In this animated episode of “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy,” our heroes face the Grandmaster, who was last seen in the “Contest of Champions” episodes of “Ultimate Spider-Man” playing a game with another Guardians foe, the Collector. He likes games, is obsessed with them, and is gunning for the Guardians to be playing pieces in his latest. Meet me after the hyperspace jump for my thoughts on “Take the Milano and Run!”
Last time we talked about the Collector and how he was one of the Elders of the Universe. There are others, like the Runner, the Champion, the Gardener, the Astronomer, and the Grandmaster, among others, each with their own peculiar obsession. This Grandmaster is another, and his obsession is playing games, and usually he uses known Earth superheroes and super-villains as his pawns and playing pieces.
This Elder first appeared in the comics, playing Kang the Conqueror in a game that both introduced and pitted a version of the Squadron Supreme against the Avengers for the first time. They also proved to be one of the enduring threats on the first two seasons of “Avengers Assemble.”
This episode, in the midst of the quest of the CryptoCube, begins with bickering as per usual on board the Guardians’ ship the Milano. Gamora and Drax throwing bladed weapons into Groot (yikes, but don’t worry he can always grow back), and Rocket retrofitting the controls for rodent rather than human, so Star-Lord can’t fly it – seems like just another day for the team. Whether it’s bad piloting or tiny controls, they end up on the space station called Conjunction.
Built for gaming, this Conjunction is of course, run by the Grandmaster. He’s looking a little different from the Grandmaster in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” reruns, which are currently airing before the new episodes of “GotG” however. He actually looks a bit more like the comics version than his “US-M” incarnation. For me, that is of course a good thing. I’m a purist in such things. Also tagging along in this detour to Conjunction is Nova Corpsman Titus, who actually kind of resembles a scarred Man-Wolf. He appears to be a throwaway character, dressed like a movie Nova as opposed to a comics Nova, and only there for clean up purposes at the end.
As a slight diversion on the Guardians’ quest for the Cosmic Seed, they need a certain kind of crystal. Star-Lord mentions he knows where to find one, from an old gangster connection called Lunatik. When I heard that, my old school fanboy radar went off. I knew this rather obscure but awesomely cool character… but what was he doing in space? Cool, they had my attention now.
Lunatik was a nutjob in a fluorescent tracksuit who played fast and loose vigilante hitting bad guys with a crowbar/fighting staff back in the late 1970s Defenders by David Anthony Kraft. He was marvelous fun, sort of an acrobatic Joker from hell with martial arts skills. I liked him a lot, and was psyched when he was mentioned. It fit, he even had connections to Man-Wolf. I waited to be dazzled, only to be disappointed. Apparently a space baddie also used the name much much later with connections to the Guardians. Well, at least he was pale like my Lunatik.
The Set Up
As if by magic, Lunatik is there at Conjunction and even has his own bar called Club Lunatique. If you’re guessing someone higher up is pulling strings, it’s an easy guess. The crystal isn’t with Lunatik anymore but with his ladyfriend, who just by chance happens to be an old ‘friend’ of Star-Lord’s. In another case of the animated series skirting the edge of some of the seedier aspects of the movie, the ladyfriend is the A’askavarian he once ‘dated.’
As one might expect, she’s less than happy to see our little Star-Lord and hilarity, and the traditional Guardians of the Galaxy barfight begins. Add another word to the frak lexicon – flarg. Who knows what it means, just use as needed, – noun, verb, or adjective. Unexpected however is that the usual suspects in a GotG barfight are missing. Rocket and Drax have decided to make a little extra cash for ship repairs by entering the arena. Well, Drax enters the arena, Rocket collects on bets.
The Boys Are Back in Town
Nobody can beat Drax the Destroyer, even in disguise, so in a montage wonderfully set to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” (for those into such things, a soundtrack is coming) Drax takes down all comers and Rocket makes money for the Milano, and his pockets too. Do raccoons have pockets? Of course, owning Conjunction does help the Grandmaster maneuver the players, I mean everyone, into doing exactly what he wants, and what he wants is a fight… a very specific fight – Drax the Destroyer vs. Gamora, daughter of Thanos. And just in case they won’t fight, winner takes the Milano, and everywhere in the arena doesn’t die. When you gotta fight, you gotta fight.
Drax is just going through the motions to make it look good. But of course the last thing you should ever do with someone like Drax who is completely literal, is tease or imply. In another of this series’ darker moments, Gamora suggests she may have had something to do with the murder of Drax’s family because she worked for Ronan. Drax unleashed. Although while this should be the high point of the episode, it’s merely background for more heisting and scheming.
All that said, “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” still stands as the best of the Marvel Animated Universe so far, and this was only a mediocre edition this week. I still can’t wait for more.
Next: “Can’t Fight This Seedling.”