Guardians of the Galaxy is returning on July 15, picking up on the threads writer Al Ewing laid out in the first three issues of his still-burgeoning run on the title - including the death of Peter Quill and the formation of a second team of Guardians.
With all of that already on the Guardians' plate - and Empyre on the way - Newsarama spoke with Ewing about getting back into this cosmic adventure, working with artist Juann Cabal, and how the Guardians will play an important role in the move toward peace after Empyre.
Newsarama: Al, it's been a little while since we checked in with the Guardians, and there were some developments in the last issue of the series. How does it feel getting back into Guardians now? What do readers need to know to dive back in?
Al Ewing: Gamora's had a recent falling-out with Rocket, and as a result, there are now two separate and competing teams of Guardians, one led by Gamora, one led by Rocket. You'll be introduced to Gamora's team on page one, and then you'll be following Rocket's team through the rest of the issue, so it should all come back to you pretty quickly.
The one other detail it might be worth reminding people about is that there are currently two Moondragons - on Gamora's team, there's the Heather Douglas from the Marvel Universe, Earth 616, where her great love died and she's battled corrupting forces and her own inner darkness multiple times, and on Rocket's team, there's the Heather Douglas from a much more upright and upstanding universe, where she's married to the aforementioned great love - Phyla - and she's never had to go through the things Moondragon-616 has. So really, it's past time they met.
Nrama: You've made some big moves in just three issues of this series so far, pitting the team against the Olympians and apparently killing Peter Quill.
Ewing: That would be the source of the falling-out between Rocket and Gamora. It's not something we're just going to be forgetting about, either.
Nrama: Speaking of Guardians #3, you brought in a new branch of the team with the West Spiral Arm Guardians in that issue. Where did that idea come from? What can you tell us about who they are?
Ewing: The idea came primarily from wanting to shake the movie roster up a little - removing Quill from the picture and creating a schism in the remaining Guardians allowed me to look at some space faces who hadn't been part of things in a while, and bring in some new people.
But having done that, it didn't make sense for Gamora and company to just be sitting around - the soap opera of the Guardians demanded that we keep things moving with them as well as with the "main cast." Hence, the West Spiral Arm Guardians, a play on the West Coast Avengers - we'll see what happens as these now-separate teams intersect with each other.
Nrama: Guardians #3 presented a sort of Rashomon-esque look at the aftermath of Quill's death with three different artists. What makes the Guardians a team perfectly suited for that kind of storytelling? Do you plan to use more out-of-the-box writing styles as the series goes on?
Ewing: We've got plans for issue #9 that should be interesting for people - I spent a lot of time writing it, Juann Cabal took a lot of time designing and building it, and we each contributed an awful lot of esoteric ideas. What it actually is, I won't spoil just yet - but it involved creating an entirely new fantasy world for future adventures.
Nrama: Looking ahead, the solicitation for Guardians #4 mentions the formation of the "true" Guardians. What does that look like, compared to the team we've known for years?
Ewing: Since readers as well as retailers read the solicits, we often have a little fun with them - the joke here being that we're calling the West Spiral Arm Guardians the "true" Guardians, which is something Blackjack O'Hare does as well. To be fair to Blackjack, in terms of which team has the most "movie" Guardians, it's definitely the West-siders.
Nrama: Juann Cabal is drawing Guardians #4 and the arc it kicks off, which involves the Dragon of the Moon. What makes Juann the perfect artist for this cosmic story?
Ewing: Juann's the perfect artist for a lot of stories. Since the very start, I've compared him to New Wave Cinema - his desire to interrogate the rules of storytelling, to break them, to create new ones, to refine and explore those new techniques, all without losing the essential flow. Combine that level of artistic experimentation with a clean, clear, expressive style, that lets you know exactly what's happening in every panel, and you have something really special. Working with him brings out the best in me, and I think future issues - issue #9, for instance - will show that off.
And needless to say, Federico Blee on colors is matching him every step of the way.
Nrama: On that note, later issues deal with Nova trying to regain his status as a hero, according to the solicitations. What's Richard Rider going through right now, and how does that factor into what's coming for Guardians?
Ewing: Nova doesn't need to regain his status as a hero - he already is a hero, galaxy-wide. What he needs to regain is peace of mind - he blames himself for Peter's death, and he's struggling with the significant trauma he's been through in recent years, from the Annihilation War onwards. His big problem is that he's constantly pushing himself - he won't stop and rest unless he's forced to. Right now, he's being forced to - after the significant injuries he sustained during the mission against the Gods of Olympus, he's in a healing tank for at least one more mission, forced to watch and comment through Moondragon's telepathic link. But after he's healed, is he going to throw himself right back into the meat grinder? Or will he give himself a chance to heal more than his body?
Nrama: You're co-writing Empyre, Marvel's line-wide cosmic crossover that starts in July. How will that play into Guardians of the Galaxy?
Ewing: Empyre is very big, and there are a lot of consequences coming out of it in terms of how the various Space Empires of the Marvel Universe relate to one another. Generally, when you talk about "big consequences" in these interviews, it means somebody's dying, or somebody's coming back to life - and maybe one of those things is true, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about getting my arms deep in the gears of Marvel Space and setting up how they mesh together from here on. In terms of Guardians of the Galaxy - if Empyre is a brutal, bloody war, Guardians is where we start to negotiate what peace looks like... and how fragile it can be.
Nrama: Bottom line, what do you want fans to know about Guardians now that it's coming back?
Ewing: We have one of the freshest and most exciting visual storytellers, the biggest scope and the coolest characters to explore it with. It's the new Marvel Age of Space, true believers - and we're your launchpad. Take the ride.