The five misfits from James Gunn’s massive summer 2014 hit return in an animated series which borrows extensively from both the continuity of the movies and that of their comic book counterparts to make a unique new interpretation of the characters.
Opening with Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ being played on Peter Quill’s Walkman as he and his fellow Guardians scale a rock face, the series hits the ground running in reassuring viewers who have only seen the movie that these are the familiar characters that they probably expect. Aesthetically, it’s all here from Rocket’s orange and black jumpsuit and distinctively shaped weapon to Drax’s blue skin and Quill’s red leather jacket. Seventies minor hits aside, the series also shares some musical and effects cues with the movie, though brings a lot of its own stuff to the table as well. Quill is snarky, Gamora tough, Rocket a smart mouth and Drax the accidental comic relief, though as in the film his ‘literalness for comedy value’ seems a little inconsistent.
Plotwise, it also feels familiar, as the Guardians attempt to ‘liberate’ an all-powerful artefact being sought by a super villain, while crossing paths with another familiar face as they attempt to do so, and as the name of the episode implies, they end up on Knowhere as part of this.
Where the show is interesting is where it diverges from the movie. We already know from James Gunn that the movie sequel will explore Quill’s origins, and that they will differ from that of the comic books. Readers of the comic books may find some familiarity on this point with the series though. They will also see some beloved characters appear, and hear some occasional lines which hearken to storylines and incidental details that they will recall from various runs, from Abnett and Lanning’s classic collaboration on the team to the current Bendis incarnation. It’s a treat, as these details are integrated in such a way that to fans of the movie alone, they just add more depth, whereas to those who have the comics as well, they serve as nice little nods and additional flavour to the series.
Guardians was the surprise hit of last year for Disney Marvel in the cinematic sense, and it was almost inevitable that they would seek to capitalise on this b extending to a cartoon run. That they have chosen to not simply follow the movie but rather expand into another parallel story halfway between the movie and comic continuities might almost be seen as a risk akin to the one they took with the movie itself, but for this viewer it paid off. The plot feels slightly familiar to a viewer of the movie, especially as it checks off various characters and one location from it, but given that this is effectively a pilot establishing the new series, a certain degree of repetition can be forgiven. What will be interesting to see as the weeks go by is whether the direction indicated by this start is followed through, and where our characters end up. For now though, it’s good to have the rogues back.
Verdict: A solid beginning, with enough for hardcore and casual fans of the series to be intrigued. 8/10
Greg D. Smith