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Give heed to The Marvel Cosmic! (Part 2)

20 Jul

 

Welcome back folks to our final round-up of all things Marvel Cosmic! It’s been great fun for me to dig back into my archives and my brain and reminisce about all the fun I had the first time around reading these comics.
So without any further rambling, lets get down to business and pick up where we left off, for anyone that missed the last one click HERE and check it out – the rest of you follow me:

(and as always the images I’ve used are as high-res as I could find so click to enjoy or download!)

6) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (ongoing 2008-2010)

Guardian Time b****es!!

With Nova over not too long after A:C and the events over and all, there was a void within with the lack of beautiful story-telling and artwork… but then DnA came to the rescue again! Picking up after the end of Conquest, Peter Quill – the man known as Star-Lord – brought together a most unlikely team: Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Groot, Drax the Destroyer, Phyla-Vell (the new Quasar) and Gamora.
Together this rag-tag bunch were what he called The Guardians of the Galaxy and Star-Lords intention was to have a team that would be proactive in helping people and saving the galaxy instead of waiting for something like the Annihilation Wars to happen and simply reacting defensively. Its like they say: a good offense is the best defense!
They take up residence in a place called Knowhere which is (and I quote): “Located within what appears to be a severed head of a Celestial floating along The Rip (the extreme outer edge of all Spacetime with no specific physical location), Knowhere acts as a make-shift port of call and observatory of the End of the Universe for intergalactic travelers of all species and from all times.” And the stations head of security is another new addition to the character list who has become a fast-favourite not just for me but for fans around the globe – Cosmo the Russian space-dog. Don’t ask his back-story, he’s a dog in a space suit but has power that I would say is approaching Jean-Grey and Cable’s in some regards – he’s a powerful telepath and and even more powerful telekinetic capable of knocking out two, count em TWO superteams with a single TK blast. Plus a whole load of other stuff, trust me – not a canine to mess with.

You go Cosmo!

The New Adam

In addition we have a story-thread in the series that is important for stuff to come further ahead in this article (isn’t it awesome how its all delicately but definitely connects like a fine web!?) in which we follow the resurrection of a hero called Adam Warlock who is a cosmically powered being. We also see him encounter the “UniversalChurch of Truth” – hey even space isn’t safe from religion – who see him as their new messiah. Warlock basically is a dude that can’t really die, he was dead and found in a cocoon from which he was reborn, thats how we encounter him – and the curious part is the church has a second such cocoon that they can’t open… I’ll leave that right there…
But Im not goint to get into the details of it, two years of stories is a to cover and with a comic like this that became and still is near the absolute top of my list of Best Marvel Comics in the last few years (and arguably all time), well Im going to hope you feel intrigued enough to at least give it a shot – I guarantee you won’t regret it. Topped off by a heart-wrenching finale (yes the series is now “on hiatus”) it is a true master-work.
Filled with action, adventure, loads of great comedy and wit, characters that you love seeing developed masterfully, great art and story-lines that really fire the imagination – if you like good stories and big adventures and most of all space and scifi then this will be a boon to your imagination!

With that out of the way the Marvel Cosmic events take on a different keel now – the big wars with outside parties are done and the Universe is safe for all once again. But those of us who live in the real world know that the nature of people is that they come together when the crap hits the fan but when all is good… well that’s when the real plotting and infighting begins. 
So that brings us to the next two mini-events which you can read selectively – like their predecessors they have a few mini-series that came out along with it

7) WAR OF KINGS (Cross-over event, March-August 2009)
Yet another space-opera filled with heady battles and galactic conflict! Space really is a crazy place to live, maybe we’d be better off living somewhere quieter like Baghdad…
But jokes aside, this is a good follow up to everything that we’ve seen thus far – we’ve seen a quiet (mostly) galaxy torn apart, saved, decimated again and chaos across the board for so long now. We’ve seen the rise and fall of heroes and legends being born, we’ve followed grand adventures and the quiet aftermath of great catastrophe, we’ve seen stories deeply human and personal and massive events that stagger the imagination.

