--- NOTE: This article is long (and dynamically updated)...and in depth, so if you are a TL;DR, you're getting permission here to go do something else, play candy crush, angry birds, read one of my other articles (and troll me there), go pound the ham a bit, whatever! Derp, there's no shame, you're young...attention spans are short, I get it. ---
The Guardians of the Galaxy...
I love working on my independent productions, books, and what not, and would love working on any project within the MCU. However, I have no envy for those working on this massively complex & important entry to this difficult to unite universe. Incorporating the GOTG into the MCU is, quite possibly, one of the most ambitious film projects Marvel has ever undertaken. Especially, without individual storylines opening for their respective characters to introduce them all. Then again, much of these characters, with the exception of Drax, really can't be done in solo films on their own. Some of them would be silly, to say the least; like Rocket Raccoon. in terms of his origins - which I outlined in his own Character Bio.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a Comic originally released in 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 and were part of Earth 691 (not 616 as in normal continuity, don't get confused, alternate earths/universes are what is used to rectify alternate storylines by Marvel). Did I lose you yet?
Guardians were relatively rebooted in the comics in 2008, after (EXACTLY) 39 years of little (individual) appearances in various comics (For you Dunejedi1, I changed it for you). Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 #1 picks up with a completely rebooted group that come together for a variety of reasons to fight against some of Marvels most powerful beings ever created. Some of these beings, themselves, getting various reboots and storyline edits specifically for these events. Yet, there's a lot going on before these events take place with a variety of characters, specifically, Thanos, and Drax, (but) also to include Adam Warlock, Doctor Strange, and the Silver Surfer, among others.
Here is a "light" comic reading list (sarcasm...) I've put together that should give you perfect background on who the Guardians of the Galaxy are...get ready to gulp, there's a lot of reading material, and it is separated into six series, that if read in order, (to preserve continuity) should give you a ton of insight into this upcoming film and the coming MCU storylines. Of course, I hope, you all accept the fact (also) that much of what is in these comics will be changed in the films to some degree - so this is also specific for reference and comparison.
1. ANNIHILATION (2004-2007)
Brief Summary: Annihilation is a set of mini-series comics that slowly began to set the events in motion that would bring various heroes together to stop a massive fleet of warships, called The Annihilation Wave, that arrived into our universe through "The Crunch" which is an intersection of the Negative Zone and our universe that various beings visit through a pilgrimage to the massive prison facility called "The Kyln". Thanos went to observe the trigger to these events in the set of following comics, subtitled "The Samaritan" in his self-titled series. After facing off with a weakened Beyonder in corporeal form, with the help of Star-Lord, we begin to see various aliens, and familiar cosmic beings, rally to face the wave, and the results. Multiple characters headlining in GOTG are brought together and some introduced in this series of comics.
GOTG Character Introductions: (Star-Lord (BIO)), Drax The Destroyer (BIO), Gamora (BIO), Nebula (Bio Coming Soon)
Annihilators Character Introductions (supplementary): Kallark, Gladiator (Bio Coming Soon!), Nova (Bio Coming Soon!), Silver Surfer (Bio Coming Soon!), Ronan The Accuser (Bio Coming Soon!)
Drax the Destroyer #1-4
Annihilation: Nova #1-4
Annihilation: Silver Surfer #1-4
Annihilation: Super-Skrull #1-4
Annihilation: Ronan #1-4
Annihilation: The Nova Corps Files
Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #1-2
Annihilation: What If...Annihilation (One-Shot)
2. ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST (2007-2008)
Brief Summary: Conquest is the sequel to the Annihilation event and begins to give you a momentary pause toward a possible reason for some of the planned films to come. This sequel picks up where Annihilus left off with "The Phalanx" coming heavily into play. The series breaks into individual four part series, similar to the first Annihilation series arc, however, instead of dealing with the wave, now we're dealing with the "Technarchy" a techno-organic extraterrestrial virus that can overcome living beings, and bring them into it's collective hive mind. Their move is made in the wake of the Wave's devastation, attempting to take full advantage of a weakened Kree Empire. As the series progresses, Ultron will be revealed to be controlling the collective. Many of the same characters will be present in this series, and a few others will make appearances more frequently, like Moondragon, Wraith, Gamora, Mantis, and another of my absolute favorites, Adam Warlock.
GOTG Character Introductions: (Rocket Raccoon (BIO)), (Groot (BIO)), Knowhere (GOTG Base of Operations)
Annihilators Character Introductions (supplementary): Quasar (Bio Coming Soon), Ikon (Bio Coming Soon!)
