Grew up reading comic books in the 90's. Marvel fan at heart. Hulk, the Midnight Sons, and Marvel's cosmic universe are my favorites.
From 2008 to 2011 writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning told the tale of the Guardians. But it was more than merely a story about Star-Lord and his team. DnA (Dan and Andy) piloted the last great era for Marvel's cosmic realms, taking characters created across forty years, picking up long dormant plot threads, and bringing their stories full circle. It's a love letter to Marvel cosmic. Come with us as we attempt to decode the DnA of the Guardians of Marvel cosmic.
Decoding the DnA of the Guardians of the Galaxy
It's no secret that without the 2008 volume of Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot and the rest wouldn't be what they are today. But the 2008 Guardians book was only one part of a larger cosmic tapestry. While this book saw the Guardians of the Galaxy, as we know them today, coming together for the first time it was also the final chapter in a saga stretching far back in the annals of Marvel history.
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In the previous article we began our brief annotation by establishing the context of the 2008 volume of Guardians. To understand the whole story of the Guardians a look at the surrounding stories by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning is essential. We explored where the story began and the heavy influences of the work of Mark Gruenwald. To read that article follow the link below.
A Touch of Nicieza
While references to Mark Gruenwald's work are abound, he was not the only writer to contribute to Marvel's cosmic tapestry. Abnett and Lanning also draw upon the writings of Fabian Nicieza. Before DnA, Nicieza was the author who had written Richard Rider the most extensively in the pages of the New Warriors. Richard's time as a member of the New Warriors was a significant part of his character history and DnA treat it with respect.
When Nova returns to Earth after the Annihilation War he meets up with his former teammates Firestar and Justice. The former New Warriors fill Richard in on what he had missed while being off Earth, namely the events of Civil War. What Nova hears from his friends, namely the New Warriors involvement in the Stamford disaster, disgusts him. When Richard meets his old teammate, Speedball, now a member of the Thunderbolts going by the codename Penance, Richard decides to leave Earth and head back into space.
During War of Kings another former New Warrior resurfaces, Darkhawk. Nova and Darkhawk are reunited during the aftermath of War of Kings where they are drawn into a dimensional fold. There Richard is reunited with yet another former New Warrior teammate, one who used to mean a lot to him, Namorita. During Nicieza's New Warriors Nova and Namorita formed a romantic relationship. With their reunion in DnA's Nova, Richard and Namorita's old feelings for each other resurface.
The being who had gathered Nova, Darkhawk, Namorita, and others to the dimensional fold was Nova's greatest nemesis, the Sphinx. Created by Marv Wolfman, the Sphinx had appeared in every volume of Nova up to that point including Nicieza's New Warriors. DnA give the Sphinx his due deserves and continue the trend. Also in the Sphinx arc a character named Basilisk is featured. Basilisk was an enemy of Captain Mar-Vell in the past within the pages of Marvel Team-Up #16 and 17.
Man-Wolf returns to his role as the Stargod briefly as well, a nod to writer David Kraft's cosmic tale from the 1970's. And before the Sphinx arc began, Abnett and Lanning revived another long lost Marvel cosmic character from the 70's, officially inducting Monark Starstalker into the mainstream Marvel universe.
Additionally there are several references to other characters by way of the new Nova Corps recruits. DnA begin rebuilding the Nova Corps with several characters, one named Fraktur. Fraktur is a cousin to Fin Fang Foom, a reference to Fin Fang Foom's extraterrestrial origins. Another of the recruits is a Rigellion named Irani Rael. Irani's appearance is very similar to Marvel's most prolific Rigellion, Tana Nile. Tana Nile was created by Jack Kirby and was also a member of Mark Gruenwald's Star Masters.
Both Abnett and Lanning started working for Marvel in the late 1980's on through the 90's and 2000's. Both were heavily involved in the Marvel UK line of books from the early 90's. Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Liam Sharp reinvented the character of Death's Head. Death's Head was originally created by writer Simon Furman and the new version of the 90's was rechristened Death's Head II. Death's Head II became the most popular and prolific character to come from the Marvel UK books.
