The characterization of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, has been rather haphazard over the last ten years or so. Some of that is certainly due to the fact he had been out of circulation for a long time before being drafted into the Annihilation Saga books in 2006, alongside many other forgotten cosmic heroes, like Quasar. During that time frame he was more of a hardened military veteran and combat leader who acted as an adviser and mentor to Rich Rider, the last surviving Nova at the time. Several years later, in 2010, Marvel announced that they were working on a movie for a mysterious franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy, which would star Chris Pratt as Star-Lord (I’m skewing the timeline a bit here for simplicity sake). From that point on he became less hardened and more comical and whimsical. His tough exterior gave way to a far more easy-going — some might even say lazy — persona, and he morphed into some odd cross between Han Solo from Star Wars and Lonestar from Spaceballs. Since the movie turned out to be such a massive hit that is the version of the character that has stuck around.
The character of Star-Lord eventually became popular enough that he was given a solo series written by Sam Humphries, which spun out of his ongoing appearances in the regular Guardians of the Galaxy comic. Over in the main book he had started a bit of a romance with longtime X-Woman Kitty Pryde (according to reports largely because of writer Brian Bendis’ fondness for writing the character), and that quickly translated into her being a frequent guest star in his solo series. They have quickly become one of the power couples of the Marvel Universe, though it has not been heavily advertised.
That brings us to today with the Secret Wars crossover mucking up the Marvel continuity and throwing Peter Quill out of his comfort zone. As one of the few survivors from the time before Doom remade the universe he is a walking anomaly, and thus a threat to the very base of Doom’s power. He has decided to hide out in a Manhattan night club run by an alternate version of fellow Guardian Drax — now with a full head of amazing hair — where he sings Disney songs (which don’t exist in this reality) to ladies who swoon over his musical talents. It is, as starting points go, not the weirdest I have ever read, but it certainly does lay the groundwork for one of the more amusing series to come out of the Secret Wars event.
The “Kitty Pryde” of this book’s title is not the one that Peter knew, though, and instead bears more of a resemblance to the Kitty Pryde from the “Age of Apocalypse” crossover from the early 90s. She works as an investigator trying to find anomalies that threaten the narrative Doom has told them about the origin of the universe, and capture or eradicate them. Peter cannot see past the fact that she is Kitty Pryde, and she cannot see past the fact that he is one of those anomalies she is meant to hunt down, which leads to a bit of an interesting dynamic between them.
Even while all this is going on the book manages to throw in random happenings, just because. That seems a little bit odd considering the book is only three issues long, and you wouldn’t think it has room for much unnecessary padding, but there you go. The main divergence here is that we get a guest spot from some of the original New Mutants, except that they have been transformed by Warlock into techno-organic facsimiles of themselves, and the entire point of their existence in this book seems to be to prove to Star-Lord that this Kitty is not his Kitty. Because she kills them. Brutally. They are not the only throwback here, though, and the next one to pop to mind is far more obscure. With only a few exceptions the character of Widget has not made any notable appearances in comics since the 90s Excalibur run, and so it would be easy to forget about her existence entirely. Even more likely is that Widget’s connection to Kitty Pryde — she’s the spirit of Kitty Pryde from the Days of Future Past timeline stuck in a teleporting machine (seriously) — would be utterly lost to the land of minor plot points, and yet that plays a rather pivotal role in the later parts of this story. Bonus points to writer Sam Humphries for such an obscure, and rather welcome, throwback.
The main plot of this story is that Kitty Pryde is meeting with an alternate version of Gambit, who has found an anomaly that she must analyze. They choose to meet, by happenstance, in the very nightclub that Quill is performing is, which causes him to rush to his beloved Kitty’s side in joy at finding her alive. The results of their ‘reunion’ do not go well, and it results in both Gambit escaping with his treasure and Kitty learning that Quill is himself an anomaly (in a way that stretches the bounds of credulity a bit, but that is par for the course). They then team up to find Gambit and recover the anomaly. That pretty much covers the main plot, and there is little in the way of subplot outside of what I’ve already mentioned.
Since the series is a short three issues in length there is not much room for the kind of globe-trotting this type of story usually goes for, but it instead chooses to spend the majority of its time playing Kitty and Quill off each other. Their interactions are absolutely entertaining, and I almost wish that we could get a “Further Adventures of…” title somewhere down the road with these two. With Quill’s status following Secret Wars rather questionable at the moment that may actually be a possible option for the future, although I do not know how likely it could be. Outside of their relationship the plot is limited to them finding Gambit, and the three of them fighting. Fortunately the artist of the series, Alti Firmansyah, is perfectly suited for this combination of action and talking heads, and definitely an artist to keep an eye on in the future. Her style looks like it is influenced at least in part by traditional Disney animation mixed with Japanese shōjo, but with a solid understanding of how to combine the two into a readable comic form. It is unclear at the moment what her next project is going to be, but I can safely bet that it will be worth checking out.
My first inclination with this series would be to bemoan that it is only three issues long, but upon deeper reflection I think that was actually a good choice by Marvel. This series really has only one true hook to it — Star-Lord’s reaction to the differences between this Kitty and the one he already knows — and that only gets you so far. Stories based on will they/won’t they relationships have a tendency to wear out their welcome entirely too fast, and then stretch it past the breaking point (this is hardly an uncommon trope in comics and television). Keeping the story length low allows a lot of the common problems with this type of story to never crop up. The only thing ever keeping Quill and Kitty apart as a couple is their mismatched view of each other, and it never gets to the point where artificial obstacles start to get in the way. Also, fortunately, since this is not setting up a long-term plot the story is allowed to come to the conclusion that Quill understands this is not the Kitty he knows, and thus isn’t interested in pursuing her, and this Kitty is allowed to grow as a person without being reliant on Star-Lord to continue growing after the story ends. They go their separate ways at peace with themselves and each other, which is not a common outcome to this kind of story.
All told this is an absolutely absurd little comic, but one worth taking a look at. The plot is definitely on the wacky side of things, but it is done in a cute and endearing way. Kitty and Quill are entertaining to read, both as a pair and individually, and, surprisingly, the secondary characters like Gambit and Drax are able to validate the page space dedicated to them. This is a comic meant, first and foremost, to entertain and draw out a few chuckles, and in both respects it succeeds. You could certainly do a lot worse than give this book a go, especially if you like either of the title characters.
Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde will be available on December 8th at your local comic shop, or you can pre-order it now from Amazon. You can also check out my thoughts on the first issue of the series by itself here.