Annihilation: Conquest Prologue
Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar #1-4
Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord #1-4
Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith #1-#4
Annihilation: Conquest - Nova Volume 4 #4-7 - This is a Trade Paperback starting at Issue #1
Annihilation: Conquest #1-6
3. WAR OF KINGS (2008-2009)
Brief Summary: We gain some new perspective into a particular character with the opening of this series, Vulcan (Gabriel Summers), the 3rd son of Corsair (Christopher Summers), and brother to Cyclops and Havok. Vulcan has ascended the imperial throne of the Shi'ar as its emperor. Leading the Empire in a war against the Kree, who are lead by The Inhuman king, Black Bolt. You gain a large amount of perspective on Vulcan in the mini-series "Kingbreaker" that is interwoven with the releases of GOTG, Secret Invasion, and Darkhawk. As others become embroiled in the conflict between both empires, like the Starjammers, as well, the Nova Corps. Gladiator takes on a very specific importance in this series, and is instrumental in the climax of the story arc in the company of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Read these books in order, or you will get lost in the mix. There is a lot of intrigue, political, and cosmic thrown in. It's the Marvel equivalent of "Game of Thrones", and the spark was a breakdown of ties at Ronan's wedding to one of the Inhumans named, Crystal. The hopes to have united (both), the Kree and the Inhumans, shattering in the process.
GOTG Character Introductions: Info Coming Soon!
Annihilators Character Introductions (supplementary): Beta Ray Bill (Bio Coming Soon!)
Prior to the "Prelude" set of events below: Guardians of the Galaxy #1-6 (introduces the general group, you can read it before or after)
PRELUDE (read in the order listed below, anything listed with an alphabet literally needs to be read with its companion books).
1a Guardians Of The Galaxy #7
1b Guardians Of The Galaxy #8
2 War Of Kings Saga
4 Guardians Of The Galaxy #9
5 X-Men: Kingbreaker #2 of 4
6 Secret Invasion: War Of Kings
7 X-Men: Kingbreaker #3 of 4
8 Guardians Of The Galaxy #10
9 War Of Kings: Darkhawk #1 of 2
10 X-Men: Kingbreaker #4 of 4
11 War Of Kings: Darkhawk #2 of 2
12a Nova 23 INTERLUDE
12b Guardians Of The Galaxy #11
12c Guardians Of The Galaxy #12 WAR OF KINGS
13 War Of Kings: Warriors #1-2
14 War Of Kings #1 of 6
15 Nova #24
16 Guardians Of The Galaxy #13
17 War Of Kings: Ascension #1 of 4
18 War Of Kings #2 of 6
19 Guardians Of The Galaxy #14
20 Nova #25
21 War of Kings #3 of 6
22 War Of Kings: Ascension #2 of 4
23 War Of Kings: The Savage World Of Skaar
24 War Of Kings #4 of 6
25 War Of Kings: Ascension #3 of 4
26 Guardians Of The Galaxy #15
27 Nova #26
28 War Of Kings: Ascension #4 of 4
29 War Of Kings #5 of 6
30 Guardians Of The Galaxy #16
31 Nova #27
32 War Of Kings #6 of 6 AFTERMATH
33 Guardians Of The Galaxy #17
34 Nova #28
35 Guardians Of The Galaxy #18
36 Nova #29
37 Guardians Of The Galaxy #19
38 Nova #30
39 War of Kings - Who Will Rule?
40 Nova #31
4. REALM OF KINGS (2009-2010)
Brief Summary: This series is sparked from the aftermath of the climactic battle between Black Bolt and Vulcan concluding the War of Kings saga. The result which causes a tear in space and time, called "The Fault". The exploration of this tear is what leads the Quasar, at the behest of the Nova Corps, and the Guardians, into another universe. A Cancerverse as he discovers. A corrupted plain where life has completely taken over the expanse, as it states in the comic, "...death has lost". These stories have a set significance for Guardians, however, it can also be seen as stories that may not have any large functional impact toward the film version in the MCU. more than likely, varied "nods" to this set of stories, or perhaps minor uses of this universe as a point of origin for emerging armies. Possibly even the location to where some have been lost from the existing MCU, example, where Loki fell at the conclusion of Thor, where Red Skull was shot into by the Tesseract, etc.
However, this story arc helps readers gain an understanding of the varied situations the guardians get involved in, on a universal scale. It also ties in a few other characters, mainly the Son of Hulk in the continuity following a separate set of World War Hulk comics, not listed here.
Among the strange encounters in the Cancerverse, are the very powerful alternate versions of the Avengers, The Revengers. Who are empowered by God-like beings in this plain called the Many-Angled Ones. On the surface when you read through this set of comics, you'll notice immediately the heavy lovecraftian inspiration in the mythos. A large portion of the story focuses on the need to prevent these beings, and their Revengers from coming to earth.
