Apr 29, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Guarding the Galaxy, Part 12: Conquest!

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

Part Twelve: Conquest!
by Ben Smith

Previously, a technological race called the Phalanx have taken over the Kree empire, enslaved the minds of the Kree people, and cut off that section of space from the rest of the galaxy. Former heroes and allies have already been enslaved to the Phalanx cause by the transmode virus, becoming members of their elite Select.

Quasar was contacted by the spirit of the Supreme Intelligence, who led her and Moondragon to the location of Adam Warlock. The mysterious Wraith has the ability to immobilize the Phalanx, and carries the soul of the Supreme Intelligence within his costume. Allied with Ronan and the Super-Skrull, they have joined an underground resistance force. Starlord was restored and recruited by the Kree to conduct covert missions against the Phalanx with a hand-selected team of misfits, consisting of Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Bug, and (former Captain Universe) Gabe. Nova, infected with the transmode virus, made his way to Kvch, the homeworld of the Technarchy, the species the Phalanx were spawned from. With the help of Warlock of the New Mutants, he was able to cure himself, Gamora, and Drax of Phalanx infection.

We’ve made it to the big event, let’s get right into it.

Annihilation: Conquest #1. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Tom Raney; Inker: Scott Hanna; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Blastaar leads a small commando unit of Kree soldiers against the Phalanx. They are slaughtered easily, and Blastaar is captured. The new Quasar, Phyla-Vell, recaps the current situation to a recently reborn Adam Warlock.

(The Phalanx are converting some of the Kree people into energy to fuel their machines.
For a moment, I thought the little girl in this sequence might be Cammi,
so I had to flip back and make sure. She has blue skin, so I’m going to
assume it’s not Cammi. But if it was, oh boy, the angry letter
Marvel was going to get from me five years too late wouldn’t have been pretty.)

Adam has no memory of his former life. Moondragon uses her telepathic powers to share some of her memories, but it only partially works.

He remembers that he had come there to heal himself, to block out the billions of souls crying out in pain inside his head (from the previous Annihilation War), but he was woken up before he had fully healed. Quasar tries to convince him that, according to the Supreme Intelligence, he will be their savior, but he has no interest in helping.

Energy explodes all around Warlock, causing him extreme pain. Immediately after that, a battalion of Phalanx soldiers teleport in.

They all fight, including a showdown between Xemnu and Moondragon. (Xemnu!)

Adam Warlock scoops up Phyla and Moondragon in a ball of energy and transports them out into space. He heads for a strange metal sphere which he calls the Refuge, orbiting closely around the local sun.

Meanwhile, Ronan leads the Super-Skrull, Wraith, and Ra-Venn into the Kree territory ceded to Ravenous and his army of Negative Zone bugs. They are not greeted warmly, as their ship is shot out of the sky as soon as it is within range.

Adam Warlock and the others enter the Refuge. Inside, Phyla and Moondragon discover it is the home of the High Evolutionary.

Back on Hala, at the Phalanx Command Center, the Select warriors picked to locate and capture Adam Warlock address an unseen entity about their failure to apprehend Adam Warlock. Korath is terminated for this failure.

Afterwards, the mighty Ultron stands revealed.

My brain thoughts: The great thing about the first Annihilation is that it had Annihilus there as a central figure of the bad guys, formidable and intimidating. This is something I felt like Annihilation: Conquest was lacking up until the end of this issue, where Ultron is revealed as the big bad behind the Phalanx invasion. They couldn’t have picked a better character in my eyes, as I have always loved Ultron. I prefer his classic design more than this one, but it’s not distracting or horrible in any way. I also like that this storyline is primarily focusing on a different set of heroes than the first event. If only there was a series where all of these characters were together in one book…

Annihilation: Conquest #2. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Tom Raney; Inker: Scott Hanna; Editor: Bill Rosemann

The Phalanx interrogate Blastaar, but he refuses to give up any information. He eventually dies on the interrogation table having revealed nothing. On the Refuge, the High Evolutionary is surprised to see Adam Warlock has returned so soon, while Moondragon and Quasar try to convince him to assist them against the Phalanx.

Quasar tells the High Evolutionary about how the voice of the Supreme Intelligence told her to find Adam Warlock, so he could be their savior. Adam Warlock is angry about others trying to determine his destiny for him. He again has a seizure of energy, puzzling the High Evolutionary. Earlier, Adam Warlock had mentioned that they woke him before he could finish changing. The High Evolutionary is intrigued, “changing into what, I wonder?”

Ronan and his team survived the attack and made it safely to the surface, where they find the Negative Zone bugs locked in combat against the Phalanx.

Wraith immobilizes the Phalanx, and Ronan talks with the bugs about having a meeting with Ravenous.

On Hala, Starlord returns from a covert mission to meet with the rest of his team (Gabe, Mantis, Bug, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon).

