Waiting for the Trade’s best of cosmic Marvel

Waiting for the Trade’s Cosmic Countdown

 So today Guardians of
the Galaxy
hits theaters and I cannot wait to see it. I have been giddy for
this movie since it was announced two years ago. I love cosmic marvel in
general and I greatly enjoyed DnA’s run on the Guardians a couple years ago. So in honor of the film I present a
countdown of Marvel’s best cosmic trade paperbacks and because the Guardians
are such an unusual team I am doing a top 15 rather than a top 10. Furthermore in
honor of the obscurity of the Guardians since many of the stories in the
countdown are super famous already I will recommend a second story in the same
vein of each primary pick throughout the countdown. So without further ado
click below.

 

 

 15 – Star-Lord: Annihilation
Conquest
– While the entire Annihilation
Conquest
event was collected in a pair of trades years ago the story as a
whole is good not great. With the Guardians
of the Galaxy
movie this smaller trade was released a few months ago
collecting the four best issues of that event. This is genesis of the Guardians
team as the Kree recruit Star-Lord to go on a no technology suicide mission
against the Phalanx and assign several prisoners from a Kree prison to assist
him—all of whom were marginal cosmic characters who had not appeared in years:
Captain Universe, Death Cry, Groot, Mantis and—best of all—Rocket Raccoon. The
book has a total Dirty Dozen feel to it, and given the minor nature of these
characters no one is safe (though based on the Guardians movie line-up you can probably guess which ones
survived). This is the beginning of Rocket Raccoon’s ascent to awesome-ville.

            If you like
this story also check out: Thanos
Redemption.
While reading the second Annihilation
Conquest
trade will give you the ending of the story; and any of the DnA Guardians trades carry the Rocket &
Groot banner nicely Thanos Redemption
is a bit of lost classic by the same author as the Star-Lord trade above and is
the story that brought Star Lord back to the mainstream Marvel Universe. It too
has also only recently been collected in trade thanks to the movie as Thanos Redemption collects a short-lived
12 issue ongoing Thanos series from about 10 years back. The first six issues
are by Starlin and see Thanos and Warlock attempting to help the Rigellians
evacuate their planet when Galactus arrives. It’s a perfectly good Starlin
Thanos story although it doesn’t tread much new ground. The next 6 issues are
by Keith Geffen, and while the change in tone is on first read jarring I
actually like it better than the Starlin issues. Geffen shows us the Crunch,
the sight of the birth of the Universe where cosmic energies are used to bind
rogue cosmic entities. Furthermore the Shi’ar and Xandarians have built a
prison planet there for hardcore threats they have no intention of ever
paroling. However because of what the Crunch represents it is considered a holy
site by many alien races and thus the prison has to deal with a constant flow
of pilgrims. Thanos decides to become one of these pilgrims. He soon finds
Death waiting for him and for the first time in decades she deigns to speak to
him directly. He also discovers heroes Gladiator and Star Lord are in the
prison (among many villains). Best of all Thanos encounters the Beyonder in
this prison and we get a fairly epic Thanos vs. the Beyonder confrontation. The
aftermath of their fight sees the prison damaged and a few galaxy class
villains escape including a previously unknown first herald of Galactus. This
just piles on the fantastic and needs to be read (and in some ways it is a shame
the series got cancelled because they were building to Gladiator and Star Lord
forming a task force to take down Thanos once and for all).

 14 Hulk: Heart of the
Atom –
Famed Science Fiction writer Harlan Ellison penned this story of
Hulk being shrunk into a subatomic world where he finds a John Carter-esque
world of monsters and alien barbarians who happen to have green skin and thus
accept Hulk as a savior. Hulk meets their Queen Jarella and begins a
surprisingly tender and bittersweet love affair with her that ultimately ends
in tragedy.

            If you like
this story also check out: I’m sure Planet
Hulk
is the obvious successor to this one but I’ve never read it so I can’t
recommend it. I will say the recent Captain
America: Castaway in Dimension Z
is really good story of Cap trapped in
another dimension with subjugated alien races fighting a cruel tyrant giving it
some similarities to the Hulk story above. But if you want another Hulk story
then let’s go with Hulk: Pardoned which
while mostly earthbound reprints a chapter of Hulk on Rocket Raccoon’s home
world and a few other alien threats from Bill Mantlo’s nearly forgotten yet
really strong run on the title.

 (13½) Silver Surfer
the Herald Ordeal
(issues 70-75 of his second solo title) is not in trade. If
it was it would rank here as the art is superb, Morg is an excellent villain
and it has the spectacle of every former herald of Galactus teaming up.

13 – Avengers the
Contest –
I’ve reviewed this book before but to recap the Grandmaster makes
a bet with Death and pulls all the heroes of Earth into a contest on their
behalf. Then when Grandmaster loses he pulls both Avengers team into Death’s
realm giving us a pair of excellent fights as first the East and West Coast
Avenger teams square off and then when Grandmaster wins and takes over Death’s
realm he forces the Avengers to fight the Legion of the Unliving for the fate
of the universe in perhaps the greatest fight scene Tom Defalco ever wrote. The
story ends with my all time favorite Hawkeye moment.

            If you like
this story also check out: Avengers vs. the
Legion of the Unliving
is an excellent anthology collecting all of their
battles against various groups of characters who were dead at the time. You get
two Immortus stories in here, a really creepy Grim Reaper story as he becomes
an Avatar for Death (the Avatar concept played a key role in other cosmic
titles like Quasar and Thanos Imperative), the last chapter of
the story above, and a really good Busiek and Perez story. Speaking of which if
you like the Grandmaster he plays a key role in the very strong Busiek-Perez JLA/Avengers intercompany trade as well.

 

12 – Essential Marvel
Two In One volume 3 –
By far the most obscure choice on my list this series
primarily serves as a prelude to Mark Gruenwald’s superb work on Quasar in the 90s (most of which is not
in trade). This book collects 26 comics (three of which are double sized) and
surprisingly the vast majority qualify as cosmic stories. For those unfamiliar Marvel Two In One is a Thing team up
series from the late 70s/early 80s. Gru kicks us off with Quasar’s first
appearance under that name (the character had appeared a few times before as a
SHIELD agent in Captain America) and
makes Quasar head of security for Project Pegasus. The six part story that
follows (also collected in the full color trade Thing: Project Pegasus Saga)
see Thing, Quasar and Bill Foster (Giant Man v2.0/Black Goliath) deal with a
series of sabotage attempts by Roxxon Oil that ends up pulling in the time
traveling Deathlok, the extra-dimensional Thundra, the alien Wundar and
ultimately leads to the birth of Nth Man—a cosmic class villain that would
trouble Excalibur 10 years later. The other major reason to buy this trade (and
why I recommend it over the color version) is the double sized Thing & the
Avengers in the Negative Zone story by Tom Defalco that sees Annihilus,
Blaastar and Super Adaptoid all team up. I often say Defalco is the best
choreographer of fight scenes in comic history and this is a prime example of
his excellence in that regard. Other cosmic tales include: a three parter with
Thing, Her, Moondragon (both of whom Gru would use again as love interests for
Quasar) and Starhawk (revealed in the 90s to be the son of Quasar and Her)
trying to resurrect Adam Warlock and in the process running afoul of the High
Evolutionary and the Beyonder; A two part tale that sees Thing, Mr. Fantastic,
Sting Ray and the Inhumans taking on Maelstrom (who Gru would later elevate
into an enemy of all life in the universe in Quasar), a three part story
featuring Thing, Sting Ray, Triton and Scarlet Witch preventing the Serpent
Squad using the Serpent Crown to take over the world (this is the first
appearance of Sidewinder and a few others that would go on to become the
Serpent Society in Gru’s Captain America
run, while the Set’s Serpent Crown would be one of the major threats Quasar
dealt with when he became protector of the universe). Other one off stories in
here with cosmic characters are: Thing & Black Bolt vs. Graviton, Thing
& the Impossible Man, Thing vs. Hyperion, Thing & the 30th
century Guardians of the Galaxy, Thing & Quasar in the Savage Land, and
Thing & Hulk vs. The Stranger.

