Announced as two separate miniseries then collapsed into one quasi-anthology, Annihilators continues the stories of Marvel’s cosmic heroes following the cataclysmic events of The Thanos Imperative. One of the included tales is more of what one has come to expect from Marvel’s cosmic storylines in recent years, while the other is quite special.
The first story, featuring the Annihilators proper, sees a group of mismatched Marvel powerhouses (and a talking dog) face off against the Dire Wraiths and a villain who may yet undergo a change of name if 2000AD‘s lawyers take notice. Tang Eng Huat’s art and storytelling is solid, though lacking flair, and the writing is good — although a good chunk of the issue is spent on introductions — with some welcome banter to humanize the very powerful and very alien protagonists. It’s good, solid stuff; fans of the Annihilation and Guardians of the Galaxy series will be more than happy with what’s on offer as it’s more of the same.
Of course, the first story is not the reason most right-thinking connoisseurs of all that is awesome picked up the comic. Like me, they were drawn in by the continuing adventures of the mighty Rocket Raccoon and his dendritic partner, Groot. Following the disbanding of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot is nowhere to be seen while Rocket has retired from the heroic life and works in the mail room of an intergalactic office supplies company. While I would dearly love to see the precocious procyonid star in a spaceborne remake of The Secret of My Success, the story takes a different path as one of the killer clowns from Rocket’s own 1985 series makes a violent appearance and drags our hero back into adventure.
I am very biased. I happen to know — much in the same way that I know that two plus two equals four — that Rocket Raccoon is one of Marvel’s greatest characters, so I am naturally predisposed toward his adventures. Even discounting that, this strikes me as a stronger and more interesting story than the lead feature. Timothy Green’s art is detailed — Green seems to thrive on crowd scenes that would make lesser artists weep into their Bristol board — evocative and full of the personality the first story lacks, and he does a good job of capturing Rocket’s character, a tricky task when one considers that the raccoon is both a cute and bouncy anthropomorphic animal and a gun-toting cosmic thrillseeker. Some of the shading is perhaps a bit too heavy, but that would be my only criticism of an impressive art job.
Like Green, Abnett and Lanning also seem to have a good grasp of Rocket’s character. Sticking an extravagant character like him into such a mundane setting is not a new idea but it works well here by lending weight to the story; Rocket is a swashbuckling space hero from another era of storytelling, someone to whom an office job is tantamount to a negation of his very identity, so his quest is, on one level, an expression of his personality, a statement of who he is. Whether this was intentional I can’t say, but it’s more meaningful than the first story, which is more of an excuse for powerful characters to hit things*.
If I’d had my choice, I wouldn’t have picked up Annihilators on its own, as while it’s a more than competent piece of work, my interest in such cosmic epics has waned in the years since the original Annihilation made them fresh again. Rocket Raccoon and Groot, however, is a title from which you couldn’t keep me away, even if it was paired with something from the Accursed Bendis, and I am pleased to see that it lives up to expectations.
*Which, you know, is fine and not really a criticism. I mean you don’t go to Beta Ray Bill and Gladiator if you want Chekov. Although that would be amazing.