The daughters of Thanos are in a race to retrieve the heart of a planet in a new YA book starring two of Marvel’s fiercest warriors. Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms was written by Mackenzi Lee, who previously wrote the book Loki: Where Mischief Lies — and we’ve got an exclusive excerpt.
In Sisters in Arms, someone has asked Gamora to retrieve the heart of the planet Torndune. She doesn’t know who it is, only that she has to do it. Meanwhile, Nebula follows Gamora, hoping to outshine her sister and beat her to the heart — the result of a long-standing rivalry driven into them by their dear old dad. It’s a story that dives into the relationship fans have become so fond of, not just over the years in Marvel Comics, but in the past decade from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies all the way through the end of Avengers: Endgame. However, this book, like other Marvel Press books, doesn’t quite adhere to any overarching continuity. It’s just a story featuring these great, recognisable characters.
“Part of the joy of contributing to the Marvel Universe is working with stories and characters that overlap, change, grow, and exist across formats and years and generations and creators,” Lee told Gizmodo via email. “Every writer, actor, and director who tells these stories brings something new to them, and we all keep building on the work of those before us to create richer, deeper, more interesting characters. It’s like working in the greatest collaborative writing space of all time, where your co-workers are everyone from Stan Lee to Zoe Saldana, to the writers and artists making the comics today.”
“In Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms, readers will see their favourite alien cyborg sisters earlier than in some of their best-known iterations,” she continued. “They’re still in the throes of a past that we have mostly only heard about — as daughters, and agents of Thanos, their own identities still in flux as they learn who they are to themselves and each other outside their father’s control. The book not only lays foundation for who we will see them become, but also sheds some light on who they were.”
Below, Gizmodo is excited to debut an exclusive excerpt from the book featuring Nebula’s arrival, after Gamora, on Torndune. She takes a different approach from her sister — but is still haunted by the rivalry Thanos has embedded in her.
From Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzi Lee:
Sister Merciful took Nebula to a private docking bay on Rango-15, where a shuttle was waiting for them, staffed by security officers in black uniforms and driven by a silent man in a crisp suit that didn’t match the trickle of grey rot starting to heal along the edges of his finger nails. The shuttle took them to a Temple Ship docked beyond the orbital stations, a sleek, boxy skyscraper suspended in space with black windows and a dark exterior so glossy it was impossible to tell whether it was actually black or that was simply the reflection of the sky on every surface. The mirror image of the stars barnacled its face. It was the sort of sleek, futuristic mega Church headquarters Nebula would expect to see closer to the central systems. Out here, it looked like an anachronism, something from the future while the rest of the system was stuck in the past.
When their shuttle docked and they disembarked, Nebula’s first breath was of air so clear and filtered it made her light-headed. She hadn’t realised how much dust was slipping through the filter in her vent until she stopped breathing it. The interior of the Temple Ship matched the exterior: glossy, modern, and architectural. Everything was straight lines and sharp angles. The Church’s symbol — a teardrop shape with a dragged-out point bisected by a short perpendicular line — was inlaid into everything: etched into the floors and the windows of the viewing platforms overlooking the docking bay, even inscribed on the control panels beside each door. The acolytes here were dressed in crisp, sharp red robes with pointed shoulders, and Nebula wondered briefly if the ragged mantles the missionaries wore on Rango-15 were a guise so that they looked more of the people.
“Our Temple Ships are the cornerstones of our organisation,” Sister Merciful explained as she led Nebula from the docking platform and down a hallway lit with lurid fluorescents. “They house the offices of Church officials, keep our records, and shelter our cardinals, as well as serve as sites of worship for any members of our congregation.”
Nebula resisted the urge to take an exaggerated look around at the lack of members from the ranks of the Torndune mines. They might be welcome, but they couldn’t get there if they tried. “Why don’t your cardinals stay on the stations with the poor they’re ministering to?”