            If you like
this story also check out: Quasar
Classic volume 1
. Quasar was for my money Marvel’s best ongoing series of
the early 90s—a time when they published 60 to 80 books a month. While the
book’s best issues are in the second year and not collected in trade, this
volume will give you Quasar’s origin, his appointment as Protector of the
Universe, the set up of his supporting cast status quo, and some fun fights
with Terminus, Absorbing Man and Living Laser as part of the “Acts of Vengeance”
crossover.

        

11 Infinity War – This
is one of my favorite crossovers but unfortunately it does not have a good
trade paperback. The existing trade collects only the parts written by Jim Starlin:
The six issue main series, a few tie-in issues of Warlock and the Infinity Watch and a four part Thanos back up story
from Marvel Comics Presents. Worse it
doesn’t even intercut those stories in order. It just reprints each of the three
series it collects one after the other even though the Warlock issues
specifically say what issues of the main series they occur after. While like
any crossover some of the tie-in issues are extraneous I feel not including the
issues of Quasar, Dr. Strange and Silver Surfer do the story a real
disservice—these are all cosmic level heroes whose tie-in issues were key to
the main event. The Spider-man and Guardians of the Galaxy issues are also a
lot of fun and it is a shame not to have them even if they don’t add much to
the narrative. Besides a story called “Infinity War” should be big and
sprawling. The full story would likely make #5 on this list. Still even in
diminished form this is a trade worth picking up. The Magus has one of the best
plans of any villain ever in this story—from preemptively attempting to destroy
all of Earth’s heroes in one blow by taking out just five key heroes, to hiding
his fortress in another reality several dimensions removed so that even cosmic
level powers cannot get to him without great difficulty to the big plot twist
in issue five on his end goal. This is a rare smart villain executing a well
thought out plan so it is worth reading for the core six issues alone. Also the
story is crazy fun on a cosmic fanboy level because you get to see all the big
cosmic weapons pitted against each other: the Cosmic Cube, the Infinity Gauntlet,
the Quantum Bands and the Ultimate Nullifier are all utilized in one key
chapter of this story. Also it does collect Infinity
Watch #8,
which is a really strong comic featuring an extended flashback of
how Thanos raised Gamora as his foster daughter.

            If you like
this story also check out: Thanos
Imperative.
While Infinity Crusade
is the sequel to Infinity War it is a
badly told bloated story. And while the Magus’s first appearance may be a more
obvious choice to recommend here, Thanos
Imperative
has more in common with Infinity
War
structurally. Both stories see Thanos forced to act alongside a group
of heroes to defend the universe from a threat worse than him. Both see him
working alongside Gamora, Drax and Moondragon while Quasar, Silver Surfer and
Galactus have a separate side mission in the crisis. In both the threat is an
alternate evil version of a great cosmic hero. Thanos Imperative also brings DnA’s four year run as the architects
of cosmic marvel to an end and has the added bonus scene of Rocket Raccoon
standing down Thanos. It’s not the A+ homerun I wanted from DnA but it is a
solid B that holds up on multiple readings.
10-Avengers: The Kree
Skrull War
– While this story is less cosmic than you’d expect—only one chapter
takes place in space;–it does maintain a tense build and for its time period
stories of this scope were very rare. The cliff notes synopsis: first the
Avengers have to deal with the Kree who want to detonate a bomb that will
devolve all of humanity back to Neanderthals. Then as the follow up on the Kree
threat, the Skrulls make their move by taking the place of politicians and
members of the media to turn the public against the Avengers and later imitate
the big three (none of whom were on the active roster at the time) in order to
disband the team. The Avengers also have to battle both races major champions: Ronan
the Accuser and the Super Skrull. The story also pulls in the Inhumans, Captain
Mar-vell and (briefly) Annihilus until the Avengers fly into space to bring the
war to an end. It also contains a famous Fantastic
Voyage
inspired story of Ant Man traveling inside the Vision’s android body
to repair him. Unfortunately by today’s standards the ending with Rick Jones
comes out of nowhere and is far too part. Still that does not negate all the
good that came before.

            If you like
this story also check out: Avengers:
Operation Galactic Storm
a 19-part epic (collected in two trades) wherein
the Avengers get pulled into a Kree-Shi’ar war that manages to remain
remarkably coherent given the number of titles involved and in which the bulk
of the action is in deep space. Also Avengers
Forever
which is more time travel than cosmic but follows up on the Rick
Jones Supreme Intelligence finale of Kree Skrull War in a far more satisfying
way and also gave new relevance to the third Captain Marvel (the original’s son
Legacy).

9-Guardians of the
Galaxy volume 3: War of Kings –
Really the entire DnA run of Guardians is
worth reading as I would consider it the best ongoing series of the past 10
years. But if I had to pick just one trade to highlight this is the best one as
it features the culmination of two different year long subplots: the rupturing
of reality that Warlock and Star-Lord warned all the major alien races about
and no one believed and Warlock being reborn into the Magus in absolute shocker
of a scene that shows just how deadly that character can be. To stop the Magus
the story spins off into a full on time travel epic involving the 30th
century Guardians, Kang the Conqueror and the Cosmic Cube. This is as good as
it gets. (Also paid off in this trade is the “I am Groot” joke in one of the
funniest pages of any story on this list).

            If you like
this story also check out: Guardians of
the Galaxy volume 2
is the next best DnA Guardians trade as it has Quasar and Maelstrom in it, although
volume 4 has Thanos and volume 1 is pretty damn good  too. Also Nova: Knowhere by DnA has the first appearance of Cosmo the
telepathic Russian dog and the Guardians headquarters which is crazy fun. So in
honor of the movie go buy them all, you won’t regret it.
 


