Annihilate Your Type If You Violate

April 22nd, 2010 by | Tags: , ,

I quit the Avengers books. Bendis’s plotting was dragging, Dark Reign was bugging me, and I was honestly bored since some point around the middle of Secret Invasion. Billy Tan on art didn’t help. I also quit pretty much every DC comic. I love Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner’s Power Girl, and I check in on Batman & Robin once in a while (when Quitely and Stewart are on art, mainly), but that’s where it stops.

I didn’t quit Marvel’s cosmic books.

Over the past four years, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with a strong assist from Keith Giffen, have quietly carved a stale and stagnant corner of the Marvel universe into a vibrant and fascinating sub-franchise. I’m not particularly a sci-fi guy, but DnA have written some frighteningly consistent books over the past four years, ones of such great quality that when you get an issue that’s merely “good,” you feel a little disappointed.

Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is a consistently good comic. Good, but a little too much of the same thing, month-in, month-out. You run out of things to talk about. Not so for this cosmic stuff. DnA plugged several shake-ups into their plotting, keeping their heroes rocking from status quo to status quo without feeling jarring. It fits together almost like a series of movies. You can hop in wherever you like, though some points are obviously better than others. But that’s okay. I’m here for you. Let’s talk about lame characters gone good, terrible concepts turned interesting, and nobodies turned heroes.

Let’s talk about outer space.


It began with Annihilation. An army of bug monsters from space, the Annihilation Wave, set about the destruction of all that is not them. The story is one thing. What’s important here are the characters.

There is Thanos. He was born on Titan, Saturn’s moon, to a race of godlike beings. He was born twisted and deviant, and lusts after the personification of Death. He’s committed genocide and attempted omnicide to gain Death’s favor, to no avail. When Death senses the Annihilation Wave coming, she describes it as “something wonderful.” Thanos allies himself with Annihilus so that he can partake and impress his love.

Drax the Destroyer used to be strong and dumb, an outer space version of the Hulk. Then, he died. When he came back, he was lean, smarter, and less strong, but doubly lethal. Drax was created for one reason, and one reason only: to destroy Thanos. The need to wipe Thanos off the face of the universe is in his genes. That is his goal, and when faced with his target, he can’t help but pull the trigger, and damn the consequences.

Before Drax was Drax, he was Arthur Douglas, father to Heather Douglas. On a trip through the desert, the Douglases witnessed Thanos landing in a spacecraft. Deciding to preserve his secrecy, the Mad Titan blasted their car. The blast instantly killed Heather’s parents and accidentally threw her clear. Thanos’s father took Heather to his homeworld and trained her to be one of them. Now she is Moondragon, a master martial artist, telepath, and scientist.

Imagine being the child of the greatest hero in space. Now, imagine being the genetically-grown kid sister of the heir to that legacy. And then, imagine that heir dying, and being the only one left alive to continue the family business. Phyla-Vell of the Kree, daughter of Mar-Vell, better known as Captain Marvel, knows exactly how that feels. Her father was a hero. She is nowhere near as popular. When Moondragon, her girlfriend, is kidnapped by Thanos, she’s forced into the spotlight.

The Silver Surfer, Norrin Radd, is a former herald of Galactus, the world-eater. He has little interest in seeking out worlds for his former master to find, but once Annihilus’s forces begin attacking Galactus’s heralds in an attempt to secure and weaponize Galactus himself… well, the Surfer is forced to make a decision.

Ronan the Accuser is a Kree warlord with a giant hammer. Desperately loyal to his people, even when placed on trial for treason, Ronan is forced to battle his own government to prove his innocence and expose the rot inside the Kree empire. When you are accused of a crime by Ronan, it is best to simply take what’s coming to you.

Unless you are Gamora, the most dangerous woman in the universe. She is Thanos’s adopted daughter, and part of a race with the unlikely name of “Zen Whoberi.” Thanos raised her to eliminate the Magus, the evil aspect of Adam Warlock. She worked with and for Thanos for years, and betrayed him when he revealed himself to be a threat. Lately, she’s been mind-controlled and her reputation has diminished. With the aid of Godslayer, her newfound sword, she wants to get back out there and make people fear her name once again.

Adam Warlock is the messiah. No, really. He’s here to save us all. The problem is that at some point in the future, he becomes the Magus, a religious demagogue, and works to enslave the universe. His loyalties shift and blur because of this, making him particularly untrustworthy. Messiah or doom–which is it?

Imagine Peter Parker joining the Green Lantern Corps and you have the basic building blocks of Richard Rider, better known as Nova, the Human Rocket. He has more or less the same origin as Hal Jordan, but at the point Annihilation begins, he’s just a foot soldier. He’s five years in to being a Nova Centurion, one of thousands, but forty-eight pages later, he’s the only one left. And since the Nova power is shared amongst the entire Nova Corps, what happens when Rich is forced to contain all of it? What happens when you send a man to war?