All the players…

Its been a crazy ride and its not over yet folks! After a brief lull since the Annihilation Wars have ended during which the galaxy is slowly rebuilding itself we see new conflict come about – except this time its not an alien armada or evil collective but something closer to home.
Primarily the story centres on an off-shoot of the human race called the Inhumans (for those who are not familiar with them) that were of human stock that ages millions of years ago – during the early days of a war between the alien Kree and Skrull’s – was manipulated by ancient Kree scientists looking to (1) create powerful mutant soldiers to use in war from the strong genetic stock of our lower homo-sapien ancestors and (2) to perhaps find a way to stave of the slowing and eventual stopping of Kree evolution, you see according to the comics the Kree are highly advanced but for reasons they cannot understand their species has (by the present) all but lost any visible evolutionary ability. For those of you that are familiar with and understand what this means – you might know that this is about the saddest state of stagnation possible for any people.
In any case, they created this race of super-powered folks and then for reasons unknown decided to dump the experiment, cut their losses and hit the road leaving their new kiddies all by their lonesome. The Inhumans survived and thrived inseclusion and continued to live hidden from humanity for a long time until eventually discovered and then long story short (hey you want to know more? Ask for a review/rundown or just go read the comics! More fun that way) they ended up living in their own city on the moon, ruled by the Inhuman royal family under King Black Bolt – a truly powerful being, one who never speaks because his voice is so powerful that a whisper could level buildings. At the least.

You HAVE to see this full size!

Our latest saga follows the Inhumans coming to the conclusion that the Kree are a stagnant and failing race and need new blood – literally! – to take up the reins and bring them out of their many millennia long slump. They return like prodigal children and the Inhuman royal family becomes the Kree’s new royal family as Princess Crystal of the Kree is to marry Ronan the Accuser (remember him?) – a grand event to bring the two peoples together. Unfortunately the wedding is interrupted by Emperor Vulcan of the Shi’ar who is a crazed war-mongering expansionist, having taken the throne by force and ruling through the same.
The Shi’ar would be familiar to fans of the X-Men franchise as that is where they were introduced waaaay back during the Dark Phoenix story-line. Basically the Shi’ar Empire (or Imperium as they like to call it) are a young empire combining many worlds and people’s and are the youngest of the BIG-THREE space empires in the Marvel Universe along-side the Kree and the Skrulls – they are also arguably the most powerful.

The Darkhawks

The event also carries not one but TWO mini-series centred around an old-school character called Darkhawk that introduces more new concepts (I quite like this one actually) to the bigger picture. The two series are “War of Kings: Darkhawk” and War of Kings: Ascension” and in them we follow a young Earth-hero named Chris Powell, who you will be familiar with if you followed my order here and had read Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. Chris is approached by someone named Talon wearing Darkhawk armour much like his own and in a nutshell explains that Darkhawks were a basically like the Nova Corp but even bigger and more behind the scene’s and big-picture: imagine if the Nova are the police or FBI of the Marvel cosmos, the Darkhawks were the Mossad. So between these two series we follow Darkhawk as he gets drawn into this massive galactic conflict and tries to find his place and role with all this new information. Is Talon telling him the truth? Can he trust him and should he? Read the series to find out and trust me, in some ways its the highlight of the entire event in terms of quality of overall story.

King Blastaar

The Darkhawk story also introduces readers to another power-player in this cosmic drama – Blastaar, the new self-crowned king of the Negative Zone, taking over from the now overthrown Annihilus. Even the Cosmic Control Rod of the former bug-king comes into play and now we have a fourth side in this already overwhelmed cosmos – could it get any worse? Check it out and see for yourself.

One wicked image!

Lastly, the event tie’s into both the Nova and Guardian’s of the Galaxy ongoing series which I should hope you would be reading anyway because required reading or not, they are two of Marvel’s best books in decades! Even Adam Warlock gets involved and tries to use his massive powers to contain the damage The Fault is doing to space and time and reality itself and lets just say it starts to affect him.
I can’t go much further into the event itself without giving away precious spoilers but suffice to say its an intensely paced and full of action and drama and a worthy successor to the events and series that came before it.
For someone like me I love the undertones like this that Marvels Cosmic books have carried for those that care to think about them – personally I find it adds that little extra depth to what Im reading and makes me appreciate it that much more. Here we see a situation that echoes real life – when a greater threat stands everyone forgets their differences and come together, but the moment there is a calm and the outside threat is past all that camaraderie and fellow-ship and understanding takes a back seat to personal ambition and once more the big picture gets lost to personal ambition and vendetta!

