Stranded in Infinity Rooms

Guardians of the Galaxy is now coming to Elgin but I saw it a fortnight ago in Glasgow. It had received very positive press reviews but I’m afraid I found it a trite, formulaic homage to Star Wars: The Expendables with talking animals.

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The attraction of the film is the use of many of Marvel’s more obscure creations: the most popular, I think, may be Groot, a typical Lee/Kirby Marvel monster predating the Fantastic Four.

Lee and Kirby’s giant Public Accuser Ronan actually first appeared in the FF: a menacing emissary of  an enigmatic and ancient alien empire more akin, at that stage, to Kirby’s later Celestials. “Developed” later by Roy Thomas as a cackling usurper, Ronan became a go-to space villain.

The Guardians themselves of course were originally a rebel quartet created in a 60s one-shot by Arnold “Doom Patrol” Drake and Gene Colan. Their dystopian future was then explored by Steve Gerber in a short-lived freak-out series in the mid-70s. (I wonder if the ginger kid who mocked my copy of Marvel Presents at Strathaven Academy circa 1976  took his kids or grand kids to the movie?)

Jim Valentino revived the Guardians in  an  homage to both the Legion of Super-Heroes and the X-Men in the mutant frenzy of the foil-cover 90s. The current group contains none of those 31st-century solar system rebels but is instead comprised of various other characters from the Silver and Bronze Ages.

Star-Lord was an astrology-based anti-social spaceman created by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan. However, the legendary Claremont/Byrne team blended elements of Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang with Star Wars to create a sexy space opera that prefigured the Shi’Ar stories in X-Men.

Claremont and Infantino went on to develop Peter Quill’s bizarre “friends with benefits” relationship with his sentient craft.

Rocket Raccoon, like Star-Lord, debuted in the ultra-obscure Marvel Preview magazine.  Mantlo and Giffen’s Sword in the Star was a sci-fi take on quest mythology, blending Arthur and Ulysses. Rocket next appeared in the Hulk and in his own mini-series. Mantlo seemed to enjoy combining space opera and Funny Animals.

Thanos and his ward Gamora, were of course Kirbyesque co-stars of Adam Warlock, a character who had undergone a transformation similar to Star-Lord. In Warlock’s case, he changed from Space Jesus into Elric of Melnibone: a morbid, gilded vampire with suicidal impulses. Heavy. 

Nebula, a space pirate and self-styled grand-daughter of Thanos was created by Stern and Buscema in the mid-80s Avengers.

Finally, Marv Wolfman’s homage to Silver Age Green Lantern, the Nova Corps were first introduced in 1976. Perennial newbie Nova is an enduring third-string character but his alien origins are deadly dull.

The film itself struck me as lazy and patronising and its attempts at goofball charm failed to work for me. I did however enjoy the 70s soundtrack which owed a great deal to Tarantino.

Interestingly though, fans of the Sekhmet Hypothesis might think there are portents of Cycle 24- some three years overdue- in the contemporary launch of Jim Starlin’s new Marvel graphic novel. Maybe the stranglehold of  caffeinated Goth popular culture is easing?

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The Thanos Revelation sees the Titan, with a resurrected Adam Warlock at his side, witness the universe undergoing a metamorphosis. Warlock wears a costume that recalls Cockrum’s Lightning Lad – but there are kaleidoscopic glimpses of a Warlock wearing a Mobius loop emblem -and of the original 70s Drax the Destroyer

This tale of merging realities has a sprawling cast of Marvel’s Most Cosmic: Eternity, Infinity, the Living Tribunal, the Badoon, the Spaceknights, the Silver Surfer, Ronan, Gladiator, Beta Ray Bill, Akenaten from 2003’s Marvel: The End – and happily, even Quasar, Marvel’s Protector of the Universe from the early 1990s.

Thanos and Warlock are subsequently reborn on new planes of existence- a “Warlockworld” where the inhabitants are trapped in a monstrous loop of suicide and resurrection and a Thanos- reality where nihilism has triumphed.

The universe is reborn yet  again and this time the “Infinity ” Warlock (“far different and…far more powerful”) has replaced the one we knew. Meanwhile Thanos and Death are reconciled and the Mad Titan, who had previously confessed a weakness for “the odd steak and distilled beverage” rededicates himself to his mistress.

Starlin’s art remains a fusion of Ditko and Kirby ( although he can also pastiche Gil Kane in an homage to Marvel Premiere #1). The story itself is the old Headshop Kozmic: a brew of leitmotifs and surreal landscapes that recall his 70s stories and I felt some of his Dreadstar tales of the 80s. I enjoyed it hugely.

Coming soon: Stalker by Levitz, Ditko & Wood. Plus, Peter Capaldi IS the Doctor

Images presumed copyright of their respective owners

 

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