That’s all you need to know to get started. The story begins in Annihilation, which is composed of three volumes (Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3). Annihilation tells the complete tale of the Annihilation Wave, as well as laying the foundation for the revamping of Marvel’s cosmic universe. Later was Annihilation Conquest, which told of an opportunistic invasion by a crappy X-Men villain turned fearsome. This was collected in two volumes (Book 1 and Book 2), and told the story of a race that was bent on turning sentient beings into slaves. Annihilation Conquest set up two series. Guardians of the Galaxy was about a group of heroes who banded together to protect the universe from an oncoming threat. The galaxy had been rocked by two incredible threats, back to back, and enough was enough. Someone had to put a stop to it. In Nova, Rich Rider is faced with the daunting task of rebuilding the Nova Corps from scratch and policing a galaxy on his own.

While all this was going on, a mad earthling assumed control of the Shi’ar empire, a race of bird people. Others did not take kindly to this, which led to the War of Kings. The aftermath of the war, called Realm of Kings, left a hole in space, and that hole leads to something akin to hell. In another universe, life has completely defeated death. Lovecraftian elder gods and infected versions of heroes we know lurk in the darkness, waiting for their chance to push through.

At this point, DnA are dragging the cosmic heroes into another catastrophe. Their solo series are on hold for The Thanos Imperative. The Mad Titan is back, pissed, and stronger than ever before. Complicating matters is the incursion of the Lovecraftian monsters from the other universe, but when you pit the ultimate manifestation of life gone wild against a god who worships Death herself… well. We’ll see.

I can’t stress how solid DnA’s cosmic work has been. They’ve taken perennial z-listers like Star-Lord and Nova and turned them into multifaceted, interesting characters. They’ve taken goofy concepts like Annihilus and the Phalanx and made them into believable threats. And they have done it month-in, month-out, since 2006.

That kind of dependable quality isn’t anywhere else in comics right now, save for Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s BPRD. This cosmic stuff where the great stuff is hiding out at Marvel right now. There have been a few mis-steps. CB Cebulski’s two-issue Darkhawk miniseries was perfect deleted scene material and entirely missable. Some of the art has been questionable, but never for too long. But, if you don’t read Marvel, or you don’t read this part of Marvel, you’re missing that good stuff. Get familiar.

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22 comments to “Annihilate Your Type If You Violate”

  1. I love the Marvel cosmic stuff. My biggest fear is that there’s going to be some integration with the Avengers or X-Men in some fashion and it’ll all go to shit. My interest in Nova lags when he’s mucking about on Earth.

  2. I don’t read comics much any more due to a few factors. Reasons range from life getting in the way to me being pissy about One More Day/Red Hulk but I loved Annihilation. Reading this post I think I’ll get back on the horse.

    My wallet will soon be cursing your birth.

  3. I will love DnA (and Keith Giffen) forever for bringing back Rocket fuckin’ Raccoon if nothing else. And Cosmo the telepathic Russian space-dog. And Groot. “Groot. Is. Ow.”


  4. My local store has all three hardback volumes of Annihilation, and it gets harder and harder not to pick up all three every week I walk in there. I keep hearing it’s great, and that they’re relatively hard to find anymore, but I’m hesitant to start getting them (price, mostly).
    – In War of Kings, is Vulcan more in “Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire” awesome mode or “Deadly Genesis” whiny asshole mode?
    – The Phalanx stupid? Sure, nothing involving Cameron Hodge can be great, but the original storyline is still one of my favorites (despite it producing Generation X). Ah middle school, tracking down every last foil-holo-whatever-cover installment of Phalanx Covenant and all the Age of Apocalypse issues. Good times

  5. Lou,

    I think you should pick up the hardcovers if you can afford them. They’re entertaining reading. In War of Kings, Vulcan is far more awesome (and kind of Nero like) than whiny.

  6. Shouldnt that be died and came back dumber then died again and came back smarter? Lol,

    Awesome post David, hopefully you will get some cosmic converts and the books will sell better, doing your bit and all.

    I always hated cosmic stuff, but I torrented the first annihilation (how is this morally different from borrowing from a friend?) and since then I have been hooked, phasing out earth stuff from my pull in favor or the cosmic titles that need the support. Yeah Red Hulk and BND can suck it.

    There is even a symbiote in War Of Kings! Perhaps Gavok will do a piece on it?

  7. Annihilation was quite possibly the best “event” of the 00’s. It was intense, epic in scale and just fucking awesome (“THIS IS FOR THE NOVA CORPS”)

    Also love how they take all these character I honestly never even heard of, much less give a shit about, and make them into possibly life-long favorites (Starlord)

    Also Cosmo is the greatest thing the russians have ever inspired.

    @TobyS: Yes he should shouldn’t he

  8. @Jamaal: Yeah, he actually kind of matures in a way but still essentially remains Marvel’s SBP. Like the neat little twist they take his character in WoK

  9. I was on the fence about picking up this series, mostly because a) I’m phasing out of buying Marvel and b) Civil War and Ultimatum left a terrible taste in my mouth that hasn’t gone away, so I’ve been leery of any event books.