“Our cardinals must be in the best mental and physical shape possible to minister to the needs of the beings in places such as the Torndune orbital stations.” Sister Merciful swept her sleeves back off her hands and made the sign of the Matriarch as they passed a portrait of her on the wall. “It takes a great deal of strength to witness so much suffering.”
It also takes a great deal of strength to suffer that much, Nebula thought, and it sounded like Gamora’s voice in her head. That was something her sister would say. Nebula shoved Gamora from her mind and followed Sister Merciful down the corridor, each step clicking like tossed dice. “We have many chapels here, of course,” Sister Merciful explained, gesturing to a window on their left that overlooked a massive cathedral where dozens of red-robed cardinals stood in militant rows, their hoods and shoulders in perfect alignment. “There are also recreation facilities, libraries, gardens, and laboratories.”
“What does a church need with a laboratory?” Nebula asked.
“The Matriarch receives revelation from the holy of holies, the Magus Himself, as to how the lives of our followers might be improved, and sometimes His plan involves experimentation in the sciences. For example.” She stopped at a viewing platform, and Nebula peered through the mirrored window. Below, large generators the size of most of the buildings on Rango-15 were assembled in long rows, lights on their panels flashing green as they rumbled softly. She could feel the vibrations through her feet.
“The source of power for the ship,” Sister Merciful explained. “A complex system developed at our Church headquarters to power all our ships with a clean, sustainable energy source.”
“Crowmikite?” Nebula asked.
Sister Merciful smoothed her robes beneath her fingers and ignored the question. “We give the beings of Torndune a great gift,” she said. “The greatest gift of all, which is the gospel of Magus, and the testimony of the revelatory power of our holy Matriarch.”
Nebula had a hunch that the miners of Torndune would prefer a hot meal in the breathable air of one of these Temple Ships over a testimony of the true and living god, but that seemed an inappropriate opinion to voice to her host.
Gamora would say it.
She shoved the thought away. Gamora isn’t here.
“So, daughter of Thanos,” Sister Merciful said with a smile as they continued down the hall. Some of the red paint from her lips had smeared onto her teeth, so that it looked like she had ripped into a dead animal. “What brings you to this far corner of the galaxy?”
“I’ve been sent to find something on Torndune for my father,” Nebula replied.
“Perhaps we could help you,” Sister Merciful said.
“Perhaps,” Nebula said with no conviction. All she was hoping to get out of this exchange was a shower and food that didn’t come in the form of a powdered-vitamin pack. “What is it you want from me, exactly?”
Sister Merciful stopped and opened her hands before her. “The Universal Church of Truth and Her Holiness the Everlasting Matriarch are friends of Thanos. We simply wish to see his daughter taken care of while she does his good work in a system in which we serve. Why do you assume we want something from you?”
Because I’ve been around this galaxy enough to know nothing comes for free, Nebula thought bitterly. Out of the corner of her eye, she swore she saw another figure behind her own reflection in the mirrored window overlooking the generators — the skeletal, sharp features of Lady Death — but when she turned, there was no one there. The circuit in her head throbbed, and she rolled her shoulder. The betony oil had left it sticky, and the movement squelched.
Sister Merciful’s eyes flicked to Nebula’s metal arm. “We have someone on board who could look at that arm for you,” she said. “Maybe give you something more fitting for a warrior of your stature.”
Nebula wasn’t sure she was worth any more than a rusted handmade scrap limb. She hardly felt like a warrior, and certainly not like the warrior she had imagined she would be. But she nodded. “I’d appreciate that.”
“It would be our pleasure.” Sister Merciful placed a hand on Nebula’s mechanical arm, and it took Nebula a moment to remember why she couldn’t feel the touch. The cardinal smiled, revealing her bone-white teeth streaked with red. “Help is always out there, daughter of Thanos,” she said. “All you must do is ask.”
To read more, you’ll have to pick up Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms when it’s released on June 1. Here’s the pre-order link.