ANNIHILATION BOOK ONE (Marvel)
Written by Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Mitch Breitweiser, Scot Kolins, Ariel Olivetti & Kev Walker
Collects Drax The Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation: Prologue & Annihilation: Nova #1-4
Back in my days at Wizard, I wound up being the go-to guy for Annihilation interviews. I had just read Infinity Gauntlet for the first time and was pretty high on the idea of Marvel’s space characters getting a jump start. With very few exceptions, I had very little experience with these characters, so it was kind of fun to just be thrown into the middle of all this craziness and see where it went. When these issues were coming out, I had trouble not comparing the Annihilation set-up with that of DC’s Infinite Crisis. Both had four four-issue minis leading up to a main series. At the time it felt like Marvel did the whole thing better because their minis lead into the main series better. I can’t say I necessarily feel the same way now, but at least we didn’t have to get four one-shots to actually cap those stories. But, as usual, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
This book collects Annihilation helmer Keith Giffen’s initial space-related miniseries that rejuvenated Drax. The book sees Drax and several other space criminals crashing in an Alaska town. It’s not directly tied into Annihilation because it came out before that event was announced, but Drax and the teenage girl Cammi. I’m glad they included it in these collections as it’s a fun mini that has a really great small scene that I love: Cammi’s friend is terrified of the invasion and does what you might expect anyone in the Marvel U would do: he tries to call the Fantastic Four…on the phone. And all he gets is a voicemail. You kind of assume that everything on Earth is monitored by the heroes, but a few things have to escape notice every now and then–or the heroes are busy with other things–and some regular people wind up in bad situations.
The rest of the collection features the Annihilation: Prologue one-shot which kicks off the event and sets up each of the minis and then moving on to the Nova mini. The idea is that, Annihilus, the Fantastic Four villain, bursts through from the Negative Zone into our dimension taking out the biggest gun right away: the Nova Corps. From there they travel through the rest of the galaxy destroying people and planets in an effort to fuel the hive-like Annihilation Wave. For his part, Nova–the one from Earth, of course–is tasked with saving the Nova World Mind, a repository of all things Nova Corps. He hooks up with Drax and Cammi and later Quasar to try and put a dent in the Wave, but doesn’t get a lot done…yet.
One aspect of the Nova mini that got on my nerves a little bit this time around was the fact that Richard Ryder was always talking to the World Mind, but no one else could hear it. At the time it was fun, but I’ve seen that so many times since then, both in new books that have come out and older ones I hadn’t read or didn’t remember. Seeing those jokes done again wasn’t as fun as it was the first time around.
ANNIHILATION BOOK TWO (Marvel)
Written by Keith Giffen, Javier Grillo-Marxuach & Simon Furman, drawn by Renato Arlem, Gregory Titus & Jorge Lucas.
Collects Annihilation: Silver Surfer #1-4, Annihilation: Super-Skrull #1-4 & Annihilation: Ronan #1-4
The second volume of the original Annihilation books collects the remaining minis leading up to the main event. Silver Surfer, Super-Skrull and Ronan all got their own spotlights to varying degrees of success and importance. It should come as no surprised that Giffen’s Silver Surfer mini had the most to do with the ongoing event as we see the Surfer facing off against Ravenous, a general in Annihilus’ army who remains pretty important throughout the event, introduces Galactus’ formerly imprisoned and dangerous siblings who Annihilus accidentally freed and, most importantly, sets him up as Galactus’ main herald again. This one’s definitely must-read as far as the larger event is concerened, the other two? Probably not as much.
Super-Skrull is a fun book that seems kind of important within its own pages, but doesn’t hold a lot of water otherwise. Super-Skrull is sick of being a joke, so he decides to go renegade into the Negative Zone to figure out a way to take out this huge Annihilation Wave weapon. On it’s own it’s a pretty intense and interesting tale, but said weapon isn’t mentioned anywhere else. SS does play something of a role later on in the Annihilation mini, but not to the point where he needed his own lead-in mini. However, like I said, on it’s own, it’s a pretty fun and intense story that does some really awesome things with Super-Skrull’s powers that I had never seen done before (one scene where he stretches himself wire thing and sets himself on fire to decapitate some bad guys still sticks with me).
It’s the Ronan mini that felt the most tacked on, like it was a completely different pitch that got turned into an Annihilation tie-in. In the Prologue, Ronan is accused of crimes against his people, the Kree, by the time we catch back up with him, he’s been stripped of his title (“The Accuser”) and trying to figure out who falsified a testimony against him. Okay, that makes sense, but its more interrupted by the Annihilation Wave than focusing on it as there’s a whole reality-altering villain who never shows up again. It does remind the reader how awesome Ronan can be and also reintroduces Gamora, the most dangerous woman in the universe and the story is interesting, but really doesn’t do much for the overall event. Having read all this before, I kept wondering why I was reading this series this time around when I really wanted to get to the insanity found in the main series.
ANNIHILATION BOOK THREE (Marvel)
Written by Keith Giffen, Christos Gage & Stuart Moore, drawn by Andrea DiVito, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Mike McKone & Scott Kolins
Connects Annihilation #1-6, Annihilation: Heralds Of Galactus #1-2
While the lead-in minis might not have been as exciting as I remembered, the actual Annihilation mini is still a ridiculous amount of fun. Giffen ditched the “Nova talking to World Mind” thing and instead made him the centerpiece for all the action. As the last remaining space cop in existence, he became the de facto leader in the resistance again Annihilus and as such, became a really interesting character as he tried to balance his usual positivity with the vast destruction around him. My only problem is that there’s such a huge jump between the last time we saw Nova in his mini. I found myself wishing I had been following him around more than Ronan as he’s clearly the main character. Ah well, what are you gonna do?
Unlike a lot of other mainstream comic events, you really get the sense of dread and ridiculous odds that our heroes are facing. Heck, the bad guys beat Galactus and turned him into a freaking weapon! After fan favorite Quasar got iced you kind of assume it can happen to any of these guys. I mean, this isn’t Civil War where they’re reintroducing old characters that no one really cares about and killing them off (I’m looking at you Goliath) while lots of others are running around not dying.
And, holy crap you guys, Drax does what he was built to do and finally kills Thanos! Better yet, Nova RIPS ANNIHILUS’ GUTS OUT. That shiz was NUTS. I definitely didn’t expect it to end that way, but like how Giffen left it open for follow ups. I don’t remember liking Annihilation: Conquest as much, though the Star Lord mini was sick, but I would definitely give it another look and have my eyes peeled for the trades. This collection ends with a two issue mini focusing on some of Galactus’ Heralds with two stories in each issue. Again, the Silver Surfer stuff is most interesting, but Terrax, Stardust and Firelord also get some interesting moments. I think what irks me about reading these stories is that, from what I remember the threads weren’t picked up on down the line.
Overall, I had fun reading these books again and think if I did so again, I would know what to expect and enjoy it even more. Or maybe I’ll just read the third volume on its own. There’s some really awesome characters taking center stage and an interesting mood being explored. I think if you liked The Sinestro Corps War you’d dig this too, they’re kind of thematic cousins, though Annihilation is even ballsier and doesn’t get Earth’s heroes involved in the war.