Guardians of the Galaxy – The Telltale Series #1
Marvel Comics, July 2017
Writer: Fred Van Lente
“Guardians of the Galaxy – The Telltale Series” is a new comic book series from American publisher Marvel Comics. In this day and age of incessant cross-marketing, it serves as a tie-in prequel to the same-titled video game from software developer Telltale Games. The game is an interactive novel where the story plays out according to a fixed script, and the players are only able to influence it in key points, either from performing in-game activities or making choices. For those old enough to remember, it is in essence a digital version of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.
The decision to set the comic book series as a prequel to the game works to the reader’s advantage. The game is not beholden to the motion picture continuity of Marvel Studios, nor to the continuity of Marvel Comics. And so, refreshingly relieved of these burdens, readers of the Telltale Series of comic books do not need to worry about any continuity whatsoever. The only prerequisite that this new “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic book series demands from the reader is basic familiarity with the franchise, which most casual movie-goers will have gained from seeing the popular “Guardians of the Galaxy” motion pictures.
But, notwithstanding that, the influence of the game is very apparent in “Guardians of the Galaxy – The Telltale Series”. The comic’s narrative is driven by main (Earthling) protagonist and team leader Peter Quill’s/Star Lord’s perspective and internal monologue. The dialogue however includes reference to the game’s mechanics. It is, surprisingly, a clever gimmick, but an entirely obscure gimmick if the reader has never played the game. And so, it is blisteringly obvious who the exclusive target market for this title is. Further, because the singular purpose of this new comic book miniseries is a marketing/promotional tie-in to the video game, do not expect anything noteworthy as far story quality is concerned. The goal is to drive video game sales, not to engage in innovative comic book creation. The title is a marketing concept, first and foremost.
As for the story itself, the Guardians of the Galaxy are depicted as hunting two villains called “The Blood Brothers.” These characters are described as alien twins from the Roclite alien species, and are underlings of an evil space god prominent in Marvel Comics named Thanos. (Marvel Comics abounds with evil space gods, but Thanos is generally accepted as being the paramount evil space god in the pantheon.)
The mission is a bounty hunt commissioned by galactic peacekeepers called the Nova Corps. The job was accepted out of necessity as the Guardians are described as currently enduring financial distress.
What should have been a straightforward mission, given the amount of firepower and physical might possessed by the individual members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, ends up a failure. The group’s lack of teamwork, horribly mismatched personalities, and just plain bad luck allowed the targets to escape.
Dejected and in danger of getting their airship, the Milano, repossessed, the Guardians retreat to a seedy and macabre location called “Knowhere”. The characters engage in their usual petty bickering while Peter Quill drowns his frustrations in alcohol.
The desperate leader is then approached by a mysterious character called the Astronomer, who has a new job offering. This is a simple rescue mission to recover the Astronomer’s research assistant, who was abducted by pirates and sold into slavery. The twist is revealed at the end, and immediately upon the Guardians’ departure: the Astronomer is working for Thanos. The Guardians of the Galaxy, both in terms of the standard franchises and, it seems, the characters in this new video game current continuity, have always been considered as singularly fortunate. The characters tend to succeed on luck than actual skill or ability. Readers can expect more fortuitous rolls of the dice in the forthcoming issues.
Whether a reader will find this comic entertaining or not will depend upon one key condition: A reader must really enjoy the brand of humor present in the Motion pictures, because it is used excessively in the comic. Peter Quill’s faux-cool ineptitude, Rocket Raccoon’s sarcastic quips, and Drax’s chronic inability to grasp the intricacies of language are each deployed to deliver humor, but to the point of overuse. It is no doubt engaging for readers who prioritize the humor over the plot. Readers who prefer a more substantial narrative would be disappointed. “Guardians of the Galaxy”‘ is not the most serious of character groupings, which is part of its appeal. But this particular title is a Saturday morning cartoon treatment of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” concept. Who would have thought it could be further dumbed down?