Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - Annihilation #1

Posted: Sunday, August 6, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

ďBlood and ThunderĒ

Writer: Keith Dallas
Artist: Andrea DiVito, Laura Villari (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Editorís Note: The first issue of the Annihilation mini-series reaches stores this Wednesday, August 9

Average Rating:

Michael Aronson:
Ariel Carmona Jr.:
Michael Deeley:
Kelvin Green:
Shawn Hill:
Judson Miers:
Robert Murray:
Nicholas Slayton:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews discuss plot developments of the issue.

Michael Aronson

The only Annihilation miniseries worth its salt was Nova because writers Abnett and Lanning understood the potential of cosmic sci-fi stories. Keith ďHowling CommandosĒ Giffen, however, seems to think thereís an unspoken requisite that every hero speak as smug and macho as possible, that every villain be concerned with nothing but the destruction of anything and anyone else around them, and that every battle contain lots of gratuitous explosions and no real significance. Couple that with DiVitoís muddy mediocre art, and I swear Iíd have mistaken this for a Ron Marz-penned Ď90s Cosmic Powers story (i.e. they were pretty awful).

Six months ago (comic time), Nova was a generic Green Lantern rip-off cosmic Spider-man (the everyman approach). Now heís a generic space general of a random assortment of troops from who knows where. Who they are is pretty unimportant, since all they do is fight Annihilusí forces and complain about how difficult it is. Supposedly we should care about Ronan the Accuser because heís going by Ronan the Accused now. Sorry Giffen, but next time try making the characters a little bit different in personality. By the way, making Gamora sleep with the men doesnít count as inspired characterization when sheís the only female humanoid character available.

So Giffen takes a shot at the readers in this section of Novaís narration: ďAnnihilation wave . . . Annihilus. Not everyone made the connection. Go figure.Ē Gee, could it be because no one expected a huge event to center around such a one-dimensional and forgettable Fantastic Four villain? Itís not like heís gone through any great development to get to this point. Annihilus has invaded our dimension (but somewhere in space) and is attacking anything that breathes because our dimension is taking up room in the Negative Zone. If the story were being played old school and quasi-campy like Infinite Crisis (come on, it was only somewhat enjoyable if you didnít take it seriously), maybe I could buy it, but given the tone and weighty narration in this issue, I canít imagine a much lamer motivation. Besides, Ross and Krueger already did something similar in Paradise X with Annihilus, but since that dealt with merging dimensions, it made some sort of sense. Taking this inciting situation along with the beginning of Civil War, you begin to notice that Marvelís less interested in constructing complex stories as much as it wants action-oriented events full of mindless action.

So a mysterious new threat has taken out Galactus (in flashback, as the narration goes). Boo hoo. Did they take down Alpha Flight too? If you canít tell, Iím sick of that tactic being used to tell us how much we should care about a new baddie when thereís really no other reason (characterization anyone?). Oh, and Giffen continues to take what little potential Thanos had left and rub it out completely.

Perhaps if this series were set outside the Marvel U with different characters, it would be at least harmlessly mediocre, since it wouldnít be trying so hard to be something itís not. What Annihilation wants to be is a serious space war set in the Marvel Universe, and what it turns out to be is a cheerless hack-and-slash fest founded on silly characters and sillier premises.

Ariel Carmona Jr.

Plot: The Annihilation Wave is progressing towards universal domination and standing in its way are the former heralds of Galactus. As annihilation begins, two heroes have fallen, and the Skrull Empire has been practically defeated. The galaxy's most experienced fighters, including heroes and villains, have barely managed to contain Annihilusí expansion into the negative zone. Annihilusí queen, Extirpia, is taken down by Firelord, but upon questioning she reveals an event which can change the tides of the war.

Comments: This book tries to recapture the feeling and scope of work done in the 70s by creators like John Buscema and Marv Wolfman with Marvelís space characters which have roots going back all the way to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby including Galactus and the Silver Surfer.

The problem is the first part of the book is kind of dull with long drawn out battle scenes straight out of Starship Troopers. The annihilation wave may as well be ďthe broodĒ or any other mindless horde of destructive monsters for all their development or originality.

This isnít Giffenís best work by a long shot, though heís usually very adept at writing these grand scale Marvel cosmic events. This isnít even the best cosmic themed book on the stands, strangely. This honor goes to Imageís Godland which ironically blows away anything Marvel is trying to do here by infusing its title with the whimsy and grandeur found in the earliest days of Fantastic Four comics.

