With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 finally landing in theaters this Friday, Guardians Vol. 3 recently confirmed by writer and director James Gunn, and a whole Infinity War in between, it’s safe to assume that we’re going to see a few changes to the team over the next few years. With long-time member Mantis set to feature in the upcoming sequel, and plenty of mystery surrounding various additions to the cast, some cracks are already beginning to show in the movie line-up of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot.
The group as we know it didn’t come to be until the reboot in 2008, and there’s evidence to suggest that a change in Guardians might not be a bad thing. Of the very first comic book line-up, only Yondu has so far made his way onto the big screen, and several new members were introduced all through the ‘90s; before the current film cast made their team debuts. Some huge names in Marvel have appeared on the roster, as well as some relative unknowns, but each brings something entirely different that could keep future movie installments feeling fresh and original.
Here are the Best Ever Guardians of the Galaxy Members, Ranked.
15 Adam Warlock
Created as the “perfect being”, Adam Warlock is one of the most important beings in the Marvel cosmos. It’s surely only a matter of time before Adam makes his MCU debut (discounting his cocoon’s brief appearance in the first Guardians of the Galaxy), not least because he is the frequent guardian of the Soul Gem, and the self-declared arch enemy of Thanos himself.
All that being said, it should hardly come as a shock that Adam was at point one a Guardian of the Galaxy. He joined the team in 2008, under the assumption that the previous Annihilation war had severely weakened the universe, and he was its last defense. In just 16 issues, Adam found himself caught up in battles with Thanos, Kang the Conquerer, and his evil counterpart, Magus, which together resulted in his (temporary) death.
She may be unfamiliar to some, but there’s a strong chance that Moondragon will appear in a future movie instalment. Heather Douglas emerged the sole survivor when Thanos attacked her family, though she was unaware that her father’s spirit had been resurrected into a more powerful body. If any of this sounds familiar, it might be because her father was once Arthur Douglas, who in turn was transformed into Drax the Destroyer.
She was raised by monks on Thanos’ home planet of Titan before she learned that Drax was still alive, and she joined her father on the team for a brief spell in 2008. She is arguably more famous for her time in the Avengers, during which she used her telekinesis to mentally coerce Thor into becoming her lover. The character will always be a presence within the Guardians, whether by Drax’s legacy or her own.
13 Iron Man
Star-Lord and his crew traveled to Earth in 2012 to simultaneously lend a hand in the Avengers’ battle with Thanos and the Zodiac and to promote the first movie, which was in the final stages of development at the time. Fascinated by their technology, Tony Stark accompanied the Guardians into space, only to learn that Quill and Rocket were using weaponry several times more advanced than his own.
He stuck around to learn all he could about the tech, just long enough to become romantically involved with Gamora and close friends with Rocket (a friendship that will no doubt form naturally in next year’s Infinity War).
Iron Man eventually forged a brand new space suit and rejoined the Avengers, but only after being framed for murder and finding his long lost half-brother. He may be one of the shortest-serving Guardians, but his time in outer space was most definitely a memorable one.
Following Iron Man’s departure, Marvel replaced him with not one, but two of their most recognizable names. Captain Marvel herself was the first, and though she has come and gone twice, her time as part of the team was limited on both occasions.
Venom was the second inclusion, which might come as a surprise, considering the Venom tag is usually associated with antagonizing Spider-Man. This particular Venom, though, is Flash Thompson, who gave up on bullying Peter Parker to become a war hero.
As a result, he was chosen to host the Venom symbiote, and he was hand-picked as Iron Man’s replacement by Tony Stark himself. Venom’s violent instincts almost derailed the team, but after returning home and "curing" the symbiote, Flash took up the form of Agent Venom, and remains a Guardian to this day.
If you’re intent on knowing as little about Vol. 2 as possible before its release, be warned that this entry steps into very minor spoiler territory.
