This weekend sees the official release of one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most anticipated sequels: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Like its predecessor, Guardians 2 sets a colorful cast of wacky characters against trippy cosmic visuals and a psychedelic soundtrack — elements of weirdness that have characterized Marvel Comics’ space universe since its inception.
Ahead of the film’s release, this week also sees the debut of a new comic featuring the characters: All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, by writer Gerry Duggan and artist Aaron Kuder. The basic setup should seem familiar to movie fans – Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and a baby-sized Groot – but it quickly becomes apparent that all is not as it seems.
Duggan talked to EW about his big plans for the series and how it appeals to both longtime comic readers and new movie fans. Check that out below, along with excerpts from the first two issues. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy is on sale this week.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What does the “all-new” in the title signify?
GERRY DUGGAN: We’re taking this spacefaring family off into some new situations; even some of the old problems they’re going to face are remade. One of the things they’re turning their attention toward are the wayward, missing Infinity Stones. They’re not as they once were. Post Secret Wars, things are different, and even the Cosmic Elders don’t quite know why. Some of these stones are in new configurations. Some of them are on very high, very difficult shelves to reach. They’ll all be extremely sought-after. As the Guardians unravel the mystery of why these things are changed, it’s an all-out derby in outer space to find them before your enemies do — a race against time or a race against an army or fighting an army. I think Aaron Kuder’s got this brilliant imagination. If I have fun on the page, he has fun on his art board, and I think it translates to the finished product. We’re very proud of this one-year plan of seeing new ideas with older characters. We’re starting with what looks like a mirror of MCU, but it’s going to change pretty quickly.
What new problems are each of the Guardians dealing with?
After Brian Michael Bendis’ run, we’ve jumped forward in time into a scenario where some of the Guardians are questioning not just what they’re doing but also what they’re doing as part of this team and reexamining their priorities. Drax is attempting a life without violence, and we don’t know why. It’s a good opportunity to get some good gags, and some of my favorite stuff is coming up about that, and we’ll find out why this summer. It’s pretty devastating. My job as custodian of these characters is to find ways to hurt them. Let the sun burn them, crisp them a little bit. It hurts my heart a little to do it. Like, who doesn’t love Groot? This version even looks like Baby Groot, but unfortunately, Groot is on the receiving end of some of our darker designs. Rocket is caring for Groot at the moment, trying to keep him healthy; this Groot is not so much a baby as diminished. We’re darkening Gamora a bit, and she’s gonna earn her moniker “Galaxy’s Deadliest Woman.” We’ll find out why in issue 3, and that’s a bit of a gut punch. Funnily enough, at the moment Quill has his stuff together the most, which is a destabilizing point for the team. Plus, at the moment the Guardians are caught between two cosmic elders, Grandmaster and Collector. We open with Grandmaster and then see how other classic Kirby characters make their entrances. That will become the spine of this plan, and that is the Stones. We’re telling a story about the Infinity Stones that doesn’t involve Thanos!
How do you tell a story with the Infinity Stones that hasn’t been done already?
It’s something we talked about early on. This is a big grab. The way we look at it, this particular series is going to look at the possibility that their reality is a simulation. That’s something I’m very interested in about our existence. There are smart people backing the possibility that’s true. So here, the characters start thinking their reality might be a simulation, and it’s funny because of course it is all a simulation — so there we get a meta element, some of that Deadpool sauce. So in that version of this reality, what are the Infinity Stones? What we’ll come to realize is their importance as the operating system of this influence. We have a really cool circuit planned for them. We’re keeping it pretty close to the vest, but you’ll see familiar Stones activated and wielded in very different ways than we’ve seen before. It’s going to be very fun to see how they overcome some of these obstacles. We’re definitely trying to see how we can break the story. For some of these characters, the notion that we are in a simulation will be extremely liberating, and for others, demoralizing and depressing. It’s a profound emotional impact for them in different ways. We’re finding new ways to torture these characters.
As you mentioned, this series has a similar setup to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. What do you think MCU fans can look for in this series?
The hope is that fans see the world on screen and want more stories with these characters. They will immediately see these characters and have a grasp of who they are. What I think you’ll get out of it is we have pretty aggressive publishing plan — 24 issues in a year. That’s a lot more adventure and more Guardians than even Burbank can churn out. We’re gonna take these characters who have this immediate impact and familiarity and drop them deep into the core of the Marvel Universe. We’ll begin to change the makeup of the book. We’ve been protecting some of those secrets, but before too long, you’re going to see classic Marvel Kirby characters and also stuff from the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run. Nothing makes me happier than seeing on Twitter people call out for their favorite old character, because it’s a bit of a monkey’s paw. We’ll have fun, but some of these characters are not gonna love the situations they find themselves in. The concise point is: We’re gonna take these characters from the screen and do a deep dive of the Marvel cosmic universe. We’ve got new and fun ways of looking at older cosmic characters.
Marvel space stuff has always been weird. What are your guys’ plans for it?
Aaron’s such a talented artist. We say this sincerely: We want to make space weird again. As a product, every issue is a couple bucks, so what are we gonna do that you can’t get elsewhere? We’re playing around with the physics of space and different modes of transport. As you see in the first issue, Grandmaster does not ride around in a spaceship. In a world of infinite possibilities, these Cosmic Elders are characters whose primary power is knowledge, and they can pull from other realities. In the second issue, we see where the Collector lives, and he does have a very interesting home security system. The fun thing too about those Cosmic Elders is we’re not gonna just use them as antagonists. They’re interesting to explore, too. What makes these guys tick? Collector has been seen as a weird guy with a big collection, but isn’t he also collecting knowledge? These are fun questions to answer. The Marvel cosmic universe has always been weird, and now Aaron’s making it beautiful.