Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers volume 1


By Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom, John Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6687-0

With more Marvel Cinematic movies doing bonanza summer business around the world, here’s a timely trade paperback collection designed to perfectly augment cinematic exposure and cater to film fans wanting to follow up with a comics experience. If you want you can look at this on screen, too, through its digital edition…

This treasury of torrid tales gathers landmarks and key moments from Marvel Super Heroes #18, Marvel Two-In-One #4-5, Giant-Size Defenders #5, Defenders #26-29 and the time-busting team’s first solo series as it originally appeared in Marvel Presents #3-12, all monumentally spanning January 1969 to August 1977: a radically different set-up than that of the silver screen stars, but grand comicbook sci fi fare all the same…

One thing to recall at all times though is that there are two distinct and separate iterations of the team. The films concentrate on the second, but there are inescapable connections between them so pay close attention here…

Although heralded since its genesis in the early 1960s with making superheroes more realistic, The House of Ideas also always maintained a close connection with outlandish and outrageous cosmic calamity (as best exemplified in their pre-superhero “monsters-in-furry-underpants” days), and this pantheon of much-travelled space stalwarts maintain that delightful “Anything Goes” attitude in all of their many and varied iterations.

This titanic tome’s blistering battle-fest begins with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome!’: first seen in combination new-concept try-out/Golden Age reprint vehicle Marvel Super Heroes #18 (cover-dated January 1969).

The terse, grittily engaging episode introduces a disparate band of freedom fighters united to save Earth from occupation and humanity from extinction at the scaly hands of the sinister, reptilian Brotherhood of Badoon.

It all starts when Jovian militia-man Charlie-27 returns home from a six-month tour of scout duty to find his entire colony subjugated by invading aliens. Fighting free, he jumps into a randomly programmed teleporter and emerges on Pluto, just in time to scotch the escape of crystalline scientist Martinex.

Both are examples of radical human genetic engineering: subspecies carefully designed to populate and colonise Sol system’s outer planets but now possibly the last of their kinds. After helping the mineral man complete his mission of sabotage – blowing up potentially useful material before the Badoon can get their hands on it – the odd couple set the teleporter for Earth and jump…

Unfortunately, the invaders have already taken the homeworld…

The Supreme Badoon Elite are there, busily mocking the oldest Earthman alive. Major Vance Astro had been humanity’s first intersolar astronaut; solo flying in cold sleep to Alpha Centauri at a plodding fraction of the speed of light.

When he got there 1000 years later, humanity was waiting for him, having cracked trans-luminal speeds a mere two centuries after he took off. Now he and Centauri aborigine Yondu are a comedy exhibit for the cruel reptilian conquerors actively eradicating both of their races…

The smug invaders are utterly overwhelmed when Astro breaks free, utilising psionic powers he developed in hibernation, before Yondu butchers them with the sound-controlled energy arrows he carries.

In their pell-mell flight, the pair stumble across incoming Martinex and Charlie-27 and a new legend of valiant resistance was born…

The eccentric team, as originally envisioned by Arnold Drake, Gene Colan & Mike Esposito in 1968, were presented to an audience undergoing immense social change, with dissent in the air, riot in the streets and with the Vietnam War on their TV screens every night.

Perhaps the jingoistic militaristic overtones were off-putting or maybe the tenor of the times were against the Guardians, since costumed hero titles were entering a temporary downturn, but whatever the reason the feature was a rare “Miss” for Early Marvel and the futuristic freedom fighters were not seen again for years.

They floated in limbo until 1974 when Steve Gerber incorporated them into some of his assigned titles (Marvel Two-In-One and The Defenders), wherein assorted 20th century champions travelled a millennium into the future to ensure humanity’s survival…

From MTIO #4, ‘Doomsday 3014!’ (Gerber, Sal Buscema & Frank Giacoia) finds Ben Grimm and Captain America catapulted into the 31st century to save Earth from enslavement by the reptilian Badoon, concluding an issue later as the Guardians of the Galaxy climb aboard the Freedom Rocket to help the time-lost heroes liberate occupied New York before returning home.

The fabulous Future Force repaid that visit in Giant Sized Defenders #5: a diverse-hands production with the story ‘Eelar Moves in Mysterious Ways’ credited to Gerber, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont & Scott Edelman.

Dependable Don Heck & Mike Esposito drew the surprisingly satisfying cohesive results: how the Defenders met with future heroes Guardians of the Galaxy in a time-twisting disaster yarn where their very presence seemed to cause nature to run wild, which only set up the next continued epic arc for the monthly comicbook…

‘Savage Time’ (Defenders #26 August, by Gerber, Buscema & Colletta) saw Hulk, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk and Valkyrie accompany the Guardians back to 3015AD in a bold bid to liberate the last survivors of mankind from the all-conquering and genocidal Badoon: a mission which continued with ‘Three Worlds to Conquer!’, then became infinitely more complicated when ‘My Mother, The Badoon!’ revealed the sex-based divisions that so compellingly motivated the marauding lizard-men, before triumphantly climaxing in the rousingly impassioned ‘Let My Planet Go!’ Along the way they had picked up – or been unwillingly allied with – an enigmatic stellar powerhouse dubbed Starhawk: a glib and unfriendly type who called himself “one who knows” and infuriatingly usually did, even if he never shared any useful intel…

Rejuvenated by exposure the squad rededicated themselves to liberating star-scattered Mankind and having adventures, eventually winning a short-lived series in Marvel Presents (#3-12, February 1976-August 1977) before cancellation left them roaming the Marvel Universe as perennial guest-stars in such cosmically-tinged titles as Thor and the Avengers.

That run began with ‘Just Another Planet Story!’ by Gerber, Al Milgrom & Pablo Marcos with the Badoon removed from a triumphantly exultant Earth and the now purposeless Guardians realising that peace and freedom were not for them…

Unable to adapt to civilian life the team reassembled, stole their old starship The Captain America and rocketed off into the void…

Those episodes were augmented by text features ‘Readers Space’ episodically delineating the future history of Marvel Universe Mankind – using various company sci fi series as mile markers, way stations and signposts – and firmly establishing a timeline which would endure for decades.

Gerber & Milgrom descended ‘Into the Maw of Madness!’ in Marvel Presents #4 as the noble nomads picked up Nikki, a feisty teenage Mercurian survivor of the Badoon invasion, and detected the first inklings that something vast, alien and inimical was coming from “out there” to consume our galaxy…

They also met cosmic enigma Starhawk’s better half Aleta, a glamorous woman and mother of his three children, who just happened to be sharing his body…

When the intrepid star-farers and their ship are swallowed by the systems-wide monster Karanada they find a universe inside the undead beast and end up stranded on the ‘Planet of the Absurd’ (Gerber, Milgrom & Howard Chaykin) allowing the author to indulge his taste for political and social satire as our heroes seek to escape a society of vast species variety somehow mimicking 20th century Earth…

Escape achieved the fantastic fantasy escalates into high gear when the crash into the heart of the invading force and on a galaxy-sized planet in humanoid form. ‘The Topographical Man’ (Gerber, Milgrom & Terry Austin) holds all the answers they seek in a bizarre sidereal nunnery where Nikki is asked to make a supreme sacrifice that changes Vance’s life forever in ways he never imagined as they spiritually unite to ‘Embrace the Void!’ in a metaphysical rollercoaster (inked by Bob Wiacek) which finally ends the menace of the soul-sucking galactic devourer.

At this time deadlines were a critical problem and Marvel Presents #8 adapted a story from Silver Surfer #2 (1968) as the team picked up an old Badoon data-log and learned ‘Once Upon a Time… the Silver Surfer!’ saved Earth from alien predators in two-layered yarn correctly attributed to Gerber, Milgrom, Wiacek, Stan Lee, John Buscema & Joe Sinnott…

Back on track for MP #9, Gerber & Milgrom revealed that ‘Breaking Up is Death to Do!’ as the Guardians’ ship is ambushed by the predatory Reivers of Arcturus, leading into the long-awaited and shocking origins of Starhawk and Aleta and setting the assembled heroes on a doomed quest to save the bonded couple’s children from brainwashing, mutation and murder by their own grandfather in ‘Death-Bird Rising!’ and the concluding ‘At War with Arcturus!’ (both inked by Wiacek).

The series abruptly concluded just as new scripter Roger Stern signed on with ‘The Shipyard of Deep Space!’ as the bruised and battered team escape Arcturus and stumble onto a lost Earth vessel missing ever since the beginning of the Badoon invasion. Drydock is a mobile space station the size of a small moon, designed to maintain and repair Terran starships. However, what initially seems to be a moving reunion with lost comrades and actual survivors of the many genegineered human sub-species eradicated by the reptilian ravagers is quickly found to be just one more deadly snare for the Guardians of the Galaxy to overcome or escape…

This spectacular slice of riotous star-roving is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun, swingeing satire and blockbuster action: another well-tailored, on-target tool to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comic incarnation and another solid sampling to entice newcomers and charm even the most jaded interstellar Fights ‘n’ Tights fanatic.
© 1968, 1974, 1976, 1977, 2014 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude


By Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Mike Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Steve Englehart, Wellinton Alves, Daniel Govar, Andrea Di Vito, Jim Starlin, Sal Buscema, Steve Gan, Bob McLeod & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5410-5

With another Marvel Filmic Fantasy premiering around the world, here’s a timely trade paperback collection to augment the cinematic exposure and cater to movie fans wanting to follow up with a comics experience.

Comprising a big bunch of reprints and digital material designed to supplement the first movie release, this compilation contains Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #1-2, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1, plus debut or early appearances of Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Star-Lord as first seen in Iron Man #55, Strange Tales #181, Incredible Hulk #271, Tales to Astonish #13 and Marvel Preview #4.

