Annihilators #1 review

I hate this title.

Seriously. I can't spell it, I keep having to cut and paste the thing into the text. Also, like The Invaders, it doesn't sound very superheroic.

It's a good read, though. Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning continue to guide us through Marvel's Cosmic Corner following the cancellations of Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy. In-story, Nova and Star-Lord have sacrificed themselves to fend off the Cancerverse, and the Guardians have disbanded. Cosmo the astro-dog remains at their old HQ, Knowhere Station, joined by successor team the Annihilators - Silver Surfer, Ronan the Accuser, Beta-Ray Bill, Gladiator and Quasar. 

Yup, that's a blooming powerful bunch, as new recruit Ikon the Spaceknight tells them, as she whups their cosmic asses one by one. The problem, suggests the haughty minx, is that while they're more powerful than she is - Alpha Plus class as opposed to 'mere' Alpha - they're afraid to cut loose in confined quarters.

Which is probably true, but hasn't the team been formed - at the suggestion of Star-Lord - to fight huge great threats Out There? I'm sure, were huge great threats, as opposed to snarky, superior Spaceknights, to appear at Knowhere Station, our heroes would blast away merrily.

Nevertheless, the boys seem convinced by Ikon's argument. They're on the verge of disbanding - as fresh members go, Ikon's not exactly a born cheerleader - when the threat of the 'sorceress' (sic) Dire Wraiths rears its ugly head, heralded by evil space wizard Dr Dredd.

This is very much a scene-setter of a story, but it's an engaging one. The players are nicely sketched, with Ronan especially benefitting from Abnett & Lanning's light tough. Quasar is our point of view character, and a very annoying one he is too, oozing self-doubt despite years of experience with his powers. So he got himself killed, who hasn't? And he has a deadly way with words, describing the Annihilators as 'the next generation of cosmic first responders'. Snappy.

I'm not hugely interested in any of the team members, though as a Rom: Spaceknight fan of old I'm inclined to come back next month to see what the Dire Wraiths look like these days - white blobs or rare steak? Rom's mentioned in passing here, but not by name; I suspect licensing issues are in play, sending Rom to the realm of the Nameless ones, such as ... sssssh ... Dr Fu Manchu.

The artwork looks pretty good, but it doesn't seem like the work of penciller Tan Eng Huat. Granted, I only ever saw his Doom Patrol art, and that must have been a decade ago, but his illustrations look very different under inker Victor Olazaba - more generic. 

What will definitely bring me back next month is the book's second strip, a repurposed mini-series starring former Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket Raccoon and Groot, the tree that talks like a (not very chatty) man. Written by Abnett & Lanning and drawn by Timothy Green II, the strip opens with Rocky having stepped away from a life of adventure. He's working in the mailroom of useless space corporation Timely Inc, and putting up with everyone pointing out how adorably cute he is.

Until an evil clown comes calling. An evil wooden clown that can only be beaten by the power of the Stapler Cosmic. OK, so it's not really called that, but Rocky nevertheless does a fine job of protecting himself and his colleagues with only woodland creature grit and cheap stationery.  

Rocky's pluck doesn't stop him getting a telling off from the boss, mind, so he quits, black affronted by the revelation that he was only employed in the first place to meet a 'cute sentient animals quota'.

Besides, he has to find the one person who can help him learn just who would send a wooden clown against him - Groot. But when Rocky arrives on Groot's homeworld, expecting that finding his friend will be a breeze, he's in for a surprise that leads to a shocking final page.

The story is a delight from start to finish, thanks to the personality of Rocket Raccoon, a less grouchy Howard the Duck. He's making the best of a bad situation, and while he's trying to avoid heroics - six months on from the Cancerverse business, he's still mourning his lost friends - he's quick to rise to the occasion.

Green finds a terrific balance between weird aliens and recognisable office drones, and there's a splendid animated quality to his line which serves the story well. A word of praise, too, to colourist Nathan Fairbairn for a palette far removed from that of your average space opera.

Alex Garner provides the electric cover. There's a Rocket Raccoon and Groot variant, presumably intended for their 'solo' book. If ever there was a case for a double cover, it's this - what a shame Marvel never opted for it.