    Thanks to your recommendation, it’s going on my to-buy list.

  10. Welp. I’m sold. I’d seen the hardcovers in the bookstore, and while they looked interesting they also looked like the kind of title I’d need to study 20-odd years of continuity to fully enjoy.

    Thanks to your post, I’ll be picking up the first book next time I see it.

  11. @Lou: The softcovers are in print, with Amazon links up there. Like sixteen bucks a piece? That’s what I went with when I got around to replacing my singles/filling holes.

    Jamaal is right- Vulcan is more Nero than Superboy Prime in War of Kings. I still don’t like him as a character, but WoK set up a quality status quo.

    And I love Cameron Hodge and Generation X… but the Phalanx, man. I just can’t do it. I can get down with Warlock, in limited doses, but man. But DnA did good.

  12. @david brothers: Yeah, he a little whiney and decadent, but he realized he was an emperor and acted like (a crazy) one.

    But yeah, during the entire climax I kept rooting for ol’ Blackagar Boltagon. Surprised they actually gave us an actual hand to hand fight.

    Love those british nuts. I sure wish DC would reprint their LoSH run, I got some from quarter bins and its good stuff

  13. It helps that the Phalanx aren’t the REAL main Big Bad for Annihilation: Conquest. And that the actual Big Bad is much nastier than I’ve seen him in various other books that used him recently before then…

  14. @Nathan: I know what you mean. Prior to the Annihilation: Conquest Star-Lord Miniseries, I’d never even heard of Rocket Raccoon, and now he tops my favorite comic characters list.

    I really hope Imperative isn’t the end of the Cosmic hot streak. :frown:

  15. I agree the Darkhawk 2 issue mini was a misstep, but a necessary one given the whole shared universe thing

    I mean going from the League of Losers and Excelsior to a galactic player is really a big leap.

  16. Yeah it was good continuity if you were a fan of the Loners (Excelsior) which I am.

    And an excuse for an appearence by Ricochet in any comic is NEVER a bad thing.

  17. Thanks for the answers about Vulcan, I loved what they did with him in the Uncanny run (the Caesar-conquest bent) and hoped it was kept up. Not a huge fan of him being the long-rumored third Summers brother, but if it’s between him, Gambit, and Adam-X? One hasn’t been seen in years (I believe), and I keep hoping Gambit gets hit by a cement truck, so I’ll take what I can get.

    @ david brothers: My store had the softcovers for awhile, but despite the cost and, when moving, weight issues, I much prefer the hardcovers. I always feel a little more, I don’t know, sophisticated/geeked out/whatever cracking open one of those big weighty volumes as opposed to a softcover, especially when it’s something I enjoy reading over and over. (Planet Hulk, Johns’ GL, Punisher MAX, etc) Now you’ve got me wanting to go pull out my Phalanx Covenant issues and re-read them. Those first couple in X-men and Uncanny when they could be anywhere and anyone, Banshee blowing up the mansion just to take out two or three? Nail-biting and chills for 12 year old me, especially following so soon after Fatal Attraction, my first big event. Probably not great story-wise on re-reading, but always a fun look back for me. And my all-time favorite event was Onsalught, so according to lots of people I know, my opinion should be taken with a pinch of salt.

  18. Also I’d say Giffen deserves a lot more credit than “strong assist”, guy got the whole ball rolling and DnA have yet (in my opinion) top what Giffen wrote (Star-Lord was the best part of Conquest, and Annihilation the best event so far)

    Marvel really should do a second printing for the Thanos Samaritan trade, really a bigpart of the Annihilation build up, they have it on amazon for 40 fucking bucks.

  19. @TobyS: Did Ricochet actually appear in Darkhawk? It was just some guy in a room whining from what I could see, which is also a pretty good summation of the Loners miniseries and why no-one wanted to buy it.

    The Darkhawk mini didn’t contribute much to continuity, as any arcs or stories began in Nova and ended in Ascension – War of Kings: Darkhawk was simply superfluous. If anything, it created continuity problems – how/why were the LA-based Excelsior in New York, for instance?

  20. I’ve been lurking the pants off this site for a while now, so here goes with my First Time/Long Time post that is probably off topic:

    How the hell do they have a time-displaced Major Victory (armed with Captain America’s shield) and Jack Flag (trained by Cap) on the same team and never let Jack throw the damn shield? But, Marge, that little guy hasn’t done anything yet. Look at him. He’s going to do something and you know it’s going to be good..

  21. […] on and Thanos Imperative gets going. Check a preview of Thanos Imperative here, and then read my Marvel Cosmic recap. Preview Cap/Panther […]

  22. I never read any of these characters before Annihilation, loved Annihilation and have been disappointed by everything since. Maybe it’s worth a second look.