Mar 11, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Guarding the Galaxy 5: Annihilation Prologue

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

Part Five: Endings and Beginnings
by Ben Smith

Previously, we took extended looks at key players in the coming saga like Star-Lord, Thanos, and Drax. We also saw the beginning of a massive invasion from the Negative Zone, led by the villainous Annihilus, which decimated the Kyln and the entire Nova Corps. That was followed by four separate mini-series, focusing primarily on Nova, Super Skrull, Ronan, and the Silver Surfer, while also introducing important characters like Gamora and Praxagora.

This week, we’ll cover the end of those mini-series, all leading in to and culminating in the instant classic Annihilation.

All the pieces are being assembled…

Annihilation: Nova #3. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Kev Walker; Inker: Rich Magyar; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Quasar welcomes Nova, Drax, and Cammi to Nycos Aristedes, which is the midst of a massive planet-wide evacuation to escape the oncoming Annihilation Wave.

Nova updates Quasar on current events, and his uneasy alliance with Drax. Quasar requests the aid of Nova in ensuring the evacuation of the planet. Drax would prefer to be fighting, not saving, but ultimately agrees to help, as he considers Nova a powerful ally to have in the coming battle.

Quasar needs Nova to open another stargate, to get the people safely out of harm’s way. Before they can, the a fleet of Annihilation ships arrive. Quasar bursts into action. After a brief moment of hesitation, Nova follows right behind him. Quasar and Nova hold off the ships, until Nova can break free and open up the stargate.

The massive amount of energy it takes to accomplish this, attracts the attention of Annihilus himself, and he changes course to see it for himself.

Quasar and Nova try to hold off the fleet and give the first ship of evacuees time to escape. Instead, the ship is destroyed by the arrival of Annihilus’ ship, coming through the stargate from the other side. Drax, down planetside, gets a glimpse of Annihilus on the video monitor, revealing for the first time to the resistance forces the true villain behind all the destruction.

Nova rockets head-on towards the Annihilation Wave fleet.

My brain thoughts: Unlike other events, where the writers try to explain to the reader how high the stakes are, and the scope of the threat (cough cough Fear Itself), so far the creative teams on these books have achieved that effectively just through their storytelling. At no point does any character exclaim to the reader the dire circumstances around them (cough cough Captain America, Fear Itself, cough), it just comes through in the writing and the art. It really does feel like the heroes are in serious trouble, that the Annihilation Wave is a believable threat of massive proportions.

Annihilation: Super Skrull #3. Writer: Javier Grillo-Marxuach; Artist: Greg Titus; Editor: Andy Schmidt

The Harvester of Sorrow closes in on the Skrull world Zarangz’na, where the Super Skrull’s son lives. The Skrull prepares to execute his plan, to attack the Annihilation Wave with his army, followed by their secret weapon which will download the virus that will destroy the Harvester. He displays the severed head of Hawal to fire up his soldiers.

R’kin requests the honor of piloting the secret weapon into the battle.

Super Skrull has discovered the importance of family amid the devastation of war, and worries about the safety of his son. He spurns Praxagora’s romantic advances.

The battle is begun, and they fight valiantly, but the secret weapon never arrives. Zaragz’na is destroyed, the Super Skrull is captured, and R’kin has betrayed them all.

My brain thoughts: A stunning surprise that I didn’t see coming at all. Plus, Skrull-on-robot lovin’.

Annihilation: Ronan #3. Writer: Simon Furman; Artist: Jorge Lucas; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Gamora and Ronan battle furiously.

Glorian, a former apprentice to the Shaper of Worlds, manipulates the energy generated by Gamora and Ronan’s brawl to recreate Godthab Omega in his image. This draws the attention of Annihilus.

Gamora introduces Ronan to her sword, Godslayer, who she reserves only for the most worthy of opponents to slay.

Ronan uses his powers to attempt to manipulate Godslayer, resulting in feedback which knocks them all out.

He then awakes, ignores the Kree settlers pleas for his help, and races against time to find Tana Nile and get off-planet before the Annihilation Wave arrives. Before he can find Tana Nile and escape, the Wave swarms upon the planet.

My brain thoughts: Gamora is so hardcore, and I love it. Somewhat disappointed they put clothes on her in the upcoming Marvel Now relaunch of the Guardians, but oh well. I’ll take my Gamora any way I can get it. (Not that way, pervs!) Gamora is up there with the Black Cat, Cammi, and Colleen Wing in the pantheon of my favorite female comic book characters.

