Best Guardians of the Galaxy comics

There's no denying the Guardians of the Galaxy took the world by surprise. The film adaptation might be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the tone, humor, and characters are literally worlds away from the adventures of the Avengers back on plain old planet Earth. With the sequel coming in 2017, it's a great time to check out some of the best Guardians of the Galaxy comics printed over the years. Fortunately, Marvel has you covered with everything from universe-threatening dramatic tales, to quirky character studies and lighthearted adventures. So, here's our guide to the best Guardians of the Galaxy comics in the universe.

Annihilation: Conquest — Star-Lord

If you like exploring the weirder, more cosmic side of Marvel, then it's tough to go wrong with the Annihilation storyline. The original tale dealt with the ominously-named alien Annihilus leading a so-called "Annihilation Wave" of ships on a rampage throughout the galaxy, and various cosmic forces must team up in order to stop them. Annihilation: Conquest features a number of miniseries focused on particular characters. Star-Lord is one of them, and those who enjoyed watching Chris Pratt's take on the character in the Guardians film will certainly enjoy his exploits here.

For instance, this Star-Lord series serves as a kind of prequel to later volumes of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic. It features Star-Lord assembling a motley crew of resistance fighters (including fan-favorites Groot and Rocket Raccoon) to fight against Ultron and the techno-organic Phalanx. Basically, it has all of the elements you liked from the movie (charismatic Star-Lord and his weird associates going on a potential suicide mission) while further exploring characters like the Kree and the Phalanx. For added fun, the Phalanx must be fought using nothing high-tech, so you get to see Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon playing MacGyver…in space!

Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy trade paperback

If Annihilation: Conquest served as a kind of prequel to the Guardians of the Galaxy storyline, then this is the payoff for it. One of the notable features of this story is that it provides more context for the team coming together. While the movie presented a team that mostly came together out of happenstance and stayed together to stop Ronan, the Guardians of the comic book universe are deliberately brought together by Star-Lord. He figures that the universe has barely survived the two different Annihilation events and is in a more precarious place than ever. Thus, there's a need to have a team that can respond to threats before they become a bigger problem.

With that in mind, the name of the team — Guardians of the Galaxy — makes a lot more sense. The tale features the characters you are familiar with from the first Guardians movie (such as Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot) along with characters that will play a part in other Guardians movies (like Mantis) and characters that may never see a cinematic adaptation (such as Adam Warlock). Basically, this comic is the perfect jumping-off point for those who fell in love with these characters and stories on the big screen and want to see more adventures of their favorite characters.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers trade paperback

In many ways, this is an interesting companion piece to the Legacy trade paperback. For all intents and purposes, the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was a loose adaptation of the characters and situations established in Legacy. When that movie became a mega-hit, it only made sense for Marvel to try to create a new Guardians of the Galaxy comic (the previous Star-Lord and crew incarnation of the team had lasted for 25 issues) in order to lure eager movie fans to their nearest comic shop. As such, this series features a lot of things meant to entice the casual movie fan, such as tying the team to The Avengers and cementing that connection by having Iron Man running around in space with them.

For those casual fans, there are some notable stories in here. For instance, there is a more detailed background story for Star-Lord, including information about who his father is (something that is likely to be wildly different in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie). The story functions very well as an ensemble piece, giving everyone a chance to shine, and the whole thing features that quirky brand of humor that drew so many fans to the Guardians movie in the first place.

Drax the Destroyer #1-4

While the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was full of surprises, one of the biggest revelations was Drax the Destroyer. Memorably played by former wrestler Dave Bautista, the character ran the emotional gamut. He could easily be the comedic relief (and was in a lot of ways), but was also burdened with a tragic backstory of losing his family to Thanos.

Much of that story on screen was initially brought to life in the miniseries Drax the Destroyer. Before this, as hard as it may be to imagine, Drax was basically a flying, energy-blasting version of The Hulk (with a terrible design, no less). This miniseries sees Drax literally reborn after his first body dies when he tries to protect a young girl that, tragically, he mistakes for his own lost daughter. This series is mostly worth it for meeting the new Drax, a character who finally comes into his own. He also waxes philosophical while taking heads off, though, so he's got that going for him.

Rocket Raccoon: A Chasing Tale

Considering how strange the character of Rocket Raccoon is, it's crazy to see just how much the world fell in love with him. On paper, it sounds like a terrible idea to have a foul-mouthed, gun-toting raccoon and his tree bodyguard in the same cinematic universe as more grounded heroes like Captain America, but the movie made it work. And for fans of Rocket, the adventures continue in his own comic series, which has an appropriately humorous tone and more cartoony style to match the wacky hijinx of the characters themselves.

