Wow. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a helluva ride, and there were so many comic book references! Did you catch them all? If not, here’s a ton of SPOILERS!
Seriously, this movie had it all, and even the most hardcore comic fan might miss some of these – heck, there’s probably still more to find! How many do we have so far? Let’s check ’em out.
And seriously, there are a bunch of SPOILERS here!
First, a rundown of the main team as they appear in the comics: Star-Lord’s origin has been changed a dozen times in the comics, but he’s basically a lovable scoundrel. Gamora was raised by Thanos to be an assassin, but eventually joined the good guys. She doesn’t like her “dad.” Drax is the most different from his Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) counterpart in that he was a human whose family was killed by Thanos, had his mind transferred to a god-like body, had his brain damaged to the point of goofiness, got killed, got reborn, and then all of those things happened again a few times. Rocket started off as a goofy parody of the Beatles’ song and eventually became the cranky trigger-happy creature we love today. Oh, and he was created by scientists to keep a solar system full of insane patients safe. Groot started out as a giant conqueror from space, became an Agent of SHIELD (no, really), helped fight for the Kree empire, somehow lost his ability to say anything other than “I am Groot” and eventually lost the rest of his mind as well. Fun!
Now, to the rest of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!
As the movie opens, Peter’s mom, Meredith Quill, is seen joyriding in Missouri. This midwest setting is true to the comics, though originally Peter was from Colorado, not the Show-Me State. Also, this is as good a time as any to point out Star-Lord’s sundry origins, but one feature that stayed fairly consistent was that Peter grew up on Earth and even served as a (not very good) astronaut before going off into space. Regardless of when he left however, he never really looked back.
Who are the Sovereign?
One of the minor antagonists of the film (and there are a few) is Ayesha, leader of the golden-skinned Sovereign. This is a rather ingenious adaptation and alteration from comics, as Ayesha serves several comic book roles. Most obviously, she’s named for Kismet, the artificial humanoid who designated herself as female and has taken various forms over the years, including (briefly) assuming the name Ayesha. Kismet of the comics was designed by mad scientists known as the Enclave to be the perfect human after their previous creation, Adam Warlock, rebelled against them. Predictably, she struck out on her own as well. Unlike her cinematic counterpart, Kismet is almost always peaceful and fairly innocent in the ways of the universe.
Less obviously, Ayesha of the movie is inspired by the character known only as Goddess. Goddess (who certainly views herself as “sovereign”) was the female/good aspect of Adam Warlock, cast off from her progenitor when he likewise cast off his male/evil aspect (known as “Magus“). Adam sought to make himself a pure and impartial being, but in doing so, created two of the worst scourges the universe had known. See, although Goddess was nominally “good,” to her that meant becoming sacred perfection and forcing all of lifekind to become as pious as she. Personality-wise, this is Ayesha of the MCU, appropriately enough, Kismet’s sister (in a roundabout sort of way).
As an aside, Ayesha explains that each citizen of the Sovereign is designed to serve their chosen role perfectly. This mirrors a race recently encountered by the Silver Surfer: The Prime. Each citizen of the Prime serves a unique role, and is the best suited among all others to that role (for example, the planet has only one ice cream maker, but dang if his ice cream isn’t amazing).
The Sovereign’s space fleet is entirely piloted by remote (which is fortunate, as it means Rocket didn’t kill anyone who didn’t deserve it in this film), using a rather goofy (yet practical) video-game-like setup. This is inspired by the warfare of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, in which child commanders pilot remote forces to battle alien foes. Interestingly enough, Marvel produced a whole series of Ender’s Game comics several years ago, so while this isn’t technically a Marvel concept, it was in a Marvel comic.
The team was present on the Sovereign’s homeworld to battle a strange tentacled monster from another dimension. This is a pretty straightforward Guardians-style mission from the comics, as some of their worst foes are the tentacled Many Angled Ones from the Cancerverse dimension, and Marvel heroes regularly have to fend off the likes of the starfish-like ancient demon Shuma-Gorath.
Were those planets from the comics?
Over on the planet Contraxia, we find Yondu’s Ravagers hanging out with pleasure robots, though who would want to hook up on a planet called “Contraxia”? For the record, the STD-sounding planet ties into the origin of the goofily-named but cult-favorite Avenger, Jack of Hearts.
Hanging out on Contraxia is the ever-cantankerous Howard the Duck, last spotted in the post-credits scene of GotG Vol. 1. It goes without saying that Howard was the rather inspired creation of the late-but-great Steve Gerber, and the present-and-amazing Val Mayerik. Read more about them!
Why was Stallone’s team such a big deal?
