Panelology - Random Thoughts

by Brandon

My first column of this year focuses on some random thoughts I have about comic book collecting. I figured that might be a good place to start. My brain is going all over the place. I’m swimming in thoughts of DC, killing off Batman, Barack Obama, comic book storage issues, LCS pseudo-sales, and even the smell of comic books. Step on inside to take a gander at the thoughts bouncing around my head.

Give DC a Chance
Many people who have read my column know that I’m not exactly fond of DC. I make no bones about how uninterested I am in anything resembling the Infinite/Finite/Final/Indefinite/Uninspired Crises that DC has been constantly churning out for the better part of eight-hundred years. There’s a bit of hyperbole involved there, but the nugget of truth that is there is that DC is awash in hefty continuity. One hand often does not know what the other is doing. Modern DC just looks like this behemoth that has gotten to high on its own history. I don’t want to touch a DC book that has been published in the past few years with a ten-foot long box. However, I am on a personal quest during this New Year; I want to read some good DC. Mind you, I don’t want recent DC, but good DC. Stand alone DC. I actually do want to be sold on DC. I plan on starting with Kingdom Come and The New Frontier. From there, God knows where I’m going. I’m open to suggestions. Have any?

R.I.P., Batman

I don’t read Batman regularly, but this whole killing off Batman thing just sounds dumb. Bruce Wayne is Batman. This story just smacks of idiocy. Add a dash of “been there, done that,” and we have the makings of a story that will be overturned so fast that most fans will be embarrassed by it in a few years.

Barack Obama is MINE!

Do you know that Barack Obama has been inaugurated as our 44th President? Do you know that he has been on approximately one zillion magazine covers? Do you know that he has also appeared in comic books? Like Santa Claus, Barack Obama is everywhere, even in the comic book world. A little controversy was sparked by this when Marvel decided to put Mr. Obama in the pages of Spider-Man. Erik Larsen took offense to this because apparently his usage of Barack Obama was better than Marvel’s usage of America’s savior. I understand Larsen has been a longtime supporter of Obama and his character Savage Dragon has used Chicago as a base of operations. The Obama connection makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is his supposed outrage at Marvel. With all due respect to Mr. Larsen, I love his comics, but his ire over the use of Obama is pretty stupid. The outrage runs counter to what Barack Obama believes and embodies, don’t you think? It’s time to get over it.

…And those have to go as well.
I’m getting married in June. With nearly five months to go, the home planning and improvements are now in full swing. Jenn is definitely in nesting mode and I’m pretty much stuck in the usual male temperament of being a bachelor. Having thousands of comic books is cool, until you get married. The closer we get to the date, the more ruefully Jenn looks at my comic book collection. I feel like a paranoid schizophrenic, but I think she may have it out for part of my collection. The times, they are a’changing. Planning for the future together is awesome. Planning where all these freaking comic books go is not.

LCS Psuedo-Sales
I went to a comic shop somewhere in South Carolina this past weekend. I want name names because this shop officially pissed my inner and outer el cheapo off. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I drove up to the store to see huge sale signs on all the windows. Jenn can ell you I was literally giddy with excitement, like it was Christmas morning and I knew I was going to get some ridiculously awe-inspiring present. Got it? Now, imagine my disappointment when there was no sale going on at all. The store had opened what they called their “vault.” I wouldn’t have called it that. I would have called it a “roomful of expensive ass comics.” While I’m sure collectors who have that kind of money were thrilled, I am definitely the bargain bin variety of collector. Nothing else was on sale. No deals on their trades. No special bargains for their back issues. No discounts on their titles on the shelf. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zero. They only wanted to discount your wallet with their fine collection of idiotic variants and Little Lulu back issues. When a comic shop says “Sale,” I expect just that. And yes, I’m still pissed.

Comic Books Stink
Am I the only person on earth who smells their comic books? Please tell me I’m not the only freak! 99.9% of the time it is the first thing I do when I get a comic, or any book for that matter. I smell it. I can’t explain it, but there is something alluring about smelling comic books. And not just from any age or era. Comic books from the mid-1980s smell the best to me. They don’t even smell good or pleasant. It’s just a comforting smell. I don’t get weird about smelling comic books or anything like that. I don’t wear leather things and spank my own ass as I read through a back issue of Uncanny X-Men. I just smell them. That’s all.

