Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Guardians Of The Galaxy Reloaded by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Gene Colan, Jim Valentino, et al (graphic novel review).

May 10, 2017 | By | Reply More

As the world currently enjoys ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’, ‘Marvel Platinum’s latest release gathers together a gaggle of origin stories, amongst them first appearances of Groot and Drax The Destroyer as well as some more up-to-date adventures featuring the Guardians as a group. With so many individual continuities being bound together when you bring together a super-hero team, the prose history of the Guardians that concludes the book is exhaustive but complex, to say the least, it’s unsurprising that this is an eclectic collection of tales.

The first tale up sees the introduction of Groot from legendary writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby team in a 1960 issue of ‘Tales To Astonish’. Here he’s just a one-shot villain who, shock horror, actually speaks normal English as he tries to conquer a small American town. This is pure ‘pulp sci-fi’ entertainment whose chief value lies in Kirby’s distinctive artwork. Even the so-called origin status has since been retconned with the Groot of this story being revealed to be the same species as the Groot from ‘GOTG’ but not the same character. Look, I told you the continuity gets complicated.

There’s more pulpy action over issues of ‘The Invincible Iron Man’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ that explain the origin of Drax The Destroyer. Here we have the kind of space opera that writer Jim Starlin became renowned for, all epic spaceships and cosmic gods who threaten the very fabric of existence. While in some ways playing second banana to the likes of Iron Man, Marvel and Adam Warlock, it’s still a pretty strong debut for Drax as his enmity for Thanos is explored and gives the character a little bit of depth.

There’s a pause in the garish action for the black and white debut of Star-Lord from ‘Marvel Preview’, a short lived magazine format series attempted by Marvel to appeal to fans of fantasy and hard SF and the smattering of ruder words than one was usually used also suggests to a more adult audience. The debut is quite a brave one, with Peter Quill being an insufferable jerk who is turned bitter and twisted by the death of his mother at the hands of aliens. The stark black and white art mixed with the adult tones of the story certainly provide a certain interest, though it feels slightly underdeveloped as a whole, partly because it was meant to develop but the character was quietly forgotten about until years later. Writer Steve Englehart’s obsession with astrology, as he painstakingly lays out in his introduction, also seems incredibly quaint.

‘Marvel Preview’ also provides the debut of Rocket Racoon, this time as a character in back-up strip, ‘The Sword In The Star’. Like many others here, there’s a bit of ‘Early Instalment Weirdness’ here as Rocket is undeniably British (all ‘old bean’ and ‘sticky wicket’) in this black and white story which feels like it more belongs in an issue of ‘2000AD’. Rocket’s second appearance in an issue of ‘The Incredible Hulk’, also featured here, brings the wisecracking, American persona from the film’s to the fore.

Gamora’s debut is a lot less auspicious, about a par for the course for the majority of female super-heroes, especially in the 70s, as her first appearance in Avengers Annual # 7 renders her little more than a plot device amongst a story of Adam Warlock battling gods and monsters in another Jim Starlin special

Finally, we get to an actual ensemble story with issues of ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ from 2008 as the team deal with a rift in time and space. Fans of the movie might find the elements of fun and simplicity that made the film so enjoyable a little lacking. The story gets a bit complicated (general comic book continuity + time travelly timey wimey stuff = sometimes head scratching) and gets a bit heavy on the exposition. But it certainly delivers on action and does not let up for a moment.

Brian Michael Bendis updates Star-Lord’s origins for GOTG # 0.1 and makes him considerably more likable than the one who appeared in ‘Marvel Premiere’ while GOTG Annual # 1 sees the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier turn up in deep space unexpectedly. Torn away from the ravages of continuity, these one shots are quite fun with a nice balance between action and fun.

This is certainly something of a mixed bag and it as much an examination of differing approaches to comics from the 50s as they are a focus on particular set of characters. Those who come to it expecting the same characters they encountered in the movie may find themselves a little disappointed but those willing to explore will find some little splinters of interest from the Galaxy’s most tree filled super-hero team.

Laurence Boyce

May 2017

(pub: Panini/Marvel. 266 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84653-780-6)

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Category: Comics, Superheroes

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About the Author ()

Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

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