Mar 25, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Guarding the Galaxy, Part 7: Annihilation!

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

Part Seven: Annihilus versus Nova, to the Death
by Ben Smith

Previously, Nova and his United Front have lost the war. Drax was separated from the team, and possibly killed. The heralds are missing in action. Ronan has left to take on the Kree House Fiyero, along with the Super-Skrull and Praxagora. Thanos was able to successfully defeat, capture, and weaponize the planet-devouring Galactus. Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave are the dominant force in the universe.

Nova and his friends are the only thing that stand between the Annihilation Wave and the Earth.

Annihilation #4. Writer: Keith Giffen; Art: Andrea Divito; Editor: Andy Schmidt

(I absolutely love this cover. The contrast of the size between the two figures really adds gravitas to the image. Yes, I used the word “gravitas.”)

Drax kills his way through hordes of bugs. “Killing my way to Thanos.”

Drax had purposefully separated himself from the group and struck out on his own. He had been playing the good soldier in the hopes of getting closer to his ultimate destiny, but with the war having been lost, he’s taking matters into his own hands. To his surprise, he admits to himself that he misses Cammi. Meanwhile, Thanos shows Annihilus the room full of generators powered by the cosmic energy diverted from Galactus.

As Annihilus flies off, a captive Moondragon, whose body is being controlled by the same “control bugs” that enslaved Terrax, asks Thanos when he became a lackey. When Thanos denies that is his role, Moondragon taunts him with the knowledge that she gleaned that exact word from Annihilus’ mind, in reference to Thanos. (Moondragon is a telepath.) In response to her taunts, Thanos burns the skin from Moondragon’s right arm. As he leaves, he comments that she will tell him what else she gleaned from Annihilus’ mind.

Nova, looks out upon the Earth. Peter Quill joins him, praising Nova for the new plan he has developed, and warning him that he will probably not survive it. Nova is determined to kill Annihilus, to prevent him from reaching the Earth.

Peter reminds him that the Earth has its own protectors. Nova reminds him of the information they’ve been monitoring in transmissions from their home planet: “A house divided cannot stand.” (Annihilation was taking place at the same time as Civil War, where the heroes of the Marvel Universe were clashing with each other over the Superhero Registration Act. A perfect explanation for why none of the Avengers or Fantastic Four had gotten involved in the situation up to this point.)

Drax continues to hitchhike and slaughter his way across the galaxy, on his way towards Thanos.

Thanos questions Moondragon about what else she saw in the mind of Annihilus. She tells him it is difficult to discern, as his mind “buzzes.” The thoughts are visual, more than they are text based. Thanos tells her to connect his mind with Annihilus anyway. What they see is not ambition for mere conquest. Annihilus plans to use Galactus to destroy the entire universe, so that he can rule alone, in the void.

Thanos does not like this plan of action, and moves to reverse what he had done. When Moondragon asks him to answer her question, of why Thanos decided to help Annihilus, he responds with “I was curious to see how a radical tilt in the universal balance would play out.”

Nova, Phyla, Peter Quill, and Cammi touch down on what remains of a piece of the Xandar cluster, as Gamora looks on from the ship.

The resistance has been using limited range phase tubes. Nova plans to use these to teleport them across the galaxy to get to Thanos. Unfortunately, the odds are about 60-40 that they survive the attempt. Nova activates the phase tube, teleporting himself, Phyla, and Peter away, and leaving Cammi behind.

Thanos fights his way to where Galactus is being held. He devised a fail-safe option to disable the bonds that hold Galactus, keyed to his power signature. The hive now aware of Thanos’ defection, the control bugs force Moondragon to attack. He stops her easily, and forces the control bugs to purge from her system.

As he begins to work, he can sense the arrival of a familiar presence. “Destroyer.”

Drax makes his way closer and closer to Thanos, who tells Moondragon to stall him until he can complete the sequence to free Galactus. When Drax comes crashing into the room, Moondragon pleads with him to wait, but Drax knocks her aside.

Thanos puts up a force field, but Drax tears right through it. Off in the distance, Thanos sees his beloved Death.

Then he looks down to see his own beating heart, punched out of his chest.

A shocked Moondragon looks on, her father has killed them all.

My brain thoughts: You can never really have too much Drax. Drax finally fulfills his destiny and kills the mighty Thanos. Unfortunately, instead of this being a win for the resistance, this may end up being a severe loss as Thanos had just decided to end his alliance with Annihilus, and free Galactus from his bonds. Regardless, this was an important moment that played out beautifully throughout the course of the book. Seeing Drax single-mindedly make his way across the universe to kill Thanos, and then succeeding in brutal fashion, was epic storytelling at its finest. Having come to know the character of Thanos a little bit more after reading these comics, I understand what is so special about him. He is a top-tier villain, and it was stunning seeing him die. We will anxiously await his resurrection.

