Al Ewing’s current run on Guardians of the Galaxy has been less of a mind bending space opera and more of an action-packed exploration of what it means to be a family grappling with the profound grief tied to the sudden loss of one of their own. The book’s core teams (plural) of Guardians have all been trying to figure out how to move forward and heal, and for at least two people said healing involves finding romantic — or at least physical — comfort in one another’s arms.
This week’s Guardians of the Galaxy #6 from Ewing, artist Marcio Takara, and colorist Federico Blee makes this abundantly clear, with an emotional recap of sorts from Nova Prime/Richard Rider who, feeling the weight of his ever-accumulating emotional baggage, sits down for a Shi’ar-sponsored session with a therapist. Though Richard, like all surviving members of the Annihilation War, has first hand experience with the devastating impact that large scale conflict can have on a person’s sense of self, losing Peter Quill during a rather routine Guardians mission involving the Olympians’ homeworld haunts him because Quill was truly like a brother to him.
Long story short: as more and more of the universe’s Olympians began to reincarnate and set out to conquer other worlds, Richard took it upon himself to travel to New Olympus intending to order the reborn gods to cut their shit out, lest they be arrested and taken in for violating peace treaties. Reasoning that he might need a bit of backup, Richard asked the mostly-retired members of the Guardians to tag along, and while Gamora passed up on the offer, Quill was all too game to get in on the action.
Together with Phyla-Vell (the Captain Marvel of another dimension), the Titan-trained telepath Moondragon, Rocket Raccoon, and Quill, Nova was successfully able to infiltrate New Olympus with every intention of destroying one of the Olympians’ more important ships. While skulking around on the planet, now seemingly chock full of Olympians’ who solely wanted to destroy things, this iteration of the Guardians happened upon and teamed up with the latest Hercules — someone who, unlike the rest of his pantheon, still held onto some sense of decorum and need for order. And, dickish as Marvel Boy’s tended to be towards his fellow Guardians (and essentially everyone else he encounters), he’s quite polite towards Hercules, something that Moondragon — being both a telepath and a queer person with common sense — immediately clocks as being rather out of the ordinary.
But as the Guardians gain an ally in Hercules, they lose another: Quill ends up being captured by the Olympians and forced to think on his feet in order to make sure that the mad gods aren’t able to carry out their plan of conquest. After managing to kill Hephaestus, god of the forge, Quill reasons that the only way to ensure that the Olympians don’t become a galaxy-wide thereat is to destroy New Olympus as a whole, something that he can do with an ever-so-convenient bomb that, when detonated, takes him along in the explosion.
Much to the alarm of the rest of the Guardians, who Quill sends away remotely in his ship using controls in his helmet, he’s able to stop the Olympians at the cost of his own life — successfully competing a mission that he never actually went looking for himself. In the wake of Quill’s death, Gamora, Moondragon, Groot, and Drax break away from Rocket and the others out of a (in-part correct) belief that they’re partially culpable for what happened. Though Gamora and her crew still consider themselves Guardians of the Galaxy, in truth they’d become mercenaries carrying out jobs for pay because they might as well make a buck while working through their mourning.
Tense as things have been between these two groups of Guardians, fate inevitably leads them back into one another’s orbits when they begin vying for the same gigs — leading to fighting that isn’t just about money. Because Gamora was finally at a place in her life with Quill where she felt as if she might be able to enjoy a modicum of peace and happiness, she can’t help but see Nova Prime as having ruined it all, and she wants him beyond dead for it. Being loyal to their respective leaders, everyone else on both teams immediately springs into battle against each other, according Richard’s recollection in issue #6. And while Marvel Boy and Hercules both shoot and smash to kill, the pair also find a tiny moment of time to own up to the fact that they’ve always been kinda into one another.
Marvel Boy’s queerness was originally established way back in Young Avengers, when he was still dating archer Kate Bishop, and we’ve seen at least one alternate universe version of Hercules who was in a committed relationship with that universe’s Wolverine. So the pairing isn’t the most surprising thing in the world. Moreover, Guardians is one of Marvel’s few titles that consistently and prominently features queer characters like Phyla-Vell and Moondragon, who’ve continued to be partners throughout this series.
It’s far from a big deal to Richard or any of the other Guardians that a super-strong god man and a douchebag flyboy from another dimension with cockroach DNA are now apparently shacking up on a space ship. And really, why should it be? Especially when, as all of this drama’s been going on, elsewhere in the galaxy there’s a pair of newly-minted space husbands who have literally set off a war that could end worlds?