Or – “It’s Interesting When A Character I Love Returns To The Spotlight…”

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…especially when it’s a character that virtually nobody else has heard of. Star-Lord is one of the old-school fave-raves from the days of the Marvel black and white magazines (I also have a soft spot for The Zombie and anyone who appeared in ‘Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu’) even though his characterization and backstory varied wildly through his history. The one thing that seemed to maintain, however, was his sarcasm (bordering on misanthropy in some cases) and a sardonic wit. Pete was one of the high points of last summer’s Annihilation story, serving as Nova’s majordomo, comptroller, and sounding board, all the while insisting that the Star-Lord was dead. That begs the question: what changes his mind?

ASL1.jpgPreviously, on Annihilation: Conquest: With the threat of Annihilus defeated, it seemed like the cosmic portions of the Marvel Universe would be allowed to take a breath and rebuild from the devastating Annihilation Wave. It was not to be. When Peter Quill tried to broker a deal for technology with the Spaceknights of Galador, (known for their first and foremost agent, Rom) he was unknowingly double-crossed by the Kuh-Niggits, who had already been infected by a strange alien virus. The network of Sentries falls, then the Kree army, and soon it seems the entire empire is engulfed. The Kree empire suddenly shut itself off from the universe, and even Ronan the Accuser, one of the few stalwarts who stood against Annihilus, falls to the power of the Cybermen BorgPhalanx. Now, Peter Quill is in the hands of the Kree militia, at least some of whom blame him for the Spaceknights’ betrayal. We start the issue with Peter ruminating over his previous career in world-saving…

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His career went bad when he encountered The Fallen One, first herald of Galactus, on a mission of revenge, finding and destroying planets where his former Master might feed. Star-Lord quickly engaged him, and just as quickly almost got himself killed. In order to stop the Fallen One’s rampage, Peter channeled his power to destroy an entire mining colony, killing all the inhabitants, his living ship (named Ship) and turning the Star-Lord into a mass-murderer on a global scale. Wracked with guilt, Peter turned himself in to the Nova Corps, and went to prison for his crimes… “I don’t remember getting the first implant. I don’t remember making the decision to run away from my humanity. I don’t remember much past the guilt.” Now, he’s stuck reliving the moments, over and over, as hie implants are forcibly removed by Kree surgical instruments. The doctor snorts that their healing resources could be better devoted to helping the Kree soldiers injured in the fight against the Phalanx, but this orders came directly from Ronan himself, the Kree’s new prime minister (or whatever they call their leader.) When he awakens, Peter is taken to see the head of Kree covert operations…

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Heh. That’s pretty funny, actually. The Kree empire is the universe’s biggest bureaucracy, and even the bureaucrats get hosed by it. The woman (Captain Chan-Dar of the Kree) smirks, and does as she is ordered, replacing the translator they just removed from Peter’s face with another translator. “A universal translator,” she explains. “Give it a click to–”

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I like this sequence, as Quill knows that Galen-Kor needs him, and finds great pleasure in poking and mocking the Kree Admiral. The Kree have gotten wind of a Phalanx plot to create Viral Bombs that would spread their contagion across the galaxy, devouring entire planets at a time. Galen-Kor wants the former Star-Lord to take out the factory that makes them. “We require a… how is it you Terrans put it… ‘Down and Dirty’ solution.” Peter gets the picture: they want the primitive Earther to run a primitive mission, leading a team that the Kree have put together out of their various prisoners. The first recruit is identified as Bug, aka Galactic Warrior aka Loverbug, a Kaliklak who some of us may remember from the Micronauts. His crime? Interfering with Kree purity… Bug asks Quill is he realizes this is a suicide mission, and Peter snarks, “Figured that out all by yourself, did you?”