Annihilation #5. Writer: Keith Giffen; Art: Andrea Divito; Editor: Andy Schmidt

The next leg of Nova’s short range phase tube tour has him meeting up with Blastarr and his group of Spaceknights. (How much more awesome would these stories have been with Rom in them? 18%, I say.)

Drax shows no remorse and makes no apologies for killing Thanos, but Moondragon is eventually able to explain to him the full ramifications of his actions. Only Thanos was capable of generating the level of energy needed to activate the modified power cell array, freeing Galactus. As the bugs close in around them, Drax jumps down to the lower level, landing on the Silver Surfer’s containment cell. He looks back toward Galactus, and says, “I do this, devourer, you see to my daughter’s safety.” Drax smashes through the containment, and pulls the Silver Surfer free. As Moondragon does what she can to hold the bugs back with her mental powers, Drax carries a barely functioning Silver Surfer up to the power cells, and places his hand up to the device.

“You have to do this, Surfer. Reach deep, give it all you’ve got and pray it’s enough to free your master or…the universe dies.” Silver Surfer lets loose with everything he’s got, and then both he and Moondragon collapse from the strain.

The bugs swarm in all around them, ready for the kill. Until, behind them, a very angry Galactus breaks free from his restraints.

Meanwhile, on Hala, Ronan leads the Super-Skrull and Praxagora against the Kree soldiers guarding the House of Fiyero. Super-Skrull is just along for the ride to do some damage to the Kree, sworn enemies of the Skrulls.

As they defeat the last of the Kree warriors, a group of Annihilus’ Centurions come swooping in to join the fracas. Inside, the ruling body of the House of Fiyero pleads with their ally, Ravenous, to save them. The treacherous politicians had made a deal with Annihilus in hopes of establishing trade relations (with the creature that wants to destroy the entire universe).

Ronan, having deduced this treason from the arrival of the Centurions, has had enough. He finishes off the Centurions with one mighty blast, impressing even the Super-Skrull.

The politicians beg for Ravenous to save them, as Ronan and his allies come busting through the wall. A mighty battle follows, with Ravenous first facing off against the Super-Skrull, before trading off against Ronan. Once again, Ronan has had enough, and he takes Ravenous out with extreme force.

Ronan addresses the room. “If you are Kree, stand down and await orders. If you stand with House Fiyero…surrender or die.” The Kree soldiers pledge their allegiance, and the politicians plead their case, the reasons for cooperation and surrender to Annihilus. Ronan is done listening, and terminates them. He then goes to check on the status of the Supreme Intelligence, only to find him trapped in a state of living death.

Ronan puts it out of its misery.

As he exits out into the giant courtyard, he finds a massive army of Kree soldiers, all chanting his name. 

My brain thoughts: I don’t know how exactly he would have fit into these storylines, but it’s a real shame Marvel isn’t able to use Rom for any of it. The nods to Galador and the Spaceknights are cool little easter eggs, but it’s not enough. We need Rom, back in his full glory, ready for action. Ronan ousting the corrupt politicians and becoming the default ruler of the Kree is a nice end to his storyline.

Annihilation #6. Writer: Keith Giffen; Art: Andrea Divito; Editor: Andy Schmidt

A restored Silver Surfer lays waste to a fleet of Annihilation Wave ships…

…while Galactus decimates the flagship of Annihilus.

Drax calls out to Galactus, reminding him about ensuring Moondragon’s safety, and in the blink of an eye, they are elsewhere.

Nearby, Nova, Phyla, and Peter’s long journey is finally at an end. (I kinda imagine their trek to be as grueling as a series of international flights. I’m usually about ready to assassinate an evil alien insect overlord after one of those trips too.) Unfortunately, they’ve found themselves right in the path of Galactus’ universewide rage. The Silver Surfer speeds out ahead of Galactus’ ever-expanding extermination of the Annihilation Wave throughout the galaxy.

Ravenous (with half a new face thanks to Ronan’s hammer) and his ships blindly attack Hala from orbit. Ronan, now in full control of the competent Kree army, returns fire, obliterating the fleet.

Annihilus crawls from the debris of his flagship.

He turns around to see Nova, ready for battle, shielding Phyla and Peter in an energy field.

