Feb 25, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Guarding the Galaxy 3: Drax the Destroyer

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Part Three: The Epic Begins
by Ben Smith

We’ve already learned all we need to know about major players Star-Lord and Thanos. Now it’s time to meet some more of the characters that would make the Marvel cosmic universe so great in the past decade.

Drax the Destroyer was a character created and introduced to be the antithesis to Thanos. Drax was a human named Arthur Douglas, whose family was killed by Thanos. Reborn as Drax The Destroyer by the being Kronos, it is his purpose and destiny to one day kill Thanos.

His mind destroyed following the events of Infinity Watch, we join Drax many years later.

Drax the Destroyer #1. Writer: Keith Giffen; Art: Mitch Breitweiser; Editor: Andy Schmidt

A prison transport ship travels through space on its way to the Kyln prison station at the universal Crunch. Among the prisoners on board are Lunatik, the Blood Brothers, Paibok the Power Skrull, and Drax the Destroyer.

The ship fails, and crash lands on the planet Earth near Coot’s Bluff, Alaska. In the Coot’s Bluff Elementary School, we are introduced to Cammi. (I absolutely love Cammi as a character.)

Lunatik escapes from the wreckage and finds the Blood Brothers. They run into Paibok, who has already located Drax off sitting by himself.

Cammi gets home late to find her mother drunk on the couch again. She makes herself a TV dinner and goes upstairs to watch TV. She comes across footage of a crashed spaceship on a local public access channel, and calls her friend Dex to tell him about it.

The Blood Brothers fight with Drax while Paibok and Lunatik look on. Paibok reveals that when he found Drax, he was drinking the singularity-drive plasma spill. The more the Blood Brothers pound on Drax, the smarter he seems to get.

The next morning, Cammi and Dex go into the woods to investigate, to see if the footage they saw on TV was real. Unfortunately it was, as they run into Paibok and Lunatik.

My brain thoughts: I really like Cammi a lot as a character, mostly because she’s a sarcastic smartass just like me. But the hints at an unsatisfying home life and neglectful mother add an extra layer of depth and sadness to the character that is compelling. I remember reading these issues for the first time in a bookstore and being really surprised how good they were. To my knowledge, I had never even heard of Drax before reading these issues (I know now that he was in the Infinity Gauntlet, but I didn’t remember that) and I became a big fan of the character before the miniseries was done. (That’s going to be a common theme with most of these characters as we move along, going from complete ignorance to absolute adoration of a lot of them. Add Drax to the list.)

Drax the Destroyer #2. Writer: Keith Giffen; Art: Mitch Breitweiser; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Cammi trades quips with Paibok, until Dex eventually runs off screaming.

Drax continues to fight with the Blood Brothers, and continues to get more intelligent while doing so.

Paibok and Lunatik leave Cammi where she is, until Drax comes flying in and lands right next to her. When he sees her, his addled mind mistakes her for his daughter Heather (better known as Moondragon).

The Blood Brothers consider eating Cammi for a second, but decide to go down to town instead. Cammi tries to figure out who Heather is, but Drax’s mind is too far scrambled to be coherent. She manipulates him into going after the brothers for her own amusement instead.

In town, Paibok and Lunatik are violently questioning the townspeople. They plan to use them as hard labor to build a new way off the planet with the salvage from the crashed prison ship. When a grandma gets a little too mouthy with them, she gets dealt with, definitively.

While trying to follow the fighting aliens, Cammi comes upon Dex hiding in a cave. She tries to convince him to come out, but he doesn’t want to because he wet his pants. She leaves anyway, and he comes running after her.

The fight between Drax and the Blood Brothers finally reaches town. Paibok has gotten himself a new suit. When the Blood Brothers tell Paibok that Drax keeps getting smarter the more they punch him, Paibok surmises that maybe the singularity-drive plasma spill Drax drank is playing a role in that too.

