t just the source material, they’re the lifeblood. Their ink flows off of the page and into every adaptation. But when the ink bleeds together or the vision is tainted, it creates something ugly and unrecognizable. See Catwoman, Steel, Superpup.

Wonder Woman is Truth. Batman is Justice. Superman is the American Way.They’re not just characters. They’re icons. They mean something.

Grant Morrison’s Action Comics ends with Superman battling a corporate driven version of himself spliced with Doomsday. An evil alternate that strayed too far away from the original idea of its creators. It became a monstrosity who causes violence to entertain with no regard for human life. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but it is an effective one. Supes was tossed from writer to writer through the New 52, with no constant characterization.

After five years of Superman bouncing between being an angry, headstrong child or moody loner, MY Superman is coming back to the comics. In DC Comics’ new Rebirth publishing initiative, the Pre-New 52 Superman is going to be “The Superman” (there’s also Lex Luthor and New Super-Man, but I digress.) New 52 Superman had a mean streak and could be a bully. Apart from stellar runs on Action Comics by the aforementioned Morrison and the team of Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder, he didn’t feel like Superman.

Wonder Woman is going to be written by Greg Rucka, something I couldn’t be more Jazzed about, with art by Nicola Scott. Man, that looks like a really good series. It’s a good return to form after the controversial New 52 runs. I did like the Azzarello/Chiang one, but I see how it’s incredibly divisive.

Batman will remain Batman.

It looks like a really exciting return to form peppered with new ideas. I think the movies should follow suit. I’m not saying they can’t be dark or offer ambiguity, I think that providing more solid takes the characters would be a big fix.

This is all my opinion. I like my heroes noble and pure. Lots of people like brooding anti-heroes and there’s nothing wrong with that. Zack Snyder made this film for them and they’ll love it. This movie doesn’t erase the ones before, it doesn’t take away the stories I’ve read. We can all have versions we like.

So you know what? It sucks that Man of Steel is the Superman my little cousin will know, but “it’s just the movies”. I can show him the “Real Superman” next time he’s over and if he likes Man of Steel more than Christopher Reeves. That’s cool too. I still have my Superman. And he’s not going anywhere.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is in theaters now. DC Rebirth will be launching in May. For a comprehensive guide on the new titles see this Comics Alliance article. Image copyright DC Comics. Illustrated Gary Frank with inks by Johnathon Sibal and colors by Brad Anderson.

Total Page Count: 8 and a 1/4 pages

“Pool Party”

So I saw Deadpool. Short review: I liked it.

Long version: I had a lot of fun, but I’m conflicted about whether the movie was actually good. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good time. I had an absolute blast and I think that’s all I could have asked from it. It was the movie it needed to be.

Reynolds, Baccarin were hilarious and heartfelt. Their chemistry is not just solid, but believable. Baccarin’s positive portrayal as a sex worker, and a developed character was a refreshing surprise. Actually all of the female characters were memorable, if two of them aren’t developed.

I’m not a TJ Miller fan, but his Weasel was a great bouncing point for Reynolds, with Reynolds actually acting as his straight man in some points. Blind Al, portrayed by Leslie Uuggams really should have been given more to do and that she wasn’t more prevalent is a real shame.

Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hidlebrand) were particularly great though. I was super excited to see the new universe created after DOFP. We only saw a little bit, but the little comment at the arms deal was the only indication that the hated and feared exists in this new X-Universe, as they were flat-out super heroes, at least through the colorful and skewed view of Deadpool. The characters themselves were hilarious with Piotor as the straight man and Negasonic as just, honestly, the coolest person ever.

The writing was sharp but was stupid when it needed to be, and Tim Miller showed incredible accuracy and vision for a first time director , although that may have come with the time in development hell.

My least favorite thing about Deadpool is the fans, not all of them, just the memeing puerile teenage boys who think they’re hot shit. I was one of those, so some of that anger may be displaced. So, the jokes that play for that audience are my least favorite parts, but I think there were only four or five times I reacted negatively (reference unintentional.)

During the movie I thought that Deadpool (the character) destroying the Helicarrier at the end was Deadpool (the movie) “destroying” the safe and occasionally bland Marvel Studios films. But the thing is, afterwards I don’t. It was probably just a little wink at the other “Marvel’ studio. I’m not saying it’s not a shot at Marvel, I could be completely wrong. I wasn’t expecting deconstruction to be front and central, but the reviews I’d read said that was a big thing. Not as big as I’d thought it would be.

Soundtrack was well utilized and the Deadpool Rap was a nice unobtrusive 80’s throwback. It was in place, in character and actually felt warranted. The soundtrack was well done and paced really well. Most of the instrumentals work outside of the movie, which is nice too. The licensed music was used in some pretty clever ways, and I laughed and sang along.

Other than the couple of dumb jokes, which honestly, is a taste thing, I really enjoyed the film. It was the right mix of clever and crass. At worst, it provided a refreshing change of flavor in the super hero movie, at best, a really good time to let go of the lofty pretentions I hold dear and a movie I can enjoy instead of over analyzing. Deadpool is a lot of fun. Go see it.

 

 

Oh, on the car ride home, I got to X-Plain Cable to all my friends and everyone wanted to kill themselves. Including me. They’d be better off listening to a certain podcast. Chicka-chicka.

Total Page Count: 3