Ultimate Ultimatum

Do any of you really think that the Ultimate Universe is gone? Between reading two or three issues of each Ultimate title last week and the recently solicited “Final” issues of all the Ultimate titles, it sure looks like the Ultimate universe is coming to a close. But why? You would think in these poor economic times that Marvel would want to keep some of their solid performers around. Instead, the Ultimatum body count is ever increasing and the books appear to be gone according to the solicitations. I can understand the nay-saying argument that the Ultimate Universe makes the regular Marvel Universe less special. Yet, the Ultimate titles have been entertaining at the very least, and when they are on their “A” game, they are solid. The talent on the Ultimate line has also been topnotch for the most part. With its power creators and rock-solid stories, I bet these titles and this universe won’t be gone for good, but one has to wonder if there will be much of the Ultimate Universe left to come back to. I would hope so.
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Waited for the Trade: Annihilation and Annihilation Conquest

With a new Marvel Cosmic event just getting under way in the far flung corners of the Marvel Universe I thought it might be time to go back and look over the last two big events that rocked this part of the MU. Annihilation and Annihilation Conquest

These are the two recent events in the intergalactic part of the Marvel universe, self contained events that centred around the attempted conquest of the galaxy by Annihilus of Negative zone and then another major MU player in the sequel Annihilation Conquest.

I will initially be reviewing the first of these events, the original Annihilation Event. The set up and structure of the events was different from the usual MU events, with a number of mini series building up into the main event. Though a lot of people complained when DC did this, Marvel have executed it much better, each part can be read as an individual story, or you can read it all as one huge story, or do as I have done with the trades, to pick and choose the best.

I read the singles and as good as the event was I didn’t overly enjoy a couple of the minis, so when it came to buying the hardcovers, I was lucky to find that the main books I enjoyed where in volumes one and three, while the less satisfactory books where in volume two, which I decided not to buy. And now, rereading the event, it doesn’t take anything away from the over all story by missing out the likes of the Silver Surfer, super Skrull and Ronan books. All the major plot points are covered in the main event book, Annihilation.

The first volume of the Hardcover collection begins with a story that was published a fair while before the event was even thought up, but has been retroactively added into the continuity of the event, and it was done with some ease. Drax the Destroyer: Earth Fall mini from 2005 was an interesting tale in its own right, much like the rest of the books that comprise this event, it can be read on its own.

The book introduces a new status quo for the character, but for people like me, for whom this was an introduction to Drax it was still an interesting story that was being told. The plot of the book revolves around a crashed prison ship in Alaska, and the inmates attempt to escape.

Though a simple enough story it was brought to life by some amazing art by Mitch Breitweiser and simple but effective storytelling of Keith Giffen. Not only are we introduced to the new “version” of Drax but also to his new sidekick Cammi. Cammi adds a human element to the book, and is the eyes with which we see their world, she gives us someone to empathise with.

The book sets up Drax’s role within the main Annihilation event, but beyond that is not really linked into the over all story, that only kicks off in Annihilation: Prologue. Here we have an introduction to the main event, to most of the characters that will be involved and where their loyalties lie. But most importantly we get to see exactly how powerful a force the Annihilation wave is, how destructive and merciless. And we see it in all its glory, as the detail and description is immense, the way in which the destruction is wrought, how it is described by the words of Keith Giffen (the architect of the event )and drawn through the work of Scott Kolins.

The one unifying element in these books is the art, it is phenomenal the whole way through, it really captures the tone of the story and the events portrayed within it.

The first volume of the three part Annihilation Hardcover series includes the Drax book, the Prologue, and by far the strongest, and most pivotal of the mini series, the Nova book.

The Nova series is written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who go on to write the ongoing series, and bring to a life a character that for me, has floundered. The last time I remember reading anything about this character was in the mid 90’s with the failed Erik Larsen series, which lasted about 7 issues.

The mini series is centred around the first major attack by the Annhilation wave in the Marvel Universe, and how helpless even a major power such as the Nova Force and its centurions are against it.

This really sets the tone for the event as a whole, highlighting the magnitude of the attacking forces, and their potential for destruction. This isn’t two random evenly matched spaces races, this is one immense fleet against the rest of the MU, and vastly underprepared, unorganised Marvel Universe.

The Annihilation wave attacks Xandar, the home of the race that built the Nove Corps ssentially runs the Centurions. The Centurions are essentially the police force, the clean up squad of the universe, responding to problems and dealing with them, with the aid of the Nova Force. The “organisation” is run by the Xandarian Worldmind which is the collective knowledge of the Xandarian civilisation.

Richard Rider, is the only remaining Centurion, and with a destroyed world, and base of operations the Worldmind needs a new home, which it finds in the mind of Richard Rider. He is also the host to the entire Nova Force, which has its own implications (dealt with in the main Nova ongoing series).

Nova with Dax and Cammi, the other two surviving occupants of the Xandar homeworld, they team up with Quasar to help evacuate planets in the way of the Annihilation wave. They succeed, but at a cost. Quasar is lost, and the quantam bands are taken by Annihilus , and he attempts to steal the Nova Force from Rider.

After they save the fleet and civilians in the way of the Wave, Worldmind Nova and Drax join forces to help stop the Wave.

