Even with plenty of drag and indie comics to focus on this month, I still found the time to squeeze in another new Marvel guide for all Patrons of CK. This guide follows a character who started off both dangerous and incredibly complex when she was introduced by Jim Starlin in 1975, and that’s never changed – although she has changed considerably in her nearly 50 years of comics. It’s time for a Guide to Gamora!
If I was totally off-base about my ideas of about Star-Lord when I got to work on his guide, working on a Guide to Gamora confirmed my assumptions and just made me love the character even more.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that out of all of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora is both the one who is closest to her comic version in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s despite the fact that she is missing a critical element of her first 30 years of comics in the MCU.
Jim Starlin introduced Gamora in the pages of his run on Adam Warlock as a dangerous woman with a sword as sharp as her humor. We quickly learned that she was hunting Warlock both because he could put an end to Magus’s Church of Universal Truth – or, if he didn’t, he was bound to begin it.
We also learned she was Thanos’s adopted daughter. Those two key points of her origin drove her character for 30 years.
Gamora became the way to make Thanos slightly sympathetic – enough so that he could credibly appear alongside the Infinity Watch without coming to blows with them in every panel. Even if she didn’t love him or empathize with his goals, each of them softened slightly in the other’s presence.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe deepened that quality beyond what we ever saw in the comics prior to the release of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. In the comics, it was hard to reconcile Gamora’s origins as the sole survivor of a genocide with Thanos’s own ambitions (though, that is the reason she briefly flees him to side with Warlock early in her comic history).
In the films, that conflict is critical to the core of her character.
However, what we lost in the MCU was Gamora’s 30 year relationship with Warlock. She transformed from his hunter, to his accomplice, to a guardian of an Infinity Gem and his constant companion. Jim Starlin set this into motion by trapping them both in the Soul Gem for a decade of comics (along with their eternal third wheel, Pip the Troll). Once they emerged, their trust of each other was unquestioning.
Gamora’s relationship with Warlock helped to justify her break with Thanos and gave her an anchor on the heroic side of Marvel’s universe. However, it also made her another in Marvel’s long history of fierce women often sidelined as romantic supporting characters. Though she was always steely, a lot of Gamora’s early dangerous edge was stripped away in favor of her devotion to Warlock and his cause – both platonic and romantic.
Similarly, when Gamora was broken free of her Warlock relationship, it was immediately in service of pairing her with Richard Rider in 2006’s Annihilation. It wasn’t until Rider’s apparent demise in 2010 that she could finally be free of the yoke of romantic plots – and she promptly disappeared from comics entirely.
I have many unkind things to say about Brian Bendis as a comics plotter and writer, but one thing he got very right was writing an independent Gamora in the years leading up to and following the first Guardians film. His version of the character was still romantic and fiercely loyal, but also prickly and unpredictable. There was a real sense of her being the barely-caged tiger of the Guardians team, who could explode in a dangerous rage at a moment’s notice.
Bendis’s rehabilitation of her character stuck, making Gamora even more interesting in subsequent runs by Gerry Duggan and Donny Cates. Plus, a pair of women explored her early origins! First, in 2016, Guardians screenwriter Nicole Perlman penned a series looking at Gamora’s solo adventures just prior to meeting Warlock. Then, in 2019, Tini Howard wrote a definitive account of Gamora’s early adventures with Thanos and his Black Order – inserting some much-needed rebellious tendencies into her origins.
There’s nothing wrong with Gamora’s first forty years of material – a lot of her moments in Infinity Watch are terrific! However, I think the past decade of her character has not only featured most of her most-definitive moments, but it has also made her early comics even better as a result. Using this Guide to Gamora to read from her beginnings to present day is now an immensely satisfying experience – especially if you begin with the Howard and Perlman stories.
I can promise you that Gamora won’t be the last of the Guardians who get a solo guide. Want instant access them all the moment they arrive to gear up for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 coming this May? Becoming a Patron of CK for as little as $1 a month or $10.20 a year, Patrons currently have access to…
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DC Guides (6): Batman – Index of Ongoing Titles, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Hal Jordan, Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner, Omega Men
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