Thanks in large part to their popularity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, cosmic superheroes the Guardians of the Galaxy have become household names - to the point where reports have surfaced that the team is getting their own video game.
While we'll have to wait to learn any details about that, we're whetting our whistles and getting back into that cosmic Marvel mindset by looking back at where it all started with a list of the best Guardians of the Galaxy comic books stories of all time.
And while you're in a Guardians mood, learn all about the history of Star-Lord and how he became the modern hero we know today.
10. War of Kings
War of Kings is the kind of space epic that Marvel couldn't have without a full slate of cosmic titles.
But in 2008-2009, writers Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, C.B. Cebulski, and Chris Yost had the exact right setting for a tale that pitted the Shi'Ar, led by Vulcan, the third Summer brother, against the Kree, led by the Inhumans, in a massive space war.
This event had appearances by all the major cosmic players including Black Bolt and his royal family, Nova and the Nova Corps, the Starjammers, and Darkhawk. The Guardians of the Galaxy found themselves caught in the crosshairs, splitting into two teams. Rocket's squad joins the fray against all the big cosmic baddies while Star-Lord and his group race through time to enlist the original Guardians to help them in their fight.
Few Guardians of the Galaxy stories get quite as big - or as heroic and all-encompassing - as this.
9. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Communication Breakdown
When writer Gerry Duggan and artist Aaron Kuder took over as the ongoing creative team for the Guardians when the title relaunched as All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, they quickly went about establishing a cosmic tone that drew on the mythology of the Infinity Stones and the deeper Marvel cosmology, as opposed to the political aspects of the publisher's many space empires.
But they also managed to find a way to shake up the line-up that had solidified in the public eye thanks to the blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy films - Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Drax - without losing the connections that made them feel more like family than a team.
Instead their first arc, 'Communication Breakdown,' had the Guardians do what many real families go through - evolving their relationships with each other as they undergo their own personal growth and changes. And change they did - Drax became a pacifist, Groot was a baby as in movies at the time, and Gamora was hiding a secret that eventually led her to attempt to gather the Infinity Stones and take on the legacy of her 'father' Thanos.
As Guardians' stories go, it pushed a lot of envelopes, putting the Guardians on the run as criminals, turning Gamora into a villain who later seemingly killed Peter Quill, and putting rifts in their bond. But through it all, 'Communication Breakdown' and the stories it led into managed to hold onto the heart - and the thrill - audiences have come to expect from the team
8. Rocket: The Blue River Score
Rocket Raccoon is more than the irascible mascot and mechanic for the Guardians of the Galaxy. He's more than a space-bound superhero. He's also a wanted criminal across many of the vast galaxies of the Marvel Universe.
And try as he might, Rocket has rarely left that life behind, even when he's saving the universe alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. Case-in-point, Rocket: The Blue River Score, writer Al Ewing and artist Adam Gorham's story of Rocket being sucked back into a life of crime when he crosses paths with an old flame.
Ewing manages to craft a stylish, witty crime yarn in the tenor of a Guy Ritchie movie, filtered through the lens of a deep love for the oddball cosmic stories that grew out of early Marvel UK comics - right down to bringing in TechNet of Captain Britain/Excalibur fame.
Though it's technically all about Rocket, and not the rest of the Guardians, the story exemplifies how much Rocket's presence on the team - and his effect on their adventures - are often as much about what the rest of the Guardians don't know he's got happening behind their backs as the things he does alongside them.
7. Annihilation: Conquest
The 2006 Annihilation saga did something so ridiculously simple that it was brilliant. Bringing together previous disparate entities like Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Nova, and Ronan the Accuser, Marvel had a bona fide cosmic universe on its hands. The follow-up crossover, Annihilation Conquest, mirrored the formula, taking the idea one step further as a way to introduce a new, modern Guardians of the Galaxy team.
Keith Giffen, to whom the Marvel cosmic universe owes a massive debt, crafts a Dirty Dozen-style story in which reluctant Star-Lord Peter Quill brings together inmates and rapscallions alike, including Bug, Captain Universe, Deathcry, Mantis, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon to find a weakness in the invading Phalanx sphere and destroy it if possible.
Timothy Green's energetic art shows the proto-team at their most weirdly beautiful. While it may not be exactly like the modern Guardians we know and adore (Groot carries on entire conversations!), all the elements are forming here: from Quill's laconic humor through to a Rocket who transcends his joke-based name via an obsession with large weaponry.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome
In the early years after their late '60s introduction, the 31st-century Guardians of the Galaxy (the original comic version of the team) mostly just jumped around a few other titles, popping in whenever a writer wanted to use them as guest stars.