8 – Secret Wars – There
are times I consider Secret Wars my favorite crossover ever but I was not sure
whether to even count it as a cosmic story. On the cosmic front it takes place
on alien world, Galactus is in it and it is the first appearance of the
Beyonder but at its core this is a story about Dr. Doom, Magneto and the
earth’s greatest heroes engaging in big old fight scenes more than it is about
a cosmic threat. Still there is no more fun comic story ever published than
this one; it is the ideal primer to bring kids into the Marvel Universe. It is
also deserves historical credit for being first event crossovers– plus it gave
us Spider-man’s black costume which makes it a watershed moment for Marvel’s
flagship character. I would also argue Shooter’s subtle yet distinct characterizations
throughout the entire cast is often overlooked because the story has so much
spectacle in it.

            If you like
this story check out: Never read Secret
War II
as its awfulness is inversely proportional to the original’s
awesomeness. Beyond and Spider-man and the Secret Wars are both
okay looks back at the original concept, but for an actual good story that
picks up where this one leaves off go with Spider-man:
Birth of Venom
. Not really cosmic
other than the alien costume but damn it is both excellent and awesome.
 

 7-Essential Silver
Surfer volume 1 –
In interviews Stan Lee often cites this book as his
favorite thing he ever wrote. When you read it you will understand why. It
collects the entire Silver Age Silver Surfer series as Surfer endures his exile
on Earth. Stan Lee uses the Surfer’s outsider status to make poignant comments
on human nature that remain just as relevant today as when he wrote them 50
years ago.

            If you like
this story also check out: Essential
Silver Surfer volume 2
– Written two decades later by the vastly
under-rated Steve Englehart the Surfer’s second series sees him escape from
exile and make peace with Galactus. The treasure to be found in this volume is
a lost Infinity Gem story arc as the Elders of the Universe gather the gems in
an attempt to assassinate Galactus and remake the universe.
 6-Avengers: Legacy of
Thanos
– Another recent trade we can thank the Guardians movie for as Marvel finally collects the first appearance
of my favorite villain Nebula in trade. Written by the incomparable Roger
Stern, Nebula proves herself every bit the tactician her grandfather is as she
claims his Death Star like space ship Sanctuary II and uses it to position
herself into a Skrull Civil War with a plan that would make her their empress.
She ironically runs into Captain Marvel v2.0 as the first Earth hero she meets
but soon her plot drags in the rest of the Avengers including Thanos’s brother
Star Fox. Aside from the Skrull Civil War the trade also features cosmic
threats Terminus, the Beyonder and Firelord.

            If you like
this story also check out: Spider-man:
Am I an Avenger?
which has an even better Nebula story. The only reason I
am not ranking this trade on the countdown is it is an anthology with plenty of
non-cosmic stories such as Spidey’s first meeting of the Avengers vs. the Hulk
(by Stan Lee), Spidey and the Avengers dealing with a Moonstone led prison
break at Project Pegasus (by Stern), and a few forgettable stories with
Sandman, Rage and the New Avengers. But the five part Nebula story collected
here is fantastic with her both destroying and conquering the universe at
different parts of it and taking on a host of the most powerful Avengers and
the Stranger. It is in fact my single favorite Avengers story of all time and
this trade would by very high on my desert island list.

 
5-The Life and Death
of Captain Mar-vell.
Speaking of first appearances, this would be the first
appearance of Thanos and his first big epic plot with the Cosmic Cube. Also
starring the Avengers, Thing, Rick Jones, Super Skrull, Controller, the first
appearance of Drax and Mar-vell’s appointment as Protector of the Universe this
story is everything it has ever been billed as. In addition it also collects
Mar-vell’s battle with Nitro and his subsequent death by cancer on Titan.

            If you like
this story also check out: Marvel
Masterworks Warlock volume 2
which is Starlin’s second big Thanos story and
also the first appearances of Gamora and the Magus—who is so damn evil Thanos
is forced to recruit heroes to oppose the Magus’s plans because even Thanos
isn’t willing to face him one on one!

 

4-Essential Fantastic
Four volume 3 –
This is here primarily because it collects “The Coming of
Galactus” in which we meet Galactus and the Silver Surfer for the first time and
it is as tremendously excellent as history says it is. Also included is perhaps
the greatest single issue Stan Lee story of all time “This Man, This Monster”
featuring the Thing in the Negative Zone. If for some reason you need more
reasons to buy this it also collects the wedding of Reed and Sue, the first
appearance of the Inhumans, the first appearance of the Black Panther, the
first appearance of Blaastar, a multi-part Frightful Four story and the classic
story wherein Doom steals the Surfer’s powers and conquers the world. Nuff
said.

            If you like
this story also check out: Fantastic
Four Trial of Galactus
which features Galactus coming to feed on Earth and
being confronted by the FF, Avengers and Dr. Strange in a heck of a fight, a
follow-up plot involving Doom teaming with ex-Herald Terrax and ultimately the
Shi’ar putting Reed on trial for crimes against the universe.

 (3½)  Quasar: Cosmos in Collision (issues 19-25
of his solo title) is not in trade. If it was it would be ranked in this spot as it
features Quasar taking on the end of the universe level threat that defined his
title with a little help from Moon Dragon, Ghost Rider and the Eternals and is
second only to “Cap No More” among great stories written by Mark Grunewald.
 

3-Annhilation – By
far the best crossover of the modern era it rightfully sparked a renaissance of
Marvel’s cosmic line. It is the story of what happens when Annihilus finally breaks
into the positive matter universe—something that had been foreshadowed since
the Silver Age. (“The Kree Skrull War” opens with Annihilus trying to break
through and the Avengers and Captain Marvel are immediately like this will be
the end of the world if we don’t stop this now. Ditto the earliest issues of Marvel Team-Up have Spidey and the Torch
battling the Frightful Four in the Baxter
Building and in the
battle the Negative Zone portal opens and the Wizard immediately recognizes how
awful Annihilus is and tells his teammates to just stop fighting and help the
heroes close the portal). Indeed I would argue this story opens with the best
prologue ever: the opening page has Death meeting Thanos at the Crunch and she
tells him “something wonderful” is about to happen—when Death says something
wonderful is going to happen you know sh*t is about to get real; and the
exchange ends with her telling Thanos that this one is someone he could learn
from. What happens next delivers on every bit of that 40 years of foreshadowing
(warning spoilers ahead) as Annihilus
punches through the Crunch freeing the rogue cosmic entities and killing the
Beyonder. Next he hits the Xandarian home world and wipes out the entire Nova
Corps in minutes with only Earth’s Nova Richard Rider surviving. Nova meets up
with (Thanos foe) Drax the Destroyer and (Protector of the Universe) Quasar to
take the fight to Annihilus: that ends with Annihilus killing Quasar (arguably
the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe) and donning the Quantum Bands
making Annihilus exponentially more powerful. Next Annihilus decides he wants
the Power Cosmic and he begins capturing, killing and dissecting former Heralds
of Galactus until things get so bad Silver Surfer reenters Galactus’s service
and that still doesn’t make a difference as Galactus is defeated and strapped
to a star cruiser so his hunger can be used as a planet destroying Death Star
like weapon! And that is just the half way point of the story! If you have not
done so do yourself a favor and read this thing as it is indeed “something
wonderful.”

