One of the most exciting things about this year’s Marvel NOW! initiative has been the rejuvenation of Marvel’s cosmic universe. Since the days of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, through the ascent of Jim Starlin and Chris Claremont, and even in recent work by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, there has been something uniquely special about the characters, exploits, and themes explored in the company’s spacefaring titles. The All-New All-Different relaunch last year dropped the ball in that regards. Most of the books were mediocre (Venom: Space Knight, Rocket & Groot), phoned-in (Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord), or downright lousy (Drax, Guardians of Infinity). The few saving graces were Slott & Allred’s Silver Surfer (which was a carryover from the pre-ANAD era) and Ewing & Rocafort’s Ultimates, whose NOW reinvention is spearheading the current resurgence.
Week 12 of Marvel NOW! adds two more books to a stellar recharge that already includes the aforementioned Ultimates², the fantastic Nova, and promising Thanos. While these other books offer tours of the Marvel cosmos, however, the first of this week’s space books features a Peter Quill who has been forced to leave the intergalactic escapades on pause. In Chip Zdarsky and Kris Anka’s Star-Lord #1, the Guardians’ leader, along with the rest of his team, is “Grounded,” following the events of Civil War II. And life on Earth, he soon discovers, is quickly complicated by evasive ex-girlfriends, unsympathetic ducks, and feisty dimensionally displaced Wolverines.
Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord, was barely even a Marvel B-lister when Abnett & Lanning breathed new life into the character in 2005. After debuting in the mid-70’s in the pages of one of Marvel’s magazine-sized black & white periodicals, for the next few decades he only made the occasional, requisite reappearances to keep the trademark alive. But thanks to the unexpected success of DNA’s Annihilation, and the subsequent box office glory of Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill was finally a bonafide star. He rode a path to fame similar to that of Blade but, unlike the Daywalker, Quill had ample opportunity to develop his character in pages of Marvel’s monthly comics. He was given a number of solo series, not to mention the various modern incarnations of Guardians, and even spent time romancing a pretty popular X-man. But despite all that, I don’t feel like we’ve yet to see the definitive Star-Lord. All of these stories, since his re-emergence during Annihilation, have felt rushed and force-fed, obligatory media tie-ins for the New Releases shelf. It’s obviously too early to tell, but based on Zdarsky’s success with Howard the Duck, and the fresh start the fish-out-of-water narrative affords him, this might finally be Star-Lord’s opportunity to be defined by more than just a pair of Chris Pratt performances and an animated series.
Even more exciting than the new Star-Lord series, Week 12 also gives us Gamora #1 by Nicole Perlman and Marco Checchetto. The series begins with a flashback tale: before she earned her reputation as “The Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy,” she was a ward of an interstellar despot and the sole survivor of her race. Perlman, who co-wrote the first Guardians movie with director James Gunn, sends Gamora on a mission of revenge against the Badoon, all the while exploring her relationship with her “sister” Nebula and “father” Thanos. Checchetto, whose style seems heavily influenced by some of the best Heavy Metal sci-fi and fantasy art of the 70’s and 80’s, fills every layout with gorgeous, fluid detail. My only problem with this book is that, like King and Walta’s Vision, it’s almost too good. Which means we’ll likely only be treated to the work of this creative team for a brief time. So let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
And of course all of this Guardians goodness comes at a perfect time, since we all undoubtedly loved that teaser trailer before Rogue One this weekend.