This is as good a time as any to acknowledge Yondu‘s comic book heritage. Yondu was originally a member of the original Guardians of the Galaxy (now called the Guardians 3000, though we’ll just call them the OGs for brevity), and was born 1,000 years in the future on a planet that was peaceful until it was discovered by human explorers. That Yondu was somewhere between Mr. Spock and the Dali Lama, and fired yaka arrows from his bow that could be controlled with his distinctive whistle.
Since the popularity of the first GotG film, a new Yondu has been introduced, this one living in the present day and sharing the surly attitude of his cinematic counterpart. Centurians like Yondu traditionally have long mohawk-like fins on their heads, but the modern-day Yondu’s was cut off when he was exiled from Centauri IV. He leads a bunch of space pirates called the Ravagers. Who’da thunk it?
It’s on Contraxia that audiences meet Stakar from Arcturus and Martinex from Pluto, two of Yondu’s old team. In the MCU, they were Yondu’s original team, including Charlie-27 from Jupitor, as well as Krugaar, Mainframe, and Aleta from other worlds. Unlike the salty spacedogs Peter grew up with, these Ravagers (apparently representing the bulk of that organization) have strict codes of honor. This is appropriate, as they were all part of (or connected to) the original Guardians (the OGs).
Stallo- er, Stakar is Starhawk, eventually empowered by the cosmic Hawk God. Called the “One Who Knows,” Starhawk has accurate-yet-vague precognitive powers and impressive cosmic abilities that he will use only if he was fated to use them. Strangely, his mother is Ayesha/Kismet, even if he won’t be born for years to come in the Marvel comics universe. It’s timey-wimey, spacey-wacey stuff.
His adopted sister and ex-wife, Aleta, also bore the Starhawk mantle for a time, but more often shared a body with Stakar, and possessed her own powers when separated from him. Despite fate constantly bringing them together, they have one of the unhealthiest marital relationships in comics. And that’s saying a lot!
Martinex was born on Pluto in the 30th century, where human colonists had been purposely mutated into crystaline beings capable of surviving the harsh conditions on the edge of the solar system. Like most of the other OGs, Martinex was the sole survivor of his people, as the Plutonians (like the Centurians and others), had been wiped out by the vicious Badoon race.
Next up is the massive Charlie-27, raised in the gas mines of Jupiter in the 30th century. After that Badoon wiped out his people, Charlie joined the nascent OGs, but he often struggled to fit in with other members, who were experienced scientists and soldiers. Still, Charlie was the heart of the team.
Strangest entries for the MCU original Ravagers (if that can even be said given these characters were intended to be from a millennium in the future), are Mainframe (voiced by Miley Cyrus!) and Krugarr.
The dragon-like Krugarr is the Sorcerer Supreme of space, actually trained by Doctor Stephen Strange, who by the 30th century was the new Ancient One. Krugarr, a member of the Lem race, eventually allied himself with the OGs, but it will be interesting to see how the MCU version of Krugarr could shape up. Obviously, he could be a modern space wizard, trained by some non-Strange magician, but wouldn’t it be fun if he really was from the future, and met the MCU Doctor Strange at some point?
Then there’s Mainframe. What to think of her? While many of the other Ravagers/Original-Guardians are fairly similar to their comic book counterparts, this one isn’t even remotely similar. The Mainframe who was an associate of the OGs was actually the Vision – yes, that red-faced synthozoid from the Avengers – who had given up his body after centuries of life to run the computer systems of an entire world and eventually joined the Guardians of the Galaxy’s sister team, the Galactic Guardians. Clearly, the MCU Mainframe is a very different Mainframe.
What was up with Yondu’s Ravagers?
Back to Yondu’s renegade Ravagers: Their massive ship resembles Thanos’ Dreadnaught 666 ship, used briefly in the 90s (he prefers his more paradoxically named ship, the Sanctuary II).
The saltiest of Yondu’s space dogs is the violent and metaphorically named Taserface. As silly as his name is, sillier is his original origin. You see, old TF is from a race of flat-faced aliens known as the Stark. As in, they named themselves after Tony Stark. It seems in the alternate timeline that gave birth to the OGs, a very drunk Tony Stark sent all of his equipment into space, but drunkenly messed up the coordinates, sending all of his armor and technology to a primitive nameless planet. Within a generation, they remade themselves in Tony’s image, incorporating his armor into their daily lives (read more about the Stark in Iron Manual Mark III!). Each member of the race named themselves after an adjective and a body part, so this unlucky bastard ended up with the sobriquet Taserface (he actually had the ability to fire taser-beams from his face). TF then made the mistake of declaring himself the OGs’ arch-enemy (not that they cared). Because he kept losing against them, he lost the right to his old name, and instead re-named himself Overkill. Then he proceeded to continue losing against the Guardians.
The second-most important Ravager is definitely Kraglin (played by Sean Gunn, who also provided the on-set acting for Rocket). In the comics, Kraglin was the only named member of an alien invasion force that tried to conquer Earth with a giant robot cyclops (the Greek monster, not the X-Man), only to be thwarted by Ant-Man and the Wasp!