Thanks to all that fabulous, futuristic technology, you can even look at this treasure chest of thrills on screen too through its digital iteration if you prefer…

The sky-high high jinks kick off with a glimpse at the frankly horrific childhoods of Gamora and Nebula with big daddy Thanos, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellinton Alves & Manny Clark: set just before the first film begins (the clue’s in the name as it comes from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #1), after which # 2 provides a similarly candid review of Rocket and Groot as their quest for cash draws them into a questionably legal repo job for a criminal big shot…

Next up is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic #1 by Abnett & Lanning, storyboarder Daniel Govar and artist Andrea Di Vito: a screen-based adventure, rather uncomfortably reformatted for the printed page. Here Taneleer Tivan, The Collector commissions Gamora with the retrieval of a certain Orb…

Of course, all these plot strands get knotted together in the movie…

The classic appearances kick off with Iron Man#55 (February 1973), scripted by Mike Friedrich and illustrated by Jim Starlin & Mike Esposito. ‘Beware The … Blood Brothers!’ introduces Drax the Destroyer, an incredibly powerful alien… or so he seems at first glance.

Trapped by another extraterrestrial newcomer – Thanos – under the desert, Drax is rescued by the Armoured Avenger, but it’s merely a prelude to the main story which appeared in Captain Marvel #25-33, a saga to be savoured elsewhere…

Gamora was first seen in Strange Tales #181 (August 1975), as Avatar of Life Adam Warlock made his way across the cosmos, battling the depredations of the Universal Church of Truth and his own evil future self The Magus. Technically it was her second, but in this yarn she got a name and speaking part…

‘1000 Clowns!’ – by Starlin and Al Milgrom – saw the accursed hero trapped in an insidious psychic prison even as in the notionally real world, a green-skinned gamin was slowly eradicating his tormentors. She was about to free the golden saviour, when Warlock escaped under his own steam. If he’d known that Gamora was actually working for his cosmic nemesis Thanos, he might not have bothered…

Rocket Raccoon was a minor character who first appeared in backup serial ‘The Sword in the Star’. His actual debut was in Marvel Preview #7 in 1976 but in 1982, writer Bill Mantlo brought him into the mainstream of the Marvel Universe with a choice starring role in Incredible Hulk #271 (May 1982).

Like Wolverine and the Punisher years before, the foul-mouthed, fuzzy faced iconoclast then simply refused to go away quietly…

Illustrated by Sal Buscema, ‘Now Somewhere in the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of… Rocket Raccoon!’ find Earth’s jade juggernaut stranded on an alien world where sentient animals used super-scientific gadgetry to battle robot clowns. They do this to preserve the security of humans who seem incapable of caring for themselves. When Green-skin arrives, a simmering civil war is just breaking out…

With the Hulk safely removed from the combat zone, Rocket faded from view for a few years before returning in a new-fangled format for comicbooks: a miniseries…

More sidereal shenanigans surface in an absolute classic of the gloriously whacky “Kirby Kritter” genre, predating the birth of the Marvel Age. Crafted by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers, ‘I Challenged Groot! The Monster from Planet X’ (Tales to Astonish #13, November/December 1960) reveals how a studious biologist saves humanity from a rapacious walking tree intent on stealing Earth cities and shipping them back to his distant world. The tree titan might have started life as a disposable notion, but he too grew into a larger role over the unfolding decades…

Notional leading man Star-Lord premiered in monochrome mature-reader magazine Marvel Preview # 4 (January 1976), appearing thrice more – in #11, 14 and 15 – during the height of the Star Wars-inspired Science Fiction explosion of the late 1970s and 1980s.

Years previously a warrior prince of an interstellar empire was shot down over Colorado and had a brief fling with solitary Earther Meredith Quill. Despite his desire to remain in idyllic isolation, duty called the starman back to the battle and he left, leaving behind an unborn son and a unique weapon…

A decade later, the troubled boy saw his mother assassinated by alien lizard men. Peter Jason Quill vengefully slew the creatures with Meredith’s shotgun, before his home was explosively destroyed by a flying saucer.

The orphan awoke in hospital, his only possession a “toy” ray-gun his mother had hidden from him his entire life. He became obsessed with the stars – astronomy and astrology – and overcame all odds to become a part of America’s budding space program… but he made no friends and plenty of enemies on the way…

Years later his destiny found him, as the half-breed scion was elevated by the divinity dubbed the “Master of the Sun”, becoming Star-Lord. Rejecting both Earth and his missing father, Peter chose freedom, the pursuit of justice and the expanse of the cosmos…

From such disparate strands movie gold can be made, but never forget that the originating material is pretty damned good too and will deliver a tempting tray of treats that should have most curious fans scurrying for back-issue boxes, bookshop shelves or online emporia…
© 1960, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1982, 2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Rocket Raccoon: Tales from Half-World


By Bill Mantlo, Mike Mignola, Al Gordon, Milgrom & various (Marvel)
No ISBN:

You can’t have failed to notice that the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie has thundered into theatres this season, so in a spirit of mirror-image opportunism I’ll be shuffling in short reviews of some of the many tie-in books the House of Ideas has kindly dashed out to celebrate the filmic franchise in the hope of making a few more readers out of viewers…

Tales from Half-World came out in 2013 (and is still readily available in both printed and digital formats) and provides a cheap and cheerful way to see the militant mystery mammal’s first scene-stealing starring role.

Rocket Raccoon was a throwaway character who first appeared in backup serial ‘The Sword in the Star’ in Marvel Preview#7 in 1976. In 1982, his originator Bill Mantlo brought him into the mainstream Marvel Universe with a guest-star role in Incredible Hulk #271 (May). Like the Punisher and Wolverine in previous years, the hairy iconoclast then simply refused to go away quietly…

A few years the furry force of nature popped up again in a new-fangled format for comicbooks: a miniseries…

The 4-issue Rocket Raccoon Limited Series was cover-dated May to August 1985 and crafted by Mantlo, then neophyte penciller Mike Mignola, and inkers Al Gordon & Al Milgrom and presented a bizarre and baroque sci-fi fantasy blending the charm of Pogo with the biting social satire of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (and vice versa): all whilst ostensibly describing a battle between Good and Evil in a sector of space crazy even by funnybook standards.

Rocket was one of many sentient and dedicated talking animals in the impenetrable, inescapable Keystone Quadrant: a Ranger in charge of keeping the peace in a troubled atmosphere where robots and anamorphic beasties went about their ordained task. That was caring for the distinctly odd and carefree humans known as The Loonies on their idyllic, sybaritic planet Halfworld.

Sadly, the critters were too much like their human charges.

When a brutal shooting war between voracious apex toymakers Judson Jakes and Lord Dyvyne leads to Rocket’s girlfriend Lylla Otter being kidnapped, the entire planet goes crazy wild, or perhaps more appropriately… ‘Animal Crackers’

In rescuing her, Rocket and faithful deputy Wal Rus have to contend with a murderous army of mechanised Killer Clowns, face an horrific, all-consuming bio-weapon at ‘The Masque of the Red Breath’, and even team up with arch-foe and disreputable mercenary bunny Blackjack O’Hare in ‘The Book of Revelations!’ before finally uncovering the horrendous truth behind the mad society they so unquestioningly defend…

The final chapter shakes everything up as ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ sees the shocking end of The Loonies, allowing the Raccoon and his surviving companions to escape the confines of the eternally segregated Keystone Quadrant into the greater universe beyond…

This razor-sharp, spectacular slice of riotous star-roving action is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun and blockbuster action: well-tailored, on-target and certain to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comics incarnation.
© 2013 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot Complete Collection


By Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bill Mantlo, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Keith Giffen, Mike Mignola, Timothy Green II & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6713-6

Although heralded since its genesis in the early 1960s with making superheroes more realistic, The House of Ideas has also always maintained its close connection with outlandish and outrageous cosmic calamity (as seen in their pre-superhero “monster-mag” days), and their pantheon of much-travelled space stalwarts maintain that delightful “Anything Goes” attitude in all of their many and varied iterations.

The pair of interstellar oddments featured here are creative oddments who took a very long time to achieve their stellar potential and have done particularly well out of recent reboots and re-imaginings: both in comicbooks and through large and small screen reinterpretations…

Collecting Groot’s debut from Tales to Astonish #13; Incredible Hulk # 271, Rocket Raccoon volume 1 #1-4, and pertinent material from Marvel Preview #7, Annihilators #1-4 and Annihilators: Earthfall #1-4, collectively ranging from November 1960 to February 2012, this fun-filled paperback compendium offers a wealth of thrills and expansive action and a fair slice of witty satire to boot…

The sidereal shenanigans begin with an absolute classic of the gloriously whacky “Kirby Kritter” genre, predating the birth of the Marvel Age. Crafted by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Kirby & Dick Ayers, ‘I Challenged Groot! The Monster from Planet X’ (Tales to Astonish #13, November/December 1960) reveals how a studious biologist saves humanity from a rapacious walking tree intent on stealing Earth cities and shipping them back to his distant world.

Rocket Raccoon was a minor character who first appeared in backup serial ‘The Sword in the Star’. His debut was in Marvel Preview #7 in 1976 but that particular tale comes later.

In 1982, writer Bill Mantlo brought him into the mainstream of the Marvel Universe with a star role in Incredible Hulk #271 (May). Like Wolverine years before, the hairy iconoclast then simply refused to go away quietly…

Illustrated by Sal Buscema, ‘Now Somewhere In the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of… Rocket Raccoon!’ found the jade juggernaut stranded on an alien world where sentient animals used super-scientific gadgetry to battle robot clowns to preserve the security of humans who seemed incapable of caring for themselves. When Green-skin arrived, a simmering civil war broke out…

With the Hulk safely removed from the combat zone, Rocket faded from view for a few years before returning in a newfangled format for comicbooks: a mini series…

The 4-issue Rocket Raccoon miniseries (cover-dated May to August 1985 and crafted by Mantlo, Mike Mignola, Al Gordon & Al Milgrom) presented a bizarre and baroque sci-fi fantasy blending the charm of Pogo with the biting social satire of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest all whilst ostensibly describing a battle between Good and Evil in a sector of space crazy even by funnybook standards.

