Posted - September 7, 2015
Annihilation: The Beginning
As the superhero Civil War raged on Earth, another crisis began in the depths of space, a crisis that would be called Annihilation, named after it's prime mover, the Negative Zone Warlord known as Annihilus.
Famed foe of the Fantastic Four and self-styled "Enemy of All Who Live". A nihilist (lover of death) on a par with Thanos.
Annihilation is a cosmic-level event that spans galaxies and threatens Marvel's greater universe. Long-time Marvel readers know that Marvel's spaceways are populated by beings whose power is akin to gods. For Annihilus to be considered a threat of this calibre, surely he must be a god-like being himself? That's a good question. Let's take a closer look.
At the center of Annihilus' chest is a glowing rod. Not just any bauble or weapon, this is the Cosmic Control Rod. It is the source of Annihilus' personal power. Such power can be increased to untold levels because of the insectoid warlord's vampiric nature. Annihilus can absorb cosmic energy from others and grow stronger. On an individual level he is formidable, watch this cruel tyrant in the panel below as he uses his power to destroy his own forces en masse to enforce discipline.
His forces? Yes. Here they are.
The term "swarm" is a fitting term for Annihilus' insect-like legions. And swarm they are, assembled from thousands of worlds and brought from the Negative Zone in such vast hordes that they threaten to overwhelm by sheer numbers alone. In one way Annihilation is a reprieve from Civil War. Civil War is "messy" from a moral standpoint - both forces are right and wrong in varying degrees; Civil war is a war full of gray areas. Annihilation is black and white: A swarm of destructive bugs is out to destroy the known universe, they must be stopped or the universe is enslaved.
This swarm functions as a coalition of hives. Each segment ruled by a Queen who answers to Annihilus. He calls them his "concubines". This is both the strength of the swarm and its weakness. Annihilus forces are for the most part mindless slaves to his will making them relentless to the point of suicide. On the other hand, if an opposing force manages to get to a Queen, or, to Annihilus himself, it would effectively "cut off the head of the beast" rendering the underlings vulnerable.
Did I say "opposing force"? Fittingly, Annihilus introduces us to the Opposing Force - the Negative Zone counterpart of the Power Cosmic. And here, functioning as Annihilus' hunting hounds, ar the wielders of the Opposing Force - the Seekers.
Each of these are said to be the equal of a Herald of Galactus. That is a hell of a claim and it falls on my ears as something like blasphemy. I hate them already. We will see how these arrogant ones do against the demigods of the Marvel Universe.
Moving on, Annihilus also has these to command:
Known as the Centurions, they are select warriors from all the worlds Annihilus rules in the Negative Zone. Considered his elite troops.
So is this enough? Is this enough for Annihilus to threaten the known universe?
On the side of Annihilus we also have this guy:
Now this bears some explaining. Thanos himself commands the Power Cosmic. More than that, he has wielded the Infinity Gauntlet - a level of power unknown to Annihilus. What is he doing serving under a being who, by all accounts, is his inferior? The answer is, of course, Thanos is here for Thanos and will only "assist" Annihilus as long as Thanos' personal goals are served. What a comfort, he's still the son-of-a-bitch we know and love (to bash).
Get it? He serves no one. And as events unfold we realize that Thanos does have his own agenda during this tale. Such seeming service to Annihilus, though, strengthens Annihilus significantly. Although he will do no actual fighting himself, Thanos will give Annihilus advanced teleportation technology - allowing the insectoid forces deadly blitzkrieg attacks. There is one other significant contribution from Thanos, but we'll get to that later, in the article called Annihilation: War of the Gods.
And now for the biggest guns in Annihilus' arsenal
Aegis and Tenebrous are introduced to us as the equals of Galactus. More than that, they hate the Devourer and have sworn to hunt him down. I mispoke when I referred to them as the "biggest guns in Annihilus' arsenal". Annihilus cannot control these two, it is more that the objectives of Aegis and Tenebrous bolster Annihilus' own ambitions. In that way both these cosmic gods can be considered as part of Annihilus' forces.
And that, friend, is what is arrayed against the known universe. These combined forces are known as the Annihilation Wave and the day they crossed over from the Negative Zone to invade the known universe is the dread day known as Annihilation Day.
Now that we've looked at the Invaders let's take a closer look at what they are trying to conquer.
The rich history behind this map is the work of many writers and artists churning out dozens of comics. This map was created one story at a time, it was given depth and breadth over decades and it only shows part of the Marvel Universe. Let's look at it more closely.