            If you like
this story also check out: While Annihilation
Conquest
is the supposed sequel, it is really a sequel in name only with
just Nova, Star-Lord and the Kree being the only common characters in the two
stories and it doesn’t have nearly the punch of the original. The best
follow-up story to the plot threads here is Fantastic
Four: The New Fantastic Four
in which the FF learn Surfer has rejoined
Galactus, Galactus is mighty unhappy with how Annihilus treated him and wants
to replenish his power by eating the cosmic entity Epoch—who is in charge of appointing
Protectors of the Universe and with Quasar dead doesn’t have a protector. If
you want another Annihilus story the next best one is in the MTIO trade I
recommended earlier but you could pick up The
Greatest Villains of the Fantastic Four
a 1995 anthology trade collecting
stories on the FF’s top five villains. The Annihilus story therein is a
two-part 80s tale drawn by John Byrne so he’s never looked better and it is yet
another example of the stop Annihilus getting into our universe no matter what
decades long build-up as Reed sacrifices his life to stop him. For something
similar and more recent you could go with Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four volume 4 trade in which
Torch sacrifices himself to stop Annihilus and you see more of the fallout of Torch’s
death than in the Reed trade.



2-X-men Dark Phoenix Saga – If you
are reading this column you probably don’t need me to tell you about Dark Phoenix
Saga—a story of unparalleled scope and emotion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a
list of the best comics of all time in which this story was not in the top five,
and it would go in my top five ever too. If you haven’t read it do so. If you
don’t care for the X-men it doesn’t matter this is as good as comics get.

            If you like
this story also check out: X-men Rise
and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire
is a year long trek of six X-men in space by
famed Captain America scribe Ed Brubaker
as the X-men try to prevent long lost Summers’ brother Vulcan from destroying
the Shi’ar Empire and in the process learn a little bit more about the Phoenix
Force.
1-Infinity Gauntlet
– For my money this is the greatest story Marvel has ever published. Jim Starlin’s
writing make the stakes never feel higher than in any other crossover. The art
by George Perez and Ron Lim is superb. The fight scene in issue 4 may be the
greatest of all time, although damn if issue 5 doesn’t give it a run for its
money. Thanos, Nebula and Captain America all get great moments to
shine. This story is perfection.

             If you like this story also check out: Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos shows
how Thanos gets the Infinity Gauntlet and features writing and art of equal
standard to the main story. Marvel also recently published Infinity Gauntlet Aftermath which shows what happens to the
Infinity Gauntlet after this story and it is pretty good too.

 

So that’s all folks. Questions? Comments? Death threats?
Leave them below.

Waiting for the Trade – Annihilators

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Annihilators
by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Collects Annihilators 1 – 4.
Why I bought this: I love cosmic Marvel and my two favorites of Marvel’s cosmic heroes Quasar and Silver Surfer are both featured prominently. This was also written by DnA, who in my view are the best writers currently employed by Marvel. So when Free Comic Book Day rolled around and one of my shops was selling everything in the store at 25-percent off this was the very first item I picked up.
The Plot – In the wake of events of Realm of Kings and Thanos Imperative, the Guardians of the Galaxy are disbanded/mostly dead, leading Marvel’s most powerful cosmic heroes to decide that a new team is needed to deal with future cosmic level crises. The members of that team are Quasar, Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, Gladiator and Ronan the Accuser. The idea is they will not have the usual team trappings of headquarters, meetings etc. They will only come together when there is a crisis (and correspondingly rather than an ongoing series the idea is to give them a series of mini-series). Spoilers ahead.
Chapter 1 – Doctor Dredd, a villain so obscure I never heard of him appears on a Rigellian spacecraft. (He’s an old foe of Rom: a comic Marvel published in the early 1980s based on an action figure from that time period. The copyright on Rom himself long ago reverted back to the toy company but Marvel has the rights to everyone else from his comics such as his fellow Space Knights and villains.) Dredd apparently has a force-field with sharp-edges and he cuts through the Rigellians to get scientific data from them. Meanwhile a female Space Knight joins the Annihilators on Knowwhere (the Guardians old HQ) and tests them in combat, openly wondering if perhaps they are too powerful to work as a team. Yet just when they are about to disband they learn of a plot by the Dire Wraith to return. The Wraith are more or less Pod People who kill you and take your place/memories although they can also shape-shift back to their true forms and apparently some can use magic as well. They were also the primary antagonists of Rom and the Space Knights way back when before being literally banished to Limbo in a Rom-X-men crossover I never cared to read and have stayed there the past 30 years real time. Anyway the heroes confront Dredd, whose force field keeps their powers at bay and injures Surfer and then he cuts a whole in space to bring back the Wraith home-world over the Space-Knight home-world of Galdor
Chapter 2 – The heroes help the Galdorians deal with dragon creatures and eventually subdue Dredd. Rom’s wife (widow-?) fills us in on what’s happened on Galdor since Rom’s book was cancelled, and then the heroes are attacked by the Dire Wraith Queen.
Chapter 3 – The heroes defeat the Wraith Queen (although her magic gives their cosmic powers some problems at first). Surfer realizes the Wraith must be freed from Limbo for some contrived cosmic balance reason and the heroes journey there only to encounter Immortus’ (powerful Avengers foe and ruler of Limbo) army. While the heroes are off-world Dredd cuts a hole in space from his cell and brings a cult of Skrulls to Galdor, while revealing he is a Skrull as well.