Most of the other Ravagers are named in quick shout-outs or in the credits, but a few are also named for comics characters. Brahl, the ridge-headed bald guy who sides with Taserface, is named for one of the OGs’ most persistent enemies.
Tullk, the long-haired Ravager who sides with Yondu, is named for a very minor character who worked with Ronan the Accuser (the main baddie from the last movie, but a quasi-goodguy in the comics).
After mutinying against Yondu, the evil Ravagers kill all the somewhat amoral Ravagers and declare Groot their “mascot.” Not here nor there, but that term has a long history at Marvel, as Bucky (better known to movie-goers as the Winter Soldier) was originally said to be the “mascot” of the army camp where Cap was based.
How are Nebula and Gamora Connected?
Before getting to the main story, let’s touch base on the odd relationship between Gamora and Nebula. In the MCU they were raised as “sisters,” with Nebula’s body parts continually replaced when she failed to defeat Gamora (and you can see this yourself in the tie-in comic Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Prelude).
In the comics, Nebula claims to be Thanos’ biological granddaughter, but never had favored relative status that Gamora did, as Thanos’ adopted daughter. While Nebula did eventually get numerous cybernetic implants, it was Gamora who had her body altered by Thanos after facing defeats. After Gamora was brutalized by a group of thugs on an alien world, Thanos removed all of Gamora’s bones (broken or otherwise), replacing them with unbreakable metal and enhancing her muscles artificially, making her “the Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy.”
During their sibling squabble, Gamora uses a gun several times her size (after using a fairly large gun earlier alongside her comrades). This is a comic book tradition, one that reached its zenith in the excess of the 90s when anti-heroes would regularly use massive guns unironically.
What’s up with Star-Lord’s dad?
On Ego’s planet – which, let’s just face it, is called Ego – we learn more about Star-Lord’s origins. In the comics, his father is J’Son, royal leader of the Spartax space empire and a wouldbe dark lord. To put it bluntly, he’s not a very interesting character, as he’s often presented as a scheming and ineffectual galactic leader who plays out of his league when dealing with more established races like the Kree. Marvel recently tried re-inventing him as a more literal Darth Vader-type, giving him a black face mask and mysterious name. Unfortunately, the name he chose was “Mr. Knife,” which is about as scary as “Taserface.”
In the MCU, we learn Star-Lord’s bearded father is Ego the Living Planet. Interestingly, Ego first introduces himself as a “Celestial,” and Peter instantly knows this as the title of the space gods. The Celestials are a race of enigmatic cosmic engineers who predate the universe itself and often manipulate lesser lifeforms for their own ends. They take credit for spurring on human evolution and allowing for the existence of superhumans on Earth. A Celestial was seen on the Collector‘s monitors in the previous film, and the spacestation Knowhere is built inside the head of a dead Celestial.
Ego the Living Planet is not a Celestial, but this is par for the course, as he once identified himself as an Elder of the Universe (like the aforementioned Collector, or the Grandmaster who will show up in Thor: Ragnorok), and he wasn’t an Elder either. In fact, Ego explains that he doesn’t know his true origin, and this is in line with the comic book Ego who has been given several contradictory origins. The most recent retcon has him as the child/brother/creation of the cosmic being called the Stranger, but whatever his origins, Ego is a gigantic and powerful adversary. Occasionally reasonable, but usually as brutish as his name would imply, Ego considers himself above all other intelligences in the universe, and would be very happy if everything in the universe were just an extension of himself.
To that end, Ego of the MCU leaves little Ego-Spore on various planets, hoping to empower them to become full-fledged parts of himself. This is not too dissimilar from plots Ego of the comics has enacted, but the closest Ego came to taking over Earth was not his own doing. During the Maximum Security crossover, various alien races trapped the universe’s greatest threats on Earth, including a partially disintegrated Ego. He gradually spread his planetary self across the face of the Earth until he was absorbed by a powerful hero and taken back into space.
The film version of Ego tries this, as well as fathering various Ego-Spawn across the galaxy. Hoping Peter would embrace his inner-god, Ego unlocked Peter’s Cosmic Awareness, causing a starry field to cover his eyes. While off-color eyes seems like a mind control trope (as seen in the first Avengers movie), that isn’t exactly what he was doing here. Cosmic Awareness is a specific power many of Marvel’s space heroes have that causes a starry field to cover their eyes, shadows, or even their whole bodies. It allows them to not only see the truth, but also possible futures. This awareness of time and space often makes heroes unstable, temporarily causing them to forget their own mortality, and even their morality.
When seeing stars, Star-Lord claimed he could see “Eternity.” That is the name of the entirety of Marvel’s reality. All that exists, has exited, or will existed exist, is represented in one anthropomorphic form as Eternity. Hopefully he’ll show up in “person” in Avengers: Infinity War or Doctor Strange 2.