Here, the cosmic threat to the universe seems a little stale, maybe because there have been so many previous threats similar to the current conflict, or maybe because the lead characters are also somewhat lackluster. Nova and Firelord, or Starlord, or whatever lord is running around barking orders or spewing forth militaristic double talk, do very little besides relate their exhaustion and the impossible odds of maintaining the waveís constant attacks. They are hard to keep track of. There isnít really one central character to focus on, but a menagerie of cosmic heroes and personalities from every space comic previously encountered in the Marvel universe. Perhaps individually they were somewhat interesting, but collectively they seem to step all over each other. You really have to have read previous cosmically themed comics to understand some of their motivations. Drax the Destroyer for example, is not just playing his part to survive, but he is also in it for a chance to battle Thanos.

The comic book does feature some amazing art work by some talented people including some incredible battle scenes by DiVito depicting the wave as it swoops down on various Kree soldiers, and the last part of the book which visually relates Galactusí battles with some other awesome space beings boasts of some amazing action sequences. The coloring by Villari is vibrant and full of flare, which is well suited for this type of galaxy spanning fare. Too bad Giffenís narrative is not up to par, even with interesting characters like Thanos and Ronan making cameos.

Final Word: I was bored halfway through this comic and seriously doubt I would buy or read future installments.

Michael Deeley

I should like this comic more than I do. Iíve always enjoyed stories about Marvelís cosmic characters. Iím also a fan of crossovers. Seeing a variety of heroes and villains engaged in an epic battle that spans the universe is usually good for some blockbuster fun. And it is interesting to see these characters get a much-needed update. Nova grows more grim as the war gets bloodier. Starlord still suffers from a secret tragedy. Thanos is working with the bad guys for reasons of his own. Annihilus is presented as a cruel and decadent conqueror, truly living up to his name ďthe living death who walks.Ē I mean anyone with an army of millions and servile telepathic queens is a true badass. Drax the destroyer, for years a simple-minded muscleman, has transformed into the warrior from God of War.

But for some reason, I just canít care. The sight of thousands of aliens in battle for their lives doesnít thrill me. The battle between Galactus and two elder gods doesnít fill me with awe. The character transformations of Nova, Starlord, and Drax donít interest me. The mystery of Thanosí involvement doesnít intrigue me. And Thanos is one of my favorite characters! I couldnít help feeling this was just a comic book and not the event itís meant to be.

Itís all done very well. Giffen writes the characters naturally, given their situation. They interact in ways that drive the action and the plot. You also get a feeling for the horrors of war: the endless violence, the hard sacrifices made, the overpowering sense of endless futility. (We even get some emergency sex.) Andrea DiVito draws some truly frightening and disgusting alien monsters. His Galactus and elder gods fight looks a little small, but the endless number of soldiers in the battle scenes makes up for it.

But somehow it just doesnít excite me the way Infinite Crisis and Civil War do. Maybe itís because Earth isnít involved that I canít get excited about this war. Maybe Iíve seen too many alien invasion stories to be interested in this one. Maybe Iíve just become jaded to big fight stories like this. Now thereís a depressing thought: I have seen so many sci-fi comics and movies that Iím bored by a good outer space war. So if you arenít bored by stories of intergalactic war and giant bug monsters, then youíll certainly enjoy Annihilation.

Kelvin Green

Iíd read (and reviewed) a couple of the early installments of the Annihilation crossover, despite a growing antipathy towards event-based storytelling in general, and Marvelís recent attempts in particular (after having my senses violated by the execrable double whammy of House of M and ďThe OtherĒ). I found myself quite enjoying these Annihilation mini-series for their straightforward focus on dynamic storytelling. Circumstances led to me missing out on much of what followed, but it turns out that the eventís strengths are still very much in evidence, even at this late juncture. Oddly enough, even though this is on the literal periphery of the Marvel Universe and the cast is stacked with d-list personalities, writer Keith Giffen somehow manages to make these events seem like they matter, something that Civil War, with its all-star cast and creative team, has singularly failed to do. Perhaps itís precisely because these arenít Marvelís big money-spinning properties that thereís this enthralling sense that anything can happen; Marvel fears making any lasting changes to Spider-Man, but no oneís going to give two figs if they tinker with Ronan the Accuser. But thatís not enough if we donít care about the characters, and thatís another area where Giffen does well. While cliches abound, the cast is an eclectic mix of diverse personalities, and itís that mix that draws the reader in and makes the storyís events work. That said, Giffenís central heroic figure, Nova, doesnít come across nearly as well as the rest of the cast. Itís clear that weíre supposed to respond to his growth and maturity as a hero, but Giffen only really succeeds in making him seem grumpy and uninteresting. Nova has indeed been misused and under-developed for far too long, but surely someone can come up with something a bit more compelling than another tortured tough guy with stubble?