1 Imperial Guard: #1 of 5
2 Inhumans: #1 of 5
3 Guardians Of The Galaxy #20
4 Nova #32
5 Imperial Guard #2 of 5
6 Inhumans #2 of 5
7 Guardians Of The Galaxy #21
8 Nova #33
9 Imperial Guard #3 of 5
10 Inhumans #3 of 5
11 Guardians Of The Galaxy #22
12 Nova #34
13 Imperial Guard #4 of 5
14 Inhumans #4 of 5
15 Guardians Of The Galaxy #23
16 Imperial Guard #5 of 5
17 Inhumans #5 of 5
18 Guardians Of The Galaxy #24
19 Nova #35
20 Son Of The Hulk #1-4
5. THE THANOS IMPERATIVE (2010-2011)
Brief Summary: To say All hell breaks loose in this series is pretty much an understatement. If you are unable to get your hands on the previous comics, then at the very least, focus on this set of issues. Why? The Fault is open, beings from the Cancerverse are pouring into our universe, Thanos has been resurrected, and the leader of the Cancerverse armies has emerged in our plain. Who is leading them? Captain Marvel!!! Mar Vell! Well, the Cancerverse version, Lord Mar Vell and his focus is a universal no-holds-barred battle against Thanos.
This series sadly closed out the remaining Guardians and Nova issues, prior (and thankfully) to their return in Volume 3 this year. All of the characters introduced since the first series in this list are all brought to bear, from the Annihilators, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Nova Corps. All seemingly not enough against Lord Mar Vell and his forces.
Among the most significant and strange things that occur in these stories are the use of the Guardians (eventual) official base of operations, the "Knowhere". A place that I have often wondered if it will be utilized in the film somehow. For simplicity sake, it is a massive, floating, severed head, on the absolute edge of spacetime that is somewhat of a crossroads, and observatory for the end of the universe. A "Mos Eisley" on the edge of space inside a giant severed celestial head, if that makes more sense.
Lead-In, Guardians of The Galaxy #25 (2010)
Lead-In, Nova #36 (2010)
The Thanos Imperative (One-Shot) Ignition (2010)
The Thanos Imperative #1-6
The Thanos Imperative (One-Shot) Devastation (2011)
6. ANNIHILATORS (2011-Present)
Brief Summary: Finally dawning the Annihilators moniker, at the conclusion of The Thanos Imperative: Devastation, these heroes reluctantly decided to stay together and continue dealing with galactic level threats as a group. One of the greatest and most powerful cosmic team-ups, in modern comic books, this group of beings culminates this series by dealing with the Magus, after dealing with Blastaars invasions on the Kree.
The Magus was wreaking havoc throughout the above listed series (Realm of Kings, in the Cancerverse), and is being resurrected on Earth. The conflict brings them directly in contact with the Avengers, where they clash, as the Avengers mistook them as an invading force, and even Spider-Man gets pulled into the fray.
These comics, are like the icing on the cake after a really long set of comic issues to read, you finally get to these guys having a few epic battles on a continuous basis.
Annihilators: Earthfall #1-4
Newest Volume of Guardians of the Galaxy -- Volume 3 #1-present
GotG Vol. 3 #1, This is specifically created to tell their story in prep for the films and it just released in May 2013. Infinitiy #1 (Thanos: Infinity), which just hit August 14th, will also be helpful reading, and is a big comic event right now designed to bring Thanos back into the forefront.
--- Ancillary Reading to these series, that are great for tie-in, but are not (really) needed for Guardians of the Galaxy...If anything, these give you more insight into Thanos, who he is, what he is capable of, and a better understanding of purpose for his behavior from the comics, to what occurred in the AVENGERS film---
Compendium Releases: (compendiums combine all the comics that tie-in for a series story arc, under one hardcover, TPB, or general release
Infinity Crusade Volume 1-2
Thanos: The End
NOTE: Another great source of material on Thanos is the old 1998 Silver Surfer animated series. (you can find it on youtube)
That (scrolls all the way up)... This massive listing, I agree is a lot to read through...but, if you go through them, you won't have anymore questions as to who these characters are. If anything, you'll have a craving for more, or you'll be anxious for the film releases in a higher degree.
Outside of the above films and their corresponding comics, we also have Ultron in AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON, and X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. I will write another guide/index and point out the reading to get you acquainted with both, as well, Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Yellow Jacket/Goliath and Doctor Strange. THE WOLVERINE is still out, and by now most folks understand a good chunk of Wolverines storylines. But I will point out material on it as well in my next set of articles.
Happy Reading! Happy Comic Book Hunting! Remember, while you can get a lot (if not all) of the above series digitally and online, consider you may have a family owned comic shop nearby who would probably be very happy to help you get the issues you are after. Support Small Business!
I love to hear from you guys. If there is something you think I missed, to add to this list, let me know, please comment, share, tweet, link, rate up, tell you moms i'm awesome, whatever! Do it! @EmanuelFCamacho