This brings us on to the second of the Hardcovers which contains the Silver Surfer, Super Skrull and Ronan mini series. Of these I quiet enjoyed the Super Skrull book, and that does bring in a lot of information about the preceding events to the Wave hitting the Marvel Universe, but as I really didn’t like the other two mini’s I could not justify buying the book.

The Super Skrull book was written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (of Middleman fame) and had the art of Greg Titus. A good looking book with a well constructed plot and scripting, it did seem a little juvenile at times. It didn’t fit with the feeling of the other books in this story.
The book revolves round the Super Skrull’s attempt to destroy the Harvester of Souls which was a planet consuming warship in the Annihilation wave. As an outsider within the Skrull empire the Super Skrull went against this ship alone, though he didn’t end that way. He found the inventor of the ship in the Negative zone, and got him to devise a way of destroying the ship. This was in the form of a virus, that the Super Skrull and a band of rag tag prisoners he releases from a Negative Zone prison (not 42) attempt to destroy the ship.

They succeed, but not without encountering some problems along the way, and a bit of creative thinking on the part of the Super Skrull. The characters that we meet here, are to be seen again in the main Annhilation mini series, and in the future when people look back on this battle in the war against Annihilus.

The Second of the books in this series was the Silver Surfer book which h dealt with the Seekers who where sent out by Annihilus to find the Heralds of Galactus and capture them. They where then to be used to feed Annihilus with the Power Cosmic and make him stronger and even more powerful. A couple die and a couple get captured, and to be honest I really didn’t enjoy this book at all, and don’t really remember much else happening. It was a dull read, and I just found it labour some to get through.

The final book is the Ronan mini series which is centred around the character Ronan the Accuser of the Kree empire. Though a major player in the Annihilation war, and the post Annihilation universe this mini did nothing to add to the story. It revolves around Ronan seeking out those that testified against him, and fighting them. He lands on a world where one of the women that testified against him now resides, she how now joined a group of cosmically powered women who are led by Gamora the most dangerous woman in the universe.

They fight, but then the Annihilation wave reaches the planet they are on, and they join the United Front led by Nova and Drax and a few others. This series is written by Simon Furman and art by Jorge Lucas.

This ends the second volume, and brings us onto the main mini, the culmination of these other series in the Annihilation event. Volume three contains the main series as well as nova Corps files, which gives us background on each of the characters involved in this series, as well as the post Annihilation wave mini series Heralds of Galactus.

The main is set a couple of hundered days after the Wave first hit the Marvel Universe, and in this time Nova has brought together an army to hold back the Negative Zone forces of Annihilus.

Their first major victory comes when Firelord manages to kill one of Annihilus’s Queens who controls his drone army. Leaving the soldiers in disarray. Though this is a phyrric victory at best, as we are soon to learn that Annihilus has captured Galactus and is now in control of the Power Cosmic. Thanos siding with Annihilus has Galactus bound and is draining Galactus of all power.

While the over all war is going on there are a number of sub plots that underway, and for me this was the biggest strength of the series. Though a lot was going on, it was all contained within this one book, and there was a lot going on. We had Drax attempting to fulfil his destiny, Nova trying to lead the United Front, warn Earth and adapt to his new power levels.

Thanos had his own plans in place and was working with Annihilus for reasons other than what was apparent. While Thanos was doing this Ronan the Accuser was back on the Kree Homeworld trying to enlist more soldiers to fight the oncoming Wave, only to discover that the ruling House had made a deal with Annihilus as well as lobotomising the Supreme Intelligence. The Kree now following Ronan finally put up resistance against the coming Wave, and hold their own.

The final battle between the forces of the United Front and the Annihilation Wave are being enacted on the flag ship of Annihilus. With the majority of the ships destroyed by the energy released by Galactus, the weakened Annihilus goes up against Nova, Peter Quill and Phyla-Vell. Without wanting the spoil the final twists and turns of the story, lets just say it brings up some interesting changes in the status quo in the lives of these people and the Marvel Universe as a whole.

The art for this final story was done by Andrea de Vito and was amazingly detailed, it really brought to life the enormity of the event, how chaotic everything was, the savage nature of the Wave and the almost hopless struggle of the heroes involved. The scripting was tight and plot perfect. So much story was packed into this miniseries, but it didn’t feel heavy, nor was is laborious to read through.

Had they ended the series here, it would have been great, but the final post Annihilation Wave books that formed the Heralds of Galactus mini series. Though in concept this was an interesting book, the execution was lacking. Not so much in the art department, which crafted a sumptuous book, but in the writing, which was just a bit dull, especially after the excitement of the previous mini series.

So that brings us up to the end of the first event, and shortly I’ll be adding the review for the second event to bare the Annihilation name. Annihilation Conquest.
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