One thing I have enjoyed about “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” animated series is the clever way the episode titles have also been the titles of classic rock tunes. With The Bride being such a huge Journey junkie, you can imagine this episode in particular was must-see television in our household. Meet me after the hyperspace jump for my thoughts on “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Kirby Krackle Redux
As I talked about last time, episodes 13 and 14 of “Guardians of the Galaxy” we’re supposed to feature music by one of my absolute favorite nerdcore bands, Kirby Krackle. Although I didn’t hear it after watching the episode twice, Kirby Krackle assured me in a Tweet that the song was there. I’m sorry I missed it.
In this episode however I didn’t miss it. The Kirby Krackle tune “It’s a Wonderful Day” features in recordings from Star-Lord’s helmet. The song is bouncy bubble gum pop reminiscent of 1960s bands like Herman’s Hermits and Chad and Jeremy. I love it, a perfect addition to the series already classic rock theming. More please.
Now as I’ve said before, I’m not all that familiar with this iteration of the Guardians except for the movie, as my love was for the old school version. And I am equally unfamiliar with Spartax from the comics. Other than my exposure to the Spartaxian Empire in Infinity, there’s not much I know about them, save one thing, and you’ll have to excuse the language, they’re insufferable pricks.
When we first see Spartax in the animated series, it’s pretty clear that interpretation is right on target. Getting onto the planet is almost as if Nazi Germany ran their customs area via the Three Stooges. The worst parts of everyone’s nightmare customs experience are right here, folks. It is into this mess that Star-Lord disappears, and the rest of the team go on the run when Rocket accidentally blows the head off a giant statue of King J’Son.
As in most airports, Quill is accosted by a religious nut talking of True Believers. Instead of handing him a pamphlet, she pulls back her hood to reveal herself as Mantis, one of my favorite Avengers. Before he can ask her any further questions, like how she seems to be the only one who’s ever heard of Star-Lord, she vanishes and he’s arrested for having ‘royal property’ – his element blaster.
I love Mantis. In the 1970s, she was one of writer Steve Englehart’s pet Avengers. Originally the prostitute girlfriend of ex-criminal/new member the Swordsman, she was to sow discontent on the team. Mantis was also an accomplished martial artist (so good she could take down Thor) and eventually revealed to be the Celestial Madonna in one of my favorite Avengers stories. ‘This one’ is thrilled to see her here in animated form, and I loved that despite her green skin, which came later, she’s wearing her old Avengers era costume.
Face front, true believers, as Stan Lee used to say, there’s more to come. Mantis hooks up with the rest of the Guardians and leads them through a maze of elemental perils to free Star-Lord. Apparently long ago the kings of Spartax mastered the four elements and use them as the ultimate security system. Only the true belief of the followers of Star-Lord can surpass these barriers.
Four elements? Fascist society? Security bypassed by true belief? It almost sounds as if this whole Spartax thing was put together piecemeal. It really doesn’t make much sense. It’s a good thing Mantis, coolly and calmly voiced by Jennifer Hale, makes it all sound so palatable. I wish she’d been around for some of the other wonky science and metaphysics we’ve encountered on the show before this.
Mantis, sadly using real first person pronouns rather than ‘this one,’ keeps talking about a prophecy. Star-Lord will rescue us from tyranny. The Guardians, starting with Quill begin to buy into the whole true belief thing, and things begin to seem to happen by the power of sheer will – at least with locks and robots and stuff. Maybe Quill is the ‘Star-Lord’?
When King J’Son shows up it’s a family reunion as it’s finally revealed that, duh, he’s Peter Quill’s dad. There’s no real true belief, it’s just that everything in the throne room is keyed to the royal DNA. But nothing is as it seems. Mantis tries to assassinate J’Son but Quill stops her. As she’s carted off to jail I doubt it’s the last we’ll see of her.
And then of course there’s the really bad news… yeah, remember what I said about the disposition of the Spartaxian Empire? J’Son is working with Thanos. Cue ominous music and cut to end credits. All in all, this was a pretty fair episode. I got Mantis and Kirby Krackle, but I think The Bride still would have been happier with Steve Perry and Journey…