Friday, November 19, 2010

Marvel's Space Opus Part 1


If I had told you ten years ago that Marvel will publish a line of comics set in outerspace that are awesome, you would have laughed in my face. Marvel's outer space had been stuck in the 70's for what seemed like an eternity. Occasionally some jerk would get a hold of infinity gem, and the avengers would go stomp them. The worlds of Marvel's outer space were an after thought at best. That was until recently though. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have performed an act that many would have considered impossible, they made space the place to be.

These talented writers first rubbed their defibrillator paddles together when they produced the first issue of Annihilation. The premise was simple, Annihilus gathers his army in the Negative Zone and launches attack into the Marvel heroes space. Annihilus, a Fantastic Four villain, never really seemed like a threat before. The FF tended to handle him easily, so the idea of him trying to attack the universe seemed like a bit of a stretch. That is, until you see the first few pages of this book. A massive, menacing armada enters space and immediately starts to destroy planets, which includes the home planet of the Nova Corps. Their ships all look like giant bugs, and the soldiers are twice as gruesome. This Annihilus means business, and it doesn't look like anyone will stop him. The idea of giving a C-list villain a bump like this is one of several tricks these writers implored to make things interesting. This power jump takes you off guard, and suddenly you don't know what to expect from each issue.

Since they gave a power bump to a villain, it seems only logical to give one to a hero as well. This is where Nova comes into the picture. Nova has been in one second rate group after another throughout his years in comics. He's had several solo series, but they never really gained any traction. He belongs to an intergalactic police force, but spends most of his time trying to nab muggers in NYC. Abnett and Lanning saw the potential in this character, and endowed him with the power of the entire Nova Corps. If you're looking for a comparison, imagine if Hal Jordan had the power of every Green Lantern. Yeah, Nova is pretty hardcore now. He's also patroling space now, something you would have assumed he would have done from the very beginning of his career.

Nova isn't the only character that receives an update though. Many of Marvel's space characters now have modern looks, including Drax, Gamora, Super Skrull, and Ronan the Accuser. These are characters that you probably haven't though of in a while, but suddenly look pretty damn awesome. You also get to see them use their powers in new, and exciting ways. They have depth now! It's such a radical departure from how these characters have been treated for years, that it's shocking. It's part of what makes this series so interesting, it's almost like they're all brand new characters.

Once you get over the shock of seeing these characters handled with care and purpose, you realize that this is a serious war story. These are epic space battles, and land battles to boot. There are massive casualties on both sides. Even characters that you wouldn't expect to die end up receiving the axe. It's a bold story that isn't afraid to try something different.

You also get to see characters move on with their lives. What I mean is, some of these characters have been floating in limbo with what they say they're supposed to be doing. In this series, characters make choices and move forward. Any historian of the Marvel U will appreciate these actions, it's a breath of fresh air to see. I mean if Drax has been trying to kill Thanos since the 70's, maybe he should just kill him already. Just sayin'...

The whole series feels epic, and features a lot of back and forth action between Annihilus and our heroes. While that's awesome, it was still possible for this series to fall flat on its face if it didn't end well. When you're staging a comeback for several characters, you need something that's going to seal the deal. Something that's going to make the reader say "Hell yeah, this is awesome." Well this ending delivers in spades. Fleets of ships in ruins, tons of people have died, and Annihilus and Nova are battling in space to determine who will win this war. With each fighter pushed to the brink, Nova throws a hail Mary. He forces hit fist down Annihilus's throat and rips his heart out.... Hell yeah, that was awesome.

This book sets the stage for what will become the best Marvel space books in the companies history. It's an amazing feat for these two writers to assemble so many characters, that most comic readers could have given a damn about, and tell a story that has you cheering for them by the end. Nobody walks out the same way they walked in here, and that's a good thing.

Next: Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy Series

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