Rocket was one of many talking animals in the impenetrable, inescapable Keystone Quadrant; a Ranger in charge of keeping the peace in a troubled atmosphere where robots and anamorphic beasties went about their ordained task of caring for the distinctly odd and carefree humans known as The Loonies on their idyllic, sybaritic planet Halfworld.

When a brutal shooting war between voracious apex toymakers Judson Jakes and Lord Dyvyne leads to Rocket’s girlfriend Lylla Otter being kidnapped, the planet goes crazy wild, or perhaps… ‘Animal Crackers’.

In rescuing her, Rocket and faithful deputy Wal Rus have to contend with a murderous army of mechanised Killer Clowns, face an horrific, all-consuming bio-weapon at ‘The Masque of the Red Breath’, and even team up with arch-foe and disreputable mercenary bunny Blackjack O’Hare in ‘The Book of Revelations!’ before finally uncovering the horrendous truth behind the mad society they so unquestioningly defend…

The final chapter shakes everything up as ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ sees the end of The Loonies, allowing the Raccoon and his surviving companions to escape the confines of the eternally segregated Keystone Quadrant into the greater universe beyond…

Next – eschewing continuity but at least presented here in the original monochrome – is that first Rocket romp from Marvel Preview #7.

‘The Sword in the Star’ was an epic combination of Druillet’s Loan Sloane stories with Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid, detailing the interstellar search by Prince Wayfinder of Ithacon to find a new home for his dying people. That exodus took them from 1500 years in Earth’s future to prehistory where, on their second stop, the Once and Future King landed on a ‘Witch World!’ where trees tried to kill the imperial exile and a sarcastic, heavily-armed rodent helped him confront a sinister sorceress dubbed Kirke

Impressively rendered by Keith Giffen in full Euro-mode, the story ended on a cliffhanger you won’t see resolved here…

In 2006 a massive crossover involved most of Marvel’s 21st century space specialists in a spectacular Annihilation Event, leading writing team Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning to confiscate and reconfigure the Guardians of the Galaxy concept for modern times and tastes.

Among the stalwarts in the big event were Silver Surfer, Galactus, Firelord (and other previous heralds of the world-eater), Moondragon, Quasar, Star-Lord, Thanos, SuperSkrull, Rigellian Colonizer Tana Nile, Gamora (“Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy”), Ronan the Accuser, Nova, Drax the Destroyer, a Watcher and many previously established alien civilisations such as the Kree, Skrulls, Xandarians, Shi’ar et al., all falling before an invasion of rapacious Negative Zone bugs and beasties unleashed by insectoid horror Annihilus..

After that shooting match subsided the decimated sectors and empires were left helpless as all-subsuming technological parasite The Phalanx struck, absorbing and thriving inside the machines and electronic engines the shaken civilisations were using to rebuild in a follow-up apocalypse designated Annihilation: Conquest.

To counter the threat Star-Lord Peter Quill was tasked with turning a bunch of Kree convicts into a Penal Strike Force (a highly engaging intergalactic Dirty Half-Dozen): Galactic Warrior Bug (originally from 1970’s phenomenon Micronauts), then-current Captain Universe, Shi’ar berserker Deathcry, failed Celestial Madonna Mantis, Groot and a so-very-far-from-home Rocket Raccoon…

From those sidereal sagas came a new Guardians of the Galaxy plus a pack of Cosmic Crusaders known as Annihilators. Their first 4-issue miniseries spanned May to August 2011 and carried a back-up strip starring Rocket and Groot by Abnett, Lanning and Timothy Green II.

After the wars, not all the heroes were feted – or even remembered – and Rocket is forced to take a job in the mail room of intergalactic corporation ‘Timely Inc’. He loathes the entire experience but when somebody sends a Killer Clown after him soon slips into old habits and goes looking for guns, grenades and answers…

He doesn’t find them on Planet X when seeking out Groot, but does save his old pal from certain death in ‘There is Unrest in the Forest, There is Trouble with the Trees’

When Groot speaks of events Rocket can’t remember, the little warrior realises his mind has been tampered with and the trail leads right back to Halfworld…

The place has completely changed. ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ now, containing the most dangerous mind in creation, and once Rocket discovers who excised his memories and why, it’s only a little leap of imagination to realise he’s been drawn into a subtle snare with potentially catastrophic consequences…

Armed with knowledge – and heavy ordnance – he and Groot then shut down the manipulator and save the universe through a carefully applied ‘Brain Storm’

In November 2011 Annihilators: Earthfall offered another 4-issue miniseries with Abnett, Lanning & Green reprising Rocket and Groot’s danger-magnet escapades at the back of each. In ‘Batteries Not Included’ our unlikely heroes find themselves in one perilous situation after another with no idea of how they got there.

Only gradually do they realise they’ve been kidnapped by insidious impresario Mojo: turned into unwilling showmen and merchandising franchise with the prospect of painful death arising at every moment.

Understandably unhappy, they renegotiate terms in the most destructive manner possible…

This razor-sharp, spectacular slice of riotous star-roving action is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun and blockbuster action: well-tailored, on-target and certain to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comics incarnation.
© 2013 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Guardians Disassembled


By Brian Michael Bendis, Dan Slott, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Nick Bradshaw , Jason Masters, Todd Nauk, Cameron Stewart, David Marquez, Michael Oeming , Paolo Siqueira, Ronan Cliquet de Oliveira, Phil Jimenez, Dexter Soy, Gerardo Sandoval & others (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-636-6

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Fabulous Fun for Cosmic Connoisseurs… 7/10

A few years ago a plethora of cosmic crises forced the champions and remnants of many heroic races to band together and save the cosmos. Although said crises were largely averted, some of those Sentinels of the Spaceways eventually got their band back together, determined to keep the universe a safe place. After a lot of quibbling they finally agreed to call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The boisterous, officially unaligned rabble were led by a half-breed Terran who was revealed to be the unloved son of J’Son of Spartax – undisputed ruler of an aggressively militaristic interstellar empire – and no friend of Earth…

Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord was aided in pacifying an unruly and increasingly martial universe by Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Racoon, Groot, Gamora (“Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy”) and extra-dimensional new recruit Angela whilst staying one step ahead of the militaristic Spartoi and their allies…

The self-appointed Guardians’ ongoing troubles stem from a recent compact of major interstellar powers and principalities. This coterie of rulers had formed a Council of Galactic Empires and unilaterally declared Earth “off limits”; quarantined from all extraterrestrial contact, but that high-minded declaration hadn’t stopped some of the signatories from breaking their own embargo or being mightily ticked off whenever Quill’s crew kicked them off Terra and back into space.

Not long ago the situation worsened when Emperor Kallark of the Shi’ar (AKA alien superman Gladiator) informed his kingly colleagues that Jean Grey – former host to the overweening Phoenix Force – was back from the dead and he was going to try her for her crimes… even though, as a chronally displaced child, she hadn’t technically committed them yet…

With the Guardians’ timely assistance this venture led to another galling debacle and defeat for the Shi’ar by Earth’s X-Men. Individually every leader of the Council had reason to want the Guardians dead and thus they singly opened covert operations against them. Cold and distant J-Son, of course, had his own good – if undisclosed – reasons for wanting his son curbed and controlled, if not dead…

This treasury of space terrors and attendant sidebar tales collects Free Comic Book Day: Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy volume 3 #14-17 and Captain Marvel volume 7 #1 spanning June-September 2014, plus pertinent historic material from Amazing Spider-Man #654 (April 2011) augmenting and clarifying the big screen experience for new readers who might not know as much about the latest Earth-born addition to the squad whilst providing an immense amount of spectacularly bombastic fighting fun for all.

Following a most useful recap page, further enticing background is provided by ‘Welcome to the Guardians of the Galaxy’ by Brian Michael Bendis, Nick Bradshaw, Scott Hanna & Morrie Hollowell (from Free Comic Book Day: Guardians of the Galaxy #1, July 2014) as erstwhile Guardian Tony Stark runs down the history and capabilities of the stellar centurions before offering paraplegic war veteran EugeneFlashThompson his vacated place on the team…

The story picks up in GotG #14 with the soldier – in his transmorphic guise of Agent Venom – beginning his tour of duty by visiting an armaments fair on crossroads world Knowhere with the intention of upgrading his weapons. The culture-shocked earthling is accompanied and watchdogged by resurrected (and cosmically reconstructed) fellow Earther Drax…

Whilst Flash is gone, however, the assembled forces of the Council strike, overwhelming the Guardian’s ship and capturing the skeleton crew aboard…

As Star-Lord awakens in custody on Spartax, elsewhere Gamora is ambushed by a bounty hunter she previously humiliated. Hauled off to Moord, homeworld of the Brotherhood of Badoon, she fully expects to die; but not soon and certainly not quietly.

On Knowhere, another sneak attack captures Drax despite Venom’s every effort to save his new comrade, and on a cell in Spartax, J-Son confronts his wayward heir with the (utterly erroneous) fact that nobody can save the Guardians now, before disclosing just what he needs from his son…

The second chapter (with additional art by Cameron Stewart) opens with Rocket under the scalpels of questing Kree vivisectionists, even as Gamora is being tortured to death by a legion of Badoon monsters on Moord. Drax awakens on a Shi’ar space station and finds himself on trial by Kallark for daring to aid the X-Men. The grizzled warrior’s only response is to challenge Gladiator to a duel…

Back on Knowhere Thompson is relieved to be rescued by a team of Avengers but soon smells a rat and discovers he has fallen into the shape-shifting hands of a band of Skrulls intent on separating him from the alien Symbiote which provides all his powers. In deep space the malevolent Brood, having tired of their examinations of Groot, jettisoned the tree being into space to fall blazing into the atmosphere of searing, arid hellworld Rigel 8.

