Still catching up on recording my weekly haul. Two large weeks in a row didn’t make it easy to keep up, since it look quite a while just to read everything (which is sort of the point, right?). This is the haul for 21 November 2007, Thanksgiving week:
- Action Comics #859, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank & Jon Sibal (DC)
- The Brave and the Bold #8, by Mark Waid, George Pérez & Bob Wiacek (DC)
- Countdown to Final Crisis #23 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Keith Giffen, Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher (DC)
- Countdown to Mystery #3 of 8, by Steve Gerber, Justiniano & Walden Wong, and Matthew Sturges & Stephen Jorge Segovia (DC)
- Ex Machina #32, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
- Annihilation Book 3 TPB by Keith Giffen, Andrea DiVito, Christos N. Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stephano Landini, Stuart Moore, Mike McKone, & Scott Kolins (Marvel)
- The Incredible Hulk #111, by Greg Pak, Jeff Parker & Leonard Kirk (Marvel)
- The Umbrella Academy #3 of 6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
- Castle Waiting #9, by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics)
- The Boys #12, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
- Invincible #46, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
“Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” in Action Comics is turning out to be a pretty entertaining story: We find out why the Legion is persona non grata in the 31st century, and who their antagonists are. And it doesn’t look good so far, as several more Legionnaires fall to the enemy. How Superman figures into all this is probably the neatest part of this story, as the enemy has twisted Superman’s legacy to their own ends, and imagining how he feels about that – and knowing that no one other than the Legion believes the truth – is a compelling notion. What would be worse than finding out that you’ve been forgotten a thousand years in the future, than to learn that your name means something the opposite of what you worked to achieve?
So it’s a cool set-up. I hope Geoff Johns can avoid the clichéd ending to wrap it up. For instance, the “Some super-villain’s mind-controlled everyone” ending, or the “Superman beats the main antagonist into submission thereby winning the goodwill of the public” ending.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Annihilation, of which Volume 3 is the final volume. It’s even better than Annihilation Conquest, which is currently running and also entertaining.
The premise of Annihilation is that Annihilus – the extremely powerful armored insectoid who’s faced the Fantastic Four in the past – learns that our universe is gradually expanding into the Negative Zone where he rules, and he convinces virtually the entire Negative Zone to launch a massive attack on our universe. The emerge through the Crunch, the edge of the universe containing the energies of the universe’s creation, and in doing so destroy a high-security prison – the Kyln – and set a variety of nasty creatures free.
The first two volumes collect a number of mini-series spotlighting individual characters dealing with the “Annihilation Wave” – the influx of Annihilus’ forces, who begin by rampaging through the Skrull galaxy. The Nova Corps are destroyed and Richard Ryder is last as the last Nova centurion. The Super-Skrull tries to take the fight to the Negative Zone. The Silver Surfer learns that two creatures freed from the Kyln are nearly as old and as powerful as Galactus, and he returns to Galactus’ service to try to draw him away from the Annihilation Wave. And Ronan the Accuser returns from exile when he learns that the Wave is bearing down on Kree space.
This final volume resolves everything, as Nova leads the resistance against the Annihilation Wave and things go exceedingly poorly, even more so once Annihilus enlists the help of Thanos to tame the power of Galactus for himself.
I’ve always been a little skeptical of Keith Giffen as a writer. I was not a fan of his run with Paul Levitz on Legion of Super-Heroes, and I really hated his sense of humor that he applied to DC in the late 80s and early 90s, such as on Justice League and Ambush Bug. I thought it was, well, rather childish. But as the mastermind (it seems) behind Annihilation, I’m most impressed with his ability to write dark space adventure. Not only does he have real skill at slowly ratcheting up the tension of the story, but he does a great job of handling the myriad characters and making them all seem unique and driven in their own ways: Nova is a pure hero, the Silver Surfer is a tortured hero, Drax the Destroyer is a programmed killing machine who nonetheless does the right thing when not under the thumb of his programmed imperatives, Ronan is a true patriot who believes in doing whatever is best for his people no matter what the cost, and even the villains all have different shades of character and motivations. In short, Giffen is doing today what Jim Starlin did in his heyday on books like Captain Marvel, Warlock and Dreadstar.
(Incidentally, I think that Starlin brought to Marvel in the 70s what Jack Kirby tried to bring to DC in the 70s, except that Starlin actually succeeded in creating a compelling little mythology within the Marvel Universe, whereas all Kirby did was create a surreal and silly little pocket of colorful costumes within the DC Universe.)
Perhaps most importantly, Giffen delivers the true payoff in this concluding volume with both triumphant character moments and dramatic battles. Perhaps the best single moment is when Nova and Ronan talk when things seem darkest, and Ronan the Kree patriot says to Nova the human hero, “Were you Kree, I would call you brother.” Ronan, Drax, the Silver Surfer and Nova all get their moment of triumph (Ronan’s is the best, while the Surfer has to wait for one of the epilogues), and it’s all a lot of fun.
Andrea DiVito has a solid, dynamic art style which serves the story well. There are plenty of full-page and two-page spreads to keep the action moving, and he handles the large cast with their various eccentric designs quite well. The guy must be a machine to have pencilled and inked this whole story himself, although I imagine he had plenty of lead time, too.
Overall, Annihilation is one of the best things Marvel’s published in years. It once again proves the theory that comics are best when they involve assembling great creators when letting them produce great stories, a lesson that Marvel seemed to have learned with “Heroes Reborn” back in 1999, but seems to have forgotten again these days given stuff like Civil War and its aftermath. I’m glad Giffen was able to play with this corner of the Marvel Universe, though, because this was well worth the time it took to read it.
(If you want to read more without reading the story, the whole series is summarized in the Wikipedia entry.)