Friday, January 20, 2012


Another series (or group of series) I'd heard a lot of good things about was the "cosmic Marvel" stuff of a few years ago.  Spear-headed by editor Andy Schmidt and writer Keith Giffen, followed by DnA (Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning) this set of books - including Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, Annihilation, and a series of mini-series and one-shots - got a lot of attention on podcasts I listened to and boards I visited online.

But my budget was slim and I never knew where to jump on board.  So I never checked it out.

Now that those series seem to have ended, I have decided to go back and check out the collections.  So I jumped in the deep end of the pool and requested the first three collections - Annihilation books 1-3 - through the library.

And I was impressed, overall.  These three collections encompass the series:  Drax the Destroyer, Annihilation: Nova, Annihilation Prologue, Annihilation: Ronan, Annihilation: Silver Surfer, Annihilation: Super-Skrull, Annihilation, and Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus.  And they are some hefty books.

The first collection started slowly for me with the Drax the Destroyer mini-series.  Four issues set on Earth, in order to set up this character for what he needed to be in the coming event, it moved along at a slow pace, for me, and I found it a bit of a chore to get through.  I think some of this can be chalked up to a point made by Peter Rios, late of CGS, that cosmic characters don't work well when they are earthbound.  These are aliens that belong in the stars where they can have cosmic, epic battles and storylines rather than what inherently becomes the focus when these characters are planet-bound, the banality of their "human" side.

We aren't reading these books to see how they interact with ordinary people.  We want the stakes to be high, the battles to be blazing, and the canvas to be infinite.  As an example, look at the Silver Surfer.  His original series (much-beloved, in hindsight), which was written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Buscema (a pretty good creative pedigree, there) only lasted 18 issues.  And it was all set on Earth.  When Steven Englehart and Marshall Rogers relaunched the Surfer in the mid-80s, the very first thing they did was to get the Surfer off Earth.  And his series then went on to a run of over 150 issues, if you include the 7 annuals.

But I digress.

Anyway. After we get off Earth and into space where the "Annihilation Wave" is running rampant through the galaxy, taking out Kree and Skrull worlds and anything else in its way, things get interesting.  And, from her on out, it's basically the story of this giant war that rages across the cosmos, bringing with it the destruction of the Nova Corps (except for our local Nova Corps warrior, Wendell Vaughn), the death and rebirth of the super-skrull, the betrayal of and hunting down of Ronan the Accuser by his fellow Kree.

We meet a huge collection of characters throughout these three books, and one of the things that was nice about these books was that the editor chose to include short bios of the main characters in the story, like the Who's Who or Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe entries I read, as a kid.  It helped a lot.

This was a massive story that encompassed 30 issues, and the most impressive thing, for me, is how the creators managed to keep the story moving forward without it feeling as if they were just treading water.  I fully expected to be tuning out by the time I reached the midway point, but I just wanted to keep on pushing through.  I burned through the bulk of the second trade on a single Sunday morning.  It was that captivating for me.  Certainly there were a few slow spots - the aforementioned Drax mini and the Ronan mini-series, which was similarly planet-bound - but for the most part, the writers and artists kept me interested throughout the bulk of the story.

And they did some things that seem obvious, in hindsight, but which are generally out of character for comic stories.  One thing was that, in the timeline they included at the opening of chapters and scenes, they had this war take place over the course of many, many days - hundreds of days.  Typically, due to the nature of serialized comics and the limited space within a single issue, the battles - and even the "wars" - feel as if they take place over the course of only days, or even within a single day.  It seems to be the nature of the beast, but I appreciated the fact that these creators chose to add a bit of realism to this "Annihilation Wave" threat.  It helped to ground things, as well as imbuing the struggle with more tension than one might have if it seemed to be truncated, time-wise.

And secondly, they didn't have any clear cut winner at the end.  This story ended with concessions given on both sides, so that they could end the bloodshed.  It was a smart way to go because, again, it was not the expected way to go.  And, it opened up future storylines for these characters, on both sides, since we all know evil doesn't like to be kept down.

Overall, this was a great introduction to the recent "Marvel Cosmic" books, and I am looking forward to continuing with future trades.


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