Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Annihilation: Marvel Dusts Off The Power Cosmic


I make no apologies about my disinterest in following any ongoing comic series, or for any of the huge crossover stories that either of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) put out, but I'd been hearing that Marvel's really been rocking their cosmic characters lately, and it's just been awesome.


As a little background here, for anyone who knows even less about this stuff than I do, cosmic is the general term used to refer to any extraterrestrial titles in comics. In Marvel this means that we're talking about characters like Galactus, the devourer of worlds, his heralds, most famously the Silver Surfer, Thanos and the Titans, Adam Warlock and the other former members of the Infinity Watch, Celestials, the Beyonder, the Living Tribunal, really the list goes on quite far. From what I can gather, most of the cosmic properties had been retired for the last couple of years, and Annihilation served as a relaunch, so there's no ongoing books to read and get into, and all of the character brackgrounds are dealt with in the first few pages.


Annihilation is fairly easy to pick up and read, because it's a series of minis, that all pretty much progress one into the other, there's none of the: read issue 12 of x, then issue 5 of y to continue the story, or pick up on the subtleties. You read Thanos 1-12, and then move onto the next book, until you're done.


The story more or less kicks off with the Annihilation Wave appearing in a universe, and cutting a swatch of destruction across the cosmos. The Wave is the army of Annihilus, an old Marvel villain, frequently at odds with the Fantastic Four, who rules the Negative Zone. The Negative Zone is another universe which is made up of antimatter, instead of the matter that our universe is made from, and apparently the expansion of universe, means the shrinking of the other. So, Annihilus decides to take back the space that he's losing, by invading our universe (If you're wondering about the consequences of anti-matter + matter = BOOM! problem, just know that there's apparently somewhere to convert from one to the other while you're crossing between universes).


One of the early losses in this invasion, is the homeworld of the Nova Corps, a sort of intergalactic police force, along with all of the Nova Centurions, save one, a human, formerly of the team the New Warriors under the name Nova aka Richard Rider. I'll just get this out of the way, but the Nova Corps seems like a pretty obvious imitation of the Green Lantern Corps from DC, although their abilities are different. Being the last Centurion, it is Rider's responsibility to take all of the Nova Force, as well as the AI/Database of the culture that created it into himself. Thus does Nova become much more powerful, and he gets a smartass disembodied voice that talks to him through his helmet. Nova's one of the great things that came out of Annihilatiion. He was originally created in the '70s and ran for two years before being dropped, but I remember him most from the '90s where he was a member of the teen team The New Warriors. Like a lot of Marvel characters from the '90s The New Warriors just sort of disappeared, for the most part. Through the Annihilation story arc, they managed to take the generic teen dogooder, and turn him into a war weary jaded cynic. The transition is just so believable and well written that he's become a new favorite for me.

There are plenty of other characters that have gotten second chances at being great starting off with Annihilation. Silver Surfer's grown up, and his relationship with Galactus has become more subtle. Drax the Destroyer gets a face lift and a change in his powers, as well as a conclusion to his original reason for being made. Peter Quill, formerly known as Star-Lord (another golden oldie character) comes back from a voluntary life sentence in prison. Quasar, Captain Marvel, Ronan the Accuser, Super Skrull, Gamora, and more. They all rise back out of obscurity into a universe that's much more mature than the one they left.

It's a very complicated universe out there, with three rival interstellar empires, and individual beings ranging in power from just being really good in a fight, to being able to obliterate planets in a pinch. The amazing thing is that they've managed to make all the interactions between these very "large" players very believable.

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