Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Mike Perkins
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Editor’s Note: Annihilation: Conquest Prologue arrives in stores this Wednesday, June 20.
A Star Wars-style opening crawl explains how Annihilus and his armies have conquered the Skrull Empire and ravaged the galaxy. It is a time of uncertainty, barbarism, and cautious hope. A handful of heroes, including the new Quasar, Nova, Starlord, and Ronan the Accuser, have driven back the Wave and are now restoring order. Phyla-Vell, heir to the legacies of Captain Marvel and Quasar, struggles with her new powers and responsibilities. Ronan has taken control of the Kree empire and works to restore its defenses with the help of Peter Quill, Starlord and Earthling. Quill welcomes the assistance of the Spaceknights who bring new software to restore the Kree’s defense network.
So of course another terrible force comes to conquer the galaxy and kill millions of people.
As soon as the Spaceknights show up with access to the Kree’s complete defense network, you know something terrible is going to happen. And no, they aren’t the terrible threat this time around.
And that’s about the only difference between this and the first Annihilation. Once again, we’ll get four, 4-part stories, (3 mini-series and 4 issues of Nova), featuring individual heroes and their struggles against this new threat, followed by a six issue miniseries that tells the main story. I mean, it feels like Annihilation just ended, and now we get the same thing all over again? Is Marvel going to do this every year? If so, what will next year’s enemies be? Impossible Man and his clones? I seriously question the need for another event so quickly after the first one. Annihilation was supposed to redefine the sci-fi elements of the Marvel Universe. But then this comes along before a new status quo can be established! Can it really be called change if nothing is stable?
What saddens me is the loss of stories we won’t see because of Conquest. Phyla’s struggles with her inherited legacy could fuel another series similar to Nova. Peter Quill’s role as military advisor to the Kree Empire reminded me of Star Trek. He even has a Spock-type comrade with intentional sexual tension. And Ronan’s story is chock full of political intrigue and suspense. But all that gets thrown out the window because yet another extra-galactic invasion comes along. And if we do get those stories after this crossover, if Marvel does return to the hinted at status quo at the start of this comic, then what the hell was all the fuss about?
For a sci-fi adventure comic, this isn’t bad. Abnett & Lanning have cemented their reputations for creating exciting and intelligent sci-fi comics on DC’s Legion books and Marvel’s Nova. The snappy patter between Quill & Ten-Cor and Phyla & Moondragon are the highlights of the book. The characters express honest feelings unique to their personalities. They feel like real people. I’m confident these two will write a compelling story in the Annihilation: Conquest mini-series.
I find myself caring more than usual about the art in these comics. Science fiction is best when it looks fantastic yet plausible. Mike Perkins succeeds at this admirably. His aliens look like creatures that could have evolved on distant planets. His buildings have the detail and texture that reflect the diverse races that built them. Perkins helps convey the sinister, infectious nature of this new threat and its epic scope. His quiet moments of personal dialogue are as visually compelling as the epic scenes of battle and destruction. And his women are hot. Seriously, Phyla-Vel looks delicious!
While I question the need for another major event so soon after Annihilation (which hasn’t even been completely collected yet), and would prefer more monthly and mini-series to another crossover, Conquest has the potential to be as epic and entertaining as its predecessor.
I really liked the original Annihilation series. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a fun cosmic epic with plenty of big ideas and absolutely no pretensions, and was a welcome respite from the pompous yet small-minded Civil War. Even so, I was a bit cautious about the idea of a sequel, because the main tale had run its course, and while there were more stories to be told, they weren’t of the epic scale you’d expect in a crossover event.
Sadly, my fears look to have been borne out. I have enormous respect for the writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (their “Legion of the Damned”/Legion Lost work at DC remains one of my favourite superhero storylines), but I get the distinct feeling that they’re writing to order here; I suspect that Marvel were pleasantly surprised at the reaction to Annihilation and requisitioned a sequel without having any idea of what it would be about, leaving us in a weird dramatic no man’s land. Abnett and Lanning deliver a solid introduction to the tale here, but after the dramatic upheavals of the previous series, this feels like uninspired retreading, with nothing new or suitably inspiring to justify doing the whole thing over again. This is made worse by an odd creative decision to have most of the issue’s big events happen off-screen, so we get no real sense of the scale of the threat, merely the protagonists from the last Annihilation series popping up to say how horrible things are; as such, we’re disconnected from the story and are given no reason to care about what’s going on. All of which makes this feel like an half-hearted coda rather than a proper sequel.
But it’s not all bad; the new Quasar’s quest for a cosmic saviour has a lot of potential, enough that it, rather than yet another alien invasion fleet, could have been the focus of the entire series. There are a great many good stories that could have been written about surviving in the aftermath of war, and the need for an inspiring figure to bring people together in their time of need; to relegate all that potential to the background while launching into yet another war seems wasteful and unimaginative.