  1. "I hate this title. Seriously, I can't spell it ... "

    Absolutely. I would imagine that such a title would be a serious disadvantage in a market place that's already rather cool on the properties on show.

    I don't just a problem spelling it. I stumble as I say it! Can't spell it, can't say it, would lay a bet that the word itself doesn't summon up any great familiar and inspiring thoughts in a great number of the audience. I can't say I'm very interested in a gang of blokes - all blokes? - who run under the tag of "them folks who utterly destroy things". That's taking macho just a touch too far ...

    Add to that the frown-inspiring knowledge of continuity necessary to feel familiar with all the comic book stuff mentioned in your third and fourth paragraph - I pretty much lack it and I'm into my 43rd year of comic book reading - and I'd suggest that this book's life isn't going to spin off into a long-run title reaching 100 issues.

    Shame. I've no doubt your faith in it is well-placed. But someone needs to be thinking about the basics where attracting an audience is concerned.

  2. Oh, the continuity is pretty much recapped and then left alone. As for the likeliness or not of a 100-issue run, apparently it’s a four-issue deal. I should probably have said that, sorry!

  3. Hello Mart:- you were quite plain. I did say that I doubted the comic would "spin off into a long run", which was my cack-handed way of saying that I knew it was a limited series. Since we're both British, and indeed Scottish, it's only proper that we fight for the right to be wrong, and I think I've won. Or rather, not won ...

  4. Well, I live in Scotland - cut me open and you'll find the word 'sassenach' all the way through!

  5. It seems to me the Annihilation brand has come to a natural end.
    What's needed at this point is either a complete evolution based of the story so far or a rest. I read Annihilators this morning and I'd writing this trying to remember a single thing about it(!)
    It should be a very exciting book for me as it has old favorites Quasar, the Silver Surfer and a Rom legacy, best of all the Dire Wraiths are key villains. But it didn't have the enthusiasm or scale of previous Abnett/Lanning books and I think maybe the plots are running very thin now, plus the cancellation of Guardians & Nova must have been a real bodyblow both personally and commercially - if those titles can''t sell then what future for any of Marvels Cosmic characters right now?

    Additional problems with the book came not just with the bland art but the forced characterisation, none of these characters have any distinctive voice and none of them displayed the traits that made previous arcs so readable, rather than another cocky rookie in the shape of the Spaceknight and Quasars drip drip drip of self doubt and pity we should have got a look at Gladiators motives, or Beta Ray Bills lonliness. There all sorts of potential avenues to go down character-wise and if this book is to be genuinly entertaining and workable that is the way they will have to go, because in terms of action there's not a lot that could seriously challenge this bunch!

    I mean what's the Silver Surfers need to be here.....??

  6. speaking from the stand pint of a long time ROM fan i think they've done a pretty good job so far. if i may, i'd like to insert a shameless plug here:

  7. Links are almost as cool as fezzes. Even if you did hate Rocket Raccoon!

  8. Dave, some very fair comments. I've a gut feeling this is the last hurrah for the cosmic books for awhile - joining two minis together makes it seem as if Marvel haven't the confidence to put two books on the stand at once, anymore.

    It makes for a bit of a bargain, though.

  9. hey Martin thanks for visiting my blog. i've seen you around before at Dan's blog (IADW).

  10. No bother, glad to meet you, David!

  11. by the way Martin i see here that your from the U.K. how about that game in S. Africa between the U.S. and the U.K.? we managed to bounce back (thanks to some bad handling from the U.K. keeper) from that early U.K. goal. the curse of the early goal haunted the U.S. squad through out the tourney. it figures that when it came to Ghana that the U.S. would dig it's self into a hole it couldn't get out of that time. by the way i saw that awesome bicycle kick goal Wayne Rooney made recently. i taught him how to do that.

  12. Er, pass. I don't follow sports at all. I've watched one game of footie in my life, the 1973 FA Cup Final.


  13. it's ok Martin. i'm not used to hearing that from the Englishmen i know around here but it's ok. the important thing here is that you like comics.

  14. Fewer people follow footie than do - it's just that Brits who do love it tend to go on ...


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