The story is a bit different, with the titular hero being framed for murder. It turns out there is another space Raccoon (yup: Rocket is officially no longer the last of his kind) going around doing terrible things, and Rocket is catching the heat for it. Now, he and Groot must dodge the space police and other forces while trying to track down someone who seems to always have the edge over our heroes. For those who want more on the background and misadventures of their favorite fur ball, or who just think "The Fugitive in space" sounds amazing, this is a great…well…tale!

Legendary Star-Lord: Face It, I Rule

Still can't get enough Star-Lord? After that shirtless scene in the first Guardians movie, it's tough to blame you. This is the first story from an ongoing series of comics featuring the scoundrel-like leaders of the Guardians. The story itself involves Star-Lord being captured by the alien bad guys called The Badoon. His only hope of being rescued is everybody's favorite X-Man (or should that be X-Woman?), Kitty Pryde. Star-Lord and the rest of the team had previously played a pivotal role in saving Jean Grey's life, and along the way, he and Kitty Pryde developed a relationship, one that is put to the test as she tries to save his life.

It's really an interesting story all around. For comics fans of a certain age, Kitty Pryde will always have a place in their heart as the young mutant who got to live the dream of growing up with the X-Men. The story also features some good character development for Star-Lord — a character often written pretty one-dimensionally, as if his character description sheet said "Han Solo with a mask and cassette player." There's even a confrontation with the big bad guy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos!

Guardians of The Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey

There is perhaps no greater comics tradition than that of the crossover event. These are often a mixed bag, with some of them being genuinely cool opportunities for characters and stories to collide, and others being little more than cheap cash grabs. Fortunately, this story is a very organic collaboration between the world of the Guardians and the world of The X-Men. Over in the X-Men comics, Cyclops has become a fugitive because the world blames him for what he did while the Phoenix Force controlled him (he murdered Professor X, among other atrocities). He basically becomes the new Magneto, deciding to train mutants to fight for their rights instead of peaceful integration.

Beast decides that the only one Cyclops will listen to is himself, and uses time-travel to bring the original, teenage X-Men from the past to the present. However, some timey-wimey stuff means that they are stuck in the present day, which leads to young Jean Grey being abducted by the Shi'ar. The Shi'ar want to put Jean on trial for what the older Jean did when controlled by the Phoenix Force (she killed an entire planet), and the Guardians show up to help Kitty Pryde and the X-Men rescue her. It's a genuinely fun romp that organically builds on stories told decades ago while laying the groundwork for something brand new. In this case, more Star-Lord/Kitty Pryde fan fiction than any hard drive could ever contain.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome trade paperback

As you may or may not know, the Guardians of the Galaxy comic is old…like, as old as your parents, old. However, the characters in the movie and the notion of them being part of the same team mostly stem from comics written from 2008 onwards. So, what was with the original Guardians of the Galaxy? That is what the Earth Shall Overcome trade paperback touches on.

This tale features a mostly unrecognizable team for movie fans. In fact, the only familiar face from the Guardians is the blue alien Yondu, who is much more explicitly a do-gooder on the printed page. The lack of other movie Guardians doesn't mean you won't recognize anyone, though, as Yondu and characters such as Vance Astro and Charlie-27 team up with characters like Captain America, Doctor Strange, and the Hulk in order to fight off an Earth invasion by a reptile army. Basically, this is a superhero story with B-movie sci-fi sensibilities, and it's just as entertaining as it sounds!

The Thanos Imperative

In addition to being an amazing story in its own right, The Thanos Imperative serves as a crash course for many of the weirder concepts of the Marvel universe. One of those ideas is that of multiple universes, as the story concerns a weird universe where Death has been defeated. That is not a flowery metaphor — in Marvel comics, Death is an actual person that Thanos flirts with and hopes to be claimed by. Once she is gone in this alternate universe, no one dies and life runs rampant like a cancer. Hence the catchy nickname for this place: The Cancerverse.

In order to try and keep this bizarre dimension from bleeding over into their own, Star-Lord and the Guardians team up with Thanos. They head into the Cancerverse, and things get weird. How weird? The saga includes betrayals, shifting alliances, and a whole lot more death. It also ends with one heck of a shock. Not to spoil anything, but we'll just say not all of our heroes make it back by the final page. And where some of them end up might surprise you.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Original Sin trade paperback

This was part of a larger tie-in event in which different characters were forced to admit painful secrets from their past. In this case, Gamora makes Star-Lord tell the story of how exactly he and his companions escaped from a previous mission that seemed to have left them all for dead. It reeks from a bit of retcon, but it's still one heck of a great standalone story that ties back to one of the biggest events in Marvel history (at least the cosmic side of it). It features fan favorites Drax, Star-Lord, Nova and even the super baddie Thanos, himself. It's a bleak story in many ways, but it helps officially explain what would otherwise be the king of all plot holes, with dead Guardians running rampant throughout the Marvel universe. And fans would hate that. Well, unless they were Marvel Zombies. But, that's a story for another day.