When it comes time to fight Ego, the Guardians send Baby Groot on a mission to find Ego’s brain – and that’s the same way the F4 defeated the Living Planet in Fantastic Four #234-235, when the team sent the Thing (who eventually leaves the Fantastic Four to join the Guardians for a while, because everyone is a Guardian at some point) on a mission through Ego’s interior to deliver a bomb to the big guy’s brain!
Why is Mantis such a big deal?
Ego’s servant, and the one who keeps him peaceful enough to have conversations with simple beings, is Mantis. The innocent and strange bug-girl describes herself as empathic, which is a common enough power in Marvel, as it allows her to access and manipulate the emotions of others, but in the comics she is so much more than that. Mantis is the Celestial Madonna. That is not to say she’s some cosmic pop star, no, we’re talking about the other madonna. Fate had a larger role for Mantis in the cosmos, as she fell in love with a talking tree (not Groot) and gave birth to the Cosmic Messiah, the being destined to bring peace to the universe.
That is unlikely to come up in the movies.
Drax encourages Mantis in the big battle against Ego by telling her, “You don’t have to believe in yourself, because I believe in you.” Anime fans should recognize this as being remarkably similar to the inspirational speech in Gurren Lagann.
What else is there?
Of course, that same battle begins because Peter learns Ego killed his mother. In the comics, Peter’s mother was killed by reptilian aliens as the result of his father’s presence, but the exact details have changed a lot over the years (it was either ther Ariguans or the Badoon, for the record).
During the battle, Star-Lord becomes Pac-Man (as alluded to earlier in the film, and acknowledged with a shout out to Bandai in the credits). Hey, here’s a funny one, the Thing once fought a faux-Pac-Man (aka the “Grungy Gobbler”) in Marvel Two-in-One #98.
By the way, although David Hasselhoff’s “talking car” is mentioned in the film, the actual show Knight Rider isn’t – so no reference in the credits, it seems.
When the battle is over and Ego is apparently killed (which, to be honest, happens several times in the comics, and he always gets better), Yondu dies heroically, saving Peter (um… spoilers, again?). Interestingly, during his Wrath of Khan-esque space funeral, they place what appears to be a US Army Good Conduct Medal ribbon over his eyes. Where did they get this, and how do they know of its relevance here?
All of the (honorable) Ravagers come out to honor Yondu with a big space salute and, hey, you know what’s funny? There are actually cosmic Mourners who go around the Marvel Universe commemorating services for significant cosmic deaths?
What’s in the Credits?
As the credits role, look out for interesting little tidbits, like the phrase “I am Groot” repeatedly showing up and being translated to English, or Jeff Goldblum’s first appearance as the Elder of the Universe called Grandmaster before his appearance in a few months opposite Thor, or Star-Lord’s granddad, or Cosmo the Russian space dog, or…
Oh yeah, actual post and mid-credits scenes.
As covered, the aforementioned Ravager reunion involves the original Guardians of the Galaxy.
Stan Lee hangs out with Watchers, confirming the famous fan theory! Interestingly, Stan isn’t a Watcher himself, but rather some other kind of cosmic being who works with them. In the comics, Stan Lee is both a real person who worked for the fictional version of Marvel Comics, and some kind of meta-textual cosmic being that knows more about the nature of reality than the characters themselves. Visually, Stan’s character seems very much like the mysterious Sky-Walker.
The Watchers are, of course, cosmic beings of unknowable power who observe all events of universal importance but are sworn never to interfere. The most famous Watcher, Uatu, was charged with monitoring Earth, but after interfering way too many times, he was eventually murdered. His genderless and nameless child is currently being raised on Earth’s moon.
We also get to see Groot grow up a bit. Baby Groot is gone, long live Teen Groot! By the way, in the current comics, Groot is stuck in baby form for unknown (re: marketability) reasons, but there is a moody teenage tree traveling out in space: Quoi, the Celestial Messiah (and son of Mantis). He’s not ready yet to change the universe, as he’s still out there trying to find himself.
Oh, and finally there’s the big Marvel reveal: Sovereign creates a new type of cocoon with her creation: “Adam.” As mentioned waaaaaaaaaaaaay up on this post, Adam Warlock is supremely important in the Marvel Universe. He started as an artificial man (who looked a heck of a lot like Rocky Horror, or perhaps Pygar), he became the messiah of Counter-Earth on the opposite side of the sun from us (man, a lot of messiahs in space), embraced the Soul Infinity Gem as its master, and eventually became the deciding factor in defeating Thanos in the Infinity Gauntlet war (before, y’know, causing all the rest of the “Infinity” crises in the Marvel Universe). This guy will show up again in a Marvel movie.
Okay, that was a bit too long. What else did you find?