Much has been made about Sylvester Stallone’s role in the upcoming sequel, but his character was recently revealed to be Stakar Ogord, a.k.a. Starhawk. His screen time in the film is said to be minimal, but going forward, he could have a huge impact on the MCU, if his comic book origins are anything to go by.
Starhawk has an unfortunate precognitive ability that forces him to live the same life over and over again, and it is revealed after his introduction to the team that he constructed reality so the current Guardians would join together. His primary power, though, is energy manipulation. He can shoot beams of fire energy, and fuse with his sister (and one-time Guardian herself) Aleta, to create matter from pure light.
10 The Thing
With the Fantastic Four disbanded following the latest Secret War, not many expected Ben Grimm to transfer over to an entirely different team. News that he would be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy for the Marvel Universe’s 2015 reboot was met with a mixed reception, but with the Fantastic Four out of commission, it made sense that the Thing’s next great adventure would be in outer space.
Grimm quickly proved his remaining doubters wrong, providing the team with much the same humor as Drax brings in the films, with his no-nonsense approach putting him at odds with his carefree teammates. He hasn’t had much time to settle in as yet, but he is slowly making an impact in the galaxy, using his pilot skills to get the team out of trouble and clobberin’ bad guys all over the universe.
As mentioned earlier, Yondu is the only one of the founding quartet to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy, but comic book Yondu is not to be confused with the pirate leader of the Ravagers as seen in the films. While Michael Rooker portrays the character as more an anti-hero, Yondu is traditionally anything but, using his time as a Guardian to free the oppressed and aid the Avengers.
By far the least powerful of the original Guardians, Yondu relies more heavily on his bow and arrow (which he infamously controls by whistling), and his bionic right hand, which conceals a scythe-- among other weapons.
He eventually left the Guardians when he discovered the survivors of his tribe, who were thought to have been wiped out in a Badoon attack.
8 Kitty Pryde
She might be better known as the mutant Shadowcat, but everything changed for Kitty Pryde during the Avengers vs. X-Men comic book crossover. In the following Marvel Now relaunch, Kitty met original Star-Lord Peter Quill, and the pair soon developed what you might call an extreme long-distance relationship (considering they spent most of their time at opposite ends of the galaxy).
When she learns that Peter is in trouble, Kitty travels alone into space, where she would become a permanent member of the team. Ironically, it is Peter who returns to Earth soon after (for his own solo series), but he entrusts the Star-Lord title to his now-fiancée. Having acquired new cosmic powers, Kitty has taken to her new role, and shows no sign of returning the Star-Lord mantle to its original owner any time soon.
Another of its four founders, Charlie-27 has been in and out of the Guardians of the Galaxy since the very beginning, and has appeared in the second-highest number of issues. A human soldier genetically modified to survive on Jupiter, Charlie-27’s features and height are that of an ordinary man, but the resulting experiments gave him 11-times the muscle mass he had before.
He normally resides in Jupiter’s Galileo City in the 31st Century, but the original team’s traveling through time allowed them to fight alongside the Avengers, as well as link up with the current Guardians roster. During his time in the present, Charlie-27 battles the Thing, fights a doppelganger of himself sent by Adam Warlock’s evil other half, and saves the life of a young Vance Astrovik; his teammate in the future.
While Mantis is set to appear in Guardians Vol. 2, it’s still unclear how deep the movie will delve into her exceptionally bizarre backstory. Mantis has fought alongside both the Guardians and the Avengers, transferred over to the Justice League, and fallen deeply in love with a tree. And no, it’s not Groot. She falls in love with a different tree.
Mantis married the tree in question, which takes the form of Swordsman (the Avenger who died saving her life), following her most famous comic book arc. During the Celestial Madonna run, Mantis briefly became the most important being in the entire Marvel universe.
Somehow, Mantis was promoted to counselor during her time as a Guardian, brainwashing her teammates at Star-Lord’s request. This caused several of them to leave, and she soon followed, but her role in the upcoming film, depending on its success, could well see her return to the team in the comics.