Chapter 4 –The heroes are losing to Immortus’ army, but Quasar is able negotiate a truce with Immortus in part because as a time traveler Immortus reveals he has no wish to harm Quasar as the universe will need him soon (foreshadowing). The heroes and Wraith return to Galdor and battle Dredd. The Wraith Queen eventually eats him/explodes killing them both (it’s one of those vague presumed dead with no bodies you see in comics fairly often). Quasar, Surfer and Ronan use their combined powers to close a black hole and stabilize the orbit of the two planets and the mission is concluded with the team agreeing to stay together.
Bonus Plot – The trade also includes a four-part Rocket Raccoon story, which is fine by me as he was my favorite of the Guardians. Anyway he’s working in an office now until he is attacked by a killer clown (an old enemy from his 80s mini-series). This leads to him seeking out fellow surviving Guardian Groot, who has been imprisoned by his people since that series ended and they later return to Rocket’s home-world to tie up loose ends from Rocket’s earliest appearances. This leads to battling Star Thief (an Adam Warlock villain who appeared exactly once in the 1970s in a story I have read in trade but didn’t love). After dealing with him, Rocket and Groot vow they too will continue to work together to save the universe as needed.
Critical Thoughts – I’m torn on this. On the one hand DnA continue to have a strong story-telling style and they use their cliff-hangers well. They know how to write team dynamics and they use humor in just the right amounts (there is a nice joke with Ronan being offended that the Galdorians consider him the least powerful member of the team in the first story, while Rocket has a piece of sentient stolen office equipment accompany him throughout the second story).
But on the other hand, these villains are all so obscure. And in the case of the first story I don’t buy any of them as threats to a team of this magnitude. I’m not sure I buy any of them as threats to Surfer by himself to be honest. And it’s not just that they are obscure, they are also not interesting, which is a far worse sin. From their motivations to their powers to their visual look I find nothing interesting about them.
I am also not back flips for how Quasar is presented here. It’s one of those things that I can see why a writer would make this choice, but as long-time fan of the character it rings false. The story, particularly in the early chapters, is narrated by Quasar. The writers have Quasar feeling insecure because he died in Annihilation and then wasn’t around for the next few cosmic crises. My problem with that is Quasar died three times before in his solo series. And I’m not talking Infinity Gauntlet style deaths, where everyone dies and then time is reset no one remembers it. We’re talking deader than I’ve seen any other character ever with each death some outdoing the prior one. The first time he died his hands were cut off, his weapons removed and he was chained to a wall and tortured to death; the second time he was crushed to death on an atomic level in a galaxy-sized black hole; and the third time he was nullified by the Ultimate Nullifier. (And in Annihilation he was disintegrated and the energy was then consumed by Annihlus). Given all that I think Quasar should have accepted a long time ago that he is functionally immortal. Again I can see why the writers didn’t go that way. Quasar is the only human character among cosmic demigods in this series. You have him narrate to ground the book in a human perspective. If he’s humming along about being an immortal he loses that; and the stories I’m referencing are 20 years old in a book that didn’t sell that well originally; then again the villains are 30 and 40 years old from obscure books too, so if you’re sticking to that continuity then you ought to stick to Quasar’s too. Ditto Quasar questions more than the others whether this team should exist at all but that ignores this team existed before: when Quasar’s book was cancelled in the 90s it was replaced with Star Masters of which Quasar was the team leader and the three core members were himself, Surfer and Beta Ray Bill (and I think Gladiator or his sister/cousin joined that one as well). Again I can see why the writers would want the human narrator to be insecure about his place among these cosmic demigods and not be hindered by 20-year old continuity for a title that was cancelled in six issues but as long-time fan of Quasar the portrayal seems if not exactly false, definitely a little off.
In fact I enjoyed the Rocket Raccoon back-ups quite a bit more than the main story. Anyone who has read Rocket’s 1980s series will know that it comes off much more like an acid-induced social satire than any kind of coherent narrative. I personally love how DnA portrayed Rocket in Guardians, even though it was quite different than his earliest appearances–this is a case where not being hampered by the 30-year old continuity of an obscure mini-series worked fine. That DnA managed to actually to now connect that lunacy to their modern take on the character as well as they do in this story just makes me admire their writing all the more. There are some revelations about Groot on the other hand that seem to seriously contradict story points that played out in Guardians that I’m not thrilled with, but I like the end result of Rocket and Groot united as outsiders again the world so I’m willing to give it a pass.
Grade: C+. While it’s nice to see Quasar featured prominently again after all these years in the main story, that story nonetheless feels like it’s just going through the motions of the “a team comes together” plot and the threat they face is neither interesting nor compelling. On its own it is probably a D+ (and even that would be just for having Quasar in it). Rocket’s tale is a lot of fun, even moreso if you know the older continuity. I would give it a B. So let’s average that out and we get a C+.  

