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Give heed to The Marvel Cosmic! (Part 1)

14 Jul

Welcome back one and all to another edition of the Wayfarer – and this week Im going to have to get right to it as we’re going to be covering some titles and events that have been requested by many readers and comic-fans out there looking for guidance. And we are ready to provide it!

CLICK TO ENLARGE!!

Today’s extra-special post covers the amazing and highly successful (unexpected for Marvel in fact at the time) world(s) of cosmic adventure and intergalactic action that exploded onto the comic world with the Annihilation event and began a true renaissance of space-based science fiction in comics.
For a science fiction fan such as myself it was an absolute blessing because (and I say this to in the spirit of honesty) while DC’s work on the space books with the GL titles has been great, its basically Lantern-centric space opera – more Star Wars then Star Trek if you will. And maybe its just me but as much as a good dramatic space opera can be fun, there’s nothing quite like the mind-bending awesomeness, the creativity, the blurring of lines and unavoidable tight-rope walk of disbelief and clear understanding and the familiar.

In this Marvel in my opinion has actually crafted a far superior mythos through the able and masterful craftsmanship of the legendary team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – lovingly known to fans as DnA because of their long history of excellent work together in comics across the industry.

Building on a base set up over the years by Jim Starlin, Keith Giffen and other legendary story-tellers this new set of Cosmic tales are a pleasure for readers both old and new – if you like me have read all the old books like The Infinity Gauntlet then its brilliant, but in a twist on tradition, if you’ve never read anything of them before you can still jump right back into the middle of things here with no trouble!

What Im going to try and do is break it down for you into the basic bits and order so that you can be caught up in no time and today like me be hankering and waiting Gollum-like for more tales of space adventure and entertainment with some of the more compelling and well crafted characters and stories from The Big Two comic publishers in quite a while.
So come, sit back and let your eyes wander over this quick little burst of the Power Cosmic (as the Silver Surfer puts it) and maybe if I can do this just right you might find yourself compelled to get past that little hesitation that always comes when trying a new book.
To start with let me reiterate one last time – even if you have little or no familiarity with these characters and/or settings: DONT PANIC! (oh and Ive added a lot of high-res pics to click to enlarge and enjoy the excellent artwork!!)
The beauty of these books is that you can read them for what they are and no be hampered. And now, on to the comics themselves:

1) THANOS (12 issue limited series – 2004)

To start with I would highly recommend reading the Thanos maxi-series before diving in to this realm BUT (and this is important) it is not mandatory and if you really feel like you want to limit your reading, stick to the second half – #7-12 which is a story arc called “Samaritan” written by Giffen who adds just the right touch of suspense and the aura of mystery, power and unknowable purpose that was always the most defining feature of the Mad Titan. These unfortunately were lacking in a lot of Starlin stories that came before this though not so much in the first issues of this series.
Essentially I recommend reading Samaritan simply because it introduces Thanos well – and even if he only pops up now and again trust me he’s always important! – and its like a chess game where here you see some pieces that play big parts in the coming adventures and you get an introduction and some understanding, like a setup of sorts. It takes Thanos on a journey, a quest if you will and following this mad God makes for an interesting read.

The Mad Titan in full form!

For those that know him not – Thanos is a Titan, not the Greek kind but close enough. In the Marvel Universe there exists a race of beings that you may see or hear sporadically in comics called The Eternal (created by THE legendary master Jack Kirby) – now just take it that they are gods and through them on Saturns moon Titan came to be a powerful race called the Titans and Thanos was one of them. He was born a mutant (anyone else thinking X-men crossover?) and grew up dreaming of conquest and destruction and eventually left Titan, became a nihilist and amassed power, eventually falling in love with Death herself (she is a she) and keeps trying to destroy everything as a gift of love for her – hey takes all kinds I guess! But he has on occasion been on the other side and ended up SAVING everything when all the heroes have failed, overall making him something of an enigma as a character and his purpose in the universe, one of the reasons he is as interesting a character as he has evolved to be today.
Hell this is a character that has controlled the Cosmic Cube, the Infinity Gauntlet, whooped arse on every superhero Marvel has to offer, beaten on cosmic entities and even been consort to Death herself for a time! Trust me, his adventures and his part in all this are important – in this series alone he not only has a debate with Galactus but adopts The Fallen One (the first ever Herald of Galactus, yeah you heard right) as his own Herald. Beat that. 
Quick trivia: his brother is Eros a.k.a. Starfox, the dude who was hot and heavy for a while with She-Hulk (ok, little jealous here) and has the power to pretty much make anyone fall and all over him. Nice huh?