On the upper left, the arrow shows the path of the Annihilation Wave. Directly in front of it is the galaxy ruled by what was once the Skrull Empire. Ever since Galactus destroyed the Skrull Homeworld - and the Skrull Royal Family with it - the remaining Skrulls have fallen into infighting. The result is a fragmented civilization. A bickering coalition of Skrull warlords holding sway over their part of the former Empire. Not exactly an ideal arrangement for facing off with the Annihilation Wave.
After the Skrull galaxy are two other galaxies that appear side-by-side. The topmost galaxy is the domain of the Kree Empire and the bottom galaxy is the Shi'ar Empire - the vaunted Imperial Shi'ar of X-Men fame.
All of these groups are called Empires but if we define an empire as having an Emperor or Empress then only the Shi'ar can be considered an Empire. The Skrulls are loose-knit at best and the Kree are ruled by a business dynasty.
It's not evident looking at the map, but, after Skrull space, the Annihilation Wave is set to make a beeline for the Kree. As a result, we get no participation from the Shi'ar during this tale. A shame really. The Shi'ar have recourse to the Shi'ar Imperial Guard led by the uber-powerful Gladiator - these guys are Marvel's version of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Off to the lower right is our own Milky Way galaxy (that name sucks doesn't it? Milky Way? Damn. Wait a minute, sounds a bit like porn. Okay, I'm good). Now, we both know we humans rule the Earth but nothing else. So who's the top dogs of the Milky Way galaxy? The Badoon. The lizard-like rulers of our part of the Marvel Universe. The Badoon are in full display in issues of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. The Badoon - like the Shi'ar - will also not feature in this story.
So on one side is the Annihilation Wave and on the other side are the Skrull and Kree Empires and also some individuals that I'll get to in the article called Annihilation: In The Trenches. For now, let's begin at the beginning, and this story begins here:
The Klyn Moons, the size of planets strung together like pearls, behind it the crackling fires of the Crunch Energy Cascade. Sit back and enjoy the view of yet another amazing corner of the Marvel Universe. The Klyn are used as power plants and provide power to thousands of worlds. They are also used as impregnable prison worlds. But they are more than that. Galactus has used these moons as prisons for his enemies. Galactus. But even more then that: The Devourer of Worlds has said that even he does not know who made the Klyn - he, just like all the other sentients after him- just made use of the Klyn but its original builders and purpose are lost to time.
That said, the Klyn is the first victim of the Annihilation Wave. The destruction of Klyn does three things: (1) It forces thousands of worlds to switch to secondary power sources, (2) It frees whatever ancient powers are kept imprisoned - two of them being the aforementioned Aegis and Tenebrous, and (3) it forces an emergency gathering of the nearest thing the Marvel Universe has to a universal police force. These guys:
Nova Corps, based on the remnants of the world of Xandar, is ruled by the Living Computer of Xandar - the Worldmind - a source of both knowledge and power. Earth's own Richard Rider is a member. The Nova Corps is the frontline against the Annihilation Wave. Soon enough, the battle is joined.
And lost. Yes, we are shown the total destruction of the entire Nova Corps with only Richard Rider and the Worldmind surviving. Really? The entire Nova Corps? First of all, aren't they spread out over the known universe so it's basically impossible to kill everybody? Anyway, my thought is that Marvel is "cleaning house" for some reason.
First, the Klyn Moons. Now. The entire Nova Corps is gone. The Annihilation Wave is giving the rest of the universe an impression, and that impression has started a universe-wide panic.
Let's leave things as they are for now and take a moment to reflect on the nature of the Power Cosmic. The Power Cosmic is the kind of energy possessed by every cosmic entity in the Marvel Universe. The more of it a being controls the more powerful it is. Some beings control only a relatively small portion of it like the Fantastic Four, others, like Galactus, are virtual gods. The Power Cosmic is not anyone thing, it is absolutely flexible and can manifest in different ways. Both destruction and creation is under the sway of the Power Cosmic.
You know, we, in the real world, we have something that is like the Power Cosmic: Money. Think about it, the more of the Power Cosmic an entity controls the more powerful it is, the more it can do. The more money you have the more you can do. The Power Cosmic can manifest in countless ways. Money can be converted into countless things, it can create security, freedom, comfort, the possibilities are equally limitless.
So if the Power Cosmic became money in the Marvel Universe, Galactus and the Celestials would be trillionaires. Thanos and Annihulis would be multi-billionaires. The Heralds of Galactus would be billionaires. Quasar would be a multi-millionaire. The Fantastic Four would be millionaires. And so on and so forth depending where a character is in the power scale. Interesting don't you think?