This article consists of nothing but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 spoilers.
Updated with a little new information here and there all through the weekend!
You know what the beauty of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies is? I mean, other than the brilliant casting, psychedelic colors, and bumpin’ soundtrack, of course. But one of my favorite things about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and its predecessor is how well they walk the line between telling their own, completely self contained stories without getting swallowed up by the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And they do all that while spotlighting little-known characters and concepts from throughout Marvel’s cosmic history, without it ever becoming a distraction. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does this especially well, taking considerable liberties with the source material in some ways, while remaining remarkably faithful in others.
As you might expect, there’s plenty to unpack here for comic book fans, so I’ll get right into it. And if you spot anything that I missed, all you have to do is shout it out in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. If it checks out, I’ll update this. With your help, we can make this the most complete guide to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 around!
During that awesome intro sequence set to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” there’s one shot of Drax that practically comes right out of a particular comic…
This is really reminiscent of this splash page from Annihilation, the big comic epic that rewrote Drax from “Caped Space Hulk” to “Green Riddick Knockoff.”
Then again, Drax simply lends himself well to badass action shots from the back.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 New Characters
So, there’s a ton of new characters introduced in this movie, some may seem more significant than others, but we’ll see that even the ones who don’t get much screen time are pretty important for the future of the franchise.
Who is Mantis?
Mantis originally came around in Avengers #112, way back in 1973. She was…not as endearing as she is in the movie. Like many things related to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, she got a second life during Marvel’s Annihilation era a few years ago, and that redeemed the character quite a bit. Still, she’s not as quirky as who we just met on screen.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Villains
So, we basically have two villains to choose from here: Ayesha and Ego. We’ll get into both of them…
Who is Ayesha?
Well, from a comic book perspective, that’s a kind of complicated question. For starters, other than the cool, golden skin tone, the version we just met on screen here bears little to no resemblance to the version in the comics.
See, the Ayesha of the comics was artificially created, on Earth, by a bunch of mad scientists known as The Enclave.
She took the name “Kismet” for awhile, and helped out the Avengers on some cosmic missions, too.
Anyway, it’s kind of a threat to call Ayesha a villain in the traditional sense here, since she kind of has good reason to be annoyed with the team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she has a change of heart in future movies when faced with a bigger threat. We’ll get back to Ayesha when we get down to the post-credits scenes.
But I digress…
While we’re on the subject of Ayesha, though…It’s pretty hilarious that the Sovereign control their space armada via what is, essentially, a 1980s video arcade. When that scene first kicks in, I can swear I hear a snippet of music from one of the Ms. Pac-Man “cut scenes” specifically, this one. I’ll be on the listen during my second viewing to see if I can confirm either/both.
The Sovereign that we’re introduced to here seem to be created specifically for the movies. However, “Stuck in the Vortex” points out that while the name “The Sovereign” may have been invented for the movie, they sure do look a bit like The Universal Church of Truth, who are tied to Adam Warlock, Thanos, and Magus. More on Adam Warlock down below.
Who is Ego?
Oh, you mean Ego, the Living Planet? A character who comes from Jack Kirby’s peak era of Marvel creativity?
Here’s the thing, folks. If you want to get into Jack Kirby’s primo Marvel stuff, you read the entire Fantastic Four run he did with Stan Lee, which introduces so much of the Marvel Universe as you know it that it’s almost impossible to process, you read his Captain America stuff from Tales of Suspense (which are my favorite Cap comics, bar none), and you read Thor, which get as cosmically weird as Fantastic Four, and then some.
See, Ego was originally a Thor villain. He is indeed a living planet. No, he isn’t a Celestial in the comics, but who cares?
We caught a glimpse of another Celestial in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I’m pretty sure that’s Eson the Searcher.
Considering how little Jack Kirby had to do with most of the characters we’ve met in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies (Ego notwithstanding, of course), there sure is a ton of Kirby visual influence sprinkled throughout! I’m just glad that we got at least one shot of the proper “giant purple planet with a face” look for him.
Also, the song playing when Peter and friends arrive on Ego is “My Sweet Lord” by George “the dankest Beatle” Harrison. That song comes from his triple (!) album, All Things Must Pass, which is, for my money, the best solo effort by any Beatle. “My Sweet Lord” is probably the best known track, but not my favorite, which is the incredible “What is Life?” (which was used to excellent effect in Goodfellas).
It should be noted that certain aspects of the movie version of Ego seem borrowed from the Beyonder, known for staging the original Secret Wars. Much like Ego, this powerful being from the cosmos took a human form and walked the Earth. His human form is also known for having a stylish and completely outdated appearance when it comes to his fashion and hair.
Nyssa of Trakken down in the comments points out the similarities to the Ego/Mantis relationship to Morbius/Altaira in sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet (a movie we have written about extensively here and here), and I have to say, that’s pretty cool.