Annihilation: Silver Surfer #3. Writer: Keith Giffen; Artist: Renato Arlem; Editor: Andy Schmidt

The Fallen One has been sent to the remains of the Kyln, to find out the status of the Beyonder. The Fallen One finds the Beyonder dead, before being interrogated by cosmic beings Aegis and Tenebrous. They absorb the Fallen One into their bodies.

Stardust joins Red Shift, Firelord, and Silver Surfer in their quest. But Stardust, current herald to Galactus, has come with a message as well. Galactus requests the Surfer’s presence. After the Surfer departs, the remaining three heralds are surrounded by Annihilation forces.

Inside his flagship, Annihilus seeks to discover the biological application of cosmic power, by dissecting the body of former herald Morg. Annihilus requests Thanos discover the secret of accessing the power cosmic, from his last remaining test subject, Terrax.

The Silver Surfer arrives at the location of Galactus. Galactus tells him of how, when the universe was young, he used the Kyln to imprison two beings with power on par with his, Tenebrous of the darkness, and Aegis, lady of all sorrows. He is worried about the conflict that will come, and the effects of that conflict, now that they have been freed.

Galactus requests the Silver Surfer become his herald once again. He agrees, with Galactus restoring his full power, and strengthening his resolve.

Ravenous and Annihilation Wave forces descend upon Galactus. The Surfer easily destroys the armada, leaving only Ravenous left to fight.

My brain thoughts: Annihilus, possessor of the cosmic control rod, quests to seek even greater power from Galactus and his former heralds. The prospect of two other Galactus-level beings clashing with Galactus himself, is a frightening one for the universe. The Surfer is restored as the current herald of Galactus, a change that would last for several years. (I found it to be a regression of the character, even though I never cared for the Surfer all that much. For him to have progressed through all that character growth and development over the years, only to go back to being a servant of Galactus, finding him planets to feed on, seems off. But everything in superhero comics will always eventually revert back to the original status quo, or at least the most popular one.)

Annihilation: Nova #4. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Kev Walker; Inker: Rich Magyar; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Drax and Cammi watch as the remaining refugees take off. Nova launches a frontal assault on the enemy battle fleet, while Quasar and Worldmind try to call him off. Nova demands the Worldmind stop arguing with every decision and actually assist him by guiding his movements in the battle. Working together, they do extreme damage to the fleet.

Quasar joins the fray, backing up Nova.

They confer, and agree to continue to attack the fleet head-on, giving the evacuees the necessary time to get away safely. Drax calls into the duo, advising them that Annihilus is the one behind the attacks, that he is here with his fleet, and that if they take him out now they can end this war with one headshot.

Annihilus recognizes Nova as the source of the energy he detected, and clears a path for them directly to him, baiting them to attack him. Nova and Quasar come crashing through and into Annihilus’ throne ship, and Nova knocks them back with a wave of his arm, rendering Nova unconscious. Quasar attacks him on his own, but Annihilus feeds off his quantum energy, stealing his power, and kills him.

The power of his Quantum Bands added to his own, Annihilus turns his attention to Nova. Nova sneak attacks him, and against the Worldmind’s protests, gets in close to the villain that “fundamentally outclasses you at every level.” Nova has a plan though, and as Annihilus makes direct contact with the Nova Force, Worldmind executes it. Through his brief connection, Worldmind transmitted a command to the present fleet to attack one another, and the command cannot be rescinded.

Nova escapes, having successfully crippled a small portion of Annihilus’ fleet. Annihilus orders immediate self-destruction of all the affected elements, and to retreat from that location. He swears not to fall for this trick a second time.

A battered Nova, floating in space, is once again roused by the voice of the Worldmind. Drax and Cammi pick him up in a commandeered spacecraft.

Nova mourns the loss of Quasar, and fears his power being added to Annihilus. He asks Drax for his help, to teach him how to fight, “t-teach me to destroy.” In the frequent words of Worldmind, he says, “turns out it’s critical I take action now.”

My brain thoughts: Normally I would totally celebrate the death of the captain of the all-time lame heroes team, Quasar, but he actually went out as a hero here, so..well done DnA. Annihilus adding Quasar’s power to his own is an intimidating prospect, and increases his status as a serious threat to the universe. Here’s hoping he doesn’t succeed in getting his hands on the power cosmic as well. As I said last time, this was clearly the best of the four mini-series, and I am excited to see the pairing of Nova and Drax in the future.

Annihilation: Super Skrull #4. Writer: Javier Grillo Marxuach; Artist: Greg Titus; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Super Skrull, Preak, and Praxagora are captive of the Annihilation Wave and the traitorous R’kin. Super Skrull uses his hypnotic powers on R’kin, using him to break their bonds. They slay the guards as R’kin retreats.

