Friday, January 25, 2008

"Revelation" (Marvel)
Annihilation #4 When: January 2007
Why: Keith Giffen How: Andrea Divito

The story so far...
When the expansion of our universe comes to impede on the dimensional space of the anti-matter universe called The Negative Zone; Annihilus, it's mighty ruler, marches an army of insectoid creatures in an act of war, thus beginning the path of the Annihilation Wave.

The Wave moves through the universe punishing both the ill-prepared, and those unwilling to pool their forces. Skrull, Kree, Nova Corps, and many other groups, are left decimated, leaving certain key figures from all to rally their forces in an unlikely alliance for the greater good of the entire universe.

Thanos, having allied himself with the destructive Annihilation Wave, sets about facilitating the creation of a weapon designed to imprison and harness the energies of the cosmic world devourer, Galactus. Fortunately, Drax is among the warriors pledged to the resistance, all too ready to fullfil his destiny of destroying Thanos. Great news for the good guys, until Thanos has a change of heart, and quickly goes from harbinger to saviour... Uh oh!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Andrea DivitoARTWORK: George PĂ©rezStrength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Thanos 5 (Professor)
Speed: Drax 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Thanos 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Drax 2 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Drax 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy Powers: Thanos 6 (Mass Destruction)

- During secret observation of Earth, Thanos murders a family who have the misfortune of witnessing his ship's presence over the desert. Unable to tolerate the threat Thanos poses to life in the universe, his father, Mentor, summons the astral essence of the murdered man, Arthur Douglas, and has it grafted to the artificial humanoid that would come to be known as, Drax the Destroyer.

Drax lacks the memories of his human spirit, but carries the passion in his designated mission to destroy Thanos at all cost. This pledge brings him into conflict with the mad Titan many times, and even results in temporary death.

These resurrections result in physiological changes in Drax, who typically possesses superhuman strength and durability, flight, energy blasts, and extreme survival capabilities. In the past Drax' physical powers have been balanced by a severely diminished intellect, but more recently he possesses a warrior's instinct, and a penchant for knife fighting.

- His birth on Saturn's moon would come to earn him the monicker of The Mad Titan, but the universe at large Thanos would have no anonymity.
Born with a genetic anomaly that altered his appearance considerably from his fellow Eternals, Thanos grows distant and eventually comes to obssess over death, both figuratively, and as an abstract entity living in the universe.

Thanos embarks on a lifelong quest to prove his love to Lady Death, and is distracted from his pursuits only by attempts to amass further power.
His abilities, inherent and asumed, include; superhuman strength, invulnerability, cosmic energy projection, knowledge of advanced alien sciences, and other.
As a result of his relationship with Death, Thanos is denied passage to the after-life, ultimately making him unstoppable.

The Math: Thanos Ranking: Thanos (#72)

What Went Down...
Having battled his way through the insectoid hordes of the Annihilation Wave, Drax becomes possessed by his mission to destroy Thanos. All to aware of the situation, the Mad Titan compells Drax' 'daughter', Moondragon, to defend him while he dismantles the machine designed to harness Galactus.

Moondragon uses both her psionic powers and an empassioned plea to break through the rage that grips Drax. Both prove ineffective, the green skinned powerhouse tossing one of his newly adopted daggers to incapacitate his daughter with a non-lethal strike of the handle.

Thanos, far from intimidated, asks only for moment long enough to work his way through the processes to dismantle the Galactus bomb. Alas, much like the pleas made by Moondragon, word of the greater good falls on deaf ears.

Drax eminates a green energy as he feverishly stabs and claws at the purple energy shield erected by Thanos. The Titan does his best to continue with the task at hand, despite the imminence of Drax' tearing attacks, but a distant glimpse of a familiar figure is all too informative.

Before it even happens, Thanos calmly recognises his fate, and makes peace with it. After a lifetime at arms length, Death has finally arrived to welcome Thanos in his moment of noble sacrifice. Drax completes his mission, and in doing so, condemns the universe to destruction. Thanos is dead.

ARTWORK: Andrea DivitoThe Hammer...
Well, well! In his timely debut appearance on the Infinite Wars, Drax picks himself up a tidy victory over Thanos, and Moondragon!
You'll note the chaos mite, Skreet, is present on Thanos' shoulder throughout the entire confrontation, but at no point enters into the conflict. So, if you spot that tag but can't figure out why, you need to come back and read this, thus negating this order.

In the last shipping list [January 23] the Annihilation Conquest and a brand new Guardians of the Galaxy series were raised, which made this the perfect opportunity to go back and take a look at one of the overlooked crossovers of 2007! Like so many others, it seems we spent so much time on Civil War and Infinite Crisis, Annihilation got completely skimmed over! So, here we are!