2) DRAX THE DESTROYER: EARTH FALL (limited series – end 2005)

Now this is a series that is about a character sadly under-used (in my humble view) and so while I would say read it, it is not required reading. However I will say this, it was meant to be and is a lead-in to the Annihilation crossover event.
Mentor
DRAX

For those who don’t know his deal – he was a simple human dude named Arthur Douglas who was merrily driving on a highway with his family when they saw Thanos in his UFO and were destroyed for having seen what they were not meant to see. His daughter survived and was rescued by Mentor, Thanos’ father, only to be raised into a powerful being that would pop up in Marvel comics as Moondragon – part time villainous b-er-witch and later reformed hero. The poor man that was her father once was dead – however Mentor had realised his son was a danger and could not be left unchecked and so he and his own father Chronos created a new body out of soil itself, granted it immense power – enough to rival Thanos – and bonded the soul/essence of poor Arthur to it. They wiped all recall of who he was and ingrained a desire and obsession to kill Thanos deep within him, making him a Thanos hunting machine. In the old comics he chased and interfered with Thanos a lot but eventually became lost when Thanos was finally (seemingly) killed by Marv-ell. Long story short he went through a lot, eventually died but then was brought back when Thanos returned to life and after some more stuff was on a prison transport that crashed to Earth and became friends with a little girl named Cammie (whom he confused with his daughter) and whooped some serious butt! 

Friggin hilarious!

This last part – the crashing, the little girl, the kicking of arse – thats pretty much what this mini is about so no worries about it being story heavy. All the story you need Ive just filled you in on! Look at that, two points in and you’re all caught up and expert and all that! 
Now on to the big stuff with all the precursor out of the way!

 

NOTE: Hereon the descriptions get smaller as I’ve now filled you in on the backstory that you might feel worried about and now you just need to start reading! The rest of this article is just to help you keep track and give you a little info and thoughts on the stories.

3) ANNIHILATION (2007-8 cosmic event/6-issue mini-series)

So here we are – the big event that really was the godfather of it all for me – the event that showed (and still shows) what cross-overs and events should be like as opposed to the massive stuff Marvels been doing with everything from Civil War to Dark Reign to Heroic Age.  All are well and good but the MASSIVE list of titles and tie-ins and mini-series and blah, blah, blah that they tie into these big events make it (1) prohibitively expensive to enjoy the whole event and (2) make it far more complicated and drawn out then it needs to be really.
In short the Annihilation event is available in three trade-paperbacks (I bought all recently) that covers everything from the lead-in to the mini-series that tied into the event and the main mini-series itself, plus the epilogue issues. Its just that simple.
The event itself covers the invasion of our Universe by an incalculably large army from another Universe called the Negative Zone, led by would-be-conqueror (FF fans will be familiar with this dude!) Annihilus – this army is so vast and deadly it destroys most everything in its way and called the Annihilation Wave. The crux of the series is lead into by the four mini’s which bring our lead characters together to the main series which then follows the main war itself and is a brutal but fantastically written and deeply human and real tale – a real war story if you will.

This saga of space skirmishes and struggles includes these four 4-issue mini-series:

  • Nova – focuses on the human hero named Richard Rider/Nova who is a part of the Nova Corp from the planet Xandar, kind of like the GL of this universe except more like a military outfit and powerful but not magic ring and forming giant fist power – just plain old fashioned blow-em-outta-the-sky power. His mini follows his immediate adventures after the Annihilation Wave first hits and literally destroys every member of the Nova Corp, except Rider. Now playing host to the combined power of the ENTIRE Corp plus having the Worldmind (a living supercomputer that is the regulator of the Nova Force and caretaker of the entire collective database of Xandarian civilization) take up residence in his head. Plus he runs into Drax and well, I’ll leave you to read and enjoy yourself!
  • Silver Surfer – A fast paced and intense mini, we follow the Silver Surfer as he returns to the service of the devourer of worlds, Galactus himself, when he learns of the Annihilation Wave and Annihilus’ plan to capture all the Heralds of Galactus and maybe even Galactus himself to use for his own power – trust me, not a happy picture! Thanos shows up in this mini and we see his scheming and plotting and the way fate itself twists around this character. You get to see the Surfer totally cut loose and tear through some serious volumes of enemies, a good read for fans of the Surfer.  
  • Ronan – in this mini we follow the travels of Ronan the Accuser, formerly one of the most powerful and respected of the alien race known as the Kree (hey, Im linking but if you’ve read Marvel comics over the years it would be shocking if you hadn’t heard of them by now!) who is now an exile on the run – chasing down his former accusers. The series follows his man-hunt which eventually leads into meeting Gamora – inter-galactic hottie and arguably the deadliest woman in the Universe. Eventually the Annihilation Wave comes their way as well and they must all decide whether to run or to fight. Read it to find out!
  • Super-Skrull – Ok, I shouldn’t have to tell anyone who this guy is, especially after Secret Invasion but in a nutshell he is a Skrull who was given the powers of the entire Fantastic Four. He is seriously badass and ruthless to boot which makes him a scary opponent to have. This series however follows him trying to find a way to save his son from the Annihilation Wave and is full of intrigue and some serious action.
SPECTACULAR!!