The art also seems affected by this strange malaise. While Andrea DiVito is to be applauded for packing in so much detail into every panel, something of a necessity when portraying such epic events, the detail seems to come at the expense of diverse and interesting visuals; aside from a cracking sequence towards the end of the issue (I donít think I've ever seen Galactus actually brawling), this just isnít the most dynamic looking book. And when itís a comic about a war between universes, exciting imagery should be key. Not helping matters is the colouring, which seems to be aiming for bleak tones to reflect the grim mood of the setting, but the vast swathes of greys, grey-blues and grey-greens have instead a more soporific effect.

Iím being picky, but itís merely because at its core, Annihilation is a very strong bit of storytelling, and that only makes the flaws stand out in sharper contrast. In taking a very simple premise and building upon it with strong characterisation and dramatic plotting, Giffen and his collaborators have easily outperformed the ambitious, pretentious and illogical Civil War. That said, a touch more ambition and inventiveness on the creative side of things would perhaps make this story excel in its own right, and not merely in comparison with Marvelís bloated and shambolic main event.

Shawn Hill

Plot: On a desolate Kree planet, Nova and Starlord, in grim civilian gear, lead a desperate retreat of Kree and other soldiers against the Annihilation Wave of bug invaders, but casualties are high. In orbit, three of Galactusí former heralds (Firelord, Redshift and Stardust) expend their energies depleting the fleet, but even their power has its limits.

Comments: Remember the devastating first rout in Starship Troopers, when the fresh young recruits had no idea what the field of carnage was like? Thatís this issue, with some helpful added Marvel treats for flavor. These bugs are lead by three females, whose carapaces glitter with Negative Zone tech: Extirpia, Extermina and Eradica. Extirpia gets several slithery scenes to gloat and threaten. Imagine if the Aliens queen had been infected by the Borg Queen, maybe with a little dose of Cameron Hodge and Phalanx, and youíve got the gist.

The other Marvel U. enhancements (besides Nova Corps, Skrulls and Kree, whatís left of them anyway) are Gamora, Ronan the Accuser, Drax the Destroyer, Annihilus himself, a strangely mellowed out Thanos, and something called Ravenous who wants to exterminate all heralds of Galactus.

Ronan, now alienated from the Kree government, has become something of a hero on the battlefield. This is a new wrinkle for a character that has long been a superheroesí antagonist. Drax is the new tattooed and badass version from Giffenís recent mini-series, and thereís no doubt Giffen knows what heís doing there.

Gamora is running black ops; sheís always been a sort of cosmic answer to the Black Widow, deadly in sneak attacks, otherwise often off-screen. Sheís now Richard Riderís girlfriend too, so that could be interesting.

Annihilus himself is rather dull, a typical ranting villain berating his troops without much flavor. The wry Thanos, as usual going about his own agenda, is a scene-stealer.

The Richard/Peter friendship (as military co-leaders, both scarred by their losses) is contrasted to the Drax/Cammie friendship (which is sort of like a weird sci-fi version of Wolverine/Jubilee).

Thereís a lot going on. Firelord sacrifices himself to capture Extirpia, but her gloating doesnít cease in captivity: the real battle was taking place elsewhere, as Galactus and the Silver Surfer are defeated by Aegis and Tenebrous, two elder gods he had long ago imprisoned, until Thanos set them free.

Quite how defeating Galactus helps Annihilus isnít immediately clear; Giffenís vision of Marvelís cosmic division has led to strange alliances all around. What has resulted is a mix of old school and fresh, movie derivations and Marvel particulars, delivering a package that is solidly entertaining, if not exactly stellar with inspiration. Itís fun to see cosmic 70s era Marvel properties in action again, but not essential reading.

Divitoís images are clear and sufficient to capture most of the drama, but not all that exciting. Though Galactusí ancient foes have interesting designs in classic Marvel style, the scale of his defeat doesnít quite come across. Though that might be the way the script renders it through detached narration, too.

