The widely derided “Cosmic Avengers” follow up to Marvel comic’s cosmic line of books (such as Nova and The Guardians of the Galaxy) which recently came to an ending of sorts in The Thanos Imperative, was a delightful surprise for this reader. I’m actually going to go a little backwards with this review, since most other reviewers seemed to focus on the “Rocket & Groot” backup story which takes up the latter half of this book (and was featured in each issue of this comic as it came out). Most reviewers praised this story as the only reason to pick up the book.
I’m here to tell you it’s completely forgettable. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, the artwork is fairly fitting – though I have to ask where the Timothy Green II who drew the Star Lord miniseries during Annihilation Conquest went? The artwork here was way too comical/farcical, whereas I felt like it added an almost realistic touch to the Star Lord comic. The gist of the story is, someone tries to kill Rocket at his new day job (delivering mail in a generic office) and Rocket realizes he has a hole in his memory about why someone might be trying to kill him. So, he tracks down his old pal Groot and they go on a mis-adventure which involves an Asylum which only stays locked shut as long as Rocket remains outside of it. Meh. This was the story everyone was collecting Annihilators for? I was a big fan of Guardians of the Galaxy (much more so than Nova), which is the comic that featured these characters… and I just didn’t get the appeal here. Not that it was bad, just nothing special and nothing to rave about.
The Annihilators story on the other hand, served well to fulfill my expectations of a cosmic comic adventure. Here we’ve got some of the most powerful characters in the galaxy, following a distress call from the Space Knight Ikon back to her homeworld, which is under threat of attack from their long-time enemies the Dire Wraiths. This enemy was once defeated by the greatest Space Knight, ROM, and banished to another dimension, but now their planet is beginning to break back through into this universe, and their Queen is looking for vengeance. Meanwhile you have a team of heroes who are not used to being team-players, and who aren’t really sure they want to work together, forced into a situation where they must learn to do so. On top of that, not everything is exactly as it seems, and the solution they will arrive at isn’t necessarily one that is going to please all the parties involved.
One of the complaints I remember hearing about this series is that Quasar, a long-time character, seems not quite right in this comic. I’ll admit, I don’t know Quasar from before Annihilation, but his characterization here seems to fit pretty well with what’s been established in all these recent cosmic stories. He’s recently returned from the dead, and not so surprisingly he’s having second thoughts about his own abilities because of his recent brush with death. Meanwhile, he’s surrounded by a bunch of alien characters who are all showing none of his doubts – they are all completely positive that they know best, which of course isn’t always the case. Mostly I found Silver Surfer to be the most refreshing character in the book, he seems to handle the changing situation very naturally, which is to be expected for a character who’s used to walking a fine line of morality as he serves Galactus. The Space Knights were also an interesting culture to visit – I know nothing of ROM and only had a brief exposure to these characters in Conquest, but they are an fascinating addition to the cosmic landscape and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future.
The artwork was another complaint I heard a lot about this story, and it can certainly be hit or miss. But then, I feel that way about just about every comic I read, short of something drawn by Alan Davis. There are some odd facial expressions at times, but then there are fantastic battle scenes, and gorgeously grotesque alien creatures – which more than made up for the flaws. If anything the artist is inconsistent, and in need of thinking about the positioning of characters when drawing them in the future, so that odd angles don’t create situations where we’re seeing ¾ of a profile or some-such. But I’ve read comics which were far more poorly illustrated than this one, and I didn’t find the art to be distracting at all from the story.
I wouldn’t say that Annihilators was the greatest cosmic story I’ve read, but it managed to at least meet (and probably exceed) my expectations, and The Thanos Imperative wasn’t really able to do that. I’m not sure how excited I would have been for a sequel to this book if it hadn’t been for the previews which announced that Annihilators: Earthfall would feature these cosmic heroes in battle against the Avengers – as soon as I heard that, I knew I was in. But as a stand alone story, Annihilators fulfilled its purpose, providing an entertaining cosmic story featuring mostly a bunch of new characters for me, and introducing them to me for further adventures. I’m more than happy with the result.