I love talking about and sharing favorite books with friends, especially when I help them discover something they might have missed otherwise and vice versa. I appreciate getting recommendations that help me cut through the stacks to get to the really good works.
Now that I’ve gotten comfortable in the role of reviewer I also feel compelled to write about something that was either loaned or given to me as a result of those friendly recommendations. In fact, I often feel downright guilty if I don’t at least leave some personal comments or feedback with the lender/giver.
I’ve had a big energetic raccoon on my shoulder for some months whispering in my ear and heckling me about this very same thing. So, I’m getting it off my back right now.
Several months back I reviewed a random issue of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY on this site ( see http://bcrefugees.blogspot.com/2009/10/random-reads-as-of-october-7th.html for the full details). In fact, I did this with two separate issues -- not in sequence and several months apart. I liked it much better the second time I picked up this title but still didn’t get attached enough to want to start following it on a regular basis. I made a comment that I probably wasn’t being fair enough to the book by “cherry picking” an issue here and there and not following a story arc. Following up on that theme, Shane gifts me with the entire ANNIHILATION saga which spans 24 issues and several different titles. In fact, he takes the extra time to organize those books in the recommended order of reading for me.
Now I feel much more than just obligated - - I feel duty bound to write about these books. I’ve finally made some space in my comic reading schedule to get down to business. I’ll be writing about ANNIHILATION in the coming months. I’m already feeling the raccoon begin to loosen it’s grip on my back although I’m sure it’s not coming off until I get to the set of GOTG books and comment on those.
ANNIHILATION PROLOGUE #1 (May 2006) by Keith Giffen writer + Scott Kolins with Ariel Olivetti art
It’s the book with the hook! Had I picked this up when it initially came out I would have been seeking out the monthly issues in this crossover saga. Five pages into this book and I was thoroughly engaged and focused. It’s one of the most entertaining and best introductions to a complex storyline that I’ve read in some time. I’m also surprised and delighted to see that it was written by Keith Giffen, a writer whose works I developed a love/hate relationship with which ended in my avoiding anything with his name on it for the last decade plus.
Back in 1987, Keith Giffen was one of the hottest writers at DC. He reinvigorated a tired old franchise with his version of the JUSTICE LEAGUE, with a new serio-comic tone, some new characters and a livelier quicker pace. I was enthralled and followed this faithfully until giving up after Issue #39.
What made it seem fresh were the funny dialogue exchanges, often sarcastic and satiric, between
the major characters of the League. They took their jobs seriously but we also were treated to frequent glimpses of the lighter side of life at JL HQ. This got older as the book progressed and the title became too silly for my tastes. Giffen made clowns out of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. There were way too many “bwaa –hah-hah” moments for me. (I’ll never forgive Giffen for making a sappy stooge out of Blue Beetle, one of my favorite Charlton Comics characters before DC bought the rights to several Charlton heroes.)
The last book I read by Giffen was the recent re-boot of THE DOOM PATROL. I didn’t like it much and it reminded me of why I had been avoiding his stuff. But ANNIHILATION PROLOGUE has restored my appreciation. I feel it may be his best work. There are some comic and light-hearted moments here but they are infrequent and a welcome break from some of the rapidly building tension and conflict. It’s a gripping read that doesn’t let go until the final page.
All the covers to each of the crossover books in the ANNIHILATION saga are painted by the same artist, Gabriele Dell’Otto. Having a common cover style is a nice linking mechanism and the art is very striking. PROLOGUE’s cover is a nice montage of six of the key characters in this saga, beginning with Nova in the foreground and Thanos in the background.
Just from flipping through the book and scanning the art I got a sense that parts of this saga will include small tributes/homage to various cosmic creators and themes. Right there on page one as Thanos meets Mistress Death to witness the beginning of destruction he says to her “I feel it. Something comes” and she responds “Yes. Something wonderful.” ( - - a famous two-word phrase from one of the classic science fiction movies = 2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY).
I’m also getting a sense that this series is going to be a bit grim and not afraid to depict the consequences of universal cataclysm and destruction, meaning some characters are going to die. As if to drive that point home, a major character from Omega Core dies by page 7 as the Crunch Energy Cascade in the Verge system is decimated.
The art in the opening pages is very epic in scale and does a great job of illustrating the first battle, which ends quickly and not in a good way. Kolins and Olivetti’s work here reminds me of a mixture of Jim Starlin and Ron Lim (Silver Surfer artist in the ‘80s, in case you aren’t familiar with him).
It’s been a long long time since I read of the exploits of Nova, and I like the setting here in another galaxy with the Nova Corps. Despite Richard Rider’s experience and time of service he’s treated as the rookie here, the “dink” / “greenie” who doesn’t know anything and needs it all explained to him by some of the alien (to him, anyway) members of Nova Corps. It’s also a neat way for the writer to work in these details by having Richard ask the right questions.
I like the version of Drax the Destroyer here, not as sure of himself, stripped of his costume and going shirtless (ala Hulk) and proceeding cautiously in order to cast doubt on his true origins. His terran sidekick, Cammi, is an amusing character. I feel she’s there to provide a little comic relief and her comments are rather amusing. I like that her choice of garments don’t really go together, which indicates she’s a bit of an outsider/rebel. (Short schoolgirl plaid skirt and winter coat, etc.)
The battle scenes between Nova Corps and Annihilus’ minions are very interesting to see and fun to read. This book uses more and different colors throughout the story than I am used to seeing. It really enhances the battle scenes and is delightful to view. And the aftermath of battle as Richard crawls from the wreckage to view the devastation for miles in every direction is so well done and really conveys the giant scale of what has just occurred.
There’s another tribute/homage later in the book when the scene shifts from the destruction of Nova Corps home base to Kree System 114 and a star base called Yon-Rogg (referencing an original Guardian of the Galaxy character). Several officers are exchanging scuttlebutt and rumors and one refers to hearing information from an intelligence analyst by the name of Star-Lyn (acknowledging Jim Starlin) who jokingly gets referred to as a “skrull-hugger”. It’s a short scene that serves as a link/transition to another setting while at the same time giving a little glimpse of the racial bias among some of these cosmic races, something that might possibly prevent full cooperation in fighting the shared threat of Annihilus. The final pages reveal that it is indeed Annhilus who is behind the invasion/destruction (gee, we would have never guessed).
There’s a valuable feature at the end of the book with several pages devoted to the Xandar Worldmind Nova Corps Database, providing some illustrations and more detail on Nova Corps, Annihilus, Thanos, and the different galaxy systems featured in the storyline.
It’s a great beginning. If the following issues are as good as this then I fully understand why this series has become a favorite of many readers. It deserves the attention / buzz it receives.