Waiting for the Trade – Thanos

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos
by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim
Collects Silver Surfer 34-38 and Thanos Quest 1-2.
Why I Bought This: I love cosmic Marvel and few stories in Marvel history are as great as The Infinity Gauntlet. This book serves as the prelude to that one.
The Plot: The short non-spoiler version is Death resurrects Thanos and charges him with killing half the population of the Universe. In the course of going about the task Thanos comes up with a new scheme to seize ultimate power. This is in my view one of the all time great stories so if you haven’t read it before you may wish to skip the spoilers before reading it yourself. That said you’ve been warned.

Chapter 1 – Surfer finds himself on a lifeless planet and decides to let himself sleep for the first time in years. He dreams of Death’s palace, where she is debating the resurrection of an unnamed evil spirit who had served her in the past in order to correct the great imbalance. Suddenly Death is aware of Surfer presence and the spirit blasts Surfer out of the palace causing him pain and making Surfer question if this is just a dream. The dream shifts and he is on an overpopulated planted where the aliens are sacrificing an infant into a volcano. Surfer rescues it only for it to mutate and attack him. He awakens and wonders what it all means only to turn and find Thanos resurrected and admitting to being the spirit in the dream.
Chapter 2 – Thanos takes Surfer on a tour of the universe (including a stop at Earth for some social commentary) via his teleporting chair and explains the great imbalance is that more beings are alive now than had ever lived before. Death wants this rectified and has tasked Thanos with killing half the universe’s population. He asks Surfer to step aside for the greater good, to which Surfer refuses. Surfer then learns that their teleporting has spread diseases/bacteria (that normally die in space/atmospheric reentry when Surfer travels on his board) from one planet to the next. Surfer returns to a utopia they had visited and heals those he can but half the planet is already dead as Thanos had traveled through time as well. However the time travel alerts Chronos, a time-entity in Marvel’s cosmic pantheon that presides over Thanos’ homeworld Titan, that Thanos has returned to life and so he resurrects Drax the Destroyer to stop him.
Chapter 3 – Surfer journeys to Avengers Mansion to get information on Thanos from Cap and we get a summary of the two major Thanos stories Starlin wrote in the 70s: where he conquers the universe with the Cosmic Cube and tries to destroy the universe with the Infinity Gems. Later in space Surfer is bothered by the Impossible Man (a shape-shifting imp who occasionally bothers the Marvel heroes out of silliness/boredom not malevolence).
Chapter 4 – Surfer journeys to Titan to speak with Thanos’ father Mentor. We get probably the most comprehensive Thanos origin ever printed, giving his age to be about 100, and stating he spent 80 years in space honing his craft and gathering followers before returning to the Solar System and appearing in comics in the 1970s. Drax then shows up and wants to accompany Surfer in tracking Thanos. However Drax has brain damage from being killed (Moondragon had telepathically fried his brain in the Avengers about 100-issues prior to this story), he also has Hulk level strength now, which is a big step-up from when he was last alive, so Surfer is less than gung ho for having Drax come along. Thinking back to his encounter with Impossible Man he tricks Drax into watching television at FF HQ and then slips away.
Chapter 5 – Nebula (an Avengers foe who had been presented as Thanos granddaughter and had about five-years of stories as an A-list threat while Thanos was dead) is onboard Thanos’ old spaceship Sanctuary II (basically a Death Star) when Thanos decides to reclaim his property. He denounces any kinship with Nebula and sets her on fire. The members of the crew that served under him quickly switch loyalties, but one of Nebula’s crewmen manages to hide her and tends to her wounds in secret. Thanos decides to allow Surfer to find him and they battle with Thanos seemingly being disintegrated down to his bones. Surfer takes the body back to Titan, while Thanos reveals he had altered one of Nebula’s crew to look like him to get Surfer off his scent.
Chapter 6 – Thanos is back in Death’s realm gazing into a magic well that possesses all knowledge in the universe. He meets with Death and asks for permission to acquire the Infinity Gems again in service to his mission for her, noting that with his current power level it will take him centuries to complete his mission. Noting the gems are in the possession of some of Death’s recent enemies (specifically the InBetweener and the Elders of the Universe, both of whom had thwarted Death in issues of Silver Surfer and Avengers in the two years prior to this story), Thanos gets her to grant permission. Thanos finds the InBetweener imprisoned in a distant dimension by Master Chaos and Lord Order (more cosmic pantheon beings). He frees him from his prison, then takes the Soul Gem from him and teleports away leaving him to face the justice of Chaos and Order. Next he encounters the Champion, who has Power Gem thus making him infinitely strong. Champion lives to fight so Thanos challenges him to a duel and using force fields and his teleporter tricks him into breaking the planet they stand on to pieces. Champion cannot fly and so Thanos barters the gem from him in return to taking him to another planet. Finally Thanos meets the Gardener on his gardening world. Thanos offers to let Gardner live in appreciation for the gardening world he has created with his gem, Gardner refuses the offer even though he knows he is outclassed. They battle with Gardner using his control of plants to attack Thanos but Thanos endures it without moving and uses the Power Gem to accelerate Gardner’s power beyond his control. He takes the Time Gem and departs.
Chapter 7 – Thanos meets with the Collector to see if he would be open to trading his gem, Collector is willing if he can acquire something rarer. Thanos then battles the Runner, who moves at speeds beyond comprehension and batters Thanos into submission. However Runner then stops to gloat and Thanos uses the Time Gem to reduce him to infancy taking his Space Gem, which Runner had been subconsciously using to enhance his speed. He then returns to the Collector and trades the baby Runner for the Reality Gem, which Collector had never figured out how to work, as prior to this story it was believed all six gems were Soul Gems and not divergently powered. This leaves the Grandmaster for last, another A-list Avengers foe and the most powerful of the Elders; he lives his life for cosmic games of chance. Grandmaster booby traps his gem knowing he can’t win a battle of gems against Thanos and instead challenges him to a winner takes all virtual reality video game. Thanos outplays him, but Grandmaster has rigged the game; however Thanos had sent in a robot duplicate ahead of him and in the real world short-circuits the game while Grandmaster is still hooked up to it leaving him catatonic. He then takes the Mind Gem and then combines the six gems into the Infinity Gauntlet using the Power Gem at the base to provide infinite power to the other five so that their range is now universe-spanning instead of just localized as prior users had used them. Thanos returns to Death’s realm and wants to claim her as his queen but she shows disdain for him and he leaves despondent over her rejection.
Critical Thoughts: Let’s begin with Ron Lim’s art because it is fabulous. This is what is cosmic Marvel is supposed to look like. It has quite simply never looked better, particularly the final two chapters (the Thanos Quest books) where the colors are just gorgeous as the pencils. Lim would go on to have lengthy run on Surfer and the three major Infinity crossovers (the first sharing duties with George Perez) and all of it was perfection.
The writing is very, very good. Starlin clearly loves Thanos more than any other character he writes: he took him from title to title in the 70s and his first action on Surfer’s book was this story arc. Thanos under Starlin is a villain with unique motivations (his love of the actual cosmic entity Death), complex schemes and brutal power yet still prone to nuance such as enjoying the Gardner’s garden or mentioning that he believes in keeping his word (or in later example showing his tenderness to his foster daughter Gamora after she was beaten and possibly raped in the pages of Infinity Watch).
At the same time Starlin does have a tendency to ignore the work of other writers when it comes to these characters, which I see as a bit of flaw in any writer’s work in this medium. (This was most obvious in Infinity Abyss, a story Starlin seems to have written for the express purpose of retconning out of his existence work other writers had done with Thanos—although in Starlin’s defense they were some really bad stories.) We see a little of that in this story with his treatment of Nebula, who is barely an after-thought to Thanos and runs from him in terror when he reveals himself to her. Now yes, Nebula’s base power-level isn’t in Thanos’ league but in Avengers her schemes were every bit as complex as his, and with just as high a success rate. In her most recent appearance prior to this story Nebula managed to steal from another of Marvel’s cosmic entities the Stranger, destroyed the entire universe and when it was recreated elevated herself to omnipotence; yet Starlin has her a mere space pirate who runs in terror from Thanos when he confronts her. As a huge fan of Nebula (she may very well be my favorite villain in all of comics, because she was a hell of an Avengers villain during my teen years and that’s the age when you glom onto these characters on visceral level) I find the way this scene is written irksome, but it’s a not deal-breaker if only because A) Nebula is an expert strategist and knows she’s outclassed so what other options does she have, and B) Starlin redeems his treatment of her thoroughly in the Infinity Gauntlet series.
A few other scattered notes: I love the writing in the first chapter with Surfer’s dream. I find the social commentary in chapter two a little heavy-handed and too Earth-centric for what is a universe-wide cosmic tale. Ron Lim also draws a hell of a Cap. I hate the Impossible Man in just about every story I’ve ever seen him and this is no exception. Drax returning as brain-damaged is a hell of nod to prior continuity.
My only other complaint is I wish the Surfer issues up to #50 were also here (or at least in a different trade) because that’s also part of the Infinity Gauntlet prelude.
Grade: A. The art is an A+ and two Thanos Quest chapters are clearly A+ also (Hell they are more like the A+ from Christmas Story that keeps plus-ing around the room, they are that good.) But the criticisms about chapters 2 (social commentary that feels shoe-horned into the tale) and 3 (I really have no use for the Impossible Man) drop the trade as a whole to just a regular A. Of course an A is still a grade of near perfection with a very high recommendation to buy this and read it if you haven’t already. 

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers Assemble

By Bill Miller
Marvel Adventures: Black Widow and the Avengers
by Paul Tobin
Collects Marvel Adventures Super Heroes 17 – 21.
Why I Bought This: There is no comic franchise I love more than the Avengers. The impending movie has my anticipation building to a full on geek-gasm. I stumbled upon this on Amazon at just $4 (and that includes shipping costs) and was like Hell Yeah I’m up for some Avengers stories I haven’t read before the movie comes out. Plus the description promised Diablo and he’s actually my favorite FF villain so I’m more than happy to see him switch foes since I like the Avengers a lot more than the FF.