They square off, ready to fight one-on-one. Annihilus versus Nova. Phyla tries to help, but Nova has them locked inside the force field. The battle is fierce, with each combatant trading mighty blows, but the Quantum Bands give Annihilus too much of an edge, and he begins to get the upper hand.

Nova is losing, and as Annihilus looms over him, Phyla struggles to break through the field. Annihilus prepares for the killing blow, but Phyla tackles him from behind, grabbing hold of the Quantum Bands. Annihilus throws her aside, but to his surprise, the Quantum Bands follow her. Provided with a better option, the Bands choose Phyla, and she becomes the new Quasar.

She hits him with a mighty blast, and he responds with one of his own. With Annihilus weakened from surviving Galactus’ attack and losing the Quantum Bands, Nova seizes the opportunity, stuffing his hand down the insane insect’s throat. “I’m thinking your flapping jaw is the gap in your armor,” he says, then he pulls Annihilus’ insides out through his mouth.

Collapsing from exhaustion, Nova sees the specters of Thanos and Death as he passes into unconsciousness.

Two-hundred and sixty-eight days after Annihilation day, the war is over. Nova summarizes the events that followed from his hospital bed, via his verbal log. Ravenous sued for peace after Galactus turned the tide in the favor of the resistance. He gains control of certain Kree territories in exchange for an immediate halt to the hostilities. Ronan gets Hala, the Kree homeworld.

The Silver Surfer is back in place as the herald of Galactus. Firelord is out hunting down the remaining Centurions. Drax, the Super-Skrull, and Praxagora have disappeared. Moondragon and Phyla return to their life together, while she decides whether or not to take on the mantle of Quasar.

Cammi’s whereabouts are unknown. (The idea of Cammi and Skreet out there in the universe, being hilarious at each other, fills me with joy.)

As for Richard Rider himself, he is unsure of what his next step will be. For now, he’s happy with having saved the universe.

Many days later, Ravenous presides over a grotesque birth that leaves the bug queen dead. He carries the results out into the courtyard, where an army of bugs await. Ravenous holds his package up to the sky, revealing it as an unhatched baby Annihilus.

The End. 

My brain thoughts: Things moved pretty quickly at the end here, with the situation going from completely hopeless to a victory within the span of a couple issues. I suppose there’s only so much you can do in a six-issue series, and the joy is in the setup anyway. Stacking the decks against the heroes so completely that you are left wondering how they’ll ever come out on top. And ultimately, we got the final bout we wanted to see, ending with Nova ripping Annihilus’ guts out. Man, what a crowd-pleasing moment that was. This comic is ready-made for a live-action or animated adaptation. (Just not for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, as this series of books was decidedly deficient in the area of Rocket Raccoon.) Overall, a very satisfying resolution to a storyline that stretched out over the better part of a year. I can’t wait to read what comes next.

My final brain thoughts: Lack of Rom, angry Galactus, focused Drax, an emergency spine-ectomy, and cute little baby Annihilus.

What a great series, what a great event.

While I truly believe you could read only the main series and still know enough to enjoy it, I think the establishing miniseries that lead up to the main event absolutely enhance the reader’s enjoyment of it. You get the full depth of each character and their story going in, and it provides an added weight to everything that happens in Annihilation. I can’t imagine enjoying it on the same level without having read them, and that’s not something you can always say when it comes to event comics and their tie-ins.

In fairness, this was a different situation opposed to what most readers consider to be an event. Unlike when using Wolverine and Spider-Man, these were all characters not being used anywhere else, so by its very nature the creators had much more freedom to do whatever they wanted without worrying about conflicts anywhere else. This was also a much more contained series of books which likely made them easier to manage, with each series serving a specific purpose to the larger narrative. That’s not always the case in modern event comics, where so many books are sometimes forced to tie-in and may not always necessarily tell a satisfying story on its own. Finally, these books all took place in space, far away from the Earth-bound Marvel tapestry. The storytelling opportunities and overall canvas they were given to work with were practically limitless. Evidence continues to point to the more tightly controlled and compact crossover events being the best of the modern era. Spider-Island, and the Sinestro Corps War over at DC, are both examples of the type of crossover Annihilation was, and they all happen to be magnificent.

This would not mark the end of these characters or their stories, it instead signaled the beginning. The unexpected critical response and success of the event prompted Marvel to launch a solo Nova series, as well as planning a sequel to Annihilation. That sequel would come to be known as Annihilation: Conquest, and this time the event would fall under the direction of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who would take the characters to even greater heights.

Join me next time, as we sow the seeds of Conquest, and get that much closer to the rebirth of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

1 comment:

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

that was cool of you to mention how even better this story had been were it to have had ROM in it.

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