Drax the Destroyer was created by Kronos, who transferred Arthur Douglas’ soul into a body capable of killing Thanos, so as to put an end to the Mad Titan’s reign. Drax has lived his entire life in pursuit of Thanos, even attacking his allies for fighting Thanos in his place.
Soon after reuniting with his daughter, Drax joins the Infinity Watch, and he and Adam Warlock are successful in wresting the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos’ grasp. Drax briefly takes possession of the Power Gem before two Annihilation wars separate him from the Watch, and he is finally recruited to the new Guardians.
Drax, whose physical power is weakened following the Annihilation wars, immediately comes face-to-face with Thanos when the team is forced to work alongside the Mad Titan. He is killed for a third time, but Drax has remained an active and faithful Guardian following his most recent resurrection.
4 Major Victory
Vance Astro is clearly the highest-ranked of the original 1969 line-up, and not just because he is the leader of the founding quadruplet. Major Astro, who changed his name to Major Victory in the future, is a telekinetic mutant from the 31st century. He has the most appearances of the original Guardians team, probably because he keeps popping up through several different timelines, and picking up further accolades in each and every one.
After changing his name, he not only bonds to the Venom symbiote; he finds and wields the lost shield of Captain America, upholding the considerable legacy of Steve Rogers. In the present, he becomes an Avenger by the name of Justice, whose heroics live on into Astro’s future timeline.
He made his most recent present appearance alongside Star-Lord’s 2008 incarnation of the team, where he is killed by his own shield (and later resurrected) during the latest battle with Thanos.
The last survivor of her species, Gamora was rescued and taken in by Thanos. The Mad Titan trained his stepdaughter to become the most dangerous woman in the universe, but she soon became suspicious when he assigned her to protect Adam Warlock, the guardian of the Soul Gem.
Warlock and Drax (who attempted to assassinate Gamora) opened her eyes to Thanos’ plans, and she joined them in their battle for the Infinity Gauntlet. Not until after the Infinity War did Gamora join the Guardians of the Galaxy, where she continues to defend the world from her adopted father.
Gamora is one of the most fascinating members of the entire group. She has fought alongside the Avengers and been trusted with the Time Gem, all while battling the same conflict of interest. It’s no wonder she recently received her own comic series, and is currently on hiatus from the team as writer Nicole Perlman further explores her complicated relationship with Thanos.
2 Rocket & Groot
Rocket and Groot haven’t always come as a pair, but they have become inseparable over their short time together. While Groot appears alongside Rocket for their 2008 debut, it wasn’t until several issues later that Groot officially joined the team. Both are current members, with Rocket actually leading the way in the wake of Peter Quill’s departure.
Rocket quickly became a fan favorite for his attitude and humor in the first movie, which reflects the comic book character fairly accurately. Groot is still massively popular, but his origins are barely explored in the film. A huge part of what makes him so lovable is comic exclusive (though the movies still have plenty of story to tell), particularly the fact that Jean Grey studied his mind to learn he has an incredibly vast intellect, but no way to articulate it.
But that’s where Rocket comes in, and between them, they are both fighting and committing crime to this day.
The original Star-Lord, Peter Quill is the character that best represents the Guardians of the Galaxy as a whole. Not only is Chris Pratt the face of the movie line-up, Quill returned from relative obscurity to breathe new life into the team for the 2008 reboot. His status in the world of comic books mirrors his personality, in that he was an outcast; largely forgotten until someone noticed his huge potential.
From assembling the team in the first place, to his relatability as a (half) human and general lack of any superpowers, Quill is the string that connects us to the film and the characters to each other. He’s the very reason that the property has become a worldwide phenomenon, and while he may not be a Guardian in the comics these days, Kitty Pryde as the new Star-Lord is a constant reminder of what he has given to the team.
Who did we miss? Leave your favorite Guardians of the Galaxy in the comments!