The Plot: Marvel Adventures is a different continuity in an “all ages” format. This is the story of the Avengers coming together in a new continuity. While I know some people don’t care for stories outside the main Marvel continuity (and to an extent I understand that as I can’t be bothered mustering the effort to care about the Ultimate universe); I think once you start reading only trades it really doesn’t make much difference. After all look at the stories I’ve reviewed since starting this column: My first review was Brand New Day Spidey and two books later I was back to married Spidey; a week ago I had Galactus fighting Thor in the modern-era, yesterday I had him fighting the FF in the 80s. The point is you bounce back and forth through time often enough you begin not take care so much about when the stories take place versus just whether it’s a good story or not. And once you cross the bridge of not caring about when so much, it’s a short jump to not caring about which universe it’s in either. Plus let’s be honest continuity gets reset every 15 years or so anyway so what difference does it make?
So onto the story at hand: (spoilers ahead)
Chapter 1 – Cap, Iron Man and Thor are working together on a case but are not yet a team. They arrive in Iowa where a small town was devastated by a mass rage incident. In checking out cell phone videos they discover both the Invisible Woman and Diablo (for those who don’t know he’s an evil alchemist with his three primary powers being control of the four Greek elements, potions that transmute inorganic matter such as lead to gold, and immortality thank to the Elixir Vitale) were both present before it all went crazy. They find Sue buried under-wreckage but she is still under the rage-spell and attacks the heroes doing quite well and even neutralizing Thor until Cap takes her down with some strategy because Cap is awesome like that. Sue reveals an alien life-form caused the chaos and we see the not-yet-Avengers along with Reed Richards investigating several leads in a series of well-written mystery scenes such as Androids and Diablo. The Vision gets involved in the investigation and ultimately Diablo is proved to be innocent, instead it is an artificial construct that Thor banishes to another dimension before its origins are uncovered.
Chapter 2 – Nova (who in this reality is either a teenager or early college age and still new to the superhero biz) is in Scotland with his brother and a group paranormal researchers looking into poltergeist-like phenomena that seems to cause an emotional response and gets attacked in the woods by a creature that looks like a satyr but they say is the ghost of a giant. The five not-yet-Avengers arrive to see if this is related to the incidents from last chapter and they run into Black Widow doing her spy thing. The ghost remanifests and the seven heroes unite to vanquish it with Thor doing the heavy lifting since it is a mystic threat and in the end they decide to form the Avengers. So your Avengers are Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Invisible Woman, Nova and Black Widow.
Chapter 3 – Iron Man sets the team up with a mansion when Plant Man arrives seeking asylum because Silver Surfer is after him and seems to be possessed by an uncontrollable rage. Vision is off with Diablo again, but everyone else is present when Surfer arrives and we then get an epic fight scene. Seriously, this is one the best choreographed fights I’ve seen in years. Anyway the Avengers are losing the battle because let’s face it Surfer is arguably Marvel’s most powerful hero when Vision arrives with one of Diablo’s potions and manages to cure the Surfer.
Chapter 4 – We start ‘in media res’ as the Avengers are battling Diablo and it’s another really good fight scene with him trashing Iron Man thoroughly and sticking some elementals on the rest of the team including an earth elemental that absorbs an entire building as it goes toe to toe with Thor. The fight is interspersed with flashbacks and we see Diablo has fallen into despair and madness. Vision manages to track him down and talk Diablo to his senses before he can kill Iron Man as Diablo realizes the demon D’Spayre is the cause of this and uses his magic to banish the demon.
Chapter 5 – Another story told parallel in action and flashback, Nova gets put in charge of duty roster assignments for a day and has to handle twin problems of a mystic crisis in Hawaii involving obscure titans and goddesses and a closer to home problem with two World War II era heroes that I’ve never heard of seeking help in preventing one of them from becoming a proto-Hulk creature. Anyway this is more a character piece on Nova with a bit of humor tossed in with the threats as window dressing (hence why they’re all so obscure no doubt) so we’ll leave it at that.
Critical Thoughts – I loved this book. This is exactly what an Avengers story should be: big battles with big stakes interspersed with interesting character interactions. I know some people may shy away from this because it’s “all ages” and thus may think that means dumbed-down but they’d be wrong. Heck, the best writers in Marvel history wrote in a time when all comics were meant to be appropriate for younger audience and that never stopped them from creating the stories we rightfully consider classics today.
While I wouldn’t call this a classic, there is some damn good writing here. The investigation in chapter 1 is very compelling. The fight scenes in chapters three and four are awesome; and Nova’s reaction to the idea of even trying to fight the Surfer is well-written and adds to the anticipation for when he does arrive. But also there are really nice character interactions here. Some examples: In this reality Sue is not yet married to Reed and Cap begins to fall for her, and it’s well-written and you want to see how it plays out. Black Widow has joined the team just to spy on them for Reed, which is another intriguing plot twist; at the same time she has a nice comedic chemistry with Nova as she’s the jaded all business spy and he’s the “oh wow” noob—his reaction the new headquarters in chapter three is laugh-out-loud funny. The friendship between Vision and Diablo is well done. Here are two characters that have little in common: one is a hero, one is a villain; one is the science of the future, one is the magic of the past; and yet the writing shows where they have common ground and can find respect for each other. I don’t know who Paul Tobin is, but based on this I’ll be looking for more of his stuff and the main Avengers title would be blessed to have him.
Also this writer gets Cap. And that to me is one of the most important things an Avenger story needs to do to be a success.
Grade A. I don’t what more I can add to my thoughts above. Good writing, good characterizations, great fight scenes focused on characters that I enjoy from the Avengers themselves to Surfer to Diablo. That’s an easy A on every front.

Waiting for the Trade #5 – Thor

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
The Mighty Thor
by Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel
Collects Mighty Thor 1 – 6.
Why I bought this: Actually this was another library rental, as opposed to purchase. It was a story arc (Galactus comes to eat Asgard) that I knew wanted to read because I love me some cosmic Marvel; but at the same time I was wary on purchasing it because I know I don’t like Thor’s solo title–I never have, and the last time I purchased a Thor trade it was awful despite having Thanos in it; so I was very happy to see this at my library and I picked it up instantly.