OK!! So now we’ve covered the brunt of the Cosmic Reading for those so inclined, now I’ll do a REALLY fast rundown of what comes after just in case you enjoy the rest of this enough to want more – which Im pretty darn sure you will!

4) NOVA (ongoing- series)

Well, after the awesomeness of the comics described above it was just a matter of time before our man Richie Rider got himself a new solo-series. It follows the adventures of Nova post the Annihilation Wave during things like rebuilding planets, returning to Earth after many years only to find the Civil War and its after-effects in his once home, trying to rebuild the Nova Corp and of course – it crosses into the Annihilation: Conquest event during its all-too short run of just three years. Recomended reading from me.

5) ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST (cosmic event/ 6-issue mini-series)

The Hero Shot! Yeah!
Darkhawk!

And now we are approaching the tail end of my little cosmic carousel here – but believe me it stays wicked from hereon too!
Annihilation: Conquest picks up not too long after the events of Annihilation itself – it starts a little after the war and instead of jumping to the next happy point as if the past was the past we find ourselves seeing the aftermath of the Annihilation Wave’s passage and the cost of stopping it. We see a devastated Kree homeworld and empires in ruin. But then as if to kick the wounds suddenly the Phalanx (a cybernetic species who exist as a Hive-mind) under the control of a surprise techno villain that you all know as Marvel fans, take over the weakened and battered Kree army. In a matter of weeks they have ‘assimilated’ (like the borg in Star Trek but not as boring) all the Kree and encased literally the ENTIRE Kree galaxy in an energy field. A whole galaxy.

Wraith
Star-Lord and Quasar kicking butt!

Nova returns once more in the role of lead hero, alongside Star-Lord (Peter Quill), Quasar, and a new character named Wraith who I thought was one of the most AWESOME-ly badass characters I’ve ever seen!! I mean look at him! Sadly he’s been out of the picture since this event but I hold out hope to see him back on the page someday. Also returning are Ronan the Accuser, Moondragon, Super-Skrull, Gamora and more prominent this time around we see Mantis and the inimitable and oh-so-wicked Rocket Raccoon who along with Groot has become arguably my favourite character in the Marvel cosmos right now. Oh yeah! and this event also saw the return of Adam Warlock to the Marvel Universe.
Now this crossover followed pretty much the same pattern as Annihilation except that instead of four mini’s it had three of them and four issues of the ongoing Nova v4 tied into it.

*PHEW*Thats a lot of stuff, but again not nearly as much as some of volumes and volumes of books that have become standard ‘tie-in’ and required reading for events that happen in DC and Marvel these days. I mean if you think about it – every comic that Ive just covered which spans almost four years of story, well the actual number of comics covers maybe two events or so. Thats how nice and tight the stories are, thats how neatly its all put together where they are not constant but slowly and steadily put out over the last few years to give us something, take a brief break and then dive right back it – as opposed to the constant bombardment of events left, right and centre that the main books have been doing to already over-loaded readers.

I will be back again next week with the wrap-up and bring you the run-down on everything from mid-2008 after this event was over until the most recent Cosmic awesomeness (hey, these books make me use that word a lot, what can I say?) which is going to be hitting Earth soon in a book called Annihilators: Earthfall for which I’m not going to say anything as a fan, simply quoting Marvel themselves:

Though it remains one of the most asked after pieces of the Marvel Comics publishing line by fans at conventions and online, the Marvel Cosmic books written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have had a question mark over their future for many months. Today, the publisher announced with the teaser at right that the most recent core team of the Cosmic world would not just continue on but would hit earth for a big battle in “Annihilators: Earthfall” this fall.
“We really wanted to do a story that brought Marvel Cosmic and Marvel Earth head to head, so that these two parts of the overall Marvel Universe could meet and interact and the readers could enjoy a good old compare and contrast,” Abnett told Marvel.com of the September-launching series. “A desperate and vital mission brings the Annihilators to Earth, and what generates the conflict with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is basically the clash of jurisdiction, and the incompatible interests of both teams; what’s good for Earth might not be good for the Galaxy—and vice versa!”

Excited? Yeah, me too! So I’ll see you all next week – SAME COSMIC TIME! SAME COSMIC WEB-SITE!!!

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