8) REALM OF KINGS (Cross-over event, Jan-May 2010) *Possible Spoilers!*

This one is a cross-over event, it is a mostly well written and different to the norm kind of story – its not as enjoyable as the one’s before and what follows but that is partly because it is not so much an event as the story in between two events, more like an event in lieu of the normal ongoing series since Cosmic had only two. 
However in fairness it carries on the stories we’ve enjoyed immensely thus far nicely and builds a good feel for the new cosmic world outside of war – the kingdoms, the conflicts, the politics and power-play and intrigue. Though not as overtly intense and paced as all the comics described before this and in last week’s post, this is a nice change of pace and feels more like an epic pan-galactic story. Not a fair comparison but its world building, empire and era defining in a simpler way akin to great space-opera’s like the first Dune or Star Wars. And you definitely want to follow at least the core of this story because it leads very nicely into what follows.
And here begin SPOILERS, so if you are really picky about that and want to read the others first, go right ahead – I promise this post will still be here when you get back, as will I… what can I say, I got a lot of time on my hands!
At the end of the War of Kings, Black Bolt and Vulcan were both killed by Black Bolts final solution and it also had another unforeseen result – it tore a hole in space. Yeah. Black Bolt literally tore the galaxy a new one.

Queen Medusa of Attilan!

This of course is a matter of some concern to… well pretty much everyone! The story follows the attempts of various folks to understand and combat this new threat to them starting with sending Quasar into the hole which is dubbed The Fault as his energy powers would allow him to survive the energy it gave off. He goes and what he finds is that it is in fact a tunnel to another universe – one that is decidedly not all that pleasant and should be kept out quite definitely, kind of like peeking out your open front door to see a serial killer standing right outside and your door won’t close. Can you close it? And if you could move it to close, would it be fast enough to prevent him getting in? And how long before he turns and notices you? Scary? You don’t know the half of it!
The event also ties into Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova and has three mini series, two of which follow efforts related to the event and the third not really related much by itself but comes into play much much later on in the Hulk-family books. I’ll explain later:

  • Realm of Kings: Inhumans (5 issues)
  • Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard (5 issues)
  • Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk (4 issues)

It’s this last series that is the poor lost child – I personally didn’t mind having it along but for fans not familiar or interested it is in fact superfluous and unless you want to read the related stuff I would say let it go. It’s the first book around the Hulk that I enjoyed since the end of World War Hulk, the events that followed once Jeph Loeb took over was horrendous and I pretend never happened. I won’t go into the details here – perhaps in another recap post like this cosmic one(s) where I’ll talk about the magnificent run of Hulk comics that Greg Pak has written. Suffice to say that this series follows Hiro-Kala a son of the Incredible Hulk as he leads a rag-tag group on a space ship and they are pulled into the Microverse and to the planet K’ai where he wreaks all kinds of havoc. The events of this mini in fact directly lead into Dark Son over in the The Incredible Hulks.
The one thing that was of extreme sadness and heart-break for me was that at the end of this build-up event that lead directly and almost immediately into the next one, both Nova and Guardians came to an end… Marvel has claimed they remain on hiatus and hope remains but to see them go is a kick in the gut.
Thankfully the good comics and seeing those familiar faces did not stop here!

9) THE THANOS IMPERATIVE (6 issue limited series + 2 bookend one-shots, July ’10-Jan ’11)

*SERIOUS Spoilers ahead if you have not read the books before this!*
And so it begins…

You remember Adam Warlock? If you’ve followed the series you know how he was found in a cocoon where he resurrected after he died and then became messiah and head of the Universal Church of Truth and now in fact has become a little crazy and evil and become basically Evil Adam a.k.a. Adam Magus. And remember that second cocoon the church had that they couldn’t open Well…
Aa, whats the use? The name’s a dead giveaway and if you read the last events through till the end you know that with reports of his demise no obviously greatly exaggerated – Thanos is back baby!
We pick up right where Realm of Kings and the two ongoings of Nova and Guardians ended with Star-Lord and the Guardians watching over the newly resurrected Thanos and trying their best to figure out what to do with this nigh-unstoppable and known crazy maniac. Should they kill him? Would that be the right thing to do? Does he serve a purpose still? CAN they even kill him?

