Tag Archives: Annihilators

Rich delicious cosmic goodness

What is now the cosmic end of the Marvel U started a very long time ago.

Science Fiction comics are as old as the genre itself, but for the real cosmic stuff you need to start just after the dawn of Marvel.  There was some stuff at DC and a few of the other publishers, but mostly that was hard sci-fi or outlandish fantasy storytelling.  Things like Legion of Superheroes, while lots of goofy fun, was hampered by a lack of imagination and understanding of what was really out there in the cosmos. These books were not really concerned with the cosmic part of the story.  They were usually just an excuse to put something very odd and abstract on the cover.  Prior to Marvel the extreme caution created by the Comics Code Authority made for lackluster books.  They wanted safe, and that is what they got.

But Stan and Jack really got the ball rolling.  Most would say more Jack than Stan, but that is no longer really important.  The Silver Surfer was more than just the herald of Galactus, he heralded in the age of cosmic grandeur.  Marvel didn’t really capitalize on this until after Kirby left and went insane with creativity at DC.  The New Gods in particular sparked the real fires.  Marvel writers like Roy Thomas and Jim Starlin saw what was happening and started to expand on what Kirby had started at Marvel before he left.  Off and on for the next 20+ years Marvel had some great cosmic books.  In the 80’s and 90’s Starlin was the go to guy.  His versions of Captain Mar-vell, Thanos (created by Starlin) and Adam Warlock are still the definitive versions of the characters.

In the 2000’s things started to fall apart.  What little was done with the characters after Starlin was no longer involved was uninspired and often very superficial, even for comics.  But in recent years, Marvel’s cosmic fortunes have been looking up.  Keith Giffen was there at the start with Abnett and Lanning (DnA) who then ran with it on their own.  Annihilation was the real jumping on point.  It had been a few years since the last big cosmic storyline and fans were hungry.  The books sold well and have spawned a series of books ever since.

Roket Raccoon and Groot

DnA have managed to restore most of these characters to what made them interesting, some they have even improved on.  The creation of a new team of The Guardians of the Galaxy was inspired.  Rocket Raccoon and Groot (I AM GROOT!) are fan favorites, and they have brought back into prominence characters almost completely forgotten like Ronan the Accuser.  Adam Warlock too, has been fleshed out.  Starlin’s influence is evident, but the guys are really trying to make this their own. 

These books have only rarely faltered.  Marvel seems to think that the fans like Darkhawk, but this fan does not.  Very little good came out of 90’s Marvel, and Darkhawk is quintessentially 90’s Marvel.  They keep trying to make him a marquee player, but it is just not working.

Bringing in characters that have not gotten very good stories recently and reviving them is something that these guys are very good at.  No one seemed to have any idea how to handle the Inhumans for a very long time.  DnA have put the perfect spin on them and they are a force of real menace and intrigue in the Marvel U.  They also managed to bring Nova and the Starjammers back without making them feel silly.  Nova had not had a home at Marvel in ages that was worth it and the Starjammers have not been handled correctly since Claremont stopped writing the X-Men. 

These are great books, and they do not seem to be slowing down.  Annihilators: Earthfall is the most recent, and after a brief rest, I imagine they will continue as before.  With these great books, Marvel is the place to look for grand cosmic adventure again.

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More JMS and some DnA

Just as I was about to write off J. Michael Straczynski completely, I decided to try another of his books.  I picked up the first collection of Supreme Power and I have to say I enjoyed it a great deal. 

First off, this is not the most original book I have ever read, but when this came out in 2003-ish it was something that had not been seen as much as it has in the last few years.  8 years on, it feels a little “done before”, but that does not make this any less enjoyable.  JMS and artists Gary Frank and Jon Sibal offer a sort of “what if” story.  It is a redux of the Squadron Supreme from the 70’s era Marvel, but to be honest, you really get the DC vibe more here. The characters are all pretty direct analogs of  the main DC heroes and there is no attempt to cover that.  Since the original book was a direct “marvel version” of the DC Justice League, that really should not be a surprise.  In fact I can not think of a less subtle way of doing it.  This book’s versions of Superman and Batman have origins very similar to the DC ones and somewhat altered premises based on Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman, in a very brief cameo, are all here.  The obvious corollaries end there, though.  These folks live in a very real world, surrounded by the real events that we grew up with.  That changes the dynamic greatly.  Suddenly, Batman is a racist, his African-American family having been killed by southern white supremacists.  The people this character, called Nighthawk,  helps are exclusively black.  The Green Lantern variant here appears to be schizophrenic and the Flash, here called The Blur, is a fairly ordinary guy that wants to be a hero and has no problem cashing a check for doing that.  The closest relation to the source material here is Hyperion, who stands in for Superman.  Having said all that, if you feel this is a bit tired, you would not be entirely wrong.  We HAVE seen this before and since.  There are small touches here of what would become Superman:  Earth One.  The thing that set this apart for me was the complete feel of the book.  Even well-worn ideas can seem fresh and exciting when done well by people putting their best work on display.  Gary Frank’s work here is superb, the static feel his art sometimes gets a bad, and unjustified knock for, creates a stillness that works perfectly for the story.  JMS hits all the right points to make this seem very real and believable.  There have been other revisionist takes in comics.  Watchmen, Planetary and even much of the New 52 try to do this, all with varying degrees of success.  Where this book succeeds is that it is not at all self-aware.  It feels like it is just as organic as any other origin story and does not reference anything outside of itself.  I never feel as though this is ripping off, or standing on the shoulders of some other work.

Next up this week was Nova by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.  I have come to really enjoy the writing of these two, known in the industry by the collective title DnA.  This book is no exception.  I have read the first two trades covering issues 1-12 and an annual.  I was almost put off the duo by The Annihilators.  The story was fine, the art was just this side of awful.  Tan Eng Huat has generally been a good artist, but this book felt very rushed.  While that one was a struggle to get through, Nova was the opposite.  Having read some of the other DnA works like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Thanos Imperative and Ressurrection Man ( the last, a great title from DC from the 90’s, ressurrected for the New 52), I was ready to jump into more of this universe.  Clean art and strong storytelling, mixed with characters that these guys really appear to understand, made this  a very good read.  Many fans today are a bit down on the cosmic books, and for a while, I was one of them.  These guys have made this a staple of the work they have done at Marvel, and made themselves the go-to writers in the genre, the same way Jim Starlin was through the 80’s and 90’s. 

Both of these books have made me want more.  Fortunately, there are 6 total volumes of Nova and 2 more Supreme Power with this creative team.  While it appears unlikely that JMS will return to write more of his book for Marvel, DnA are only just warming up.  It is clear they will keep building the Marvel cosmic universe for a long time to come, and I cannot wait for more.

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