True to form, in this Defenders arc, series writer Steve Gerber has his team help the Guardians in their ever-present struggle against the hordes of the Badoon, a fight that would eventually turn the Guardians into a franchise all their own - albeit in a different form.
Collected as Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome, the collection includes the first appearance of the original Guardians alongside their first major adventure - and for classic Marvel fans, it doesn't hurt that Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta handle art duties either.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Final Gauntlet
When he took over as writer of Guardians of the Galaxy alongside artist Geoff Shaw, Donny Cates capitalized on his burgeoning reputation as an architect of long-simmering, world-shaking stories for 'The Final Gauntlet.'
Focusing on a galaxy-wide search for an inheritor to the role and power of Thanos, 'The Final Gauntlet' ropes in nearly everyone who has ever been a Guardian for a story that also incorporates Hela, Death, numerous cosmic empires, and of course, Thanos himself.
'The Last Gauntlet' drew on threads Cates had previously laid in his Thanos and Cosmic Ghost Rider series - though the fact that the story forms its own epic while also paying off some of those plots and setting up ideas for Cates's later work shows just how effective the writer can be at plotting and planning.
And of course, the story does what many of the best Guardians stories do, and introduces a whole host of new ideas while holding onto a core, unbreakable concept.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy: Quest for the Shield
The original Guardians of the Galaxy's first ongoing title starts here, written and drawn by Jim Valentino who would later leave Marvel during the Image exodus and create Shadowhawk.
'The Quest for the Shield' recaps the Guardians' previous adventure fighting Korvac alongside the Avengers and sets them on a 31st-century search to find Captain America's shield.
Guardians member Vance Astro eventually does find the shield, introducing a plot point that would be picked up again by the modern version of the team 25 years later.
While this is very much a story in the Mighty Marvel tradition, down to idiosyncratic villains such as Taserface, Force, and Firelord - not exactly the most formidable lineup – but that's part of the tale's charm.
3. Rocket Raccoon: A Chasing Tale
Rocket Raccoon and Groot were the breakout stars of 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and Marvel rewarded Rocket with his own solo title, kicking off with the story 'A Chasing Tale.'
Skottie Young's take on the foul-mouthed furball is as fun as the character's ever been - proof that Rocket doesn't need the other Guardians to go on an adventure of his own. (Although a Guardian or two does show up now and again here).
The first four issues follow Rocket as he tries to figure out why he's suddenly a wanted rodent while also dodging a contingency of angry exes that are out for blood. Not only are Skottie Young's scripts on point, but his art is jam-packed with tons of references and inventive layouts.
Jake Parker takes over pencils for #5 and #6. Both one-and-dones, the first is told by Groot while the second puts Rocket on a mission with a misfit mech for Cosmo the Dog.
All in all, these stories are a really great celebration of the character even when they get into some darker moments.
2. The Korvac Saga
The 31st-century Guardians had a host of adventures in their own time, but perhaps their finest hour was chasing the 31st century Michael Korvac supervillain back in time to their own past - the modern Marvel Universe - teaming with the Avengers to put a stop to him in the story 'The Korvac Saga.'
First thing Korvac does? Sap some of Galactus' power and inherit the power cosmic. That'll get heroes shaking in their boots. Predating even Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, 'The Korvac Saga' was a time-crossed team up for the ages - counting one of the first times the Avengers almost lost.
As one of the first major time-spanning cosmic-level stories in the Marvel Universe, 'The Korvac Saga' set the template for Marvel's cosmic sagas and epic events for decades to come.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy
If you had to pick one essential Guardians of the Galaxy run, this would be it.
Jetting out of the events of the Annihilation: Conquest, writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (collectively known at the time as DnA) and artist Paul Pelletier mixed up a classic team name, an anarchic sense of fun, and a vast Marvel cosmos to make something truly unique and memorable.
The initial story spun directly out of Annihilation: Conquest, bringing in the event's team of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Quasar, Adam Warlock, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and Groot. With cracks forming in the boundaries of the universe, Peter Quill's ragtag team decides to get proactive as the modern Guardians of the Galaxy.
DnA's run doesn't just crack wise either, bringing genuine pathos to a group that didn't exist in this form only 12 months prior - a team that has since gone on to define the name Guardians of the Galaxy across comics, movies, and even TV in the years since.
It also had a telepathic Russian space dog named Cosmo. ‘Nuff said.
The total span of DnA's run, crossovers notwithstanding, was a mere 25 issues. Yet this formative arc is essential reading and will be a smooth transition for those familiar with the movie counterparts.