Adam Magus himself…

Not the best place to find one-self I’ll grant you that!
Im assuming at this point that you’ve at least read one of the two ongoings that I’ve harped on about like a crazed boy-band fan or at least the event just preceding even – if you haven’t I would strongly recommend stop here, go read and then come back after you’ve the start of this series. Really.

So now we have the Fault – we have a barely held together set of war-hammered Empires and a serious lack of firepower. This is especially problematic when you take into account the fact that coming from the Fault itself you have an alternate set of Avengers that serve the masters of that entire Universe where death no longer exists and all serve the leaders – the Many-sided Ones.

The Ravagers!

Yeah, sounds not so bad? Imagine nothing ever dying or going away. Now imagine people DONT stop having kids… What happens in a thousand or so years of no one dying? Suffering and pain still exist… hunger and horror still exist. You just can’t die. Still not so bad? Thats what the Cancerverse as its aptly named is like.
The servants of the Cancerverse want to eradicate death in our Universe and then take over and to that end they search for the Avatar of Death to kill it. And its all coming for us backed by the Universal Church of Truths maniacal overlord Adam Magus and alternate evil versions of some of this universe’s most powerful heroes.
And out only hopes are the already battered Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Quasar, Moondragon and the mad Titan – Thanos.
How do you think our plucky heroes will survive this one? Do they in fact survive? Read it and find out!
As a bit of a bonus and also a bit of a tease – here’s a sampling of the kind of mega-level stuff you can see in this series, this image below is an unfinished version of a space battle scene that includes beings like Galactus and the Celestials! This is literally two universe’s fighting each other! Interested yet?

The Biggest Space-battle of ALL TIME!

10) ANNIHILATORS (4 issue mini-series, first half-2011)

I was beyond over-joyed when I saw this series announced – after the end of the Thanos Imperative there was a void in my reading that nothing could fill and I missed my friends out there saving the Universe and keeping me amused and entertained throughout.
But then Marvel saw the fan-base and solid readership of these past events that they had never expected to garner such a following and so though in small efforts like this, the saga continues and in this series does a most admirable job.

Go Cosmo!!

It being a stand-alone mini-series there is not too much I can say without spoiling the fun and for this one I really don’t want to!
In a nutshell: The Cancerverse is no more. The Universe is safe, the Empires of our Universe are at peace for now and all is as well as can be expected. And in a heart-breaking turn of events, the Nova Corp and the Guardians of the Galaxy are both now gone – leaving the Universe to fend for itself.
But this is not the end – for Cosmo the ever-awesome space-dog has been secretly meeting with some of the most powerful players out there to form a collective or league if you agree to come together when needs calls for their aid and the rest of the Universe cannot fight for itself – essentially to keep alive the ideal of Peter Quill, the former Star-Lord, leader of the Guardians.

Emperor Kallark a.k.a. Gladiator

And so it is that Blastaar, king of the Negative Zone, tries to attack Attilan the royal city of the Kree rulers – the Inhumans – hoping to take advantage of our weakened ‘verse and expand his own Empire. But his plans are not to be as the cosmic level powerhouse squad now dubbed The Annihilators makes their debut and thwarts his plans!
The team consists of some familiar faces and one not so much for most readers – The first Quasar Wendell Vaughn, Silver Surfer the Herald of Galactus, Ronan the Accuser of the Kree and Emperor Gladiator of the Shi’ar Imperium and last but certainly not least, Beta Ray Bill. Together they are probably one of the most powerful groups of people ever brought together in any comic ever written. Period.
For those that don’t know him, basically Bill is a true hero and a serious bad-ass! I’m not even going to be a fan about it, Im just going to in fact quote the facts directly from Marvel.com and you can judge for yourself:

The Burning Galaxy was destroyed through the machinations of Surtur. The surviving Korbinites decided to choose a champion who they would follow to their new home. the Korbinite known as Beta Ray Bill was successful and was transformed into a cybernetic being resembling a fierce creature. The Korbinites then amassed their fleet, put themselves into stasis, and followed Beta’s ship, Skuttlebutt. Bill fought legions of demons sent by Surtur.

