Friday, April 13, 2018

Blood And Thunder (Marvel)
Annihilation #1 When: October 2006
Why: Keith Giffen How: Andrea Divito

The Story So Far...
They came from beyond the edge of the universe: The Annihilation Wave! An invasion force so devastating it eradicated the Nova Corps within its first week of attack!

Lord Annihilus advances his plague of insectoid denizens against the universe, retaliating against expansion into the anti-matter domain of The Negative Zone. By their own savage logic, their assault across galaxies is taking back what's theirs!

Within months: the Skrull Empire is decimated -- sending a bold message to the rest of a besieged universe! Old enemies are irrelevant! In the ruins of old civilizations, new alliances are forged, appointing Nova Prime as Commander-in-Chief of a surviving United Front!

Tartus Minor fell as they came to grips with the nature of their enemy, but on the Kree-System Periphery of Daedalus 5, the Annihilation Wave has been held! It is a fleeting relief against an enemy of overwhelming number, whose forces are unrelenting! With Command Center soon to be lost, Nova enters the fray!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Drax 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Nova 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Nova 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Drax 6 (Generator)
Agility: Nova 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Drax 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Nova 5 (Lasers)
Total: Nova 33 (Super)

The universe is under threat from an incursion of Arthrosian insectoid aliens known collectively as the Annihilation Wave! They are a living plague that threatens all existence, invading from the Negative Zone under the command of its most notorious denizen: Annihilus!

Fortunately, some of the universe's most powerful beings have come together to form a single United Front led by Richard Rider: the last surviving Nova!
The United Front includes such luminaries as: Star-Lord, Ronan The Accuser, Firelord, Gamora, and Drax The Destroyer.

Drax serves as a powerful soldier in the fight against the Annihilation Wave, but has also been a trusted voice to Nova, who credits him with 'destroying Richard Rider, the boy, to make room for Nova, the man'. His blunt mentorship helps Nova direct his forces in the face of devastating losses, and overwhelming odds.

This incarnation of Drax hadn't been around a long time at this point. He differs when compared to the prior form we saw battling Thor [in Warlock and The Infinity Watch #21] in reduced mass, and increased tactical intelligence. He's a more ferocious combatant, relying on mobility and twin daggers, rather than brute strength. This reduction in pure power has its drawbacks, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy #25, when he struggled with a rampaging Thanos.

Thanos serves as an ally to Annihilus during the Annihilation event, as well as having outstanding personal grievances with Drax. From past entries we know this comes to a head in Annihilation #4 -- another showcase for the destructive hand-to-hand potential of Drax!

Our Nova file also comes exclusively from the time after Annihilation. When he returns to Earth with the full power of the Nova Force and Xandarian Worldmind, he effortlessly defeats former nemesis Diamondhead [Nova #2], and fights the Thunderbolts to a standstill [Nova #3]!

There's a lot of evidence here to argue Drax and Nova should make a serious dent in the nameless hordes of the Annihilation Wave. The catch is the simple overwhelming numbers of the Wave.

The Tape: Drax & Nova Ranking: Drax (#127)

What Went Down...
With perimeter force-fields breached, the Annihilation Wave advances on United Front HQ. Commander-in-Chief Richard Rider orders second-in-command Peter Quill to get their people clear. The former Starlord complies, while Rider dons his Nova Corps helmet and prepares to lead from the front.

In the field; a Kree soldier collects Earth girl Cammi Benally while her charge continues to fight. Drax sprays Arthrosian innards as he fights them one at a time with nothing but a sturdy pair of daggers!

As the Wave pushes forward, the ground gives way beneath Drax's feet. He falls to the lower levels, where Kree soldiers do their best to fire before they're inevitably consumed. Drax joins them in their hopeless fight.

Drax never stops fighting as the insect horde begins to overwhelm him. All that can be seen is a blood-soaked blade -- still stabbing and slashing at alien hide!

A reprieve comes in streaking golden light. Nova descends into the pit at speed -- a living missile targeting the amassing threat! The collision crushes one of the insects and scatters the rest! Drax is knocked clear with the rest of them.