The team had sent Blastaar in to get captured, so that he would release some of Groot’s pollen spores upon his death. The spores expand out, filling every crevice of the tower. Mantis uses her biopathy powers to make a virtual map of the tower using the spores. They need to work quick though, as Blastaar will recover from his seeming death soon, and surely be turned into one of the Phalanx’s Select. Now with a good map of the target, Starlord and his team prepare to execute the next phase of their plan.

The High Evolutionary examines Adam Warlock. He confirms that he was woken too soon, and that the new powers he is developing haven’t had time to coalesce, causing the seizures. Once they have finished, they will be easier to control. With that finished, the High Evolutionary shows them what else he had been working on. Before the war, the Supreme Intelligence had commissioned him to create a new master race of the Kree. When the war began, he had obviously lost contact with the Kree. He had initially believed them to be representatives of the Kree, come to collect.

Now with the Phalanx in control, the High Evolutionary could manufacture Kree warriors to combat them, but in return, he wants safe passage out of Kree space. As powerful as he is, he is still a biological being, and could be assimilated by the Phalanx.

Warlock senses an incoming teleport, right before Ultron and a squad of Phalanx warriors arrive. Quasar moves toward Ultron, but Moondragon steps in between them. Ultron rams his arm straight through Moondragon’s torso.

He greets Adam Warlock, “you are the one I seek.”

My brain thoughts: I know I read the Evolutionary War when I was a kid, but I couldn’t tell you anything about what happened in it. I’ve always thought the High Evolutionary looked pretty cool, but that’s about it. Things are taking a little bit longer to get going in this story. Fortunately, Ultron popped in and started punching things. Starlord and his team are easily the most interesting part of every book that they’re in. At this point in the first Annihilation, it felt like there was way more at stake and the heroes were in a much deeper hole, but I like the main characters of this event a little bit more. There is a serious lack of Gamora in this one, as she’s busy getting birthed out of a space whale roundabout this time. Ultron is a better main villain too. (The only villain they could have gotten that would have been better would be a mustachioed zombie Terry Long.)

Annihilation: Conquest #3. Writers: Dan Abnett amd Andy Lanning; Pencils: Tom Raney; Inker: Scott Hanna; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Adam is tearing apart the Phalanx soldiers with his new powers. Phyla pulls the injured Moondragon away from the fray.

High Evolutionary teleports away, leaving Adam alone against the horde. Ultron orders his soldiers aside, so that he can face Adam one-on-one.

Away from the action, Phyla begs the High Evolutionary to fix Moondragon. He cannot. Phyla tearfully says goodbye as Moondragon passes away.

Phyla, full of rage and grief, rushes toward Ultron.

High Evolutionary, sensing things are falling apart, mentally confers with Adam Warlock. He plans to enact his emergency scenario, initiating a terminal reaction in the nuclear heart of the nearby sun.Adam objects, but not in time to save the Refuge from exploding.

In Ravenous’ throne room, Ronan proposes they unite to combat the Phalanx threat. As Ravenous gloats over the perceived weakness of his enemies, Ronan orders Wraith to use his powers.

With the bugs frozen in place, and Ravenous put in restraints, Ronan reveals the real reason for them being there, the secret compartment hidden beneath the throne.

At the Babel Spire, Starlord and the others work quickly to plant explosive charges throughout the facility.

They are interrupted by Blastaar, now a Select. Starlord and Gabe fire away with their weapons, but Gabe perishes in the battle.

Blastaar neutralizes Starlord. While he lays there on the ground, Ultron arrives, having escaped the nuclear explosion by downloading himself into another body. Ultron lifts Starlord up off the ground, and asks him how they thought they could ever win this war.

My brain thoughts: I was pretty sure Gabe didn’t make it out of this series alive, as I don’t remember seeing him afterwards. I also knew Moondragon didn’t make it out alive either, but even if I didn’t already know, it’s obvious with all the time they spend showing how happy her and Quasar are together that one of them wasn’t going to make it out alive. With Phyla recently being promoted to Quasar, it wasn’t going to be her. Poor Moondragon. (Marvel’s always pulling out the hearts of dragons. Is Ultron going to get Iron Fist powers now?)

My final brain thoughts: Zombie Terry Long, dead dragons, dead Gabe, luminescent tree spores, zombie Blastaar, and (insert insult) Marv Wolfman.

Like I said earlier, the overall storyline for this one is a little weaker so far, but the main characters are better as a whole. Anything that puts Starlord and a nascent Guardians of the Galaxy in the spotlight against Ultron and an army of robots, is well above your average comic book fare. It would be better if Drax and Gamora were around, but they’re off trying to kill Nova, and who can blame them. (Sorry, Nova fans, kneejerk reaction. Nova isn’t lame anymore. The original Quasar however, will receive no mercy from me.) If only there was a book with all of these characters in it together…

That’s it for this week faithful reader. Come back next week for the exciting conclusion!!

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