Paibok shapeshifts into the form of Thanos, distracting Drax long enough for Lunatik to hit him from behind, and for Paibok to send a shapeshifted spike right through Drax’s head.

Drax’s dead body slumps to the ground, as a fascinated Cammi looks on.

My brain thoughts: Cammi is so nonchalant and amused by all the events, it’s hilarious. Knowing Giffen’s sense of humor, it’s a real testament to his skill that it never seems like it’s him joking through the character. One of the bad things about Marvel’s space-based characters in the past is that they were usually solo acts, and they rarely had any interesting supporting characters to bounce off of. In the span of two issues, Giffen has already created a character that steals the entire show. I could read an entire series of Cammi manipulating other characters into fighting, and making fun of everyone and everything around her.

Drax the Destroyer #3. Writer: Keith Giffen; Art: Mitch Breitweiser; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Cammi points at the dead body of Drax and asks the aliens “who is in charge of that?” She asks Paibok if she can have Drax, before he eventually walks away, slightly annoyed. Cammi tells the Blood Brothers that Paibok said she could have Drax, so one of them carts his body away for her.

Nearby, Cammi’s drunk mother watches as her little girl walks off with two aliens carting the dead body of another alien, incapable of understanding what is happening around her.

Paibok begins to organize the remaining humans to work for them in reassembling a working ship, while the Blood Brother takes Drax’s body to a nearby cliff and tosses it over. An annoyed Cammi leads a reluctant Dex down after it. When Dex asks her why she wants to keep the body, Cammi replies “because it’s special, Dex!” and that she needs something special in her life.

When they reach the body, it has started to burn smoke, while back at the crash site, the local townspeople work on salvaging the wreckage. Dex worries about his parents and goes running back to town to look for them, leaving Cammi alone with the body.

After nightfall, Cammi is surprised when a green fist comes punching up out of the mound on the ground.

Drax is reborn.

Back in full control of his mind, but unable to recall anything about his life, Drax merges his mind with Cammi’s to help realign his memories.

It works. He remembers his daughter Heather, and his ultimate destiny, to kill Thanos.

Drax leaves to prevent Paibok and the others from hurting more innocent people, with Cammi right by his side, refusing to leave. Paibok gave Drax to her, after all.

My brain thoughts: We get some more looks at the horrible home life that Cammi has to endure. It’s no wonder she wants to find something that makes her feel special, with a mother like that. The Drax redesign is brilliant. Much better than the purple number he used to wear in his old appearances.

Drax the Destroyer #4. Writer: Keith Giffen; Art: Mitch Breitweiser; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Cammi takes Drax to a store in town to get him some pants, and knives.

Dex sees Cammi outside, after Drax is finally able to ditch her. They head for the school to see if anyone is still being held there. Drax gets his revenge on Lunatik, by separating his head from his body.

He makes sure that it remains that way, permanently.

At the school, Cammi talks to Paibok, disguised as the principal of the school. She lets him know that Drax is back, and that he’s different. “No energy stuff.”

The Blood Brothers come upon the strung up, headless body of Lunatik, right before Drax ambushes them. One of the brothers gets a couple of knives to the head, killing him.

Paibok arrives with Cammi to interrupt things. He tells Drax that since he bonded with Cammi, that she is his responsibility now. When the remaining Blood Brother continues to make threats about the death of his brother, Paibok knocks him out, and then pulls a device from his pants and pushes the button.

The button is a folded space distress beacon. Paibok has just turned himself in to the authorities. The three of them, with the unconscious body of the Blood Brother, sit there and wait for them to arrive.

The next morning, as the human populace tries to clean things up, two S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopters come in for a landing.

My brain thoughts: Drax is like a big green Rambo, taking down his enemies one by one in the forest. I’m not always in favor of regular superhero comics being this dark and violent, but it works really well on this type of book. It fits the tone of the space books a little bit better than it does the regular spandex set. (Green Lantern did a good job of balancing this between the two worlds, until the New 52 at least. Speaking of, that’s another book I never cared about as a kid that I fell in love with after Rebirth. More proof that modern day writers know how to do epic superhero-based space action really well.) At the end of the issue, there is an announcement about Annihilation and more upcoming miniseries leading into the big event.