Negotiations having stalled on Spartax, Peter Quill tells dad exactly what he thinks of him before leaping to his death out of a skyscraping citadel window…

Issue #16 (illustrated by Bradshaw, David Marquez & Jason Masters) furiously follows up as the tide finally turns in favour of the hard-pressed heroes. As the Skrulls fatefully learn the folly of messing with a symbiote and its chosen host, Gladiator at last gives Drax the death match he’s been demanding and on Moord inexplicably absent cosmic hunter Angela locates her missing partner-in-carnage Gamora. The resultant loss of (Badoon) life is incomprehensible…

Plunging to his death on Spartax, Quill is plucked from disaster by the just-in-time intergalactic Avenger Carol Danvers – a feat he smugly claims prior knowledge of – and discloses that his revelatory conversations with J-Son have been broadcast to the entire populace. With the whole empire aware of their ruler’s plans for – and opinions of – his subjects, rebellion begins to shake the homeworld…

In a far distant place the strategically savvy Kree Supreme Intelligence realises the tables have turned and orders his researchers to put Rocket back together, speculating that perhaps it’s time for the cagily conservative pragmatists to consider their options with the impossibly formidable Quill and Co…

With art by Bradshaw and Michael Avon Oeming, the Guardians portion of the collection concludes as Star-Lord and Danvers escape Spartax and begin rounding up their errant membership, assisted by freely offered intel from the Kree Supremor. However many – especially Groot and Rocket – are neither whole nor hearty…

Only one member remains missing and the reunited team wearily make their way to Knowere to begin their search for Agent Venom…

To Be Continued…

The remainder of this sterling chronicle offers a delightful plethora of additional insights and personal exploits beginning with the lowdown on Flash Thompson’s unique association with one of the most terrifying creatures in the universe…

‘Rebirth’ by Dan Slott, Paolo Siqueira, Ronan Cliquet de Oliveira & Greg Adams first appeared as a back-up in the monster-sized Amazing Spider-Man #654.

Once upon a time Spider-Man spawned an implacable enemy called Venom: a deranged and disgraced reporter named Eddie Brock who bonded with the alien entity Parker brought back from the Secret Wars.

The “high-tech smart-suit” was in fact a semi-sentient alien parasite called the Symbiote and almost ended up possessing and consuming the horrified hero until Parker escaped and destroyed it. Or so he thought…

Brock willing joined with the creature to become a savage, shape-changing, dark-side version of the Wallcrawler, but after numerous spectacular clashes, the arachnid adversaries eventually reached a brooding détente and Venom became a “Lethal Protector”, dispensing a highly individualistic brand of justice everywhere but New York City.

Since then many other hosts have bonded with the ebony parasite, including Brock’s wife Ann Weying, Mac Gargan AKA the Scorpion, and even Franklin Richards and other members of the Fantastic Four.

Eventually the Government took control of the Symbiote and in this terse tale we see how the military then offered it – with many strings attached – to Flash Thompson: Spider-Man’s greatest fan and a war-hero who came back from Afghanistan without his legs.

A recovering alcoholic, Eugene became the star of a military black-ops operation which uses the Symbiote to carry out under-the-radar missions vital to US security.

In return, Thompson gets to be a hero (of sorts), feel useful again, serve his country and get out of his wheelchair prison for 48 hours at a time. Agent Venom even became a Secret Avenger, serving directly under Steve Rogers.

Of course there were drawbacks: the parasite is a voracious deadly menace, constantly seeking to permanently bond to its wearer, and is classed as one of the most dangerous entities on the planet. If the new Venom should go berserk or if the human host stays bonded for more than 48 hours, his war-room controllers will simply detonate explosives attached to Thompson’s body and start the project over with another volunteer. It’s what they had to do with the previous wearer, after all…

This is followed by the untitled story of how Avenger Carol Danvers finally deems herself worthy of her universe-saving predecessor and accepts the mantle of Captain Marvel (Captain Marvel volume 7 #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Dexter Soy).

The process involves a titanic struggle against the Absorbing Man, a pithy pep talk from Sentinel of Liberty Captain America, mild mockery from Spider-Man and the funeral of her greatest inspiration before the cosmic champion heads of to the stars and a rendezvous with Star-Lord…

A fascinating peek into the “childhood” of an iconic star comes next as Andy Lanning, Phil Jimenez, Livesay & Antonio Fabela take us to Planet X to tell ‘Groot’s Tale’ before the marvellous madness ends with a tantalising glimpse of Things to Come as Dan Abnett, Gerardo Sandoval & Rachelle Rosenberg visit Earth circa 3014 and reintroduce Arnold Drake, Gene Colan & Steve Gerber’s original Guardians of the Galaxy in ‘Fight for the Future’.

As “oldest Earthman alive” Vance Astro, Jovian militia-man Charlie-27, crystalline scientist Martinex, Centauri warrior shaman Yondu and all knowing space god Starhawk brutally demolish a Badoon concentration camp on conquered planet Terra, they are searching for one particular prisoner: young Geena Drake whom the portents show holds the fate of humanity in her scabby teenaged hands…

Thrilling, edgy and ferociously fast-paced, this spectacularly seductive tome also includes a gallery of covers and variants by Bradshaw, Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer, Justin Ponsor, Joe Quesada, Dexter Vines, Javier Rodriguez, Adi Granov and Alvara plus a bunch of electronic extra attractions provided by AR icon sections (Marvel Augmented Reality App) offering access to story bonuses and background bumph once you download the free code from marvel.com onto your smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet.
™ & © 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Silver Surfer: New Dawn


By Dan Slott, Michael and Laura Allred & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-617-5

Although pretty much a last minute addition to Fantastic Four #48-50’s ‘Galactus Trilogy’, Jack Kirby’s scintillating Silver Surfer quickly became a watchword for quality, depth and subtext in the Marvel Universe and thus a character Stan Lee kept as his own personal toy for many years.

Tasked with finding planets for space god Galactus to consume, and despite the best efforts of intergalactic voyeur Uatu the Watcher, one day the Silver Surfer arrived on Earth, where the latent nobility of humanity reawakened his own suppressed morality; causing the shining scout to rebel against his voracious master and help the FF save the world.

In retaliation, Galactus imprisoned his former herald on Earth, making him the ultimate outsider on a planet remarkably ungrateful for his supreme sacrifice.

In 1968, after increasingly frequent guest-shots, the exiled Norrin Radd finally got his own title and quickly became an icon of the counterculture: a questing, misunderstood seeker of truths and allegorical Christ-figure, exposing through his own suffering Man’s dual nature of noble sacrifice and ingrained inhumanity to and intolerance of just about everything…

The isolated alien’s travails and social observations elevated him to a metaphoric status for an audience which was maturing and rebelling against America’s creaking and unsavoury status quo, but years passed, times changed and eventually the Shining Skyrider escaped his terrestrial trap; returning to the stars and becoming a stellar crusader and restless explorer of infinity.

Now after numerous sidereal sea-changes he’s back in a gloriously light, bright and witty fantasy setting, courtesy of writer Dan Slott and artist Michael Allred (with colours as always by Laura Allred and letters from VC’s Clayton Cowles), which deliciously rekindles the sheer wonder of the multiverse…

Collecting issues #1-5 of Silver Surfer volume 7 (May to September 2014) and a teaser tale from All-New Marvel Now! Point One, the mind-expanding begins twelve years ago in ‘The Most Important Person in the Universe’ on a night when twin girls unknowingly wished upon the scintillant stratospheric Silver Surfer, thinking him a poor lonely shooting star burning out as it crashed to earth.

Outgoing and gregarious Eve certainly fulfilled her casual whim, becoming a globe-girdling nomad, spending her days as a living advert for her dad’s New England guest-house in timeless, unchanging idyllic Anchor Bay.

Introverted sister Dawn stayed behind, reluctant to ever leave her paradisiacal home…

Today, in the depths of space, Norrin is performing another act of benevolent mercy, eager as ever to atone for the uncountable lives he ended as Galactus’ food-finding scout. As he completes his task the repentant hero is approached by mysterious alien the Incredulous Zed who also desperately needs his aid.

The excitable executive runs a fantastic artificial world named The Impericon, but the wary skyrider has never heard of it. The reason why is simplicity itself: due to its unique power source – which casually warps the established laws of physics – the pan-species, planet-sized “Impossible Palace” holiday resort has been able to mask itself from the infallible senses of Galactus and his numerous heralds for centuries…

Now the entire structure faces certain doom and Zed wants the Surfer to be his latest champion in battle against the marauding Queen of Nevers. Norrin happily accepts but Zed is the cautious, distrusting type and uses his “Motivator” to ensure the hero’s very best efforts.

As it has done so many times before, the device scans all of infinity and takes hostage the most important being in the appointed champion’s life, but the Surfer is completely baffled when he finds an Earth girl he does not know deposited in a block of cells amongst the nearest and dearest of hundreds of fallen warriors…

Despite Zed’s double-dealing Norrin still wants to save the Impericon so ‘Everything and All at Once’ sees him flash into the void only to discover a floating field of his deceased predecessors. Moreover, his opponent is an extremely aggrieved Conceptual Entity…

Stay-at-home Dawn Greenwood adapts to her alien surroundings with admirable aplomb and within hours of captivity has orchestrated a prison break taking along with her all the other hostages, but in deep space the Surfer knows none of this. His anticipated confrontation with the personification of All Possible Alternative and Potential Futures is agonisingly one-sided.