Also, any similarities to the Ego/Meredith relationship and Jeff Bridges/Karen Allen in John Carpenter’s wonderfully underrated Starman are probably not coincidental. If Kurt Russell had turned down this role, couldn’t you see Jeff Bridges doing it?
Who the hell is Taserface, anyway?
In the comics, Taserface sometimes goes by the name (I shit you not) Overkill. I see a pattern here.
Anyway, as we see throughout this movie, the film version of Guardians of the Galaxy has no problem with collapsing the future/original team and the present/more well known versions, and that includes their mythology. Taserface fought the original Guardians (the ones from the future) and he was part of an alien race known as The Stark.
No, that name isn’t a coincidence. The Stark actually are an alien race that worships Tony Stark and his technology. It’s a kind of cool piece of future Marvel history, and I’d love to see this somehow make its way to the screen.
There are a couple of other Ravagers hanging around who are from the comics, too.
The guy you see shaving during the breakout scene is Brahl, who menaced the original (future) Guardians in the comics, while one of the guys who gets thrown out the airlock is Tullk, a character who appeared in the early Annihilation books, which helped relaunch the Guardians as a concept. (thanks, Pi J!)
Awesome Mix of Miscellaneous Coolness
– The planet the team crashes on is called Berhert, which has only ever appeared in two issues of The Incredible Hulk in 1969.
– The cool planet with the brothel is called Contraxia. In the comics, Contraxia is the home planet of little-known Avengers member, Jack of Hearts. OK fine, he’s half Contraxian. That is by far the least important thing that happens on Contraxia, though.
The most important, of course, is the return of Howard the Duck, who we last saw in the post-credits scene of the first movie. I’m ready for more Howard in my life, aren’t you?
OK, fine, Howard isn’t actually the most important thing, it’s Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar and the other characters who are annoyed with Yondu. I’ll get into the importance of them down below.
OK, so technically this is a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 Easter egg that has been hiding in plain sight all along, and I’m just annoyed that I didn’t catch it.
Yondu’s Ravager ship looks like it took a little bit of inspiration from the greatest unmade science fiction movie ever, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s stalled adaptation of Dune.
That movie would have featured spaceship designs by Chris Foss (who, as it turns out, did design work on Guardians Vol. 1!). The ships would have been like giant interstellar fish, with painted markings that would serve as camoflauge against the colorful nebulae of the universe.
Here’s a piece of concept art…
And I have to say, I see a hint of this in the DNA of the Ravager mothership. Note the markings on the side:
And here’s James Gunn on Twitter politely pointing out something I should have already known: that Chris Foss worked on the first movie!
– Just in case any of you are too young or something, few network TV shows captured the imagination of kids of the ’80s like David Hasselhoff’s Knight Rider. Hasselhoff rocked a leather jacket and had a shady past, he drove an incredibly awesome talking car named KITT, and had this ridiculousy cool, krautrock-esque theme tune:
OK, fine, maybe it hasn’t aged that well, but trust me, this was the epitome of cool if you were of the appropriate age. No wonder Peter Quill is obsessed with it.
By the way, was that a picture of Tom Jones on the back of the Hasselhoff pic?
– Stakar berates Yondu and tells him, “You betrayed the code.” In Judge Dredd, Stallone’s million dollar line was, “You betrayed the law!”
– I love that Star-Lord’s list of cool things is just rattling off stuff like Skeletor, Pac-Man, and Heather Locklear (and yes, I got a serious kick out of the Pac-Man gag later in the flick).
– Speaking of the ’80s (as this movie often does), while Peter compares his “unspoken thing” with Gamora to Sam and Diane from Cheers, the pair really remind me of another ’80s pairing. They’re one “Good. Good! Fine. Fine!” back and forth away from being David and Maddie from Moonlighting. Seriously, check out at least the first season of Moonlighting, which launched Bruce Willis’ career.
– There are some hints about Drax’s past in this one, and it couldn’t possibly be any further from his comic book origin (where he was a guy from Earth who then became…oh, forget it). But the fact that he had a wife and daughter does line up, however loosely with the comics, even though they clearly have no resemblance to the story he’s hinting at here.
– Drax randomly and inappropriately asks Ego about his penis. Dave Bautista himself is the focus of a meme among wrestling fans where they would ask out-of-character wrestlers during interviews, “How big is Batista’s dick?” It started as a question asked to a female valet and then jokingly spread to the point that even people who never met Batista are asked about what he’s packing.
– Yondu’s “prototype fin” is the over-the-top, classic mohawk/fin that Yondu has traditionally rocked in the comics.
That would be future Yondu, not “present day” Yondu, who was kind of shoehorned into the comics to be a little bit more like the movies.
This might be a coincidence, but…
That scene where Gamora props an enormous gun on her shoulder and just starts blasting away had me thinking of other green Marvel characters, namely the most famous one of all…
During the ’90s, Dale Keown was the artist on The Incredible Hulk for a bit, during what is probably the best “smart Hulk” period of storytelling in the series’ history. Hulk was prone to have enormous, and enormously high-tech, guns kind of like what Gamora is blasting with.
