- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."
Buckle up, A-holes! The Guardians of the Galaxy are back for one more ride. A full seven years since their last solo movie, Marvel’s team of rag-tag space adventurers are back with James Gunn in the director’s chair. With one foot out the door to run DC Studios at Disney rival Warner Bros., Gunn has promised that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be the last time this version of the team rides together.
While that doesn’t necessarily mean that Vol. 3 will be the last time we see Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, or Dave Bautista’s Drax, the team is going up against one of its most enemies, the High Evolutionary, played by Peacemaker’s Chukwudi Ijuwi. The clash with the High Evolutionary will unveil the history of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and pit the team against Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a fan favorite from the comics making his MCU debut.
These stakes may be high for fans who have come to love the MCU Guardians, but the Guardians of the Galaxy in the Marvel Comics have long had a more vast line-up. So if you want more of Star-Lord and the team, or if you want to see what the Guardians could become, check out these comic books.
Annihilation: Conquest (2008)
From 1969 to the early 2000s, the Guardians of the Galaxy referred to the future Avengers, a group of intergalactic superheroes fighting against the conquering Badoon in the 30th century. Sure, Star-Lord, Gamora, and Groot were all around, but they were mostly solo characters, who had little to nothing to do with the Guardians. All of that started to change with 2005’s Annihilation crossover, which revitalized Marvel’s cosmic characters.
The sequel Annihilation: Conquest found the universe fighting back against the cybernetic force the Phalanx, under the command of Avengers villain Ultron. Central to the resistance is a group of D-list heroes who go on a suicide mission, including Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, and Mantis—who will eventually become the Guardians of the Galaxy. While this version of the team varies heavily from the MCU mainstays, Annihilation: Conquest establishes the Guardians of the Galaxy model, in which a group of unlikely heroes save the universe against impossible odds.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy (2008)
Spinning directly out of Annihilation: Conquest, the first Guardians of the Galaxy series fully explored the team’s new role in the universe. Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, a duo who excelled at character-driven galactic adventures, the new Guardians series established what became the core element of the MCU team: unlikely adventures and witty banter between loser superheroes. Intercutting talking heads with fantastic scenes of derring-do, Abnett and Lanning make lovable, irascible characters out of heretofore minor figures in the Marvel Universe.
Of particular interest to MCU fans is the team’s rotating lineup, something that remains a constant for the Guardians even today. Over the course of the first couple story arcs, the Guardians gain and lose members such as British adventurer Jack Flag, the one-time Captain Marvel Phyla-Vell (remember that name, moviegoers), and Adam Warlock (more on him in a moment). These stories show that anyone can join the ragtag Guardians bunch—if they’re willing to risk their lives against reality-ending threats.
Warlock: A Man-God Reborn (1972)
Eagle-eyed fans may have caught a fun Easter egg in the Collector’s domain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, a giant cocoon in the background. A similar version of the cocoon appeared in one of the post-credit scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, when the head of the Sovereign, Ayesha, declares her new creation to be called Adam. Comic book readers recognized these hints as referring to Adam Warlock, one of the most powerful, and most odd, characters in the Marvel Universe.
Adam Warlock has a strange, convoluted backstory in the Marvel Universe, and mostly gets into philosophical debates with Thanos. But for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn draws from early '70s Adam Warlock stories, which saw the character become a servant of the god-like High Evolutionary, protecting a planet called Counter-Earth, populated by human/animal hybrids called New Men. And if that’s not weird enough, writer Roy Thomas (and later Mike Friedrich) was inspired by the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, and chose to reimagine the Greatest Story Ever Told as an adventure with golden superheroes and evil wolfmen.
New Warriors: Always and Forever (2014)
The Guardians of the MCU are certainly no strangers to all-powerful baddies. Not only have they faced off against the religious zealot Ronin and the Celestial Ego, but they’ll now be fighting the High Evolutionary, a geneticist with a god complex. The High Evolutionary isn’t the most important baddie in the Marvel Universe, but he is among the most consistent. Time and time again he arrives to remake the world in his image, running afoul of heroes who may or may not benefit from his power.
In one of the more entertaining High Evolutionary stories, the geneticist went up against the New Warriors, Marvel’s premiere teen superheroes. When the Evolutionary set off a genetic bomb that mutated all in its proximity, part of his plan to save the Earth from Celestials, a whole wave of new teen superheroes appeared and they needed guidance. The New Warriors, whose lineup then included one-time 30th-century Guardians member Vance Astro and Guardians ally Nova, took in the new heroes to help stop the High Evolutionary’s mad goals. This rip-roaring tale from writer Christopher Yost and artist Marcus To perfectly captures the High Evolutionary’s charming megalomania.
Warlock: The Magus Saga (1972 - 1976)
While Warlock did spend some time playing savior on Counter-Earth, the character is most often a sort of space-fairing guru looking for inner peace. That shift began when writer Jim Starlin started working on Warlock and pairing him with characters he created elsewhere, namely the Mad Titan Thanos, his daughter Nebula, and the assassin Gamora.