Annihilation: Prologue. Writer: Keith Giffen; Penciler: Scott Kolins; Inker: Ariel Olivetti; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Thanos is joined again by the personification of Death, as they can sense something coming.

Out at the Kyln, a massive fleet of spaceships comes punching out of the Crunch and decimates everything in its path. Seven days later, the entire corps of Nova Centurions gathers at the Xandar Cluster, to include Richard Rider. The place is in full systemic lockdown for emergency protocols.

In a nearby prison convoy, Drax and Cammi are released from custody since they are unable to actually confirm through genetic readings that it is Drax.

The Nova Corps gathers for their briefing on the attack upon the Kyln, the unknown damage, and the fleet of ships en route to their location as they speak.

Drax can see something is coming from far off in space, so he grabs Cammi and looks for a way to escape.

The same fleet that attacked the Kyln arrives faster than expected at the Nova Corps fleet, and decimates it. Every Nova Centurion mobilizes to meet the attack.

Drax finds an escape pod for himself and Cammi, and they go flying off.

The Corps is being slaughtered. Richard Rider does what he can to lead the counterattack, but the numbers are too great.

Richard and his partner Samaya look up to see the burning spaceport falling straight for them. Instead of futilely trying to go around, Richard takes them up and through the burning space station. Samaya does not make it, and soon Richard is caught in some debris and carried along with the falling wreckage.

The massive spaceport hits the surface of the planet and explodes. Later, Richard comes crawling out of the wreckage. He climbs up to higher ground, only to see Xandar has been completely devastated.

Nobody is answering his calls, leaving him as possibly the last surviving member of the Nova Corps.

Twelve days after Annihilation Day, Ronan the Accuser is placed under arrest by Kree soldiers, for crimes of treason against the Kree empire.

Three days later, the Silver Surfer senses something amiss in the cosmos, an infestation.

At that same time, the Super Skrull learns that invaders are moving toward the Skrull empire.

Back in the former Xandar Cluster, a member of the conquering fleet updates her master on the progress of their annihilation wave. Her master is revealed to be the former enemy of the Fantastic Four, and ruler of the Negative Zone, Annihilus.

My brain thoughts: This is the beginning of Annihilus’ big invasion. Surprisingly, I had never read this issue before. Previously, all the issues I had read referred to the first attack having already happened. Anyway, this issue does a good job of depicting the destructive power of Annihilus’invasion force, and the overall seriousness of the threat. Unlike with Green Lantern, a book that I believe benefits from having multiple characters wearing the ring, I think Richard Rider is much more interesting as the last remaining Nova. The closing scenes of each character, does a good job of setting up the scope of what’s coming up next. Despite being a Fantastic Four villain, Annihilus is a capable and interesting threat, with a great visual. (This seems to be a common theme among Fantastic Four villains. So many great villains wasted on the horribleness that is Mister Fantastic.) I’ve never been a big fan of Kolin’s art style, but he does a good job of drawing space battles and devastated landscapes.

My final brain thoughts: Soiled pants, belligerent teenagers, mouthy grannys, mating promises, and conquering insect overlords.

So there you have it. We meet a few more of the major players in the conflict to come, and the invasion begins. I really enjoyed the Drax series for more than I ever could have imagined I would. He would just be the first in a long line of new characters I would be experiencing for the first time. Cammi made for a capable and interesting new sidekick. Though I remember buying back issues of the original Nova series as a kid and liking them, he was never what I considered a favorite. (See previous comments about space-faring comic book characters.) That would change after reading the books that follow.

That’s it, the invasion has begun! You can’t quit now. You’re going to want to see what happens next.

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