Death's Head II's story takes place in the future where an A.I.M. scientist, Dr. Evelyn Necker, is working on an android called Minion. When Minion encounters Death's Head, the android destroys the freelance peacekeeping agent and downloads Death's Head's consciousness. Death's Head defeats Minion from the inside and assumes control of the android becoming Death's Head II.
In DnA's Nova, Richard meets a young scientist by the name of Evelyn Necker working at Project PEGASUS. Nova later discovers that Dr. Necker is working on a secret project for A.I.M. called the Minion Project. The inclusion of Dr. Necker introduces the character chronologically in Marvel's timeline and merges the Death's Head II timeline into the mainstream Marvel universe. During the Secret Invasion by the alien Skrulls the Death's Head 3.0 guards appear as cybernetic security for Project PEGASUS. Death's Head 3.0 was the latest reinvention of the character by the original creator Simon Furman.
Assembling the Guardians of the Galaxy
With Nova's character and history well in hand, DnA turned to a second ongoing series in their burgeoning space opera: The Guardians of the Galaxy. After Annihilation Abnett and Lanning took command of the sequel event, Annihilation: Conquest, similarly to how Keith Giffen directed Annihilation. Giffen placed Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Mantis, and Bug together for the first time in the Star-Lord tie-in mini series and DnA ran with it in the event book.
Meanwhile Gamora and Drax, possessed by the Phalanx, were on the hunt for Nova. Phyla-Vell, donning Quasar's Quantum Bands, and Adam Warlock took the fight to the enemy head on. And in the end all the pieces came together in one grand finale, including two pieces of Marvel cosmic history that, until that moment, had never encountered each other before. The day Warlock met Warlock.
Marvel's two most notable Warlocks, Adam Warlock and the member of the New Mutants Warlock, met each other for the very first time. Another such meeting has yet to happen. Just as rare are the alien races of the Technarchy and Phalanx interacting with the rest of Marvel's cosmic realm. Both the Technarchy and Phalanx rarely step outside of the X-Men books of Marvel yet they had existed in the same cosmos for over twenty years. Never before had either race interacted with the Kree, Skrulls, Adam Warlock, Nova, or the rest of the cosmic cast. By bringing them together with the rest of Marvel's cosmic canvas DnA created a greater cohesion between characters and concepts already present in the Marvel universe.
I am Major Victory of the Guardians of the Galaxy
While the 2008 Guardians team has a completely new roster of characters and occurs in a different time and place from any previous Guardians book, the original Guardians of the Galaxy continue to play a role in the overall narrative. By issue two Major Victory of the 31st century team appears and becomes a regular member of the team. By issue three Starhawk appears. In the narrative the 2008 team doesn't have a name until they hear the Major say, "I am Major Victory of the Guardians of the Galaxy." Later Rocket mentions that "Guardians of the Galaxy is a pretty cool name." DnA leaves the reader to contemplate how the team from the past got their team name from the team from the future and that maybe the team from the future took the name from the team from the past which they had given it to.
And the role of the 31st Guardians doesn't stop there. Starhawk's appearance starts a plot thread which pays off later down the road. Starhawk soon reappears as a woman. This is a reference to Starhawk's character history when two people, a man named Stakar and a woman named Aleta shared the same body. At times Stakar would be in control, thus Starhawk appeared as a man. Other times when Aleta was in control Starhawk would appear as a woman. This plot thread began in Defenders #29 and carried through all the Guardians appearances until the 1990's. In the 1990's Guardians of the Galaxy Aleta and Stakar were finally separated and for a time Aleta was the sole possessor of the Starhawk mantle.
The storyline featuring the Guardians of the 31st century comes to a head at the end of War of Kings. Star-Lord, Mantis, Bug, and Jack Flagg spiral uncontrollably through time and reality encountering different versions of the Guardians including classic characters such as Nikki and Charlie 27 mixed with Killraven, another version of Starhawk, and Hollywood (Wonder Man from the year 3000 a.d.). Hollywood was a member of the Guardians during the 1990's volume. The specific Starhawk design featured in this story was also a design from the 90's volume. And Killraven's timeline was said to have occurred in the same timeline as the 31st century Guardians.
Got all that? Good. We're half way through our brief annotation. Be sure to check back next month for Part 3.
Mitch Nissen is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @NinjaMitche