Also on the plus side, Mike Perkins turns in some stunning artwork that borders on photo realistic without the stiffness that often accompanies that style. His storytelling and characterisation are strong, and even though Perkins spends much of the issue illustrating characters reacting to off-screen events, he makes it all look good. My only problem with the issue is that Perkins’ depiction of the main villains is a bit bland and generic, considering the wonderful visual possibilities inherent in their design, but that’s only a minor quibble; if nothing else, this comic looks great.
The reason why Peter Jackson didn’t include the “Scouring of the Shire” sequence in his Lord of the Rings adaptations is because, while it serves a purpose in the broader scheme of the books, dramatically it comes across as a strange and extraneous addition after all the large-scale drama that has gone before. That’s how this comic feels to me, only that I can’t work out what the purpose is, beyond squeezing some extra cash from the Annihilation brand. Disappointing.
Last year, while Marvel was all caught up in its Civil War event, there was a great comic that did not get that heavy of a push but was an instant classic: Annihilation. That was an epic story about war. No, not a “war” between bickering superheroes in need of good lawyers, but a war for survival. Annihilation was a fight for the universe’s survival that left many cosmic empires in tatters and the balance of power completely changed. The series was a personal favorite of mine, and I was extremely pleased when Annihilation: Conquest was announced.
There’s an unspoken rule in life that after every war, there is reconstruction. That is where the Annihilation: Conquest Prologue picks up. The Skrull empire is gone, the Kree are barely able to hold themselves together, and yet they are the main power in the universe now. Many of the characters from the previous saga are back, trying to find a place in the post-Annihilation universe. Richard Rider is trying to continue the duties of the Nova Corps despite being its last member, Ronan the Accuser is in charge of the Kree empire, Phyla-Vell is now the new Quasar, and Peter Quill is serving as a military consultant to the Kree.
While the different characters have their own storylines, Quill is without a doubt the breakout character of the story. The ex-Starlord is still spouting snarky lines and dripping with humorous sarcasm as he was in Annihilation. His position as a military consultant introduces much of the plot presented in this Prologue. When things hit the fan, he’s right there, and he’s still the ace soldier ready to kick some butt. The new Quasar, with lover Moondragon have their own quest to deal with, and it looks like it may be the counterpoint to the new threat. The bad guys’ reveal is priceless. Truly menacing.
Mike Perkins is without a doubt one of the best artists Marvel’s got. His anatomy is dead on, completely realistic, while his action scenes are fast paced, fluid, and extreme. Perkins manages to capture the science fiction aspects perfectly, making the alien planets futuristic but still showing the damages from the Annihilation war. The artistic highlight of this issue has to be when things go wrong for Quill and he has to fight his way out or the new intergalactic threat. The action is amazing, leaning more towards a war style rather than a superhero fight, and Perkins nails Quill’s sarcastic look and underhanded moves in a fight.
With this Prologue, Annihilation: Conquest is shaping up to be another sleeper hit from Marvel. The story is engaging, the action is epic, and the dialogue (especially Quill’s) is brilliant. This looks like it may be the Godfather Part II to the wonderful Annihilation saga.
This was my first experience with Annihilation, and I was very happy afterwards. I had a mild interest in the first set of stories because they had such snazzy covers, but it seemed like an event that would be hard to jump into. This prologue at least is an opportunity for readers to at least try it out (though it seems like a lot is lost in transition).
The first half or so—about 20 pages—is mostly forced exposition. This isn’t being handled like World War Hulk which rehashed the story with shorter vignettes. Instead, a lot of dialogue is crammed in, but I can’t blame the writers at all. The fact remains that fans who are already familiar with the Annihilation story and characters might be bored with this exposition, but there is a nice pay-off.
As the story picks up and stuff starts actually happening, I was entertained, but there are a lot of similarities to sci-fi movies and other comics; they blend so much together and it’s still unique enough that it doesn’t seem repetitive to the genre. Part of the new wave of villainy that the Kree fights are swarming humanoid robots which reminded me of the recent OMAC in DC. My feeling has been that Marvel created these titles in order to go against DC’s Green Lantern titles as well as the half dozen other space stories DC publishes, and I see the similarities. Nova was a part of a group, or “corps,” that are linked together and try to defend/police the universe. That’s also true of the Green Lanterns. Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord is a human who is a hero on an alien planet, like Adam Strange. Phyla Vell, Quasar and relative of Mahr Vell, reminds me of DC characters, but any connection I try to make is a stretch.
Despite the similarities, it would be pointless for Marvel to simply knock off DC’s titles, so Annihilation does seem to offer something different. Indeed, it keeps the Marvel style that I feel is more grounded in reality (yet still presenting the incredible) than what DC offers. My friend has adamantly disagreed with me on this, and I’m sure there’s going to be readers now who will argue that Nova flying around space getting powers from a helmet and suit is no more credible than getting power from a ring. My point isn’t really to knock DC; they’re great. My point is that with Annihilation Marvel is targeting the same fans, but it’s not the same story.
All that I can really complain about is that Annihilation is another big “event” involving many titles that I probably don’t have the money to afford. If you’re interested in this or love DC’s space stuff, give it a look at the very least. This Prologue is barely a continuation of the previous Annihilation story and is a good jumping on point.
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