The last Nova briefly joins Drax in fighting the aliens hand-to-hand while they assess the dire situation. He soon clutches The Destroyer by the wrist and takes them both airborne as they consider a response to their defensive breach.

Human Richard Rider struggles with the consequences of his next decision. Drax is coldly pragmatic with his assessment of the situation. The Annihilation Wave is catching up to the wounded. Nova can lose hundreds - or risk thousands.

Nova tosses Drax to the safety of a Kree fortress, then returns to the battlefield to carry out his solemn duty. Hovering above the war zone, he makes contact with Barrage Command. His order: full-scope heavy ordnance barrage.

The assault from above rains death and destruction upon Daedalus 5!

The zone is cleared at the cost of The United Front's own forces. A necessary toll to defend thousands more. The creed of the Kree warriors would likely have it no other way, but the burden of victory will weigh heavily on Richard Rider.

The Hammer...
His order cost The United Front untold casualties, but Nova's tactical decision ensured they won the battle -- and remain in the war. A result more bitter than sweet.

Nova's intervention also meant Drax safely shared in the win from behind their second perimeter. Things looked a little hairy, but Drax did plenty of damage against the seemingly endless hordes of the Annihilation Wave. The cold, warrior's rationale of his council also proved valuable to reaching the difficult decision to end it.

Something that really strikes me about the 2006 cosmic reboot is just how effectively it evokes the feeling of a super-hero space war. A lot of comics profess to be set in war time, but the sense of scale, chaos, and grim reality is particularly effective in Annihilation!

It worked to the event's favour that Marvel's cosmic line had gradually fallen out of grace in the new millennium. It meant even the most popular heroes (or villains) involved had been easy to lose sight of. Whether you were reading the tie-in mini-series, or not, Annihilation #1 provided a jarring jump-start to the chaos.

Those tie-ins were an attractive lure to lapsed, or longing fans. Even casual readers coming of age in the mid-2000s could recognize Silver Surfer, Super-Skrull, Ronan The Accuser, and Nova. Each gave a little extra mystique and star-power to the seemingly risky proposition of an all-out cosmic relaunch.

Cue the obligatory reference to a 2005 Drax mini-series that served as a precursor to Annihilation, while also revamping Drax as the streamlined fighter we saw today. Oft referenced material we'll take a look at one of these days!

The elevation of Nova from staple of the teen New Warriors, to battle-hardened space commander, made him an obvious break-out of Annihilation itself. The on-going series that followed was a no brainer, capitalizing on a fresh new look and feel that made Nova one of the most exciting heroes of the year.

Aspects of the revamp leaned heavily into what DC tried in the nineties with Kyle Rayner, but what it unraveled was far less beloved. It's tough to imagine anyone demanding a H.E.A.T. style rebirth for the spandex and bucket-head days. The new-look Nova paid homage to what came before, but embellished it in ways that made the character a bona fide star character.

It was a lot less obvious that Nova's grizzled right-hand man, the dusted off Starlord, would surpass him as Marvel's premiere cosmic hero! Of course, in Annihilation, it's a very different Peter Quill than the space-bum slacker of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, comics, and animated series!

Speaking of movies: it looks as if Annihilation might be a small influence on next month's Avengers: Infinity War film! Still no signs of Richard Rider in the cinematic Nova Corps, but it looks like Thanos might be bringing something resembling the Annihilation Wave to Earth! Exactly what Nova fought to avoid!

It wouldn't be too surprising if Annihilation has something to do with the closely guarded Avengers 4, but who knows? The influence of The Infinity Gauntlet is still on the ambiguous side, despite presumptions it would factor heavily into the long awaited arrival of Thanos.

Want to get ahead of the game by reading today's featured fight for yourself? You can check it out in collected edition via the Amazon link provided right! Not only will you get a cosmic deal, but also help support the site at no extra cost!

You can ride the wave to more featured fights like this one by checking out the Secret Archive Index! Every past battle is indexed by publisher, series, and issue number.

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Winners: Nova & Drax
#76 (+51) Drax [+2 confirmed kills]
#77 (+51) Nova (Richard Rider) [+2 confirmed kills]

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