If you haven’t read any of these, best take note and begin hunting before you go see GOTG Vol. 2!
*Caution! This column may contain SPOILERS for Guardians Vol. 2! I tried to avoid it! But I don’t know what you know or what you wanna know! You’ve been warned, True Believers!*
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers
When Brian Michael Bendis took over writing duties for the Marvel NOW relaunch of Guardians of The Galaxy, I was one of the sceptics at first. Even though we knew a big movie was in the works, could even comics’ top scribe make a once bargain bin regular into a big hit? Well, the movie did indeed help the comic along, but right from the first issue I was hooked.
The humour and straight-forward storylines were key, but what made it even more entertaining was the revelation of Peter Quill’s father being a galactic warlord. Now, this is pretty different than the movie, I know. But it seems Kurt Russell’s character is a mix of Ego The Living Planet and Quill’s comic dad, J’Son of Spartax. I’m not quite sure why director/writer James Gunn changed Star-Lord’s heritage, but I’m sure he had good reason. And besides, if everything was JUST like the comics, nothing would ever be a surprise!
You really should already have these issues in your collection. But if you don’t, you need to pick up at least this trade. Not just because it began the whole Guardians craze, but you also get to see what the Guardians were like before the comics made subtle aesthetic changes to match the look and feel of the movie.
Essential Thor Volume 2
Now, to learn more about the origins of Star-Lord’s movie dad, you’ll need to brush up on some classic Thor! Here we have the LEGENDS and the ultimate Marvel storytellers, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby weaving cosmic tales of the God of Thunder and in issues #132 and #133, we meet possibly the weirdest Marvel character of all time, Ego the Living Planet.
Ego claimed he was created when a scientist merged himself with a sun while it as going supernova somehow. His creation was never fully depicted. Sometimes a protagonist and sometimes a villain, Ego is much like Galactus and other powerful cosmic characters...more like a force of nature that could either help or be a nightmare for our heroes...and usually a bit of both! I always found the character particularly fearsome and he always gave me an uneasy feeling. I mean, if there could be LIVING, sentient, purple planets...anything could exist out there in the Marvel cosmos. It’s a creepy, scary place!
Of course, the movie version looks quite different. Logically, for Ego to be Quill’s dad, he would need to have a humanoid form. Whether we get to see Ego metamorphosis into his “living planet” form is yet to be seen as of this writing, so it is a big mystery! I certainly hope we do get to see the big, scary purple planet with a face...because it’s true to the character. At least they cast an actor who looks a bit like Ego, with the beard and all.
Essential Avengers Volume 5
Another new character being brought to the franchise has quite an interesting publication history. This is because (even though Marvel would never advertise this) Mantis has been in DC Comics (as Willow), Image Comics and even Eclipse Comics (both as Lorelei)! Steve Englehart had the rare idea to “tell her story” under the guise of different characters in whichever company he jumped to over the years. Funny little trivia there. I doubt any creator would have the guts to do that with a character these days under the Disney/Marvel regime! The “mouse’s” lawyers are celestial beings in their own right!
In GOTG Vol. 2, Mantis is played by Pom Klementieff and seems to have the character’s empathic powers. In the comics, Mantis was originally actually a half-Vietnamese, half-German human woman that was trained by the Kree and later gained powers by empathically bonding with a race of plant creatures (very much like Groot) called the Cotati. She was actually meant to mate with the eldest Cotati and become the “Celestial Madonna” and give birth to the “Celestial Messiah”. Who knew chlorophilia (sex with plants, in case you were wondering) was a thing in comics?!
She was also a full-fledged member of the Avengers for a period and then later joined the Guardians of the Galaxy. You can learn a whole lot about her origins in this volume of Essential Avengers, and you can get to see her actually kick Thor’s ass! Yeah, that happened! Her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not fully known, but I’m sure Gamora wouldn’t mind another female on the team!
Essential Marvel Two-In-One Presents The Thing Volume 3
Yeah, so the title of this trade is the longest ever. But it’s the one book where you are going to get to read the first appearance of one of GOTG2’s new characters, the high priestess Ayesha (played by Elizabeth Debicki). We aren’t sure if Ayesha’s origins match that of her comic book counterpart, which is a female replicant of Adam Warlock (we did see Warlock’s cocoon in the first film, if you remember), but nonetheless, it would be interesting to see where this character is adapted from.
Ayesha had many names in the comics (Her, Kismet and Paragon to name a few) and was second try at creating the perfect being by a think tank of alien scientists called the Enclave (pretty funny that they just decided to create someone who looks like CJ Parker from Baywatch...I’m guessing the Enclave are all teenage boys from the early 90’s?). She had run-ins with Hulk, Alpha Flight and of course, The Thing in Marvel Two-In-One, which had Ben Grimm teaming up with different heroes every issue. Ironically enough, the first issue where Ayesha appeared in this form also had Thing teaming up with another character that appears in Guardians 2, Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar/Starhawk! Coincidence?
James Gunn actually admits he wanted Adam Warlock to appear in the film, but had to cut him out. Maybe he put Ayesha in there instead? At any rate, we are happy to see HER in the MCU!
Guardians of the Galaxy By Jim Valentino Omnibus
Chances are you never got around to reading Jim Valentino’s 1990 run of Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s okay, none of us did. It ran for 62 issues and the team didn’t consist of any of the current members we all know and love except for Yondu. Stallone’s character was also a member. No Raccoons or talking trees here...so. Yeah.
The Valentino books are now significant than when they first came out because they not only have adventures featuring Yondu and Starhawk, but also one of GOTG2’s main baddies, the new Ravager leader, Taserface (played by This Is Us’ Chris Sullivan). So you get a two-for-one deal in there.
And you get to read more about the Guardians before the Guardians were cool, which is always fun! Right?
Essential Defenders Vol. 2
He’s shown up a few times on the list, but here’s where you get to check out the first appearance of Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord/Starhawk from Defenders #27. At the time, Stakar was a hero from the future (now the past – 2002!), and weirdly enough, the son of Kismet/Ayesha and Quasar! Clearly, since Stallone is a bit older than 15, the movie character’s origins are different.
What we do know is that Stakar was an old school Ravager and friends with Yondu, but whether he is friend or foe in the film is yet to be seen as of the writing of this column! We really can’t wait to see this iconic action star finally get to become a Marvel character! It’s exciting times we live in!
In his first appearance, you will get to see Starhawk face the original Defenders team, featuring Hulk, Namor, Dr. Strange and Silver Surfer! Who except Rocky would pick a fight with those guys?!
I Am Groot (Coming Soon!)
This one is sort of a bonus mention, simply for the fact that this series isn’t even out yet (as of this writing)! I Am Groot will be the first comic series that will feature the lovable Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on his own wacky adventures!
Written by Chris Hastings and art by Flaviano, I Am Groot will have the floral member of the Guardians unable to grow back to full size and on a comical solo adventure in search of his family. This new series will have readers of all ages in stitches, without a doubt. Be sure to add it to your pull list!
Well, there you have it, Guardians Geeks! All you’ll need to read to prepare yourself for the big movie! Of course, I’m sure GOTG2 will be awesome if you don’t read any of these, but why not enhance your experience and educate yourself?! Ya wanna be able to school all your friends, don’t ya?
Of course you can find many of these titles and more Guardians shwag right here on eXpertComics.com! Tell them Dave sent ya! That’s it for now! Bleed out!