However as Norrin Radd continues to strive valiantly he comes to a startling conclusion: he is fighting the victim and not the aggressor in a cosmic power struggle…

Concluding that The Impossible Palace only exists because it runs on the Never Queen’s stolen heart, he rapidly doubles back to infiltrate the Impericon and retrieve it, but finds that mysterious Earth girl who’s supposed to be important to him has already taken care of that…

Realising the jig is up, the real ruler of the artificial world despatches Zed with the uncanny extra-universal blade which first excised the all-powerful organ from the Queen of Never and Norrin is compelled to break off and stop the crazed thief.

Dawn, meanwhile, has taken the purloined power source and ‘Change of Heart’ reveals her inner strength as she leads the hostages to safety and, by returning the infinite pump, restores infinite choice, infinite hope and infinite potential to all of Reality…

Still unsure how the girl can possibly be personally significant to him, the Surfer escorts the unflappable teenager back to Earth, only to be intercepted by the Guardians of the Galaxy as they patrol Sol’s system.

Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Gamora, Groot, Agent Venom, Star-Lord and CarolCaptain MarvelDanvers are pledged to stop alien menaces harming Earth and indigenous threats getting off-world to imperil – or just annoy – stellar civilisations, but eventually they give the roving voyagers a provisional clean bill of health.

Norrin is far more concerned about meeting his oddly engaging charge’s family. After he reluctantly agrees to stay at the Greenwood Inn and experience life as an Earthman he soon relaxes and learns to kick back a bit…

Sadly he’s picked the absolute worst moment to de-power, eat food and sleep. When old allies Doctor Strange and the Hulk suddenly turn up they reveal that a periodic cosmic conjunction of planets has allowed dream demon Nightmare to manifest and turn the world into a realm of escalating insanity.

With horror the heroes quickly realise that almost all of humanity is asleep – even the Surfer and themselves – with only his excitable new best bud awake to stop the dream lord…

Her methodology is uniquely her own, but the Greenwood girl rises to the occasion and in the aftermath her unlikely but crucial connection to the restless wanderer is revealed, leaving ‘New Dawn’ a much-changed child: one who is willing and even hungry to see all of everything, everywhere, beside the gleaming ever-soaring Silver Surfer…

Although published before the current series began, ‘Girl on Board’ from All-New Marvel Now! Point One (March 2014) very much epitomises the tone of the new adventures as Norrin and his platonic protégé visit a water world to experience a moment of rare cosmic beauty and spirituality but instead stumble into a bunch of star pirates causing trouble.

The unavoidable – if spectacular – punch-up is the very least part of this charming tale of interspatial tourism and youthful self-awareness building…

Funny, smart, warm and wonder-filled, this astoundingly addictive tome also includes a gallery of covers and variants by the Allreds, Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom, Salvador Larroca, Francesco Francavilla, Chris Samnee, Skottie Young, Adi Granov and Gerald Parel, plus extra treats provided by AR icon sections (Marvel Augmented Reality App) which give access to story bonuses once you download the code – for free – from marvel.com onto your smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet.
™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Essential Avengers volume 8


By Jim Shooter, George Pérez, David Michelinie, Tom DeFalco, Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6322-0

The Avengers always proved that putting all one’s star eggs in a single basket pays off big-time: even if the team’s Big Three – Iron Man, Captain America and Thor – are absent, it simply allows the lesser lights and continuity players to shine more brightly.

Although the founding stars were regularly featured due to the rotating, constantly churning, open door policy, human-scale narrative drivers featured the regulars without titles of their own whose eventful lives played out only within these stories and no others.

This electric eighth black and white compilation collects Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ extraordinary exploits from issues #164-184 of the monthly comicbook (spanning October 1977-June 1979), the contents of Avengers Annuals #7 and 8 plus the concluding half of an acclaimed crossover epic from Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2.

During this period Jim Shooter, having galvanised and steadied the company’s notional flagship, moved on, leaving David Michelinie to impress his own ideas and personality upon the team, even as Cosmic Doomsmith Jim Starlin recruited the team to inscribe an epic ending to his seminal interpretation of tragic antihero Adam Warlock

Opening this titanic tome is a stunning 3-part saga by Shooter, John Byrne & Pablo Marcos which reinvented one of the team’s oldest adversaries.

It began in #164 wherein, after months of speculation and experimentation, the resurrected Wonder Man was finally discovered to have evolved into a creature of pure ionic energy. Elsewhere, aging Maggia Don Count Nefaria had recruited Whirlwind, Power Man (the original mercenary who had undergone the same transformative experiment as Wonder Man) and Living Laser to amass plunder for him, but the tactic was mere subterfuge.

After the thieves trashed a squad of Avengers, Nefaria used his flunkies’ bodies as template and power source to turn himself into a literal Superman and attack the already battered heroes in ‘To Fall by Treachery!’

The tension built in #165 as ‘Hammer of Vengeance’ saw the lethally out-powered team fall, only to be saved by elderly speedster The Whizzer who pointed out that, for all his incredible strength, Nefaria too was an old man with death inevitably dogging his heels.

Panicked and galvanised, the Overman went berserk, carving a swathe of destruction through the city whilst seeking a confrontation with Thunder God Thor and the secret of his immortality.

Before too long he had reason to regret his demands…

The surprise arrival of the Thunderer in ‘Day of the Godslayer!’ ended the madman’s dreams but also highlighted growing tensions within the victorious team…

This superb thriller is followed by‘The Final Threat’ (Jim Starlin & Joe Rubinstein) from Avengers Annual #7, which saw Captain Marvel and Moondragon return to Earth with vague anticipations of an impending cosmic catastrophe.

Their premonitions were confirmed when galactic wanderer Adam Warlock arrived with news that death-obsessed Thanos had amassed an alien armada and built a soul-gem powered weapon to snuff out the stars like candles…

Broaching interstellar space to stop the scheme, the united heroes forestalled the stellar invasion and prevented the Dark Titan from destroying the Sun – but only at the cost of Warlock’s life…

Then ‘Death Watch!’ (Starlin & Rubinstein from Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2) saw Peter Parker plagued by prophetic nightmares, which disclosed how Thanos had snatched victory from defeat and now held the Avengers captive whilst he again prepared to extinguish Sol.

With nowhere else to turn, the anguished, disbelieving Spider-Man headed for the Baxter Building, hoping to borrow a spacecraft, unaware that The Thing also had a history with the terrifying Titan.

Although utterly overmatched, the mismatched champions of Life subsequently upset Thanos’ plans enough so that the Avengers and the Universe’s true agent of retribution were able to end the Titan’s threat forever… or at least until next time…

Back in the monthly an epic of equal import was about to unfold. Shooter’s connection to the series, although episodic, was long-lived and produced some of that period’s greatest tales, none more so than the stellar – if deadline-plagued – saga which unravelled over the succeeding months: a sprawling tale of time-travel and universal conquest which began in Avengers #167-168 and, after a brief pause, resumed for #170 through 177.

In previous issues a difference of opinion between Captain America and Iron Man over leadership styles had begun to polarise the team and tensions started to show in #167 with ‘Tomorrow Dies Today!’ by Shooter, George Pérez & Marcos.

In the Gods-&-Monsters filled Marvel Universe there are entrenched and jealous Hierarchies of Power, so when a new player mysteriously materialises in the 20th Century the very Fabric of Reality is threatened…

It all kicked off when star-spanning 31st century superheroes Guardians of the Galaxy materialised in Earth orbit, hotly pursuing a cyborg despot named Korvac.

Inadvertently setting off planetary incursion alarms, their minor-moon sized ship was swiftly penetrated by an Avengers squad, where, after the customary introductory squabble, the future men – Charlie-27, Yondu, Martinex, Nikki, Vance Astro and enigmatic space God Starhawk – explained the purpose of their mission…

Captain America had fought beside them to liberate their home era from Badoon rule and Thor had faced the fugitive Korvac before so peace soon broke out, but even with the resources of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes the time travellers were unable to find their quarry…

Meanwhile on Earth a new and mysterious being named Michael is lurking in the background. At a fashion show staged by the Wasp he achieves a psychic communion with model Carina Walters and they both vanish…

Avengers #168 reveals ‘First Blood’ and stirs up more trouble as Federal liaison and hidebound martinet Henry Peter Gyrich begins making like bureaucratically hot for the maverick team. In Colorado meanwhile Hawkeye gets a shock as his travelling partner Two-Gun Kid vanishes before his eyes whilst in suburban Forest Hills Starhawk – in his female iteration of Aleta – approaches a quiet residence…

Michael/Korvac’s plan consists of subtly altering events as he gathers strength in secret preparation for a sneak attack on those aforementioned Cosmic Hierarchies. His entire plan revolves around not being noticed. When Starhawk confronts him the villain kills the intruder and instantly resurrects him without the ability to perceive Michael or any of his works…

The drama screeches to a halt in #169, which declared ‘If We Should Fail… The World Dies Tonight!’ The out of context potboiler – by Marv Wolfman, Sal Buscema & Dave Hunt – saw Cap, Iron Man and Black Panther travel the planet in search of doomsday bombs wired to the failing heart of a dying man before the major mayhem resumed in #170 with ‘…Though Hell Should Bar the Way!’ by Shooter, Pérez & Marcos.

As Sentinel of Liberty and Golden Avenger finally settle their differences, in Inhuman city Attilan ex-Avenger Quicksilver suddenly disappears even as dormant mechanoid Jocasta (designed by maniac AI Ultron to be his bride) goes on a rampage and escapes into New York City.

In stealthy pursuit and hoping her trail will lead to Ultron himself, the team stride into a trap ‘…Where Angels Fear to Tread’ but nevertheless triumph thanks to the hex powers of the Scarlet Witch, the assistance of pushy, no-nonsense new hero Ms. Marvel and Jocasta’s own rebellion against the metal monster who made her.

