The best arch of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the perfect metaphor for coming out


The critically acclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy volume 6 (2020), written by Al Ewing with artists including Juan Cabal and Juan Frigeri, was a series that unabashedly embraced LGBTQ+ characters and themes, and looking back at the beloved volume reveals how the creators successfully created a stunning allegorical journey for Star-Lord accepting his bisexuality. This volume revitalized the iconic team of misfits, re-centering them as the wider galaxy’s version of the Avengers, while also managing to create one of the queerest teams in modern comics.

One of the core themes of almost all Guardians of the Galaxy volumes is family, namely the power of found family, especially for those who have strained or dangerous relationships with their biological family. While this is an incredibly common theme in queer media, most creative teams had not applied that reading to the team, but when it finally happened, the results were extraordinary.

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Before Ewing’s tenure on Guardians of the Galaxy, there was some LGBTQ+ representation on the team, with lesbians Phyla-Vell and Moondragon already having been married for some time, but these concepts tended to cover individual characters rather than being core to the franchise’s voice and themes. In a perfect transition from this status quo, Ewing’s tenure on Guardians of the Galaxy begins with Peter Quill and his found family having a traditional Thanksgiving family dinner, spotlighting the Guardians as a traditional family before their group quickly implodes

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Traditional Family Values

Following the idyllic family dinner, the series finds Peter Quill contemplating a “perfect” life with Gamora, before ultimately abandoning her to go save innocents from the out-of-control Gods of Olympus, seemingly unable to be happy with his domesticated life of peace and stability. Peter Quill and Richard Rider, the galactic hero known as Nova, ride out to face the villains, destroying the Guardians’ potential retirement.

Peter’s subsequent ‘death’ against the ultimate symbol of patriarchal control tears the team apart and transports him to another world, leading to new team members and new missions that make the volume’s focus on queer storytelling explicit.

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The Explicit Queerness of Al Ewing’s Guardians

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 6 manages not just to imply the queerness of characters on the Guardians team, but make their sexuality explicit. While the entire series can be viewed as an epic coming-out allegory for Peter Quill, the creative team manages to escape the dire history of queerness being relegated to subtext in superhero stories by centering several LGBTQ+ relationships. Not only is Moondragon and Phyla-Vell’s marriage tested and highlighted throughout the series, but new team members Hercules and Marvel Boy enter into a romantic relationship.

The series was also the first depiction of Star-Lord as bisexual on page, with huge media coverage of the moment. Interestingly, the story doesn’t explicitly make this a coming out – it’s unclear whether or not Peter Quill had already explored his sexuality ahead of the relationship fans see, though past writers later confirmed they had intended to make this official – but it’s easy to read his journey of self discovery as the allegorical equivalent of this process.

Related: The X-Men Go Back to Their Roots With a Modern, Queer, Twist

Star-Lord’s Journey as Queer Allegory

Peter Quill has always been an honorable but misguided man with only a tenuous grasp on the true nature of his powers, often relying on his “misfit” identity to align himself with other lost souls across the galaxy, but seemingly never being able to come to terms with his own needs and wants. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 6 #2 ends with Peter Quill – plagued by visions of the Master of the Sun a godlike being who gave him his Element Gun – sacrificing himself to defeat the reborn Gods of Olympus. While the rest of the Guardians team, as well as his longtime best friend Nova, assume Star-Lord has died, he has in fact been transported to Morinus – an extra-dimensional word “beyond the sun” of Reality-616.

Thus begins an epic, cosmic coming-out story for the stranded Quill, as he uses his time on Morinus to commune with and come to understand his true power and potential in Guardians of the Galaxy #9. Al Ewing, who came out as bisexual himself midway through the volume, creates a stunning allegory for the struggles of coming out, as Peter is asked both “Do you feel like the basis of your life is wrong?” (by Zeus) and “Can you survive what follows?” (by the Master of the Sun), simultaneously answering “Yes” to both. Peter Quill felt stagnant in his relationship with Gamora, and while his abandoning her to help Nova defeat Zeus is a continuation of his fight against villainy, it also leads directly to a reckoning with a deep-seated sense of doubt in how he’s living his life.

Related: Guardians of the Galaxy’s Best Line Perfectly Defines Them as a Team

Star-Lord Entering Into a Queer Relationship

Quill’s time on Morinus allows him to dig into his past and discover that many of his basic assumptions about his limits as a Star-Lord are simply untrue. Slowly, these revelations about his power also extend to his sexuality, shown when Aradia first invites Peter to join her romantic relationship with Mors, but he is unable to because of his heterosexual, monogamous expectations of relationships and the fact that he feels Gamora is still waiting for him.

However, after being stranded for 12 years, Star-Lord formally accepts the invitation to join their relationship, becoming “newborn” and finally acclimatizing to a new and unfamiliar world, literally and figuratively.Not only does Star-Lord enter into a century-plus bisexual relationship with Aradia and Mors, but he also has a biological son named Rocket with them, and fully comes into his power as a cosmic being and Spartax/Human hybrid, mastering his Element Gun not as sci-fi tech, but as a mystic channel for his own powers.

Related: Guardians of the Galaxy Cancelation Hurts Marvel’s LGBTQ+ Representation

In this way, the creative team artfully weave the story of a man, lost to himself, discovering the true nature of his self, and in turn embracing happiness in a fulfilling bisexual, polyamorous relationship. Sadly, the Greek Gods return, and Peter is thrust back into his former reality where – for his friends – this century of self-discovery and personal evolution took place in a matter of months. Here, Peter has to ‘come out’ in terms of his new understanding of his powers, explaining to his friends that he’s no longer the conflicted person they believe they know. The stunning color work done by Federico Blee in Guardians of the Galaxy #11 also directly connects Quill’s new cosmic power to his bisexuality, with the colors of the bisexual flag in the background as Peter accesses his new powers.

The Future of Queerness in Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy’s creative team show that Quill’s self-exploration and “coming out” as a powerful, cosmic Star-Lord have given him more stability, happiness, and success in his life than ever before. Not only do the Guardians of the Galaxy become accepted as cosmic peacekeepers on an unprecedented scale, but Quill represents his half-home-world Spartax as a galactic representative on the Peak, SWORD’s space station, taking on a more formal role among the stars than ever before.

However, this reborn Star-Lord didn’t get long in the spotlight, as Guardians of the Galaxy was cancelled in 2021 after 18 issues, with the team appearing only sparsely ever since, and Quill’s character downplayed in Marvel’s Pride art celebrations. It remains to be seen whether Marvel is truly open to the Guardians of the Galaxy as a team proudly built on queer love and friendship, and how the team’s popular movie outings – which draw on their more heteronormative past – may be influencing that decision.

Al Ewing’s tenure on Guardians of the Galaxy gave the team its best, most meditative volume ever, and reinvented Star-Lord with one eye on his heroic past and one on the potential he has in the future – hopefully, that trend will continue in the future.