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It was the birth of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy and it was awesome

A Star-Lord who is famous but wants nothing to do with his name, a Raccoon loaded with heavy armament, and Groot who can speak in full sentences albeit with a sassy tone, this was the origin of the modern day Guardians of the Galaxy as they first began to form in the pages of “Annihilation Conquest: Starlord” from writer Keith Giffen with art by Timothy Green II and Victor Olazaba.

A look at the cover art and some of the interior art pages from "Annihilation Conquest: Starlord."
Nic Klein
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy began in a mini-series starring Star-Lord
Nic Klein

The 2007 series was part of the lead in to the second of Marvel Comics’ big cosmic crossovers of the new millennium, “Annihilation: Conquest.” Peter Quill the Star-Lord had returned in the pages of “Annihilation” where he helped Nova battle the Annihilation Wave. Now a new threat plagued the galaxy in the techno-organic virus the Phalanx. Star-Lord is chosen to lead a suicide mission against the Phalanx comprised of a small band of prisoners in the Kree Penal-system. This “Dirty Dozen” type team is made of misfits, freaks, and shell-shocked soldiers assembled by Ronan the Accuser, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie’s big-bad, who was unseen but working as a benevolent force for our heroes.

This era of the cosmic Marvel Comics was still very raw. The first “Annihilation” had been an unexpected success for Marvel Comics redeveloping forgotten cosmic characters and presenting them in new ways that made them exciting. At the helm of the story was Giffen who was chosen to write the first solo-series for Star-Lord. Since everything was so new, Giffen was feeling things out and the Star-Lord in “Annihilation Conquest: Starlord” shows the beginnings of the personality we know in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. We also get introduced to Rocket Racoon and Groot.

The setting of “Annihilation Conquest: Starlord” where our cast comes together in the prison was a story-source for the movie. The characters slowly started to show aspects of their personalities that were further developed as Marvel’s cosmic landscape continued to grow in the years ahead. But it was Giffen’s work here that truly sparked the elevation of this new incarnation of the Guardians.

Star-Lord was a fallen hero running from his name and anyone who wanted to thank him for past actions. He saw himself as a failure. He was not the outlaw, hothead, scoundrel we see on the big screen. But there are the seeds that you can see where his current attitude sprouted.

Speaking of sprouting, Groot was introduced as the King of Planet X who had a royal temperament to match royal status. We know him now as the tree-man who can only say “I am Groot” but here he is quite eloquent in a very demeaning, prima-donna sense.

Rocket Raccoon had not developed his hatred of being called a raccoon yet, but is the loud-mouthed, sarcastic, heavy-artillery and master strategist we’ve come to love.

Then there are the rest of the so-called “expendable” force, Captain Universe, Deathcry, Mantis and Bug. Each one could be mined to be included with the Guardians team for the sequel. Especially Bug who in this story Giffen had a lot of use for as a counter balance to Quill’s leadership or Mantis who is just weird enough that she offers a different perspective on the events around her.

The artwork of Green and Olazaba is a real treat for this story. There is a huge independent or European vibe to the four issues in the story with the exquisite artwork. The pages are dense with detail that are creative and make the book unlike anything Marvel was putting out at the time, and has not really done well since. It is a clean and clear design but it also shows the ruffles in the characters’ uniforms, clear emotional expressions on the characters, and great action as the heroes jump into action against the Phalanx.

While the original “Annihilation” and “Annihilation: Conquest” are must read comics for fans of cosmic Marvel, “Annihilation: Conquest – Starlord” stands very nicely on its own. It was a four issue series that is available digitally and in print at your local comic book retailer. Giffen’s story is great sci-fi action that has a lot of character to it. It plants the seeds for what we have come to know as the Guardians of the Galaxy and really gives a look into the creative process as all the creators working on the Marvel-Cosmic books were making it up as they went along. Green and Olazaba are incredible with the way they have brought Giffen’s words to life on the pages and they capture the tone and excitement for the story.