Guardians of the Galaxy Essentials: The Stories You Need to Read
From the original incarnation, to more recent exploits, here’s our guide to the space-based team’s notable adventures!
The expanse of space offers a multitude of challenges, dangers and adventures for those willing to take risks exploring. Few have faced those trials and tribulations as much as an intrepid group known as the Guardians of the Galaxy!
In recent years, the Guardians have become one of the most popular and intriguing groups in comics, helping save all life in existence on more than a few occasions despite some very notable obstacles.
A squad like that -- one that has seen as many successes as failures, but continues to fight -- deserves a chronicle of their history and their essential stories so far, and here you have it!
The Original (Future) Guardians
The very first group to call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy debuted back in 1969's MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18 thanks to Arnold Drake and Gene Colan. That issue introduced the future-set inter-planetary team of Charlie-27, Matinex, Major Vance Astro, and Yondu, who all focused their efforts on defeating the evil and domination-minded Badoon. The team would go on to appear in a variety of places like MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #4-#5, GIANT-SIZE DEFENDERS #5, and DEFENDERS #26-29. The original team would take the spotlight in several adventures in 1975’s MARVEL PRESENTS #3-#12, which also introduced new member Nikki.
Taking the Lead at Last
It was in 1990 that the cosmic team finally earned their own self-titled GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ongoing series with writer-artist Jim Valentino at the helm. This initial GUARDIANS series ran for 62 issues and four Annuals. Set in the 31st century, in the possible future known as Earth-691, the series included many fun variations on familiar elements, including Captain America's famed shield (now wielded by Vance "Major Victory" Astro), the Skrulls, an older version of Wonder Man, and even an alien threat known as The Stark who were inspired by a certain armored Avenger! This group has appeared more recently in GUARDIANS 3000.
Born of Conquest
The current incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy finds its roots in the 2007 tie-in series ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST – STARLORD by Keith Giffen and Timothy Green II, wherein the Kree offer Peter Quill the opportunity to make up for inadvertently letting the Phalanx into their defense systems by leading a group of criminals on a suicide run. The crew included Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Bug, Deathcry and Gabriel "Captain Universe" Vargas. They lost a few members along the way, but proved effective enough to survive the main ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST series, and go on to star in their own title.
The Gang's All Here
With a tweaked line-up featuring the notable -- and eventually iconic -- grouping of Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot, along with Quasar (Phylla Vell) and Adam Warlock, the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY title, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, kicked off in 2008 and would run for 25 issues. Focused on repairing dimensional rifts, the group not only went up against the Universal Church of Truth, but also Adam Warlock's alter-ego, the Magus. Along the way, the team also intersected with members of the original Guardians of the Galaxy like Vance Astro and Starhawk - and would go on to adopt their team name in tribute! More importantly, this team became forged in the fires of combat, creating one of the most impressive collectives in the cosmos.
As an important part of the intergalactic reality-saving community, the Guardians played important roles in both War of Kings and Realm of Kings crossovers, which dealt with the Inhumans moving into space and running into problems with the Shi'Ar.. The team really took center stage in THE THANOS IMPERATIVE, though, which ultimately found Star-Lord and Nova trapped in the deathless Cancerverse with the recently rejuvenated Mad Titan.
Quill managed to escape the Cancerverse and eventually regrouped with the Guardians. First, they helped Earth's Mightiest Heroes in the pages of AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #4-#8. Brian Michael Bendis then kicked off the next volume of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY in 2013 by exploring Quill's complicated relationship with his co-homeworld Spartax and firmly establishing the team as adventurers – oftentimes thieves – for hire. Along the way, they acquired new members like Angela, Agent Venom, Captain Marvel and even Iron Man himself, Tony Stark.
During Bendis' first GUARDIANS run, he crossed over with another title he wrote, ALL-NEW X-MEN. In the teams' first meeting during The Trial of Jean Grey storyline (beginning in ALL-NEW X-Men #22), they worked together to stop the Shi'Ar Empire from prosecuting the young Jean Grey for the crimes committed against the alien race by the Phoenix. These events not only lead to a romantic relationship between Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde, but also another crossover known as The Black Vortex, kicking off with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY & X-MEN: THE BLACK VORTEX ALPHA, which saw many cosmic characters fighting over the titular object, which could grant Celestial powers.
In 2015, the Marvel Universe got fully and completely shaken up during the Secret Wars event that brought together all sorts of alternate realities into one planet, Battleworld! The Guardians appeared in several different incarnations in limited series' like STAR-LORD AND KITTY PRYDE, GUARDIANS OF KNOWHERE, and 1602: WITCH HUNTER ANGELA. Peter Quill also featured prominently in the main SECRET WARS series as one of the sole survivors of the regular Marvel Universe, but Groot and the rest also played important roles.
Bad to the Badoon
Coming out of Secret Wars, reality got a bit of a makeover and so did the team in a new volume of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY in 2015, again penned by Bendis. Kitty Pryde took over as leader and The Thing signed on as well, while Star-Lord had left the team and taken over as leader of Spartax. However, that didn't last long thanks to a new threat in the form of Hala, the last Kree Accuser. Relieved of his position, Quill rejoined the Guardians, and they saved Angela from the Brotherhood of the Badoon and fought to liberate the entire planet!
Earthbound and Down
The Guardians soon found themselves thrust into another Earth-based conflict when Captain Marvel requested their assistance during the events of CIVIL WAR II, which crossed over into GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #11-#13. The Guardians responded and backed their one-time teammate. However, when Drax and Gamora discovered that both Danvers and Quill knew that Thanos had been incarcerated on the planet without their knowledge, the team went their separate ways on the third rock from the sun for a time.
All-Shiny and All-New
Thanks to one last battle with Thanos on Earth, the core five members of the Guardians reunited and carried their adventures on into ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, written by Gerry Duggan. This time, they focused their efforts on heists that brought them into the presence of a pair of Cosmic Elders, The Grandmaster and The Collector, who revealed that, in the wake of Secret Wars, some of their siblings and the Infinity Stones had gone missing! The team quickly took a vested interest in the situation and got on the case...
When the Guardians noticed the Chitauri had set a course for Earth, they met up with Carol Danvers again and gave her a head's up. This happened right before the Cosmic Cube-created evil Captain America threw up the Planetary Defense Shield around the Earth leaving Alpha Flight stranded in space. The Guardians attempted to find help out in the cosmos, but struggled with this goal on multiple occasions, as seen in THE MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL, ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ANNUAL #1, and SECRET EMPIRE.
The universe contains many problems that need help solving, including apparent sabotage inside the nascent Nova Corps. The Guardians – now with Ant-Man/Scott Lang along for the ride – signed up to find out the cause in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #146-#150. In the midst of this, Star-Lord stumbled upon the Power Stone and Drax decided to leave the team.
To Infinity... and Beyond
Everything happening to the Guardians after they left Earth has lead into INFINITY WARS, a huge conflict centering on who will wield the Infinity Stones. In INFINITY COUNTDOWN, our heroes joined forces with the Nova Corps, saved the Elder known as the Gardener and took possession of the Power Stone. Peter Quill even joined forces with Doctor Strange, the Black Widow clone, Adam Warlock, Wolverine and Turk Barrett as the new Infinity Watch, standing in opposition of the Ultron/Hank Pym combination and anyone else trying to get their hands on the stones!
What's next for the Guardians of the Galaxy? That remains to be seen...
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