Also, the color of the sky and terrain when Gamora is sitting alone on Ego reminded me of the cover of the first issue of her first ever solo series.
It’s probably a coincidence, but it’s still cool.
And then right after that we get a North by Northwest homage but with, y’know, spaceships and multicolored badass lady aliens.
– That’s far from the only classic movie homage in this one, though. Ego’s little planet seed/plant thingies very faintly resemble the meteor that caused all that trouble in the original The Blob movie. And when Ego decides to activate “the expansion” the sequences on Earth very much feel like an homage to either cinematic version of The Blob.
Also, and I missed this even though I knew he looked familiar, Douglass in the comments pointed out that you can spot Gregg Henry (Peter’s grandpa in the first movie) just barely NOT getting eaten by the Blob thing on Earth. He’s in the car.
– During Yondu’s funeral, with our Guardians looking out a big ship window at a fleet of ships during a reflective, sad moment, did anyone else get a “final shot of Empire Strikes Back” vibe?
– At one point there’s a quick flyover of a planet, and there are two blue and grey aliens pummeling each other. I won’t be able to tell for sure until I catch a second viewing of this, but was it me, or did they sure look a whole lot like Terrax the Tamer?
Yeah, yeah, I know, Terrax first appeared in a Fantastic Four comic and mostly a Silver Surfer villain, which means he’s probably in Fox Studios’ pocket.
Anyway, there’s a decent chance that I’ll have to revise this after watching it again and it not actually being Terrax. But while we’re on the subject of characters I was pretty sure could only be used by 20th Century Fox, let’s talk about…
What is the Stan Lee Cameo?
I’m glad you asked! Stan Lee is hanging out with some characters he co-created with Jack Kirby, Uatu and The Watchers. Since Uatu and his race of cosmic bystanders were introduced in that incredible burst of creativity the pair had on the early Fantastic Four comics, I just naturally assumed that this was one of those concepts we could only see in a 20th Century Fox Fantastic Four movie. It would appear that I was wrong.
And his talk about once being a FedEx guy kind of confirms the fan theories that Stan Lee appearing in all this stuff is some kind of cosmic unified theory of the MCU, where he’s actually a cosmic being himself who just takes different forms to appear in…oh, whatever.
Also, can I call my next band Uatu and The Watchers?
As far as obnoxious product placement goes, nothing comes close to the Krispy Kreme stuff from the Power Rangers movie. But for Guardians purposes, there does seem to be something particularly ’80s about a summer afternoon trip to Dairy Queen. Meanwhile, in the other obligatory Earth scenes, you can spot a Mellow Mushroom restaurant, which is a chain that I’ve pretty much only ever encountered in the south, and as far as chain restaurants go, isn’t bad at all.
When was Gamora/Nebula sisterhood established?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Post-Credits Scenes
Not all of these are important or at all Easter egg-y. We got into all of these in some detail here, if you’re interested. But this is the key stuff you absolutely need to know.
Who is Sylvester Stallone playing in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?
Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar goes by the name Starhawk in the comics, of the original Guardians. The version we meet in the movie has nothing, and I mean nothing at all, to do with the comic version other than the name, it would seem. And those cool shoulder pad things.
Fun fact, in the comics he’s the child of Kismet, aka Ayesha, aka the kinda villain of this movie! That’s because comics Stakar is from the future. That isn’t the case here. It’s cool.
Other notable original Guardians we meet here include…
Ving Rhames as Charlie-27 (the big guy leading the charge)…
Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex…
Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord…
Krugarr…who has an uncredited actor and may just be a CGI creation. Bonus fun fact: Krugarr was the future Guardians’ Sorcerer Supreme. Yes, he is the future Doctor Strange.
Oh yeah, and that was Miley Cyrus as the voice of Mainframe!
Basically, we got to see a huge chunk of the original, comic versions of the Guardians on screen thanks to this. To get an idea of how far reaching the Guardians roster has been over the last 40 years or so of comics, allow me to direct you to this article.
Who is Adam Warlock?
Hoo-boy…that’s another complicated question. The short version? He’s the most important character from the comics that we have yet to see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s Thanos’ arch-enemy, a kind of cosmic messiah, and an all around psychedlic relic of the ’60s/’70s.
He’s awesome. He’s also, trust me, absolutely essential to the future of the MCU.
Also, in the credits themselves (the first part of which set to all time great rock n’ roll anthem “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, and the second to “Flashlight” a song by actual people from outer space, Parliament), you can spot Cosmo, the space doggie/head of security from Knowhere (and co-star of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie’s post-credits scene). You can totally see Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster (from the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok) in there, too.
So, what did I miss, Ravagers? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter, and we’ll make this the most complete guide to the Guardians in all the galaxy! See what I did there? No, wait…come back!