Annihilation was Marvel’s quite successful take at reviving their cosmic characters. The cosmic branch of the Marvel Universe had been languishing for years under the weight of Jim Starlin’s legacy. Starlin wrote epics of Godlike beings with nebulous powers who would battle across the stars while espousing cryptic philosophies. His approach came to its head in the Infinity Gauntlet, a fairly legendary mini-series in the Marvel cannon, which everyone else to tackle this world has sought to emulate, never with much success.
Now the Gauntlet was published back in ’91, making it well past overdue for Marvel to try something radical, which is where Annihilation comes in. It’s an event, comprising 7 mini-series, with 29 issues, and collected in 3 volumes. The structure of this sort of thing is slightly odd, with 1 issue to launch the story, a big mini-series to wrap it up, and a bunch of more character focused minis between that serve to spotlight a pretty damn eclectic group of characters. The Silver Surfer is there because there has to be one big name cosmic hero, but then there are stories for Super-villains Ronan the Accuser and Super Skrull, former teen pseudo-cosmic hero Nova, and one for a completely revamped Drax the Destroyer.
Their stories all bring them into conflict with the Annihilation Wave, an enormous army lead by the classic Fantastic Four villain Annihilus (a.k.a. the living death that walks). Now I’ve always liked Annihilus for some reason, despite the fact that he’s hardly the most well-rounded villain, being someone who simply wants to kill everyone so he can be the last living thing in the Universe. But as far as evil cosmic menaces go, that’s pretty good, and its kind of nice to see him actually trying to follow through on his goals after being around for 40 years or so.
So with that what we have he is a good old-fashioned space war, but maybe the best one ever portrayed in comics. Worlds are destroyed, heroes fall, and in nearly every issue the status quo of the universe is changed. And when it’s all over, Marvel cosmic is left a much more interesting place, not to mention one that’s proven to be able to sustain a few ongoing series for the first time in an age.