Praxagora discovers the ship is alive, and interfaces it. She plans to release the power of the singularity within her, causing a supernova that will destroy the ship and the Harvester of Sorrow. While Preak stands guard, Super Skrull leaves to get revenge on behalf of them all.

Super Skrull kills his way to R’kin, where he demands answers. Turns out that R’kin was less than enamored of Super Skrull’s borderline villainous methods along their journey, and merely followed in his footsteps by taking the action most beneficial to himself.

Super Skrull removes R’kin’s limbs, and then leaves him to die in the explosion.

Preak is killed by the enemy as they close in around Praxagora. Super Skrull returns to assist, and Praxagora is able to successfully initiate the countdown that will destroy the ship.

As they kiss, Super Skrull takes on all the power from Praxagora, giving her the chance to find an escape pod.

As she flies away from the massive explosion, she praises Kl’rt for his ultimate sacrifice, eventually returning to the Skrull people to tell his story. They have built a massive statue to honor his sacrifice, and in praise of him finally achieving that victory in death that eluded him so, in life.

My brain thoughts: The death of the Super Skrull? Could it be true? This was a decent enough storyline, and it succeeded in making me slightly care about the Super Skrull, which I never have before. (Other than that time he tricked me into thinking Iron Fist was alive, the bastard.)

Annihilation: Ronan #4. Writer: Simon Furman; Artist: Jorge Lucas; Editor: Andy Schmidt

Godthab Omega is under siege by the Annihilation Wave, as Ronan tries to fight back. The battle reverberates back upon Glorian, undoing his attempts to reshape the world in his image.

Glorian turns his attention upon the invading army, freeing Ronan to resume his quest to find Tana Nile.

Gamora rushes to return to her Graces, regretting her vendetta against Ronan, and feeling as like someone had been in her head, manipulating her.

As Glorian is swarmed by the invaders, Ronan finally arrives at Gamora’s mountain stronghold. But he is too late, Tana Nile lays dying, as Gamora and the rest stand by. Ronan is able to get that someone in the Fiyero House was behind his framing, but she dies before she can give him a name.

Gamora and Ronan join forces to execute the general of the invading army. Glorian releases all of his power to destroy each and every one of the bugs on the planet.

The release of so much power leaves Glorian’s mind destroyed. Ronan decides to return to Hala, to warn the Kree of the coming threat, and to seek his redemption.

My brain thoughts: Ronan’s was the least interesting story of the four, but Ronan himself was not the least interesting character, if that makes any sense. This mini was great for no other reason than introducing Gamora into the fray. That’s all you need, really.

Annihilation: Silver Surfer #4. Writer: Keith Giffen; Artist: Renato Arlem; Editor: Andy Schmidt

The Silver Surfer and Ravenous fight.

Ravenous grabs the Surfer’s board, but finds he cannot let go, as the Surfer whisks him off into space. The Surfer creates another board from his body, and speeds off after him.

Three hours later, Ravenous arrives on a fringe Badoon world. The Surfer arrives directly after him, and their battle is renewed.

The Surfer eventually defeats Ravenous, leaving him stranded on the floating debris that remains from the planet destroyed in their wake.

Surfer returns to Galactus, renewing his quest to find him new worlds to feed on, while also steering him clear of Annihilus and his forces.

Thanos meets with Aegis and Tenebrous, where more is revealed about Thanos’ companion Skreet. Aegis and Tenebrous, seeking to destroy Galactus, and Thanos, seeking to uncover a way to harness his power cosmic, decide to work together to further both of their agendas.

My brain thoughts: Thanos is a fascinating character. Is he really helping Annihilus? If not, what game is he playing at? What makes the character so great in these stories is you never know his motivation for the things he’s doing. After the events of his own series, he appeared to be committed to helping the universe. Now, from all appearances, he seems to be helping to destroy it.

My final brain thoughts: Deaths, explosions, robot love, betrayal, Silver Surfer the herald, and Quasar is really horrible at everything.

There you have it. All the buildup is over. We’ve finally made it to the first major milestone of the revived and revitalized cosmic side of the Marvel universe, Annihilation. Starlord, Drax, Nova, Thanos, Gamora, Silver Surfer, and Ronan were all dusted off, re-presented with a fresh coat of paint, and now they’re all ready to combine into a tasty stew of galactic deliciousness. (I know I mixed all kinds of metaphors in that statement, but I don’t care.) This is it, the ultimate battle for cosmic supremacy.

Next time, Annihilation!

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