Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opened last month to an impatient audience. And, though some critics and fans felt that this sequel was too similar to its predecessor, those looking to see a comicbook movie sequel got what they bargained for. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had lots of action. It had lots of jokes. It had lots of attractive people — and one raccoon — engaged in life-or-death situations. And, because the story about the hero saving the planet was getting old, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 features a team of heroes fighting a planet rather than saving it. Yes, if you haven’t yet seen it, the villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is none other than Ego the Living Planet, played — when Ego’s in human form — by Kurt Russell.
Always interested in reading the source material for comicbook movies, I started looking around for information on whether Ego and Star-Lord, AKA Peter Quill, had ever met before. Surprisingly, even though both Ego and Star-Lord occupy the same cosmic fringes of the Marvel Universe, they don’t appear to have had much interaction with each other before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. So, why the heck am I writing about this?
Star-Lord: “Planet Story” – Stroking Doug Moench’s Ego
Well, way, way back in the 1980s, Star-Lord was, unlike the slightly sappy version Chris Pratt portrays so well in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, a freewheeling cosmic swashbuckler with a super-powerful and sentient spaceship as his only companion. Appearing in issues of Marvel Super Special, Marvel Spotlight, Marvel Preview, and Marvel Premiere, Star-Lord had encounters with the Claremont/Byrne-era X-Men and many others.
One of these adventures, featured in Marvel Premiere #61 (cover date August 1981), involved a sentient planet trying to seduce Star-Lord into permanently joining with it telepathically. This sounds familiar to any reader of Jack Kirby’s psychedelic run in the 1960s that saw the creation of Ego the Living Planet, and his extra-terrestrial counterparts Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and the Kree. But, the sentient planet featured in Marvel Premiere #61 is notably not Ego.
Star-Lord: “Planet Story” – Apocalypse, How
While investigating a “blue-green gem” of a planet from orbit, Star-Lord, breath-taken at the primordial sights his scanners pick up, decides to go in for a closer look. Upon arriving, Star-Lord is nearly scalded by a geyser and then nearly enveloped by a giant flower. After these close calls, Star-Lord notices some ruins and goes to investigate. Then as he approaches the ruins, a strong earthquake nearly causes the ruins to cave in on him.
He flies away just before the rubble buries him, but a lightning strike and strong wind force Star-Lord through an opening in a gigantic tree. Inside the tree is a crypt with several stacks of empty compartments. Each compartment contains a number of wriggling tendrils that connect to the wall. When Star-Lord approaches one of the compartments, the tendrils force their way out and try to grab him. As Star-Lord makes for the aperture he came in, it closes tightly.
A holographic display appears, showing Star-Lord the co-evolution of the sentient planet and the sentient reptilian species it was home to. Star-Lord is shown scenes that depict the course of evolution of the sentient species native to the planet, one scene depicts the natives of the planet struggling to free themselves from the tendril-laden crypt. They eventually succeed and flee the gigantic tree.
The reptilian species evolves, industrializes, and eventually falls to ruin. After all of the resources run out, the natives of the planet use the little technological know-how they still have to take to the stars. The hologram ends and Star-Lord is left in the darkness of the tree crypt.
Star-Lord “Planet Story” – Two Sides to Every Story
Unsure of why or by whom he was just shown this apocalyptic history, Star-Lord is taken by surprise by a number of wily tendrils. They overpower and subdue Quill who describes unexpected feelings of bliss coupled with the stark realization that he is about to die.
The narrative device then switches tracks, showing the reader the sentient planet’s side of the story. By way of dialogue boxes, the planet describes the telepathic bond it enjoyed with its sentient inhabitants and the loneliness it felt after the planet’s inhabitants eventually won their freedom. Then, the planet continues, after being stripped of its abundance of natural resources, the greedy species left the planet alone, unable to form the telepathic bond it still longs for.
The planet views Star-Lord’s visit as an opportunity to re-engage in the telepathic rapport it enjoyed with its previous tenants. But, Star-Lord will have none of it. He regains consciousness and blasts his way out of the gigantic tree.
Star-Lord: “Planet Story” – A Planet Scorned
Unlike Star-Lord, the sentient planet thinks of the telepathic joining as a generally positive experience. It describes the original, tendril-ensnared occupants of its gigantic tree crypt as lovers and is ecstatic at having a new one in Star-Lord. But, rather than force its new lover back to the crypt after he abruptly blasted his way out, the planet allows Star-Lord to leave. The telepathic link “would be meaningless without the choice,” thinks the planet, “the choice” apparently being the choice to leave or to stay connected via the telepathic link.
Back in orbit, Peter discusses what to do about the planet with his sentient ship. The ship notes that it has the power to destroy the planet, but Peter must give the order. The choice is his. Meanwhile, dialogue boxes show the reader the planet’s thoughts on Peter’s leaving. Depressed at being left for a second time and unable to face its loneliness, the planet wishes for death.
But, after a brief philosophical discussion with his ship, Star-Lord decides to let the planet live. The ship leaves orbit, and the planet waits for “someone blessed with the grace of choice … someone to make the right choice … at last, and forever.”
Star-Lord: “Planet Story” – Final Thoughts
I found this story remarkably similar in tone to the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Beyond the obvious similarity of both stories featuring Star-Lord facing off against a sentient planet, the emotional betrayal felt by both Ego in the film and the sentient planet in this story is also similar. But unlike Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, “Planet Story” doesn’t seek to make the sentient planet Star-Lord’s father. Instead, the planet sees Peter as an unrequited lover.
It’s also interesting that the film and this story end quite differently. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ends with Star-Lord eventually deciding to destroy Ego for all the right reasons, whereas “Planet Story” ends with Star-Lord deciding not to destroy the sentient planet for all the wrong reasons. As Star-Lord himself states at the end of the adventure, “I only hope, ‘Ship,’ that it was a wise choice … but I have a feeling it was wrong, all wrong for the wrong reasons … ”
It was great to read such a progressive comicbook. Like other comics from the ’80s, this one is quite dark, showing readers the de-evolution of a species and the near destruction of a planet. But, beyond simply being dark, “Planet Story” relates the feelings of a planet to readers, providing a stark environmental message.
The planet views the sentient beings who interact with it as ungrateful parasites intent on stripping the planet of its bounty and then moving on. As I’m sure was Dough Moench’s intent, one wonders how our own planet would view the relationship humanity has with it.