Sunday, August 9, 2009

Annihilation Classic edited by Mark D. Beazley

I have found that the so-called “cosmic comics” of Marvel Comics have looked ever so neat, yet I hadn’t stepped into that world. They found a new resurgence of popularity with the Annihilation event, which spawned a number of new books. In preparation for jumping into these excellent-looking books, I am stepping back, and taking a look at what came before, starting with Annihilation Classic, a collection of early stories, many origin tales, of the characters that play a part in Marvel’s current cosmic epics. Below follows a story by story review, followed by the complete collection review.

“Apples & Origins” by Todd Dezago: A tale meant to combine humor and action, Bug chases Annihilus across both space and time, as he tries to prevent a universe-altering cataclysm. Dezago creates a light tale that is fun, but feels without substance.

“I Challenged…Groot! The Monster From Planet X” by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber: A very fun harkening back to the early science fiction comics published by Marvel, Leslie Evans stands up to the evil Groot, a tree monster from Planet X that plans to conquer the planet while stripping it of wood. It will be interesting to see how this bit character, who meets a very certain ending, works into Annihilation and beyond.

“Nova” by Marv Wolfman: The first of a number of origin stories, this one follows Rich Rider as he struggles with his life, and is blessed with a dying alien’s powers. This story actual deals with major issues like depression and bullying, and creates a character that is both exciting and intriguing.

“The Price of Power” by Mark Gruenwald: Another origin tale, Wendell Vaughn is a candidate for a high-level government position, but he lacks the killer’s edge, and doesn’t get what he had hoped. However, could his pacifist streak prove the salvation of his father, when he falls into the hands of terrorists? Another solid tale.

Rocket Raccoon by Bill Mantlo: The longest tale in the book by quite a bit, the story of Ranger Rocket Raccoon is far deeper than it initially seems. The light tale of anthropomorphized animals becomes one of global intrigue, economic war, and greed, all with the dark undertones of mental insanity. This story just got better as it went along, surprising me with its depth.

“The Saga of Star-Lord” by Doug Moench: A rather mystic tale of a man destined to be the protector of earth (a common theme in this book), this one loses itself a bit with its selfish character, but regains momentum at the end.

“The Final Flower!” by Scott Edelman: A very short tale with a science fictional bend to it at the end, well worth reading. If you changed the names of the main characters, and removed the pictures, this could have worked as a solid science fiction piece in any magazine today.

“And Men Shall Call Him…Warlock!” by Roy Thomas: A story that at times soared, and at others mired itself, this one just seemed to struggle with great things but fall short, which is a shame as the ideas were wonderful.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun, especially for its nostalgic look back to the past of comics, and the trends that saw the beginning of so many famous “cosmic” heroes. It felt odd that so many cosmic heroes fated to protect Earth never ran into each other before, but it is all a build up for when they do, which I can accept. This is a collection well-worth the price for fans of comics, especially of the “cosmic” variety, and a very nice primer to remind the veteran, and show the new reader, who all of these characters are.


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