Guardians of the Galaxy has become an extremely popular franchise for Marvel following the hit movie from summer of 2014. Marvel wants to keep the hype going, with a sequel on the way in 2017, a full slate of merchandising, various comic book series, and a new animated series based on the intergalactic ragtag group of heroes.
Being the Guardians‘ first animated series, the crew has freedom to develop the show their way instead of avoiding a previous show’s take on the characters. Many fans believe the quality of Marvel Animation has declined starting with release of the Ultimate Spider-Man in 2012. Instead of letting these opinions dissuade them, Marvel Animation is working on upping their game, believing they can improve rather than reacting to Internet complaints, and Guardians of the Galaxy is the first finished product of their plans. This updated execution includes original tie-in comics and animated shorts focused on each member of the team before they joined the Guardians.
The show centers around outlaw heroes Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon and Groot as they travel throughout the galaxy searching for the coveted Cosmic Seed, an item that is capable of creating another universe. Unfortunately, various individuals would like to obtain the Cosmic Seed and abuse its power. The season’s story is told through sequential story arcs as themes of redemption and family are highlighted. The series premiere introduces the Guardians as they work together to release Star-Lord’s former boss Yondu from an alien prison. After obtaining information from Yondu, the team retrieve a Spartax artifact and head to the colonial port Knowhere to bargain with a broker. In doing so, the team leads Thanos’ forces, led by Korath the Pursuer, to Knowhere.
The first two episodes are very fast-paced, almost to the point where they are rushing through the story. Plot twists come fast, including captured members, betrayal, and a prison breakout. The breakout sequence leads to a lot of fun interactions as the Guardians banter with the prison guards, Yondu, and one another. The episode doesn’t take much time to slow down following the prison escape. While I appreciate the effort to keep up the pace, the premiere could really use a couple quiet moments to break up the rapid-fire storytelling. Fortunately, there are some pretty awesome moments to be found despite the rushed pace, including the introduction of Cosmo the Spacedog and an early showdown with Thanos.
The following episodes improve on the rapid pacing of the premiere as the characters are further fleshed out and the story is told in a much more natural manner. While the third episode clings a little closely to the film by including the Collector, the show really starts to move past the film and tread new ground with characters like Titus and the Black Order. Some stand-out moments in the episodes following the premiere include a bar brawl with Star-Lord and Gamora, a showdown with one of the Collector’s specimens, and an arena fight between Drax and Gamora. At the same time, some quiet moments are really nice such as Peter understanding and appreciating Groot more than he previously did.
The animation is pretty top-notch. According to production and creative director Eric Radomski, the crew spent more time on the animation in post-production than with previous series. Additionally, animation development head Cort Lane has stated that the show features CG assets and visual effects working together with the 2D animation. The animation looks much better than Marvel Animation’s current shows (save for Ultimate Spider-Man, which is animated by Film Roman). The writing is solid, but occasionally the humor seems a bit overdone. A few less goofy lines would be appreciated. Otherwise, the storytelling is thrilling fun as each episode continues the plot while developing the characters and being easy to jump into for new viewers. I’ve been waiting for Marvel Animation to return to serialized storytelling, so I’m really happy with the result.
Star-Lord is the eccentric leader of the team. While Star-Lord may be a divisive character because he’s so goofy, I’m hoping his character will mature as the story continues, while still keeping his offbeat, fun sensibilities. Star-Lord is voiced by Will Friedle, who really sells Star-Lord’s reckless personality. Gamora is the deadliest combatant of the team. While brash in combat, Gamora has a lot of guilt about her past crimes that we’ve only seen hints of. Gamora is voiced by the elegant Vanessa Marshall. Drax is the vengeful warrior of the team. I really enjoy Drax because he’s so serious, yet he can open up about his family and show what a noble heart he has. Drax is voiced by David Sobolov, who makes Drax a joy to listen to. Rocket Raccoon is the sarcastic weapons specialist of the team. While he can feel unappreciated at times, he definitely seems to have a blast hanging out with Groot or blowing stuff up. Rocket is voiced brilliantly by Trevor Devall. Groot is the heartfelt member of the team. Even though Groot doesn’t say much, he wears his heart on his sleeve. Groot is voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, who tackles the job of saying the same line over and over again with ease.
Another aspect of the film that was brought into the show was the decades old soundtrack. While I’m still hoping for some Earth, Wind, and Fire, the selection of songs has been pretty exceptional so far including “The Boys Are Back in Town” and the essential “Hooked on a Feeling.” Composer Michael Tavera does a great job of scoring the series, emphasizing the feeling of seclusion, adrenaline, and fun.
I definitely have high hopes for this series going forward. The premiere was pretty good, but the episodes that followed have shown real promise with some rather intriguing storytelling while avoiding guest characters so the series can establish itself. Additionally, the show definitely seems to be pulling from the comics with the use of Cosmo the Spacedog and incorporating Star-Lord’s parentage. A second season has already been confirmed, so I hope Disney has some solid DVD plans in the works (13 episode sets, please!).
Guardians of the Galaxy is a very entertaining show with twists and turns I can’t wait to see unfold. I haven’t enjoyed a Marvel Animation show this much since Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. While not quite as good as that show (at the moment), there is so much potential here for characters, settings, and stories that Guardians is looking like a sure-fire hit if the quality keeps up. The show is an absolute pleasure to watch and worth checking out. I am Groot!