It seems there's been something of a cosmic revival on both sides of the 'big two' fence. We closed the year catching up with the events of the Sinestro Corps War, which was the Annihilation-esque extension of the return of Hal Jordan, and the development of a whole new era for the Green Lantern franchise.

I suppose you could say there was a time when cosmic adventures held the same kind of weight as today's urban military fare. The various Infinity sagas famously pit characters as street level as Captain America against the likes of Thanos in what might have been the cosmic crossover taken to it's most absurd level, but thankfully, the Annihilation-revival hasn't been nearly as milque toast [as great as the Infinity Gauntlet and it's related stories were, at the time].

It's somewhat fitting that we acquaint ourselves with the latest of Marvel's cosmic offerings through Drax, because it's with that character that we got the first glimpses of the revival. Though not contrived to be so, a four-issue Drax mini-series pitched and penned by Keith Giffen, proved to be the progenitor of this expansion of the cosmic properties. It's here that you'll find the back story that explains Drax as he is at this point; a far cry from the more familiar purple caped Hulk-like oaf of the 1990's.

Prior to the core mini-series, [of which we are reviewing an issue], a collection of four issue precursors introduced some of the familiar B-list majors of the cosmic roster, and set-up events like the eventual capture of Galactus, and his story throughout the earliest days of the Annihilation Wave. This was told in perhaps the most prominent of the series, Annihilation: Silver Surfer, which also brought the chrome crime-fighter back into servitude of his former master.

Other series featured Super-Skrull, struggling with the Wave in the field, as well as uncooperative Skrulls, and his own struggles with his fleeting status in the Skrull empire. Ronan and Nova filled out the remaining spotlights, which eventually led to a new on-going series for the Centurion survivor.

Being a fan of a lot of these characters, I joined the many other eager fans in lapping this stuff up. In a vaguely ironic way, the thing that probably made this cosmic reneissance so palatable was it's attention to so many characters. The story arcs in a manner familiar to traditional crossovers, but manages to do so mostly isolated from unnecessary tangents and tie-ins.

I'm not exactly a big sci-fi guy.
As much as it is a powerful tool in fiction, if you start to reach Star Trek levels of attention to reality, I'm going to start to get my hackles up. Maybe it's all that sport I've played, but something about that in a science fiction context just has a way of getting out of hand, and I don't like it one bit. Fortunatelly, for the time being at least, the cosmic characters have managed to exist in a reality that has allowed traditional superhero segregation, with versimilitude implied more than it is overtly enacted.

If I had one complaint, it would be a common and trivial one.
Actually, I think it's potentially a great solution to the problem, which if I get around to just saying it, is frivilous death and resurrection.

Somehow Annihilation manages to hold on to a very grim wartorn atmosphere, even though many of it's key players not only have a history of coming back from the dead, but even do so in these very pages! In the cosmic arena, it's almost reasonable to see this as a bold acceptance of this ebbing flow of life and death at this level, but on the other hand, like any other comic, it just cheapens the threat and leaves a bitter taste.

Despite this, there's almost a sense of finality to the unlikely death of Thanos, and I think I'd almost like to see him remain as he's seen in a later issue of Annihilation, standing in accompaniment to "Mistress Death". If pushing the character to rare cameos can be accepted, I'd love to see Thanos be part of that infamous pantheon of cosmic deities and forces that made a lot of this stuff so memorable, for good and bad reasons.

With Conquest I've fallen behind, and honestly, I think we're seeing the perilous pitfalls of the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. After the construction of the Annihilation Wave, the return of the Phalanx while brilliant, feels almost too contrived. As wrong as it seems to say it, I almost want to see a couple of on-going series (like Nova) indulge more in the cosmic superheroing of it all, before delving back into the depths of a gritty minute-by-minute battle. Then again, that's more of a personal preference, and I'm not sure I could fault them for it.
At the very least, I think I'd have to be reading Conquest to pick at it and it's more obscure (but pushed) heroes. [Marvel: Review comps welcome!]

Guardians may just serve up what I'm looking for, but for now, the conceptual rebuilding process continues!

And hey, speaking of cosmic fisticuffs, once you've been through the [updated] Infinite Wars Issue Index, you can find yourself a whole other universe of punching, kicking, and screaming thanks to the cosmic force of nature that is: Bahlactus' Friday Night Fights! Are you ready for the Prize-Fight Knockout?!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4.5

Things get a little heavy at times, but I imagine Annihilaton reads great in a single sitting! The Annihilation mini is collected in the third Annihilation Trade Collection, with the many other related pieces of reading included in books one, and two.

You can pick all of the trades up thanks to Amazon!
By using links found on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, you not only find a great price, but help fund future entries of your favourite form of fist flying fight clubbery! Mmm, kick-backs!


Anonymous said...

Keith Giffen is an absolute moron.

Mike Haseloff said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mr. DeMatteis.

Joseph Gusman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.