The Plot: The Asgardians find a seed to the World Tree, Galactus believes the seed can cure his cosmic hunger. Odin refuses to relinquish it. A brouhaha ensues. That really sums up the whole story, but we’ll give the chapter by chapter recap anyway.
Chapter 1 – Citizens of Broxton, Oklahoma are worried about constantly being collateral damage since Asgard arrived in Oklahoma circa 2007 (don’t ask me how: didn’t read it and don’t care too). Meanwhile Galactus is eating a planet, while Silver Surfer assures us through narration that he only guides Galactus to unpopulated worlds. Meanwhile Thor and Sif are swimming in the pink energy that makes up the World Tree trying to fix its roots and are attacked by giant caterpillars, one of whom bites Thor. You wouldn’t think that would be a big deal, and the art makes it look he’s barely scratched, but his wound becomes a plot point throughout the story. Loki, now inexplicably 10-years-old or thereabouts, dives into the tree and saves Thor using a spear. They find the cosmic MacGuffin and turn the seed over to Odin. Apparently Thor and Sif are dating again and we get to see way more of them than we should in a children’s comic; and Thor is leaking energy from his side where the caterpillar bit him. Silver Surfer arrives on Earth.
Chapter 2 – Odin hides the seed inside the Destroyer, who is in a weapons vault from right out of the movie. Surfer informs the residents of Broxton they should depart because Galactus is coming for the seed. (Surfer’s cosmic senses apparently became instantly aware of it when it was plucked last chapter.) Surfer asks Odin for the seed, he says no and Thor attacks Surfer.
Chapter 3 – Volstagg goes to Broxton to get a beer and the residents led by the local preacher tell him the Asgardians they are not welcome anymore. Surfer and Thor fight until Odin intervenes and agrees to hear Surfer out. Surfer explains the seed can cure Galactus’ hunger, saving countless worlds but Odin refuses to turn it over without explaining why because that’s what Odin always does; so Surfer departs warning that when he returns Galactus will be with him. Meanwhile Volstagg tries to raise the guard because he’s an idiot and believes Broxton will attack Asgard soon; however all the Asgardian warriors of note have departed for space to take the fight to Galactus.
Chapter 4 – Loki goes to see the Weird Sisters (from Macbeth, who are apparently now part of Norse mythology) in hopes of finding a cure for Thor’s wound. We get a big battle in space, which breaks into three parts. Galactus sends purple energy tendrils to occupy the rank and file Asgardians, Thor and Surfer go at it physically—mostly hitting each with their hammer and surfboard, and Odin and Galactus battle on the mental plane by making each other relive bad memories. In the climax: The Oklahomans are standing outside Asgard asking them to leave via megaphone, Thor threatens to kill Surfer as their fight spills to Mars, and Loki gets what he wants from the Weird Sisters.
Chapter 5- The battle in space continues, and Odin, losing the mental battle, head-buts Galactus breaking his helmet and causing energy to leak out as he starts to dissipate; wounded both fall to Earth just in time to distract Volstagg and stop him from slaughtering the Oklahomans. Loki retrieves the seed from the Destroyer, accidentally reactivating it in the process. Spent by the battle Odin falls into the Odinsleep, while Galactus pulls himself together and now he’s pissed. Loki decides to put the seed back in the tree, while Pastor Mike thinks Galactus is God.
Chapter 6 – Pastor Mike asks Galactus to have mercy and he gives a definitive “no.” Surfer senses the seed is gone. Odin takes control of the Destroyer and arms himself with Thor’s hammer, he’s about to attack Galactus, who teleports into orbit. The Asgardians feel they have driven him off, but in truth he’s trying to locate the seed with Surfer’s cosmic senses. Odin returns to his body and awakes; and everyone is mad at Loki for putting the seed back even though in so doing he probably saved them all from Galactus. Surfer goes to visit Pastor Mike, and takes him to Asgard where he arranges a truce with the terms that Surfer will remain on Asgard to guard the seed, while Pastor Mike becomes the new Herald of Galactus. Galactus then makes Surfer human again and ties his power to proximity to the seed, the former of which seems to be counterproductive to watching the Asgardians; and we see life going on for the major players as we wrap things up.
Critical Thoughts: Let’s start with the positive. I love the art. From the penciling to the coloring it is gorgeous. Galactus in particular is drawn as an awesome force–in reveal after reveal the art finds new ways to convey it from his eating a planet, to his arrival, to his recovery, to his interaction with Pastor Mike each time he looks more majestic than the time before and the bar starts high to begin with.
I also appreciated Surfer’s narration to start the story that he’s been leading Galactus to uninhabited worlds. As much as I loved Annihilation, the one thing in that story that rang false was Surfer rejoining Galactus, which was clearly shoehorned in to align the comics with the Fantastic Four-Silver Surfer movie that year. As a huge fan of Surfer’s 80-90s solo-title, which was all about his quest for redemption for the genocides he caused when serving Galactus the first time, I was glad to see this included because it mitigates his return to service considerably. Likewise I’m glad to see Surfer released from service at the end of this; and I liked that he was inspired by Pastor Mike’s courage to leave Galactus and try to recover his humanity as it definitely feels in-character and in some ways is a nice hallmark to how Alicia’s compassion won him over the first time. And while unnecessary, since we know his being human probably won’t last more than this writer’s run on Thor, I don’t have a major problem with it.
Unfortunately, I found the story as a whole weak. Part of this is I that I’ve never cared for the Asgardians. I like Thor in the Avengers, but his own book with its mystic mumbo jumbo nonsense has no appeal for me and never has no matter which writers I’ve sampled; and the Asgardians themselves are bunch of dull characters with interchangeable personalities.
But beyond that and specific to this story the fight scene between Galactus and Odin is lacking. The idea that they are metaphysical entities and we can’t see their battle is a cop-out—and patently not true: we’ve seen both have physical battles dozens of times. Plus there is no context given in the memory war they do have. As someone who doesn’t read Thor regularly, I have no idea what any of Odin’s flashbacks are about.
Which brings us to another point; there is a general lack of exposition throughout this trade. Most glaringly why is Loki 10-years-old? That is a fairly jarring status quo change, that should be explained somewhere in this book; especially when you consider not just that trade paperbacks should be self-contained but this collects a new issue #1 released to correspond with the movie in case casual fans wanted to sample the title. And it’s not just Loki is still himself but in 10-year-old body, like he when he was (also inexplicably) a chick a few years ago. No, he’s fully a kid now: in one scene he’s all agog at seeing Sif naked, in the climax he’s crying because no one likes him when he tried to do good. He also seems to no longer have magic as he has to go to the witches for help and uses a spear in his one fight scene. Plus he and Thor are all buddy-buddy, with Thor being all like he’s my beloved brother and defending him to the other Asgardians. So yea exposition definitely needed.
I’d also add the Volstagg-Pastor Mike subplot wasn’t to my liking at all, that Thor seems way too willing to attack and even try to kill the Surfer when they’ve been allies for years, and Surfer’s fighting tactics in general were a little off—since when is the board his primary offensive weapon as opposed to the power cosmic? Is it just to dumb down the fight to magic hammers vs. cosmic surfboard?  Either way it just compounds the lazy plotting of the main fight scene that drives the entire story.
Finally, I don’t see why Galactus would agree to this truce as he really gains nothing from it and he has the power take what he wants—the explanation given is he can wait the Asgardians out because he is more immortal than they are, but in the meantime he’s spending tens of thousands of years eating planets when the problem could be solved now. In fact why isn’t at least one Asgardian (preferably Thor since he’s the protagonist) questioning Odin on this? Thor has certainly defied his father in past stories and this is a chance to save millions of billions of innocent lives, while Odin isn’t even explaining why he wants the seed. That seems like a major lost opportunity for story-telling; at the very least Thor should be conflicted rather than unquestioningly trying to kill a longtime ally for the glory of Asgard.
Overall Grade: D+. The art is fabulous, but while the story had potential it never lived up to it with the fight scenes, subplots and climax all failing to deliver.