Judson Miers:

I have to admit that my knowledge of the ďCosmic Marvel UniverseĒ is spotty. I really just didnít get into the whole Phoenix storyline with the Shíiar angle, which is tantamount to sacrilege to most X-Men fans. The galactic characters (Galactus and his heralds, the Beyonder, the Watchers, et al.) have just never really did much for me. So, itís no surprise that I just donít seem to have gotten into this issue.

What we know is that Annihilus has been trapped in the Negative Zone. Heís had plenty of time to grow a serious mad-on for anyone who stands in his way, and has a massive army of insectoid creatures at his disposal to take over the universe.

In this issue, the last refugees from the Nova Corps, the Kree empire, and the surviving ex-heralds of Galactus are all fighting to hold off the Annihilation Wave. What we learn is that Thanos is on the side of Annihilus (Drax is on the side of the ďgood guysĒ waiting for his shot at a throw-down with Thanos), and the Elder Gods have been waiting for their smack-down of Galactus. According to Extirpia, a prisoner gathered by Firelord, ex-herald of Galactus, who also happens to be one of the queens of Annihilus, both Silver Surfer and Galactus have ďfallenĒ and the ďgood guysĒ have lost the war. We donít know if fallen means dead or taken prisoner or something else entirely.

Overall Critique: Nothing stands out as being of poor quality. The artwork, dialogue, and storyline are all tight and solid. My rating has nothing to do with the overall quality of the issue; I just donít have a lot of buy-in with this storyline. It just seems that there are too many massive changes that will affect all of the major comic universes going on at this time to really keep my attention.

Robert Murray:

It looks like there are two publishers producing spin-offs of Starship Troopers this year! Oh, you didnít get the memo about the Marvel version? Well, if you see the two page panel that spreads between the second and third pages of Annihilation #1, you will definitely think that this is a comic pitting Marvel heroes versus alien bugs. Yeah, my first thoughts are probably the same as yours reading this assessment. But honestly, this first issue of Annihilation works on a few different levels, making this an entertaining beginning to a universe-impacting mini-series. Keith Giffen sticks to what he does best: space opera mixed with occasional humor and wild action. Andrea DiVito and Laura Villari have produced some wonderful art which is very detailed, action-packed, and highly kinetic. Theyíre doing their part! And, there is a particularly ground-shaking revelation in the final pages of the issue that is sure to excite many Marvel fans with the implications. This is cosmic war in the grand style, and I think, if nothing else, Annihilation #1 is a rollicking battle royale thatís fun to savor. By ďfunĒ I mean that you donít have to choose a side!

The first issue of Annihilation is war in the trenches rather than a war of ideals a la Civil War, and the resulting melee features many B-list heroes fighting against the overwhelming hordes of Annihilus. Richard Rider, a.k.a. Nova, is the leader of this ragtag band of super-soldiers, and I think his hardened nature, due to the Nova Corps massacre in Prologue, makes for the kind of military leader that readers will root for (plus, his scar makes him look cool!). Novaís from Xandar, and he says kill Ďem all! The entire issue features Richardís commentary in the captions. Giffen realizes that he should be the focus for this series, since he is the most human hero in the resistance force. Also, Richard injects moments of wry humor into the horrors of war, particularly with his foil, Peter Quill. When Peter keeps calling him ďRichie,Ē Nova says, ďHow many times have I told you not to call me Richie?Ē Peter replies, ďHuh, lost count. Three too many.Ē Richard answers, ďMake it four.Ē All of this takes place in the midst of explosions and general chaos, displaying the insanity inherent in war as well as the strange camaraderie that men such as Richard and Peter share. Oh, and one more point about Richard: now he isnít afraid to make the tough decisions that will lead to victory. When Drax tells him that he must order a barrage to halt the oncoming Wave, even though it will kill many of the wounded Kree on the battlefield, Richard orders the strike without hesitation, knowing that Drax is right. Shoot a nuke down a bug hole, you got a lot of dead bugs! At least Richardís compassion makes an appearance in this scene, as he drops Drax roughly to the ground before the barrage and comments, ďGod save my soul.Ē After this run in Annihilation, if he survives, Iíd like to see more of Nova, either in a new series or in another mini-series. Giffen has definitely done a great job of transforming him from a cheesy annoyance into a sympathetic character.

