Marvel doesn’t have the best track record with their animated projects – which has widely been regarded as the only area of media where Marvel isn’t on top. The Disney-owned juggernaut looks to right that ship with the debut of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on Disney XD, based on the smash hit MCU film (and not so much the comic books).
Let me just lay your fears to rest now, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute blast and probably the best thing Marvel Animation has done in a long while. The series kicks off with the first episode Road to Knowhere, which fans will recognize is a song title pun referencing the galactic hub, Knowhere, as seen in the film. When the Guardians come into possession of a new artifact that Thanos wants badly, the Mad Titan sends his new lieutenant Korath to track down the item at any cost.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy debuts with a one-hour premiere (the show will normally be 30 minutes) that could easily serve as a direct, faithful sequel to the film. The characters are obviously patterned off the live-action versions and maintain all the same personality traits that were present in the film. Even the supporting cast are all characters that were introduced in the film including: Yondu, The Broker, Korath and even Cosmo – but more on that later.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy perfectly captures the spirit of the film, from the Awesome Mix, Volume 1 classic rock soundtrack (actual licensed songs!) to the trademark character-based humor, and fans are going to fall in love with this series. One of the elements that really helps the show excel is the quality of the storytelling. If Road to Knowhere and Knowhere to Run were the actual script to the upcoming Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I would be completely satisfied.
While not MCU canon, the show expertly takes ideas presented in the film and runs with them – including the celestial head turned cosmic commerce center, Knowhere. I loved the idea of Knowhere and have found myself drawn to the concept ever since the film. This series goes back to the location/being and makes it a center point of the premiere.
So many other threads that seemed interesting to explore get picked up by the series, creating an extremely satisfying experience for those craving more of the Guardians universe. One of those threads that has a strong presence in Road to Knowhere and Knowhere to Run is Cosmo, the Marvel comics cosmonaut dog, that briefly cameoed in the film. My inner geek was thrilled to see him team up with the Guardians and get a few great one-liners in during the adventure. Cosmo probably won’t be a series regular, but I can’t wait to see him come back at some point.
Another very impressive element of the series is the jaw-dropping animation and landscape art used to create the cosmic world. It’s easily the best Marvel has done and must be watched in HD to appreciate just how gorgeous the show turned out.
Will Friedle (Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond) takes on the Chris Pratt role of Star Lord, aka Peter Quill, with his veteran voice acting skills as a smart aleck, rogue with a heart of gold. Friedle thankfully doesn’t try to do a Pratt impression and instead just puts his own spin on Quill. Trevor Devall has a similar take on Rocket Raccoon, but he hits a little closer to Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of the ragged, trigger-happy raccoon.
James Arnold Taylor (Obi-wan on Star Wars: The Clone Wars), one of my favorite voice actors, pulls double duty as both Yondu and the aforementioned Cosmo. There are traces of Michael Rooker’s portrayal of Yondu in Taylor’s performance, but it’s by no means a caricature and Taylor brings an interesting, effeminate air to Yondu. Cosmo sounds exactly like what you would think he sounds like: Russian, funny, and intelligent – and that’s the best compliment you can give the performance.
David Sobolov (Grodd on The Flash) does a sometimes spot-on Dave Batista interpretation as Drax, when delivering a couple of really great jokes, and they have fun with the character’s quirks. Beloved veteran voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson is the fan favorite Groot, bringing the right amount of charm to those three iconic words. Lastly, Vanessa Marshall (Hera on Star Wars Rebels) brings the pain (and her usually likability) as Gamora, the now noble ex-disciple of Thanos.
When the last scene of Knowhere to Run plays out, not only is the series expertly bridged to the film, but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is perfectly set up as an ongoing animated series. If Marvel and Disney XD continue the quality that is present in this premiere, fans will have something quite special on their hands.
From the classic rock soundtrack to the character oriented humor and heart, this animated series debut is a tremendous extension of the smash hit MCU film and easily some of the best work to date from Marvel Animation.