“I shall make you a Star-Lord!” said the god-like Master of the Sun in Marvel Preview #4, over 40 years ago. That origin, casting Peter Quill as a brash, angry scholar-turned-spaceman willing to kill innocent men in his quest for vengeance, little resembles the Star-Lord you probably know. The wisecracking, roguish starship captain with a heart of gold and dance in his step is so far removed from that distant origin that the two might as well be different characters. That’s certainly how most Guardians of the Galaxy writers have tackled the team’s frequent leader. Well, until Al Ewing, that is.
Guardians of the Galaxy #9
Rafael Albuquerque (cover artist), Frederico Blee (colorist), Juan Cabal (interior artist), Al Ewing (writer), Cory Petit (letterer)
December 9th, 2020
Guardians of the Galaxy #9 is a solo spotlight on the Legendary Star-Lord. Which is an interesting choice, given that the last time we saw him, he was extremely dead. Blowing himself up to stop the rampaging Olympians in GotG #2, Quill awakes 7 issues later bare-naked on the back of a massive flying turtle. As one does. A flashback to the events of #2 overlays dialogue ripped straight from his origin story, with the Master of the Sun asking Quill if his life “is wrong” and freeing him from his former life with a chance to begin a new.
That chance is taken with Aradia and Mors, a pair of blue-skinned nomadic heroes on Morinus, the world beyond the sun. The two make a strong impression, both due to their striking designs (I would like to extend a personal thank you to Juan Cabal from the bottom of my gay little heart for Aradia, in particular), and their closeness and intimacy. As Quill finds himself spending months, years, and eventually decades traveling this mysterious world with them, the pair grow to love and cherish him as a friend and partner. Finally, as the decades read on and hope of returning home fades, Quill accepts their offer and joins in their love and warmth as a romantic partner.
Yup. Peter Quill, walking male insecurity complex, is now canonically queer and polyamorous. To be clear, I love this as a fan of the character. Quill growing beyond his immature man-child ways and opening his horizons to levels of love and trust that he would never have before is a fantastic direction for the character and one that should be celebrated.
That being said, this is now the third man on Guardians of the Galaxy that Ewing has made explicitly queer on-page, and while that is wonderful and fantastic progress, it can’t help but sting as a lesbian. While I am happy for all my masculine friends who are seeing a wave of representation across Marvel’s titles, sapphic romances are still few and far between. GotG’s own Moondragon and Phyla-Vell are part of maybe half a dozen explicitly queer women across the entire line. This isn’t Al Ewing’s fault, and GotG should be praised for being, easily, the most queer-heavy team book in Marvel history, but it is an increasingly grating problem.
Getting back to Star-Lord and, well, he’s a different man now. Not a different character, and not just Pre-Annihilation/MCU Star-Lord mashed up with Steve Englehart’s vision, no. He is something…more. A blend of dashing rogue and cosmic savant, a hero of science and a hero of magic. Ewing proves himself to be the master of character overhauls yet again, as the journey that Quill embarks on in this issue is easily the most bold, confident vision the character has had in years. Even fantastic stories, such as Zdarsky and Anka’s Star-Lord, simply worked within the character’s confines. GotG #9 breaks Star-Lord down to his base components, setting the stage for something new while not abandoning the character’s past. It’s a genuinely impressive feat.
As for the art, honestly, I feel like a broken record. Juan Cabal is making his career on this book. Every page is drop-dead gorgeous, with experimental layouts and a dozen different Star-Lord designs to play with. Equal parts trippy and incredibly human, it is a masterclass in comics making and a breathtaking feat for an artist whose Marvel career is only a few years in. I cannot imagine what his work will look like in the next five years and cannot wait to see it. Blee’s coloring is once again in top form as well, drenching the world of Mornius in cool colors and a dream-like haze that pairs perfectly with Cabal’s linework.
Guardians of the Galaxy has been fantastic since its launch early this year. Easily one of the most consistent titles Marvel has been putting out, and the GotG #9 is no exception. What makes it unique, even among such stellar company, is just how well it treats its star. Peter Quill is more interesting now than he has ever been. And it didn’t take a shocking retcon that upended his life story or a tragic loss that broke him to his core. No, Star-Lord’s new potential came from a desire to move forward with his character in a way that comics rarely do. Al Ewing finally followed through on The Master of the Sun’s promise, and now we all get to see exactly what a Star-Lord can be.