02 March 2011

Review of Annihilators #1 from the long-time Rom fan POV

Annihilators #1
"Blame It on the Black Star"
Writers: Dan Abbnett and Andy Lanning
Penciler: Tan Eng Huat
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colorist: June Chung
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Editor: Bill Rosemann

Annihilators #1 came out today, so I proceeded to my local comic shop at lunch time and made sure I left with a copy in my little, sweaty hand. (Metaphorically, of course.) Cutting to the chase, the story is riveting and the art is serviceable. Certainly worth it for the Rom fans. The high ($4.99!) cover price is due to the issue being double-sized, featuring a second, full-sized story featuring Rocket Racoon (another Bill Mantlo creation) and Groot from the former Guardians of the Galaxy, which I won't be covering.

I'm unfamiliar with artists Huat and Olazaba. They're art isn't bad, but to me it feels like it was rushed. Perhaps it's just their style. The Silver Surfer, in particular, looks off to me, but that may be because colorist Chung seems to have made him more gray than sleek silver, which admittedly is a hard effect to master in comics. The art certainly isn't bad, but in my opinion, it's not excellent either.

On to the story. (CAUTION: Major spoilers ahead!) First, we establish the villain. Somehow, Dire Wraith sorcerer Doctor Dredd appears to have returned from the dead. (Doctor Dredd is the Wraith warlock who bonded Brandy Clark to the Starshine armor, for those who'd forgotten.) Mind you, he's ditched the cape and extra-wide belt (sorry, the latter's not shown in my scan) and added some stripes and shoulder spikes to his outfit.

This brings up all sorts of questions. First, why is he bothering with his human disguise? Second, how is he alive? We saw a clone of Rom kill Dredd with his bare hands in ROM #43. There was little doubt to his death, as his body was clearly shown turning to ash as Wraiths do when killed. Dredd himself later answers this with vague comment, "nothing stays dead forever. Especially when you can take the galaxy and cut and re-edit it." Of course, since Wraiths are shape-shifters, perhaps this isn't the original, but another Wraith who's taken the same form?

Next we cut back to where we left the Annihilators and female Spaceknight Ikon at the end of The Thanos Imperative: Devastation. She seems to have a serious lack of manners, but it's for a reason. She mops the floor with the them, mainly to show that perhaps they're too powerful to make an effective group.

We then get a brief origin for her. Star-Lord invited Galador to provide a Spaceknight to the Annihilators team. After their embarrassing part as pawns of the Phalanx during Annihilation: Conquest, they sought to redeem themselves. Ikon — we are given no other name for her — was ultimately selected. She immodestly maintains that she is "the greatest living Spaceknight". This brings to mind one question. Did Rom ever describe himself as the greatest of the Spaceknights? I don't think he did, but would love an example if someone can provide it.

As she's trying to talk them out of forming their team, the Annihilators detect unusual readings coming from the Dark Nebula, so of course they go to check it out. It seems that Galador has a space station just outside it called the Keep. It's function is to keep the light of the black sun contained so that the remaining Dire Wraiths across the cosmos can't regain their magic.

This is all new information. The last we readers saw, the Wraiths were powerless after Rom destroyed Wraithworld. Although the fate of the Dark Nebula's black sun wasn't stated at the time, there was certainly no Galadorian outpost in place at the time to keep its light contained. I'm certainly willing to accept the sun, rather than Wraithworld itself, as the source of the Wraiths' power. (Galactus said as much himself in Rom #27.) But there's still a piece missing. Because the black sun was central to the Wraith's worldmerge spell at the end of the Wraith War on Earth, perhaps dispelling it temporarily disrupted the sun's energy patterns, leaving the Wraiths powerless only for a time. Perhaps the Galadorians realized this in time and setup up safeguards to prevent the Wraiths from regaining their magic. Perhaps I should ask Marvel for a No-Prize for my theory.

Anyway, inside the Keep, we find slaughtered Spaceknights. We get our first exclamation from Ikon: "great suns!" Then Dredd appears, who Ikon instantly recognizes. This seems odd. After all this time, why would Spaceknights be briefed on a Wraith known to be dead? And aside from transforming Brandy into Starshine, he never really did anything of enough consequence to be worth mentioning. Heck, Rom didn't even need his Neutralizer to take care of him, just his bare, human hands! At least we now know why he's in human guise, though. So Ikon can recognize him. (Because, frankly, all Wraiths pretty much look alike.) Then we discover the Dark Nebula's black sun is missing, causing Ikon to exclaim, "Oh, my god". What a curiously Earth phrase for her to utter. I'd think she should have said "gods of Galador" instead.

Back on Galador, we discover where the black sun went, and it's not good. Oh, and it's also accompanied by a few thousand Deathwings. Certainly quite the cliffhanger to leave off with!

A few quibbles here, though. The way they show it, you'd think everyone on Galador is a Spaceknight. That's certainly not the case. Also, all the Spaceknights in this issue are silver. Spaceknights have always come in a variety of colors.

So, in the end, the story's shaping up nicely. I just hope they're not planning on destroying Galador before they're through. I also wouldn't mind seeing some familiar Spaceknight faces, but that's not looking likely. Either way, I look forward to Annihilators #2.