You may not think it from the issue number of this week’s Guardians of the Galaxy #14, but Marvel is positioning the issue as the title's 100th, counting the current series and previous volumes. In this week's double-sized edition, series writer Brian Michael Bendis is throwing open the doors to a host of new faces, from two new team members, one new series artist, and a return from a pair of writers who know the team perhaps even better than he does.
In the lead story of Guardians of the Galaxy #14, Bendis and new series artist Nick Bradshaw induct Captain Marvel and Agent Venom into this rag-tag group of cosmic characters and face off with the one constant thorn in the side of the team, J-Son of Spartax. Series editor Mike Marts says this is more than just a father-son spat between Star-Lord and his dad, and will change the tenor of everything going forward for the book. Following up on Bendis and Bradshaw’s full-length story is two additional stories written individually by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who are the men that put together this modern iteration of the team and kickstarted their path to stars of August's feature film. Lanning’s story sees the enigmatic Groot venture to his homeworld, while Abnett is taking a rare trip to the future to see the Guardian’s original team.
Newsarama talked with the newly minted Marvel Executive Editor Mike Marts about this week's issue, and got an inside look at what to expect with this issue and in the upcoming months as Guardians of the Galaxy heads towards what may be its highest profile ever.
Newsarama: Mike, people have read the advance solicitations for Guardians of the Galaxy #14, but beyond that – what can readers look forward to with #14?
Mike Marts: Well, this double-sized issue serves a few different purposes. First of all, readers get to see some new team members for the Guardians: Venom and Captain Marvel. It’s interesting to see Flash Thompson, even though he’s attached to an alien symbiote, as part of the team; it’ll be one of the first times he’s traveled into outer space, and he’s kind of a man out of place on the team. The second facet of the main story is to see what’s happening between Peter Quill and his father, J-Son of Spartax, and how their relationship goes a few degrees south in this issue, which could lead to a new status quo for the team.
And in addition to the main story, we’ve got two exciting backup stories; one by Dan Abnett, and one by Andy Lanning. They were the two writers who helped usher in a new era for the Guardians of the Galaxy, and they’re coming back for one more story each. Andy is writing an exciting solo Groot story, which fans will be talking about for a long time. Dan is telling a story with the original Guardians, Yondu, Martinex, and the crew, which is a lot of fun.
Nrama: That’ll make fans happy. Can you say if this story with the classic line-up is set in present day times or the future, and will they interact with the modern team?
Marts: Without giving too much away, the story with the original team takes place in a different time and place than the main story. The two casts don’t have an opportunity to interact with one another, but it’s great to see two stories running parallel to one another and to see how the teams match up. There are many similarities, but also many differences. Those differences make this new era of the Guardians of the Galaxy fun, exciting and accessible.
Nrama: Let’s jump back into the main story, and those two new team members, Venom and Captain Marvel. What do they bring to the book?
Marts: The fun thing there is that each of them bring something unique that the team hasn’t seen before. Captain Marvel has been around for a long time; she’s been with the Avengers, the X-Men, and even the Shi’ar, so she’s a true veteran in every sense of the word. She’s as much a veteran with terrestrial matters as she is in outer space, so she brings a wealth of knowledge. At the same time, you wonder how someone so poised and experienced would react to a misfit, rag-tag team like the Guardians with all their quirks and attitudes.
On the other side you have Venom, Flash Thompson, who, when compared to Captain Marvel, is relatively new to the hero business. The Venom character has been a villain and an anti-hero, and that’s a different dynamic for the group to take in.
I think there are two other important things about him. One is he gets to serve as a point of view for readers. His character is the eyes into this whole world, and a conduit for readers to get into the story. The second thing, which I think is extremely exciting, is the fact that he is attached to an alien symbiote. Marvel’s published comics exploring the origins of the symbiote before, but not so much in relation to the outer space environment. Almost all of the origin stories for the Venom symbiote were set on each.
Nrama: I remember several months ago on Tumblr Brian dropped a little nugget of information saying that the Guardians might visit a planet of the symbiotes.
Marts: Yes, it could be that. It’s interesting to speculate.
Nrama: Speaking of membership, you’re a new member of the book’s team, as editor. When it was announced you were returning to the company earlier this year they said your primary beat was to be the X-Men – but you also inherited Guardians of the Galaxy. With your days full of mutants and all that entails, what’s it like also having this unique book so separate from most of your other titles?
Marts: It’s exciting. During my previous stint at Marvel I worked on the X-titles. Coming back here is like putting on an old pair of shoes, but taking on Guardians of the Galaxy is the type of challenge I was looking for when I came back. It’s brand new to me, but it’s a strong franchise and something the company can depend on. Between the comic series and the upcoming movie, there’s so much energy and buzz surrounding it that it’s truly an excited time to be involved in it. I’m honored.
Plus, it means I’m working with Brian on three books when you count All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, so it cuts down on phone calls a bit. [laughs]
Nrama: Also joining the book here in a more permanent role is Wolverine & The X-Men’s Nick Bradshaw on art. Can you tell us about him jumping from the mutant school to space heroes with this?
Marts: Nick’s work here is different in setting and characters than what readers are used to seeing from him, but he’s making it look easy. The job Nick has done is, pardon the pun, out of this world. When you think of outer space, space stations and aliens, it might seem like a challenge to draw, but that’s definitely not the case for Nick. He brings a cohesive and unique look to the spacecraft and the aliens, and making his mark.
Nrama: How many issues is Nick doing, exactly?
Marts: Nick is going to be the primary artist of the book. He’s doing #14, the Free Comic Book Day issue, and also #15 and #16. We have guest artists for #17 – 19 that we’ll announce soon, and then Nick is returning for another arc.
Nrama: Bringing this back full circle, you mentioned a possible falling out between Star-Lord and his father; what other forces will the Guardians be up against in future issues?
Marts: There will be several. A lot of people may expect J-Son to be a primary antagonist for the Guardians, but once they deal with that threat there’s going to be several others all coming simultaneously. Readers will see that in issue #15; each of the Guardians will be dealing with a huge, important antagonist, and honestly they’re all going to be fending for themselves. It’s a very dangerous time to be a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.