Recommended Reading: Abnett and Lanning Sci-Fi at Marvel

Posted: November 5, 2012 in Marvel, Rants, Reviews
Tags: , , ,

By Alex Headley

The Guardians of the Galaxy.
Property of Marvel Comics.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning defined an era of sci-fi stories at Marvel Comics. They took obscure or forgotten cosmic characters and gave them an importance that most never had. The effect is obvious, their flagship title Guardians of the Galaxy is being made into a movie by Marvel Studios in 2014. The James Gunn (Slither, Super) directed film is set to adapt the pair’s team of misfit heroes in space. The Guardians consist of seemingly wacky characters like Rocket Raccoon (an actual raccoon with improbably large guns and tactical genius), Groot (a tree king) and Cosmo (a telepathic Russian canine cosmonaut). The cast gets much bigger over the book’s 25 issues but the glue holding them together is Peter Quill aka Star Lord, a human-Spartoi hybrid that puts the group together in the wake of Keith Giffen’s cosmic event Annihilation. Annihilation really kick started the cosmic genre at Marvel along with the relaunched Nova series starring Richard Rider. I won’t spoil the plot but in short Annihilus (an old FF villain) has a big impact on the universe. Nova and Guardians continued and while the two books were running we got three more big events in the cosmic world and some crossover to more mainstream Marvel events such as Secret Invasion. Conquest, War of Kings and Thanos Imperative were all great events in their own right but the best part was the expansion to the Marvel Universe that came with it. Kree, Skrull, Shi’Ar, Inhumans and the Negative Zone all get a chance to shine. Having not been familiar with all these people and place gave me a real sense of discovery when reading the series. I was late to the party, reason almost all of the books long after they were published, but that really only made it sweeter. I consumed it all in bulk and really fell in love with what was out there. A raccoon is legitimately one of my favorite Marvel heroes as a result. After Thanos Imperative put an end to Guardians and Nova, we briefly got a series by Abnett and Lanning starring some the heavy hitters in the galaxy that were actually more obscure than those in the GoG; Gladiator, Ikon the space knight, Ronan the Accuser, Beta Ray Bill, Quasar and Silver Surfer take on threats so big only the most powerful cosmic heroes can handle them as the Annihilators. Sadly the team only got 10 issues together before fading into the background.

The 36 issue Nova series is a great read as well, it’s a little less out there than GoG and Annihilators. It follows Richard Rider as the Nova Prime. He plays host to the entirety of the Nova Force, a wellspring of knowledge and gravimetric power usually split up amongst thousands of Nova Corps Centurions. The Nova Corp is Marvel’s answer to the Green Lantern Corps. The concepts are similar but there are more than enough differences that it’s no more distracting than the fact that Superman and Spider-Man share a color scheme. The series follows Rider’s quest to restore the Nova Corps after it was devastated by the Annihilation Wave. The story is fun but falls victim to crossovers and event tie-ins more often than I like. Civil War and Secret Invasion both take over the story for large portions of the series, forcing it off the rails a bit, especially the Secret Invasion story.

The cover for the Marvel NOW! Guardians of the Galaxy series.
Property of Marvel Comics.

Both series are getting new titles as part of Marvel NOW! and honestly I have a lot of doubts concerning the titles. I won’t spoil anything for those of you wanting to read the series’ but there are several characters coming back that shouldn’t be back. In Abnett and Lanning’s final event The Thanos Imperative, a lot things happen that are either being ignored or else explanations have just not come to light as of yet. The new Guardians book will be written by Brian Micheal Bendis, who has handled the team’s appearance in the Avengers Assemble title, a book that confuses me a great deal as it is. I seem to remember it was originally an out of continuity story with the cast of the Avengers movie buy it seems to have become a mainstream book now. Its use of Thanos and the Guardians is troublesome and so far nothing has explained the resurgence. I’m not a fan of Star-Lord’s new look or the addition of Iron Man to the team. Still, it’s nice to see Gamora put on some clothes appropriate for space combat and of course I’m thrilled to see Rocket and Groot back in the pages of a regular comic. I’ll be reviewing the first issue of the series when it hits, hopefully it will be better than I think it will be.

Nova is even less attractive at the moment. New Nova Sam Alexander, who first made his appearance in Avengers vs. X-Men, is the starring character. We know nothing about him at the moment other than he is very young and also a cast member in Ultimate Spider-Man on the Disney channel. I want Richard Rider or one of his dozens of companions from the last series back if we are going to have a Nova book on the stands. Jeph Loeb isn’t a favorite of mine (apart from his fantastic Batman graphic novel) and Ed McGuiness’ look, while clean and action packed, doesn’t really hit the spot either. I’ll pick up issue 1 and see what happens.

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