Brothers in Thunder!

As the fleet approached the Milky Way galaxy, it was detected by a S.H.I.E.L.D. satellite. Nick Fury asked Thor to investigate. Thor was deemed a threat by Skuttlebutt, so Beta fought him. During the battle Thor was separated from his hammer, Mjolnir, and reverted to Donald Blake. Curious, Bill picked up Mjolnir and the hammer deemed him worthy, granting him the power of Thor. Skuttlebutt landed but both were transported to Asgard by Odin. Bill said the hammer should remain his as he had won it fairly.
Odin subsequently decreed the two battle in Skartheim to the death to see who would reclaim the hammer. Bill’s Korbinite physiology gave him somewhat of an advantage in the lava-filled realm, and he was able to win. However, he refused to take Thor’s life. It is believed that Odin chose this location to further test Bill’s worthiness and to teach Thor a lesson. Mjolnir was returned to Thor, with Odin ordering the creation of the hammer Stormbreaker for Bill to use. Bill continued to protect his people and assist the Asgardians. He grew particularly close to Sif, who accompanied him to battle

So basically this is an already powered up dude who handed Thor his arse not once but TWICE and to top that off was so highly regarded by the Norse gods and Odin himself that he got his own hammer! Now you see what I mean?!
Of course soon after all the heroics of beating Blastaar – as in any good story, the action does not end here – in fact this is just the start! A Space-Knight named Ikon (remember them from Conquest?) comes to this new team to ask for their help. And believe me when I tell you that the threat is one that puts even this team of power-houses to the test! A new team is forged in the fires of battle and heroes rise to face some serious blackness.

Rocket N Groot by Mike Mignola!

BONUS! There is a back-up story that runs in each issue of this series as a four part story and was an even bigger joy for me then the main series (which says a lot about my taste I guess…) in which we follow the adventure of Rocket Raccoon, now living a pathetic lost life as a mailroom clerk in an office somewhere out there. Lost and directionless with the disbanding of the Guardians and the loss of friends, one bizarre event later he gets drawn back into an adventuring life and soon finds himself on a quest to find his old buddy Groot to help him unravel this crazy new mystery – a search which is quite a shocker. Once together again this dynamite duo are off to fight this new-found villain out to get Rocket and you really want to be along for this ride!

Well folks – there you have it!
At last we are at the end of this little recap. I hope this helped you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy this at least a fraction as much as I did because following these books has been one of the highlights of my comic reading experience these last few years – especially from a major label and definitely as a story running this long.
If like myself you can’t get enough of these tales and these heroes then I will see you among the pages of the coming-soon series that I showed at the end of last weeks post when the Annihilators make Earthfall and come face to face with Earths Mightiest Heroes. Do you think the Avengers can hold their own? Would they win? Or would these inter-stellar power-houses wipe the floor with them? And WHY are they there in the first place??

Earthfall 2011!!

I don’t know yet, but we all will soon enough! Hope you liked this not-so-little breakdown and that it helped you find your way into the Marvel Cosmic – for those that have stuck around through these two entries, thanks and I’ll see everyone next week for more comic randomness!
Cheers!
——————–
Additional Note – Anyone interested in more back story prior to either of these posts, if you really want to read more of these characters and some of the excellent cosmic stuff Marvel has done over the years I would recommend the following (in rough order):
10. Infinite Abyss
9. Celestial Quest
8. Origins of Galactus
7. Infinity Crusade
6. Infinity War
5. Warlock Chronicles
4. Infinity Watch v1
3. Infinity Gauntlet
2. Thanos Quest
1. Silver Surfer v3
And its an alternate/elseworld kind of story but I highly recommend reading “Marvel: The End” – one of the best such series ever to come out of Marvel in terms of concept and execution.