However at their moment of triumph the Avengers are stunned to see Cap and Jocasta wink out of existence…

The problems pile up in #172 as Watchdog-come-Gadfly Gyrich is roughly manhandled and captured by out-of-the-loop returnee Hawkeye and responds by rescinding the team’s Federal clearances.

Thus handicapped the heroes are unable to warn other inactive members of the increasing disappearances as a squad of heavy hitters rushes off to tackle marauding Atlantean maverick Tyrak the Treacherous who is bloodily enacting a ‘Holocaust in New York Harbor!’ (Shooter, Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson)…

Answers to the growing mystery are finally forthcoming in ‘Threshold of Oblivion!’, plotted by Shooter, with David Michelinie scripting for Sal Buscema & D(iverse) Hands to illustrate.

As the vanishings escalate the remaining Avengers (Thor, Wasp, Hawkeye and Iron Man), with the assistance of Vance Astro, finally track down their hidden foe and beam into a cloaked starship to liberate the ‘Captives of the Collector!’ (Shooter, Bill Mantlo, Dave Wenzel & Marcos)…

After a staggering struggle the heroes triumph and their old foe reveals the shocking truth: he is in fact an Elder of the Universe who foresaw cosmic doom millennia ago and sought to preserve special artefacts and creatures – such as the Avengers – from the slowly approaching apocalypse.

As he reveals that predicted end-time is here and that he has sent his own daughter Carina to infiltrate the Enemy’s stronghold, the cosmic Noah is obliterated in a devastating blast of energy. The damage however is done and the entrenched hierarchies of creation may well be alerted…

Issue #175 began the final countdown as ‘The End… and Beginning!’ (Shooter, Michelinie, Wenzel & Marcos) saw the amassed and liberated ranks of Avengers and Guardians follow the clues to Michael as the new god shared the incredible secret of his apotheosis with Carina, before ‘The Destiny Hunt!’ and ‘The Hope… and the Slaughter!’ (Shooter, Wenzel, Marcos & Ricardo Villamonte) saw the entire army of champions destroyed and resurrected as Michael easily overpowered all opposition but faltered for lack of one fundamental failing…

Spread through a series of lesser adventures the overarching epic ponderously and ominously unfolds before finally exploding into a devastating and tragic Battle Royale that is the epitome of superhero comics. This is pure escapist fantasy at its finest.

Despite being somewhat let down by the artwork when the magnificent George Perez gave way to less enthusiastic hands such as Sal Buscema, David Wenzel and Tom Morgan, and cursed by the inability to keep a regular inker (Pablo Marcos, Klaus Janson Ricardo Villamonte and Tom Morgan all pitched in), the sheer scope of the epic plot nevertheless carries this story through to its cataclysmic and fulfilling conclusion.

Even Shooter’s reluctant replacement by scripters Dave Michelinie and Bill Mantlo (as his editorial career advanced) couldn’t derail this juggernaut of adventure.

If you want to see what makes Superhero fiction work, and can keep track of nearly two dozen flamboyant characters, this is a fine example of how to make such an unwieldy proposition easily accessible to the new and returning reader.

After the death and triumphant resurrection of the heroes Avengers Annual #8 gets back to business with a spectacular Fights ‘n’ Tights clash in ‘Spectrums of Deceit!’ by Roger Slifer, Pérez, Marcos & Villamonte, wherein the sentient power-prism of arch villain Doctor Spectrum begins possessing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, leading the team into another blockbusting battle against the Squadron Sinister and ethically ambivalent Femazon Thundra

A complete change of pace came in Avengers #178. ‘The Martyr Perplex!’ by Steve Gerber, Carmine Infantino &Rudy Nebres saw Beast targeted by master brainwasher The Manipulator in a tense psycho-thriller teeming with shady crooks and government spooks, after which Tom DeFalco, Jim Mooney, Al Gordon & Mike Esposito concocted a 2-part yarn introducing tragic mutant Bloodhawk and an ambitious hitman in ‘Slowly Slays the Stinger!’

Whilst the Stinger cautiously executed his plan another squad of heroes return with Bloodhawk to his desolate island home of Maura for a ‘Berserkers’ Holiday’, just in time to battle an animated and agitated stone idol.

When they returned victorious Stinger was waiting and the assemblage lost its newest ally forever…

Avengers #181 introduced new regular team Michelinie & Byrne – augmented by inker Gene Day – as ‘On the Matter of Heroes!’ had Agent Gyrich lay down the law and winnow the army of heroes down to a federally acceptable seven.

As the Guardians of the Galaxy headed back to the future, Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast and Wasp had to placate Hawkeye after he was rejected in favour of new member The Falcon – parachuted in to conform to government quotas on affirmative action…

Almost immediately Gyrich’s plans were in ruins as a strange gipsy sorcerer attacked, claiming Wanda and Pietro were his long lost children. He stole their souls, trapping them in little wooden dolls, and the resultant clash in #182’s ‘Honor Thy Father’ (inked by Klaus Janson) only created more questions, as overwhelming evidence seemed to confirm Django Maximoff’s story; compelling the Witch and Quicksilver to leave with him on a quest for answers…

This breathtaking collection concludes with a 2-part confrontation by Michelinie, Byrne, Janson & D. Hands from Avengers #183-184.

‘The Redoubtable Return of Crusher Creel!’ began as Ms. Marvel was cleared by Gyrich to replace Wanda whilst elsewhere in the Big Apple the formidable Absorbing Man decided to quit being thrashed by heroes and leave the country. Unfortunately his departure plans included kidnapping a young woman “for company” and led to a cataclysmic showdown with the heroes and Hawkeye (who was determined to win back his place on the team) leading to carnage, chaos and a ‘Death on the Hudson!’

These truly epic yarns set the tone for the compulsive, calamitous Costumed Dramas for decades to come and can still boggle the mind and take the breath away, even here in the so slick and cool 21st century…

No lovers of superhero sagas can afford to ignore this superbly bombastic book, and fans who think themselves above Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy will also be pleasantly surprised…
© 1977, 1978, 1979, 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Guardians of the Galaxy


By Arnold Drake, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Jim Valentino, Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Gene Colan, Mike Mignola, Timothy Green, Paul Pelletier & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-601-4

With another Marvel filmic franchise kicking off around the world, here’s a timely tie-in trade paperback collection designed to perfectly augment the cinematic exposure and cater to movie fans wanting to follow up with a comics experience.

Part of the always rewarding Marvel Platinum/Definitive Edition series, this treasury of tales reprints intriguing landmarks and key moments from Marvel Super Heroes #18, Marvel Preview #11, Rocket Raccoon #1-4, Guardians of the Galaxy volume 1, #1, Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord #1-4 and Guardians of the Galaxy volume 1, spanning January 1969-July 2008, and hopefully answering any questions the silver screen story might throw up whilst providing an immense amount of spectacularly bombastic fighting fun.

One thing to recall at all times though is that there are two distinct and separate iterations of the team. The film concentrates on the second but there are inescapable connections between them so pay attention here…

Moreover, in addition to the sparkling Brady Webb Foreword, this compendium contains text features detailing the secret history and statistics of Drax, Gamora, Groot, Rocket Raccoon and Star-Lord, plus Mike Conroy’s scholarly trawl through comicbook history in ‘The True Origin of the Guardians of the Galaxy’.

Although heralded since its genesis in the early 1960s with making superheroes more realistic, The House of Ideas has also always maintained its close connection with outlandish and outrageous cosmic calamity (as best exemplified in their pre-superhero “monster-mag” days), and their pantheon of much-travelled space stalwarts maintain that delightful “Anything Goes” attitude in all of their many and varied iterations.

This titanic tome’s blistering battle-fest begins with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome!’ first seen in combination new-concept try-out/Golden Age reprint vehicle Marvel Super Heroes #18 (cover-dated January 1969). The terse, gritty episode introduced a disparate band of freedom fighters battling to save Earth from occupation and humanity from extinction at the scaly hands of the sinister, reptilian Brotherhood of Badoon.

It all starts when Jovian militia-man Charlie-27 returns home from a six month tour of scout duty to find his entire colony subjugated by invading aliens. Fighting free, he jumps into a randomly programmed teleporter and emerges on Pluto, just in time to scotch the escape of crystaline scientist Martinex.

Both are examples of human genetic engineering: subspecies designed to populate and colonise Sol system’s outer planets but now potentially the last of their kinds. After helping the mineral man complete his mission of sabotage – blowing up potentially useful material before the Badoon can get their hands on it – the odd couple set the teleporter for Earth and jump…

Unfortunately the invaders have already taken the homeworld.

The Supreme Badoon Elite are there, busily mocking the oldest Earthman alive. Major Vance Astro had been the world’s first intersolar astronaut; solo flying in cold sleep to Alpha Centauri at a fraction of the speed of light.

When he got there 1000 years later, humanity was waiting for him, having cracked trans-luminal speeds a mere two centuries after he took off. Now he and Centauri aborigine Yondu were a comedy exhibit for the cruel reptilian conquerors who were eradicating both of their races…

The smug invaders were utterly overwhelmed when Astro broke free, utilising the psionic powers he had developed in hibernation before Yondu slaughtered them with the sound-controlled energy arrows he carried.

In their pell-mell flight the pair stumbled across the incoming Martinex and Charlie-27 and a new legend of valiant resistance was born…

The eccentric team, as originally envisioned by Arnold Drake, Gene Colan & Mike Esposito in 1968, were presented to an audience undergoing immense social change, with dissent in the air, riot in the streets and with the Vietnam War on their TV screens every night.

Perhaps the jingoistic militaristic overtones were off-putting or maybe the times were against the Guardians since costumed hero titles were entering a temporary downturn, but whatever the reason the feature was a rare “Miss” for Marvel and the futuristic freedom fighters were not seen again for years.