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“She’s also the worst crime perpetrated by the Bob Harras regime at Marvel, worse than even Thor’s stripper look or the Wasp’s transformation into a monster. So, that’s a negative.” I may have paraphrased, there, but the gist is the same. Deathcry’s in for seven counts of murder, and is generally a hateful Wolverine-surrogate with boobies. The next recruit is Mantis, the Celestial Madonna, who both Peter and Galen-Kor think is a loony tune. Chan-Dar simply points out that Mantis told THEM about the mission before they told her a word about it. Next up is Captain Universe, or at least, A Captain Universe. The Kree haven’t been able to find out much about him, and Peter once again responds with sarcasm…

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The Cap’n was nailed saving innocents during a Kree operation, which the strict Empire termed “aiding and abetting the enemy.” Star-Lord disbelievingly asks the Captain if he realizes the truth of his situation. “With your level of power, you could probably leave whenever you want?” Universe replies that he believes in justice, and if he has broken the law, he will stand trial for it. The next recruit brings a smile to my face, as I can imagine the sheer disdain in Galen-Kor’s voice as he says the name. “Rocket Raccoon. No alias.” Heh. The Admiral mentions that Rocket is impressive for a lower-life form, but Rocky responds, “What do you expect? They’re KREE. EVERYTHING ELSE is a lower life form to them.” R.R. complains that he was framed, as the Kree imprisoned him for entering a restricted zone that they hadn’t properly marked, and Chan-Dar explains that the Raccoon is a tactical genius.

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I go through my list of who it might be, wondering how many space characters are even OUT there unaccounted for after the Annihilation series and the new Marvel editorial policy of strip-mining their character list for wacky ensembles. (Think about it: how many books out right now have a random sampling of characters from across the board stuck together in a team? Both Avengers teams, The Loners, The Initiative, Omega Flight, MODOK’s 11, Heroes For Hire, New Excalibur, even the Illuminati fit the bill.) They actually step WAAY back, before the Marvel superhero era, to Tales to Astonish #13, to the days when giant creatures of all stripes walked the roads of what would become the Marvel Universe, to find the Monarch of Planet X, the creature known as Groot. Peter is then shown the weapons and armor he’s been issued, with a familiar crest on the helm…

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Though obviously galled by it, Peter puts on the uniform, returning once more to the identity that made him famous, and begins training his people. Bug and Deathcry quickly adapt to their weapons, and even though Mantis refuses to carry a gun, she’s remarkably dangerous even without one. But even Star-Lord is amazed to hear that Rocket Raccoon has taken to handling their heavy-artillery, taking on a gun bigger than himself and demonstrating expert skills with it.

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Heh. Chan-Dar informs him that the team will be dropped behind the Phalanx occupation lines, as close to Hala (center of the Kree empire) as possible. He doesn’t like the “as close as” part, but there are no guarantees in life. Chan-Dar explains that she was a native of the planet that Peter saved by destroying it’s moon and his ship, but Peter isn’t interested. “Save it for the press release.” With their training completed, Starlord reviews his troops…

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“Your lips to my ears,” replies Peter, and I can’t tell if it’s sarcasm or a real death wish he’s voiceing. I also hope that nobody but Deathcry dies on this mission… Heh. Sorry, force of habit. Either way, I have to wonder who made Groot’s size 3,257 coverall. Regardless, it’s a very likable start to the series, giving us the information we need on the various players, explaining the mystery behing Peter’s eschewing of his former identity, even fleshing out the antagonistic relationship between Quill and Ronan established in the first Annihilation series.

Keith Giffen’s writing shows his craft and the decades of comic experience, juggling the dozens of bits of information, deftly showing each character’s personality, and getting us on the road to our ‘Dirty Dozen’ pastiche. Timothy Green II’s art is interesting here, with touches of Moebius and a strong Heavy Metal influence to it’s technology and set-pieces, and the expression on Mantis’ face in her introduction does as much to define her character as Giffen’s dialogue and characterization does for the others. It’s a good first issue, a nice read, and I’m fascinated to see how this diverse group interacts on their mission of almost-certain death. AQ: Star-Lord #1 earns 3.5 out 5 stars for a brilliant prologue and setup, some lovely art, and a really striking cover.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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14 Comments

  1. Baal
    July 29, 2007 at 4:09 am — Reply

    Starlord was a bit all over the place, wasn’t he? I preferred the Claremont-Byrne take and disliked what came after intensely. What I never found was the original appearance. Is it true Englehart created him and used a major Zodiac influence to the storytelling Claremont dropped?