Of course, these names are familiar to fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, even if the comic book versions look a little different. Starlin’s Gamora is not only markedly less modest in her dress, but she’s also far more dangerous and bloodthirsty, even compared to the killer we meet again in Guardians Vol. 3. For her part, Nebula is more conniving and duplicitous, with no sign of the redemptive arc she takes in the movies. But the most thrilling part of Starlin’s Warlock stories is his psychedelic approach, in which he and Thanos discuss the nature of death and life, conversations rendered as mind-altering journeys through the doors of perception.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers (2013)
Although the comics long predate the Guardians movies, it’s not uncommon for them to take after the films, especially if the big screen version is a hit. So while the Guardians had a rotating lineup for years and the characters had slightly different personalities, they soon came to better resemble Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and other stars. Nowhere is that more clear than with the Cosmic Avengers storyline, from A-list writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Steve McNiven, as well as the penciler who helped Bendis create Miles Morales, Sara Pichelli.
It’s hard to think of a better entry point for movie fans interested in checking out Guardians comics. Not only does the team match that of the movies, Bendis adds Iron Man to the team, leading to plenty of great sniping between Tony Stark and the heroes. In fact, the run teams the Guardians with some of the most interesting characters of all-time, including Venom and the X-Men, making it a perfect introduction for the wider Marvel Universe.
Rocket Raccoon and Groot (2016)
One of the most audacious things about the Guardians movies are the way they’ve made household names out of formerly obscure characters. And few are more notable than Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Created by Bill Mantlo as a pun on a Beatles song, Rocket was largely a novelty character until Gunn saw the potential pathos in his story. Groot goes back to before Marvel Comics even existed, making his debut as an invader from Planet X in Twilight Zone-style sci-fi comics Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made.
Thanks to their newfound popularity, Rocket and Groot got their own solo series shortly before the second Guardians movie, a comic that emphasized their mix of cuteness and chaos. Written by ace cartoonist Skottie Young and drawn by Filipe Andrade, the series sends the two misfits on a quest to stop a galactic mastermind that only they recognize. Along the way, Young and Andrade give readers plenty of what they want from the alien duo, including dialogue that’s equally cute and shocking, even when one of them can only say “I am Groot.”
Guardians of the Galaxy: Doom’s Will Be Done (2020 - 2021)
While the chief appeal to the Guardians is their misfit nature and the found family the create, they are fundamentally cosmic characters, who deal with god-like threats and go on reality-warping adventures. Few modern writers work on that scale better than Al Ewing, who took over on Guardians of the Galaxy in 2020. Working with artists such as Juann Cabal and Chris Sprouse, Ewing put the team through remarkable paces, with stories that made Groot the team’s hard-edged (and surprisingly verbose) leader, made Rocket into a suave spy, and Peter Quill into a god, worshiped for centuries by a cult.
Perhaps the most exciting element of Ewing’s Guardians run is the way he embraced the team’s original rotating roster, using the book to play with some of the strangest characters in the Marvel bullpen. In addition to the core five that we know so well, the Guardians are joined by Phyla-Vell (there’s that name again), Wiccan (aka Wanda Maximoff’s son Tommy) and his husband Hulkling, and even the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe, Doctor Doom.
Old Man Quill (2019)
Ask any superhero fan about their favorite movies in the genre, and more than half of them will mention Logan. The gritty 2017 movie captured viewers’ imagination with the final story of X-Men stalwart Wolverine, adopting the comic book miniseries Old Man Logan. In 2019, Guardians of the Galaxy got the same treatment with Old Man Quill, from writer Ethan Sacks and penciler Robert Gill.
Set in the same world as Old Man Logan, Old Man Quill catches up with elderly Star-Lord, now lost in his fantasies of former glory as senility sets in. But when his old teammates Drax and Gamora show up, Peter is forced back into action, out of the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic future in which the villains won and back into space, where he will face the world-destroyer Galactus. Equally tragic, funny, and moving, Old Man Quill captures everything that makes Guardians so compelling while providing a fully satisfying last ride for the team, at least in comics.
Okay, bear with me. We3 is not only not a Guardians of the Galaxy comic book, it’s not even a Marvel Comic. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitley, We3 retells the animal adventure classic The Incredible Journey through a super-heroic lens. It follows three cybernetic pets as they seek to escape the lab where they’ve been experimented upon for decades to find freedom. It is at times deeply disturbing, heartbreakingly sad, and completely moving. But why is it on this list?
As Gunn has made clear from the beginning, the third Guardians movie tells the origin of Rocket, the cutest weapons expert in the galaxy. And, to be honest, it’s pretty rough. He and his fellow animal friends, including a rabbit, a walrus, and an otter, go through horrible transformations and eventually need to fight their way to freedom. It’s a fitting end to the Guardians story and, with Gunn’s avowed love of all things Grant Morrison, it’s pretty clear that he drew heavily from We3.
You Might Also Like