As for the aforementioned Divito and Villari, their illustrated battle scenes are the highlights of this issue, creating a chaotic venue that is easy on the eyes. Like Iíve stated before, space epics should have a lot of clean lines and bright colors to appear futuristic, and these artists get that and run with it. There is a lack of blood and guts, which is good in the non-exploitative sense, though not truly realistic for a war involving monstrous combatants. Finally, appealing to the guilty pleasure portion of my brain, the full page and multi-page spreads that Divito and Villari put together are excellent, incorporating detail with either intense action or revelation. Yes, the pages involving the big shocker near the end of the issue are monumental in tone and scope, which is sure to get your juices flowing.

All in all, this first issue of Annihilation is a thrill-ride that you donít want to miss, even if you didnít read the Prologue or the four mini-series preceding this. In all honesty, you donít need that much background to get into the proceedings here. All you need is a general knowledge of the Marvel Universe and a love for the kind of all-out action that only super-hero comic books can provide. Sorry, Paul Verhoeven!

Nicholas Slayton:

Now that is what I'm talking about!

Annihilation #1 is epic. Really epic. Fate of the universe epic. And I love it. I never read Annihilation: Prologue or any of the follow up miniseries. I had a tight budget, and personally wasnít that interested when they came out. Yet with the somewhat disappointing Civil War being removed from my pull list, I decided to try out this series. I am extremely glad I did.

This series starts off with things looking grim, and ends on an even darker note. Things kick off in a raging battle between the Annihilation Wave and the resistance, led by none other then Richard Rider, the last survivor of the Nova Corps. The motley band of Kree, displaced aliens, and our named heroes are fighting a losing battle against this unstoppable force. It is only thanks to some quick thinking and a surprisingly critical loss to the resistance that our heroes even make it out of there alive.

Iíve got to give a bow to Keith Giffen. He introduces new readers to the situation smoothly, while not stopping for a full on exposition lecture. The battle is perfectly handled, with an actual strategy played out. The entire issue features a feeling of utterly appropriate bleakness. Every scene is tense, high strung, and only offset by some very dark humor. The numerous subplots introduced add complexity and depth to an already wonderful storyline. Thereís Thanos's rough alliance with Annihilus, leader of the enemy forces, Annihilusí lieutenant Ravenousí vendetta against the Silver Surfer, and the two Galactus level beings roaming around the galaxy. The final pages add an even greater sense of doom to our heroes, and seem to do away with a powerful wildcard rather quickly. The aftereffects of that are definitely going to catch my eye in the next few issues. If this isnít a compressed storyline, I donít know what is.

Giffen also delivers wonderful characters. I was unfamiliar with every character, yet
Giffen presented them with such detail that I feel as if Iíve been reading their stories for years. Each of our heroes gets significant introduction and character development. Our protagonist Richard Rider (or Nova) seems to have been shaped drastically by the previous six months of Annihilation. His stone cold demeanor and complete respect for his soldiers shows how much he comprehends the situation at hand and strives to survive. An offset to Riderís seriousness is Peter Quill, the former Starlord. Quill is sarcastic, cynical, and hiding an apparently dark past that ties in heavily with his former identity. He provides some of the greatest lines in the book, from calling Rider ďRichieĒ to my favorite line of the book ďOne word: priorities.Ē The supporting cast consists of Drax the Destroyer and Cammi, my least favorite characters. While they do get equal treatment as Rider and the others, they just kind of bore me. Also in the army is Ronan the Accuser, whose skill in war proves extremely useful in the opening battle.

The art blew me away. From the opening splash page depicting the battle to the panels depicting the quieter aftermath, DiVito delivered big time. The sheer multitude of insectoids that make up the Wave are quite gruesome looking, and they are something Iíd certainly not like to encounter. Yet the little details that DiVito puts into the art really makes it stand out. From the various injured Kree running around with different wounds, to the explosions filling up the battlefield, the art does not skimp on the little things. Even Nova is wearing a combat vest over his costume, a logical and realistic touch to the general of the Resistance. The faces of the characters are highly detailed, especially Quill when he goes into his sarcastic self, flashing arrogant smiles left and right. The colors in the book really stand out as well. The aforementioned explosions are vivid, and the grit on the uniforms of the soldiers add a great level of detail.

All in all, Annihilation #1 is a great start to a very promising miniseries. With rich characters, witty dialogue, and an against-all-odds storyline, this stacks up pretty highly on my favorites list. For fans of Giffen, Nova, epic storylines, or people wanting to try something not affiliated with Civil War, pick this up.

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