They floated in limbo until 1974 when Steve Gerber incorporated them into some of his assigned titles (Marvel Two-In-One and The Defenders), wherein assorted 20th century champions travelled a millennium into the future to ensure humanity’s survival. Rejuvenated by exposure the squad rededicated themselves to liberating star-scattered Mankind, and eventually gained a short-lived series in Marvel Presents (#3-12, February 1976-August 1977, but not represented here) before cancellation left them roaming the Marvel Universe as perennial guest-stars in such cosmically-tinged titles as Thor, Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-in-One and most significantly The Avengers.

In June 1990 they secured a relatively successful relaunch (#62 issues + annuals and spin-off miniseries) before cancellation again claimed them in July 1995.

However before we get there this volume highlights two seemingly unrelated characters who made their debuts elsewhere in the 20th century Marvel Universe.

Starlord (without the hyphen) premiered in black-&-white mature-reader magazine Marvel Preview # 4 in 1976, appearing thrice more – in #11, 14 and 15 – during the height of the Star Wars inspired Science Fiction explosion.

Years previously a warrior prince of an interstellar empire was shot down over Colorado and had a brief fling with solitary Earther Meredith Quill. Despite his desire to remain in idyllic isolation, duty called the starman back to the battle and he left, leaving behind an unborn son and a unique weapon…

A decade later, the troubled boy saw his mother assassinated by alien lizard men. Peter Jason Quill vengefully slew the creatures with Meredith’s shotgun, before his home was explosively destroyed by a flying saucer.

The orphan awoke in hospital, his only possession a “toy” ray-gun his mother had hidden from him his entire life. Years later his destiny found him, as the half-breed scion was elevated by the divinity dubbed the “Master of the Sun”, becoming StarLord. Rejecting both Earth and his missing father Peter chose freedom, the pursuit of justice and the expanse of the cosmos.

In his second outing (Marvel Preview #11, Summer 1977) Chris Claremont, John Byrne & Terry Austin crafted a classic space opera which saw the deity-appointed galactic policeman scupper a slaving ring and follow a string of clues back to his own incredible origins.

Presented here in the original monochrome, that tale opens on decimated agrarian planet ‘Windhölme’ where fisherman’s son Kip sees his entire community abducted like cattle by alien criminals. Aboard their vessel he is befriended by feisty fellow abductee Sandy but before they can enact their childish dreams of revenge the slaver dreadnought is attacked by Starlord and his sentient super vehicle “Ship”…

The traffickers are no match for the aggrieved heroes and, after the victims have been repatriated, psychic interrogation leads Kip, Sandy and the stellar paladin up the criminal chain to flesh-peddler and imperial favourite Kyras Shakti on his debauched pleasure world ‘Cinnibar’.

The monolithic battle there reveals even greater Royal involvement, drawing Starlord to ‘Sparta’, and a shocking family connection before ‘The Hollow Crown’ sees Quill uncover his true origins when he is unexpectedly reunited with his alien father. Despite renewed emotional ties the hero forswears a life of impossible luxury for the heavens, duty and justice…

Rocket Raccoon was a minor character who appeared in backup serial ‘The Sword in the Star’ (Marvel Preview #7 in 1976). He won a larger role in Incredible Hulk #271 (May 1982), and like Wolverine years before refused to go away quietly.

Reprinted here in its entirety is the 4-issue Rocket Raccoon miniseries (cover-dated May to August 1985 and crafted by Bill Mantlo, Mike Mignola, Al Gordon & Al Milgrom), a bizarre and baroque sci-fi fantasy which blended the charm of Pogo with the biting social satire of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest all whilst ostensibly describing a battle between Good and Evil in a sector of space crazy even by comicbook standards.

Rocket was one of many talking animals in the impenetrable, inescapable Keystone Quadrant; a Ranger in charge of keeping the peace as robots and anamorphic beasties went about their holy tasks of caring for the distinctly odd and carefree humans known as The Loonies on their idyllic, sybaritic planet Halfworld.

However when a brutal shooting war between voracious apex toymakers Judson Jakes and Lord Dyvyne led to Rocket’s girlfriend Lylla Otter being kidnapped, the planet went wild, or perhaps… ‘Animal Crackers’.

In rescuing her, Rocket and his faithful deputy Wal Rus had to contend with a murderous army of mechanised Killer Clowns, face an horrific, all-consuming bio-weapon at ‘The Masque of the Red Breath’, and even team up with arch-foe and disreputable mercenary bunny Blackjack O’Hare before uncovering the horrendous truth behind the mad society he so tirelessly defended in ‘The Book of Revelations!’

The final chapter then shook everything up as ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ saw the end of The Loonies, allowing the Raccoon and his surviving companions to escape the confines of the eternally segregated Keystone Quadrant into the greater universe beyond…

Back on Earth, a speculator-fuelled boom in comics sales led to Marvel launching a bunch of new titles in the early 1990s. Amongst them was Guardians of the Galaxy volume 1, #1, once again focusing on the 31st century centurions.

Conceived, written and drawn by Jim Valentino – with Steve Montano inking – the debut issue reprinted here reprised the entire eccentric combined careers of Vance, Yondu, Charlie and Martinex (plus later recruits Mercurian Nikki and Starhawk – an alien god who shared a single body with his estranged wife Aleta) as the team set off on a quest.

They were following a string of ancient clues to recover Captain America’s legendary shield, only to fall foul of cyborg-enhanced warrior ‘Taserface!’

For the rest of that epic journey and their battle against the alien Stark race who had based their entire warrior culture on Iron Man’s armour, you’ll need to track down one of the many other GotG collections flooding out now…

In 2006 a massive crossover involved most of Marvel’s 21st century space specialists in a spectacular Annihilation Event, leading writing team Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning to confiscate and reconfigure the Guardians concept for modern times and tastes.

Among the stalwarts in the big event were Silver Surfer, Galactus, Firelord (and other previous heralds of the world-eater), Moondragon, Quasar, Star-Lord, Thanos, Super-Skrull, Rigellian Colonizer Tana Nile, Gamora (“Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy”), Ronan the Accuser, Nova, Drax (the Destroyer), a Watcher and many previously established alien civilisations such as the Kree, Skrulls, Xandarians, Shi’ar et al., all falling before an invasion of rapacious Negative Zone bugs and beasties unleashed by insectoid horror Annihilus..

After that shooting match subsided the decimated sectors and empires were left helpless as sentient, aggressive all-subsuming technological parasite The Phalanx struck, absorbing and thriving inside all the machines and electronic engines the shaken civilisations were using to rebuild in a follow-up apocalypse designated Annihilation: Conquest.

From that second sidereal saga came the beginnings of the Guardians the world has gone crazy over – specifically the side-bar miniseries Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord #1-4 from September-December 2007 and which is reprinted here in full.

What You’ll Need to Know: in the scarred and war-torn realm of known space, still reeling from the chaos of the Annihilation Wave and its aftermath, both the Kree and Skrull empires are splintered, Xandar’s Nova Corps (the universal police force) has been reduced to a single agent, ancient gods are loose and a sizable number of the Negative Zone invaders have tenuously established themselves in territories stolen from the billions of dead sentients that once populated the cosmos.

The Supreme Intelligence is gone and arch-villain Ronan has become a surprisingly effective ruler of the Kree remnants. Cosmic Protector Quasar is dead and Phyla-Vell, daughter of the first Captain Marvel has inherited both his powers and name…

Whilst Phyla and psychic demi-goddess Moondragon were working with the pacifist Priests of Pama to relieve the suffering of starving survivors, Peter Quill (no longer Star-Lord) was working with Ronan and the pitiful Kree remnants on Hala to shore up the battered communal interstellar defences of the myriad races in the sector.

Quill had brokered an alliance with the Spaceknights of Galador (an old noble cyborg species most famously represented by 1980s hero Rom) which should enhance the all-pervasive etheric war-net, but once uploaded the data instantly causes disastrous problems throughout the system.

In seconds all technology in the region is compromised: overruled and overwritten by a ruthlessly efficient electronic sentience whose cybernetic credo is “peace and order through assimilation”. Once more organic life is facing total extinction…

On Pama, Phyla and Moondragon are targeted by repurposed Kree automatons as the Phalanx attempt to destroy any credible resistance before cutting off the entire quadrant from the rest of the universe.

If life was to survive this threat it must besaved by the champions trapped inside…

The 4-part miniseries Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord – written by Keith Giffen and illustrated by Timothy Green II, Victor Olazaba & Nathan Fairbairn, finds the former Cosmic Avenger stripped of his powers and hi-tech enhancements – all liabilities when facing a predator species that infests electronic devices – and forcibly seconded to a Kree resistance division.

Here he is tasked with turning a bunch of Kree convicts into a Penal Strike Force (a highly engaging intergalactic Dirty Half-Dozen) to take out the complex where the Phalanx are perfecting an efficient way to assimilate organics into their electro-mechanistic hive-mind.

The Kree were once the major bad-guy race in the Marvel mainstream, so whoever they consider criminals look surprising like failed heroes to us. Firstly there’s Galactic Warrior Bug (originally from 1970’s phenomenon Micronauts), the current Captain Universe (ditto), the Shi’ar berserker Deathcry, failed Celestial Madonna Mantis, the so-very-far-from-home Rocket Raccoon and gloriously whacky “Kirby Kritter” Groot: a Walking Tree and one-time “Monarch of Planet X.”