  2. July 29, 2007 at 10:26 am — Reply

    Englehart’s story is chock-full of strangenesses, including the near-murder of an infant Star-Lord by axe, if I’m recalling it correctly. Another one for my Retro Review pile, eh? :)

  3. Rowan
    July 29, 2007 at 10:40 am — Reply

    I maybe wrong but I do like the little “homage” to strike force morturi at the end or it could be just cause bug knew it was a suicide mission but the “we who are about to die salute you” I remember being SFMs oll saying or I could be losing my mind

  4. Baal
    July 29, 2007 at 3:17 pm — Reply

    Wiki Star-Lord and see if the entry doesn’t give you a headache.

  5. Fredy
    July 29, 2007 at 5:18 pm — Reply

    wow i was wondering whatever happened to Mantis, i guess this explains it heh

  6. July 29, 2007 at 7:05 pm — Reply

    Wiki Star-Lord and see if the entry doesn’t give you a headache.

    I’ll see what I can do about that, if I ever get the time… :)

  7. July 29, 2007 at 7:11 pm — Reply

    I maybe wrong but I do like the little “homage” to strike force morturi at the end or it could be just cause bug knew it was a suicide mission but the “we who are about to die salute you” I remember being SFMs oll saying or I could be losing my mind

    Well, yes and no… ‘Morituri’ is in fact Latin for ‘about to die,’ and ‘We, who are about to die, salute you’ was, I believe, what the Gladiators said before entering combat in Roman times…

  8. Randall W
    July 30, 2007 at 9:32 am — Reply

    wiki headache? You mean in that the current Starlord was the second but appeared 2 years and 7 issues earlier. Yeah, I noticed that. I assume Quill came first but some years later replaced Starlord and so became in name the second Starlord.

    Looks interesting. I’ll look out for it in the shop.

    I like Rocket Racoon. I have an old BW copy somewhere of when Hulk met him after fighting that giant space mouth thing.

  9. July 30, 2007 at 9:43 am — Reply

    wiki headache? You mean in that the current Starlord was the second but appeared 2 years and 7 issues earlier. Yeah, I noticed that. I assume Quill came first but some years later replaced Starlord and so became in name the second Starlord.

    Sorta kinda. Quill appeared first, but his backstory was filled in in fits and starts, and it was later revealed, if I recall correctly, that there was a previous Star-Lord, who turned out to be his deadbeat dad.

    Okay, it’s official: A Retro Review of Star-Lord’s confusing early appearances is in order…

  10. Steven R. Stahl
    August 3, 2007 at 9:58 am — Reply

    The problem with Giffen’s misinterpretation of Mantis is that it invalidates the entire storyline, to the extent that Mantis does anything significant. His interpretation of her powers and history is wrong. It’s as if he had hazy memories of the character from Englehart’s ‘70s AVENGERS run, recollected that she married a tree, and decided, “Yeah, I can make fun of that.”

    A parody doesn’t automatically work. A writer has to know what he’s supposed to be parodying. In the case of Mantis, Giffen clearly doesn’t know, or or doesn’t care. He could have made the effort to read AVENGERS: CELESTIAL QUEST. It’s not that Mantis is too sacred to parody. A writer could make jokes about Quoi (“Does he have to be watered?”) or jokes about the relationship between Mantis and Quoi.

    One result of Giffen’s misinterpretation of Mantis is that practically any death scene involving her won’t be valid either. As a goddess of life, killing her is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

    SRS

  11. August 3, 2007 at 11:08 am — Reply

    The problem with Giffen’s misinterpretation of Mantis is that it invalidates the entire storyline, to the extent that Mantis does anything significant. His interpretation of her powers and history is wrong. It’s as if he had hazy memories of the character from Englehart’s ‘70s AVENGERS run, recollected that she married a tree, and decided, “Yeah, I can make fun of that.”

    I didn’t get any of that from this issue. In fact, what I got out of it was an immediate soft spot for Mantis, especially the enigmatic, knowing smile she gives as she floats in her cell. Since this issue doesn’t delve into her origins or powers, I presume that she appeared in a previous work under Giffen’s pen that I haven’t read?

