Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy fascinates me, but that's not how it began. When Eidos Montreal's action-packed experience was revealed earlier this year, I wrote the entire thing off as some schlocky B-movie adventure, with Star-Lord looking like a dudebro you'd stay well away from at a party, and Groot looking like a knock-off toy you'd find in the far reaches of eBay.
Then it hit me that this wasn't really Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. Well, sure, it technically is called 'Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy', but a more accurate title would've been 'Eidos Montreal's Guardians of the Galaxy'. The studio is simply borrowing the Guardians of the Galaxy license from the Marvel brand at large, sailing off into the distance with the license, characters, and wacky worlds of the series' co-creators writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colan to create a new sci-fi adventure.
A new beginning
In my mind, this opened up massive possibilities for the Guardians of the Galaxy game. No longer was Eidos Montreal's new venture shackled to Marvel's gigantic movie franchise, playing by the rules outlined by director James Gunn and keeping the main players safe with incremental amounts of character building before they journey back for another team up in the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Eidos is free to do what it wants, forming its own directions for this ragtag group of heroes, blasting off into the weirder corners of the solar system where Groot becomes best friends with a llama.
That alone is more enticing to me than anything Marvel has produced in recent years. I actually started out firmly on the MCU bandwagon when Tony Stark's debut adventure aired in Iron Man in 2008. I was enraptured throughout Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as the MCU strayed into espionage-thriller waters with Robert Redford at the helm, and was later thrilled by Black Panther and Michael B. Jordan's absorbing villain Killmonger in particular.
All this eventually gave way to a sense of fatigue. Not a fatigue from the blistering pace at which Marvel was putting out movies, but rather a weary sense of recognising the same tired plot points and worldbuilding tendencies rearing their heads over and over again. There's always a big climactic fight where the hero and villain spout different ideologies at one another. There's always a scene before said fight where the hero doubts themselves. There's always a point of advancing the overall plot of the wider MCU, be it through plot armor for our hero, or a post-credits scene where Samuel L. Jackson mentions he's putting together a team.
All of this has the chance to to be stripped back in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, and that to me is genuinely exciting. The fact that Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot get to exist outside of some big overarching cinematic universe spells out tonnes of possibilities for the starfaring team, where the storytellers at the wheel don't have to worry about being a cog in the monumental MCU machine and can just focus on exploring said characters in ways that a handful of movies have missed out on.
The keys to the kingdom
This is also why Star Wars Visions was the most exciting prospect to come from the Disney machine for me since Star Wars: The Last Jedi – because it didn't come from Disney. The American megacorporation loudly handed the keys to the Star Wars kingdom to Asian animation studios like Studio Trigger of Kill la Kill fame and Ghost in the Shell's Production I.G., while quietly asserting that all adventures contained under the 'Visions' umbrella would be strictly "non-canon" to the wider Star Wars universe.
What came from studios like Trigger and Production I.G. was nothing short of wondrously creative, with episodes like The Duel and The Elder in particular doing wacky things like boasting lightsaber daggers and a whirling flurry of lightsabers on the end of a long stick. Star Wars Visions was very much jettisoned from the main 'canon' of the ongoing Star Wars Universe, and the entire series proudly accepted this role, wearing it on its sleeve like a badge of honor with which to do things that'd never make it into the live action Star Wars movies.
Of course, this isn't the first time a group of new storytellers have been given a shot at established MCU characters. Marvel's Avengers arrived last year from Crystal Dynamics, and despite being a bit of a disappointment from a gameplay perspective, it did a fantastic job of weaving in Kamala Khan A.K.A. Ms Marvel to the established Avengers roster, telling a brand new story of a Pakistani superhero who's yet to grace the big screens of the MCU.
Alternatively, Marvel's Spider-Man has allowed Miles Morales room to grow. Any avid comic book reader would know the story of the webslinger from Harlem, but like Kamala Khan, he's yet to appear in the MCU proper, leading up the brilliant Into the Spider-Verse instead. Insomniac gave Miles Morales room to grow alongside Peter Parker as a rookie superhero, even providing him with a spin-off game of his own as a flashy PS5 launch title, and it looks like Miles will be back in force in Spider-Man 2 in 2023.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy might not technically be the beginning of something new, then, but it's a promising continuation of a trend away from a Marvel landscape dominated by the MCU. Star Wars Visions, Marvel's Avengers, and Marvel's Spider-Man have all used the opportunities of existing outside of the main continuity to tell stories about new characters from the perspectives of new storytellers, and now Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy continues in these footsteps. The opportunity of established characters finding their way into the hands of new developers and writers around the world is a fascinating prospect, brimming with potential, and I hope it continues long after Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.
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