With this reluctant team in tow and using natural abilities and decidedly primitive Earth weapons the squad invades Hala – central beachhead of the Phalanx – to discover and destroy the augmented assimilation project, but they have drastically underestimated the remorselessly callous creativity of the electronic invaders…

Happily the Phalanx have no grasp of the ingenuity, bloody-minded determination and willingness to die stupidly for a cause that afflicts organics and heroes…

Sharp, witty and engaging, this is a magnificent romp full of humour, shocks and thrills no comic fan could possibly resist…

The roaring success of all that intergalactic derring-do led to a new rootin’, tootin’, blaster-shootin’ conclave of outer space reprobates who formed a new 21st century iteration and this titanic tome concludes its comics cavalcade with Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2, #1, (July 2008) wherein some of those recently acquainted adventurers get back into the business of saving the universe…

‘Somebody’s Got To Do It’ – by Abnett, Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar – reveals how, due to fellow Earthling Nova’s prompting, Star-Lord forms a pro-active defence force to handle the next inevitable cosmic crisis as soon as – if not before – it starts.

To that end he convinces Phyla-Vell, Drax, Gamora, Groot, Warlock and the Raccoon to relocate with him to the pan-species science-station Knowhere (situated in the hollowed-out skull of a dead Celestial Space God) and start putting out a never-ending progression of interstellar brush-fires before they become really serious…

The station is guarded and run by Cosmo – an elderly Soviet dog with astounding telepathic abilities – and is where Mantis now works as chief medic. It also offers unlimited teleportational transport which the team soon needs as it tries to prevent an out-of-control Universal Church of Truth Templeship from crashing into a time/space distortion and shredding the fabric of reality…

Soon the surly scratch squad are battling savage, crazed missionary-zealots empowered by the worship of enslaved adherents channelled through the Templeship’s colossal Faith Generators whilst desperately attempting to divert the vessel before it impacts the fissure in space.

Such a collision would cause catastrophic destruction to the galaxy but the UCT crusaders only see heretics trying to interfere with their mission to convert unbelievers…

The crisis is exacerbated by another small problem: there are very nasty things on the other side of the fissure that really want to come and play in our universe, and when one of them breaks through the only thing to do is destroy the Templeship…

In the aftermath, Warlock reveals that the non-stop string of cosmic Armageddons since Annihilus’ invasion has fundamentally damaged the substance of space and inevitably more fissures will appear. He wants to repurpose the team to find and close them all before anything else escapes.

And on Sacrosanct, homeworld of the Universal Church of Truth, the Matriarch issues a decree for her Cardinals to deal with the interfering unbelievers…

With covers by Colan & Esposito, Ken Barr, Mignola & Gordon, Valentino, Nic Klein, and Clint Langley, this spectacular slice of riotous star-roving is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun and blockbuster action: another well-tailored, on-target tool to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comic incarnation and another solid sampling to entice the newcomers and charm even the most jaded slice ‘n’ dice fanatic.

© 2014 Marvel. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. British edition published by Panini UK.

All-New X-Men/Guardians of the Galaxy: The Trial of Jean Grey


By Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli, Stuart Immonen, David Marquez, Wade Von Grawbadger & various (Marvel/Panini UK)

When bestial mutant Henry McCoy learned he was dying, he used time-travel tech in a last-ditch attempt to give his life meaning. Seeking to prevent a species war, he brought the young, naive X-Men of his youth into the future to reason with his radicalised former comrade Scott Summers, praying the still idealistic and hopeful teens could reason with Mutant Enemy Terrorist No. 1 and divert him from his path of doctrinaire madness…

The gamble paid off in all the wrong ways. Rather than shocking Cyclops back to his senses, the confrontation hardened the renegade’s heart and strengthened his resolve. Moreover, even after the younger McCoy miraculously cured his older self, boy-Henry and the rest of the X-Kids were trapped in their own future and began gradually defecting to the radicalised team…

And Elsewhere in Infinity: a few years ago a plethora of cosmic crises forced the champions and remnants of many heroic races to band together and save the cosmos. Although said crises were largely averted, some of those Sentinels of the Spaceways eventually got the band back together, more determined than ever to make the universe a safe place (for specifics you should consult Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers and Angela).

Scripted by Brian Michael Bendis, this stellar crossover saga combined the two disparate gangs of outcasts: The Trial of Jean Grey collects All-New X-Men #22.NOW, 23-24 and Guardians of the Galaxy #11.NOW, 12-13 (from January to March 2014), taking the time-displaced teens to the ends of the universe and even further into uncharted temporal territory…

The crossover cataclysm commences in All-New X-Men #22.NOW (illustrated by Stuart Immonen & Wade Von Grawbadger) and opens in the wilds of Canada at the New Charles Xavier School– formerly the Weapon X facility where Wolverine and so many other mutants were ruthlessly experimented upon and “improved”.

Here the future-shocked Angel, Iceman, Beast, young Cyclops and Jean Grey are feeling the building tension of their new normal: facing the prospect of never returning to their own time; risking destroying all reality with every moment they aren’t back there and, worst of all, watching Jean go slowly crazy trying not to become the impossibly perfect superwoman everybody keeps talking about in such hushed tones…

As part of that resolution Jean had been tentatively exploring her romantic options, consequently sowing confusion amongst her hormonal teenaged confreres. This now results in a painfully fraught spat with ostensibly predestined husband (young) Scott Summers.

As tempers flare the facility is suddenly stormed by a squad of extraterrestrial commandos who, despite spirited resistance from the assorted X-Men and other mutants, capture Jean and blast off for parts unknown…

Mere seconds later another band of weirdoes turn up: The Guardians of the Galaxy are aghast and furious at arriving too late…

Guardians of the Galaxy #11.NOW (with art by Sara Pichelli) then flashbacks to fill in the details as Star-Lord Peter Jason Quill is ambushed in an alien bar by a Skrull bounty hunter.

The half-breed Terran is the unloved son of J’Son of Spartax – undisputed ruler of an interstellar empire – but no friend of Earth. The wayward scion and his allies in pacifying an unruly and unforgiving universe Drax, Rocket Racoon, Groot, Gamora (“Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy”) and newest extra-dimensional recruit Angela are all on the run from the militaristic Spartoi and their allies…

The self-appointed Guardians’ ongoing troubles stem from a compact of major cosmic powers and principalities. This coterie of rulers had formed a Council of Galactic Empires and unilaterally declared Earth “off limits”: quarantined from all extraterrestrial contact, but that high-minded declaration hadn’t stopped some of the signatories from breaking their own embargo or being mighty ticked off whenever Quill’s crew kicked them off Terra and back into space.

Cold and distant J-Son of course, had his own good – if undisclosed – reasons for wanting his son curbed and controlled…

However whilst the Skrull was stalking Star-Lord, the Council was meeting and Emperor Kallark of the Shi’ar (AKA alien superman Gladiator) was informing his colleagues that Jean Grey – former host to the overweening Phoenix Force – was back and he was going to try her for her crimes… even though the chronally displaced child hadn’t technically committed them yet…

When wily techie Rocket Racoon intercepts a message about an intended Shia’ar raid on Earth, the Guardians race to stop them, but…

All-New X-Men #23 (Immonen & Von Grawbadger) picks up the tale in space as the Guardians and X-Men hurtle after the commandos, shattering Shi’ar ships that get in their way, even as far ahead of them Imperial Guard (an in-joke version of DC’s Legion of Super Heroes) telepath Oracle begins to debrief Jean and chillingly share her future history with her.

The exotic psionic seems oddly sympathetic and considerate of the Terran teenager’s unhappy predicament…

Her pursuers meanwhile are encountering increasingly harsh resistance – until help arrives in the form of the bombastic, swashbuckling Starjammers

GotG #12 (illustrated by Pichelli, Immonen & Von Grawbadger) sees young Cyclops receive the shock of his life as he finds that the freebooting rebels’ leader is his own long-dead dad Christopher Summers. He hates the Shi’ar with a passion and good reason and now goes by the name Corsair

As father and son ecstatically embrace, on Planet Spartax Quill’s sire is taking steps to offset the disaster he knows will come if Kallark carries out his insane plan to kill the time-lost Jean Grey. He had originally intended to do nothing, but now that his own son has become involved…

As the combined rescue-force infiltrates the Empire’s most secure planet, Jean’s show-trial is beginning. Kallark – despite the continued objections of Oracle – confronts the frail-seeming Earthling with the planetary genocides perpetrated by her older self whilst possessed by the Phoenix and callously demands her plea for crimes she has not yet, if ever, committed…

All-New X-Men #23 (Immonen & Von Grawbadger) ramps up the tension as J-Son bursts in, declaring the defendant’s innocence and asking if the Shi’ar have not already done enough.

In the aftermath of the Phoenix’s rampage Gladiator had exterminated every one of Jean’s relatives – in case the cosmic entity had some affinity with the family’s genetics – but this latest action seems like nothing more than vindictive, cowardly paranoia…

The revelation is a huge mistake…

In the world outside, Starjammers, Guardians and X-Men are getting closer and closer, using guile and force of arms to cut their way through the massed military forces, but their efforts are wasted.

Jean, horrified by the fate of her family, has tapped unknown reserves and become something never experienced in her previous future history. As such, the Imperial Guard are utterly unable to contain her…

As Gladiator’s forces pursue they are countered by the late arriving Guardian- Starjammer-X force in the spectacular and climactic Guardians of the Galaxy #13 (illustrated by Pichelli & David Marquez). Jean’s evolution and Cyclops’ determination are key to ending the ill-advised intergalactic travesty of justice, but in the weary aftermath, as Quill’s people return the mutants to their homeworld, a tricky new romance has been kindled and one of the time-tossed teen nomads is noticeably missing…

To Be Continued…

Fast, furious, funny and fantastically thrilling, The Trial of Jean Grey combines cosmic intrigue and dashing derring-do with hilarious characterisation and passionate soap opera angst and comes with a stunning 17 covers-&-variants gallery by Immonen, Von Grawbadger, Pichelli, Dale Keown & Chris Samnee as well as AR icon sections (Marvel Augmented Reality App) for access to story bonuses once you download the free code from marvel.com onto your smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet.

What more could any entertainment-starved child of the wondering stars demand?

™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.