Friday, 23 April 2010

Marvel Presents #4. The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #4
I first came across the Guardians of the Galaxy in Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes comic which reprinted their début outing.

I wasn't impressed.

For a start, they looked bad. And, for another thing, so did their enemies.

Their enemies were an alien race called the Badoon who, in some far-flung future, had conquered the Earth and its colonies. As far as I was concerned, if the Marvel Universe needed another race of aliens, it wasn't the Badoon. Obviously someone had got the word "baboon" and changed its first syllable to "bad" to let us know they were, well, bad.

Leaving aside the fact they were clearly reptilian and therefore not baboons, the trouble was they weren't only bad they were rubbish. "We shall overcome," sang the Guardians at the end of that tale. If it was reader apathy they were hoping to overcome, frankly, I didn't fancy their chances.

But, in Comicbookland there's rarely life without hope and they were brought back by Steve Gerber who slotted them into The Defenders comic and brought the whole Badoon saga to a welcome end. Needless to say, with Gerber in charge they were a much more interesting proposition. Like the Defenders, they were a bunch of misfits - in this case, having to hang out together because they were unable to fit into a post-war society. They also acquired two new members; Starhawk and, in this issue, a young female Mercurian called Nikki.

Frankly, to my eyes, Starhawk was a bit of a stiff. He was a man of mystery and,  aside from coming across as irredeemably pompous, men of mystery rarely sustain interest for more than five minutes. On top of that, he kept turning into a woman of mystery. Just what we needed, two persons of mystery on one starship.

Nikki was much better. Just as the addition of Valkyrie to the Defenders brought an extra dimension to an otherwise all-male strip, so the addition of a teenage girl to the previously all-male, all-square Guardians changed the gang's dynamic for the better. In this tale, the Guardians, having failed completely to cope with life in a normal society, have got back together to do the Star Trek thing and, thanks to Starhawk, are on the trail of a huge beast that eats stars.

Needless to say, despite being led by, "One who knows," by the end of the issue it's all gone belly-up and they're facing doom but what's interesting to me is that, the ending aside, not a lot happens in this tale. Basically they hang around talking about stuff, then Nikki shows up and they talk about some more stuff and then, at last they get to face up to a giant monster.

This follows on from the previous issue where, also, not a lot happened. It was an approach that reminded us that Steve Gerber was nothing if not unconventional. And maybe this refusal to toe the comic book line guaranteed the strip a one-way ticket to cancellation but perhaps it was also this refusal to do the expected that secured the previously forgettable Guardians a place in my heart. Even in their revamped form they were never quite as good a strip as The Defenders but, when it came to reader apathy, they had at least overcome.

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