  12. Steven R. Stahl
    August 3, 2007 at 1:24 pm — Reply

    “I didn’t get any of that from this issue. In fact, what I got out of it was an immediate soft spot for Mantis, especially the enigmatic, knowing smile she gives as she floats in her cell.”

    Note the dialogue, “She has an undocumented belief she is to usher in a universal savior.” The “savior” Giffen’s dialogue refers to is Quoi, the human/Cotati hybrid seen in AVENGERS: CELESTIAL QUEST (see a summary of the midiseries at http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix2/quoimessiah.htm ). The summary also covers some of the late/’80s FF material involving Mantis, which was a case of Englehart striving to write out the character, and using plotlines which were originally meant to appear in WEST COAST AVENGERS. The Mantis appearing in WCA and FF was written off by Englehart in A:CQ as a ghost of sorts.

    Without going into unnecessary detail about specific powers, Mantis, as seen in A:CQ, was the equal of Thanos, or superior. The list of abilities in Giffen’s dialogue was so outdated and wrong (pyrokinesis) as to be irrelevant.

    Giffen hasn’t touched Mantis, as far as I know, prior to the STARLORD issue. Englehart has been the only person to write stories about her as an individual; in that respect, she has a mystique similar to the mystique Elektra used to have, when she was considered Frank Miller’s property.

    There’s no way to make Giffen’s use of an outdated interpretation of Mantis look good. It appears, at best, to be a combination of a writer’s failure to do basic research and editorial nonperformance. The situation demonstrates how shallow contentions re versions of characters can be. If, two or three years from now, someone is saying, “Well, there’s Giffen’s version of Mantis and Englehart’s version. They’re both valid, so–” Wrong. Giffen’s version is clearly invalid. Rosemann should be told to have Giffen write her out, quickly and gracefully.

    I recently had an online run-in with Tom Brevoort about Marvel’s editorial policies, or lack of such (see http://www.marvel.com/blogs//entry/808 ). The misuse of Mantis provides another reason to criticize Marvel harshly.

    SRS

  13. August 4, 2007 at 12:01 am — Reply

    Note the dialogue, “She has an undocumented belief she is to usher in a universal savior.”

    Dialogue which is perfectly in character for a cold Kree scientist, and certainly doesn’t have to be indicative of Giffen’s feelings for her.

    There’s no way to make Giffen’s use of an outdated interpretation of Mantis look good. It appears, at best, to be a combination of a writer’s failure to do basic research and editorial nonperformance. The situation demonstrates how shallow contentions re versions of characters can be. If, two or three years from now, someone is saying, “Well, there’s Giffen’s version of Mantis and Englehart’s version. They’re both valid, so–” Wrong. Giffen’s version is clearly invalid. Rosemann should be told to have Giffen write her out, quickly and gracefully.

    I would categorize that as somewhat of an overreaction, with all due respect. It’s not like her appearance in the Crossing, which went completely against all logic and character development. We’ve seen her in half a dozen panels, for Qward’s sake. It’s obvious you love Mantis, and that’s cool, but we’ve seen one issue out of four. Honestly, this is the most airtime Mantis has had in YEARS, and you’ve already branded it a failure…

  14. Steven R. Stahl
    August 4, 2007 at 10:43 am — Reply

    My reaction is based on a Wizard Universe interview with Giffen, in which he displayed a lack of knowledge about Mantis (see http://www.wizarduniverse.com/magazine/wizard/005266057.cfm ), a reader’s comment re another interview with Giffen, and reader reactions to this issue. At least one reader asked if this meant Mantis wasn’t going to be the Madonna (?!).

    The dialogue in STARLORD #1 constituted an introduction to the characters, as much of an introduction, I believe, as readers are going to get. What are readers supposed to think if Mantis’s powers and past are described incorrectly?

    If I seem cynical about Marvel’s attitude toward character continuity, series continuity, and continuity between series, it’s because I’ve learned to be cynical. Marvel’s principals care much more about appealing to new and casual readers than they do about the long-term readers, whom they take for granted. If continuity interferes with a story concept that they think is exciting, in a “high concept” way, they’ll scrap the continuity. There’s no reason to expect Mantis to fare better, in that respect, than the Scarlet Witch did in “Avengers Disassembled.”

    SRS

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