In their original incarnation the Guardians of the Galaxy were set in the 30th century, one-shot filler for a title rotating the lead strip every issue on a fling it at the wall and see what sticks basis.

Nevertheless, the thought Arnold Drake applied to creating his cast is apparent. The dense and stocky Charlie 27 had to withstand gravity three times that of Earth, while Martinex’s crystalline structure permitted life in the extreme cold of Pluto, and blue-skinned “noble savage” Yondu hailed from Centurai IV and could control the flight of his arrows by whistling. The most tragic of the quartet was Major Vance Astro, who’d volunteered for deep sleep in a spacecraft aimed at the stars. Intended as the first Earthman to colonise another planet, he arrived after 1000 years to discover technology had produced infinitely faster craft shortly after his departure and dozens of planets had been colonised as he lingered in suspended animation. To twist the knife in his tragedy Drake further decreed that were he ever to remove his protective suit the ages would catch up with him and he’d crumble to dust. The originality doesn’t extend beyond the conception, with artist Gene Colan’s more eccentric than usual layouts doing little to enliven a basic story about Earth over-run by alien lizards, the Badoon.

Something about the team, though, struck a chord with Steve Gerber as he started writing for Marvel five years later. Innately original and skewed, Gerber seized the then forgotten Guardians and charted their struggle to overthrow the Badoon. An initial story sending the Thing and Captain America to the future was that of Gerber learning his trade, but a year later a far more confident Gerber repeated the trick with the Defenders delivering altogether more accomplished fare.

The opening chapter set on Earth is somewhat scuppered by artist Don Heck losing all interest at the sight of a costume after delivering a menacing mugging to start the story. Gerber takes the interesting tack of involving a thirteen year old boy not named until the chapter’s end, and then has the Defenders accompany the Guardians to the future courtesy of some hocus-pocus from Dr Strange. That story remains compelling. In the first chapter Gerber creates a credible timeline extending from the 20th century to the 30th, and over the remainder throws in a satire of TV gameshows, introduces Starhawk, seemingly both man and woman, creates a convincing way of sidelining Dr Strange who could otherwise resolve the situation far more easily, and leads everything to a novel and unpredictable conclusion.

Sal Buscema draws most of this book in his standard uncluttered style, never sacrificing storytelling for flash, and Gerber picks up where he left off in The Power of Starhawk. Both volumes were later combined as Tomorrow’s Avengers.