Annihilation: Conquest [Part 2 – Wraith, Nova #4-12, Annihilation: Conquest #1-6] (2008)

In the aftermath of Annihilation, I abandoned the Marvel cosmic universe. Admittedly, I wasn’t steadily reading comics in general at the time, but certain events, once chronicled in the etchings of the web at large¹ made it clear how I felt about those books. As such, I never really followed the adventures of the characters revivified by that book, whether new to me or not.

I wrote about how Conquest started already, but this brings us through its introduction of a brand new character, the first of this arm of cosmic’s dalliance with ongoings, and the climax of the story itself.

Wraith, written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and pencilled by Kyle Hotz, introduces us to a character who is basically never seen again after this event. Wraith is Kree, the race enslaved in the Prologue by the Phalanx, but something is unnervingly different about him. What is different should be left to readers to discover, but it’s worth describing him, meta-wise, as a sort of “serious Lobo”. Kind of. He rides something akin to a space motorcycle, has limited moral compunctions, and carries a devastating weapon (pictured on the cover here). He’s more immediately endearing to someone of my persuasion in that humour isn’t used (or, in Lobo’s case, almost misused) to offset (or, until misunderstood, satirize) an ultraviolent nature. He is single-minded, even in the face of immense trouble, and somewhat fascinating for it. Shame he’s been lost to time, but such is life.

Richard Rider, having dabbled with a trip back to Earth post-Annihilation Wave–learning of the deaths of his old friends and teammates, the New Warriors, what those deaths resulted in, and what became of the sole survivor, Robbie Baldwin–in the first few issues of his new ongoing, is suddenly caught up in this new tide of danger: the Phalanx takeover sent distress beacons he has attempted to answer, only to be taken by the Phalanx, and especially the Phalanx-infected Gamora. What follows, instead of being an in-ongoing 4-issue prologue like the named miniserieses, is that in addition to a parallel thread for the story outside the main book or other tie-ins. We get to see a lot of Rich this way, and let his character begin to breathe in a space that is untrammeled by supporting cast (outside the Xandarian Worldmind he still carries), with arcs that do bring in a cast to contrast Rich’s behaviour around the Phalanx with his normal such,

The event itself successfully brings all of the miniserieses (and Nova) together, as the universe must attempt to break free of the dangers of Phalanx-controlled Kree space, even as many heroes and entities of the cosmic world are entangled and even infected. It contains numerous surprises, from characters unexpected to take part in such events, to revelations of identities not even known to have been mysterious–as well as fights, deaths, and interactions that make sense in the moment and in the characters established, but would never be predicted at the outset.

What’s most fascinating, though, is Annihilation: Conquest #6. Wikipedia makes the claim that “These Guardians first appeared in “Annihilation: Conquest” #6 (April 2008)”. Sorry, forgot a word:

Wikipedia makes the absurd claim that “These Guardians first appeared in “Annihilation: Conquest” #6 (April 2008)”.

There are no Guardians in this book. This event contains no such team. True, the characters who would appear in Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2 #1 appear together here for the first time, but they aren’t a team. They aren’t working as a team. They aren’t called the Guardians. They don’t have plans to continue together. Some of them are…in very bad shape. There are hints that such a thing might transpire. DnA (Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) state plainly in an afterward that they are coming, and with that name…but the claim (and the associated price the book fetches) are patently stupid. It is utter bollocks. There’s something weirdly amusing about this (even as it means I’ll never have a complete set of this event, for a very stupid reason): no one who watches the Guardians of the Galaxy movies is going to pick up this book and think, “Wow, so that’s where they came from!”

They’ll likely just be inundated with an event they don’t understand (without reading the rest), characters they don’t recognize by the truckload (two Warlocks!), no one calling themselves “Guardians”, barely any Groot (who was technically still speaking in comprehensible sentences here, though he has a propensity to repeat “I am Groot” even when capable of saying more), unrecognizable characters (as I’d submit would be the case any time they tried, barring the retconned-into-the-MCU versions that pollute books with the title now), no real team, a focus on Richard Rider, and not a single group calling themselves “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

It’s almost like some intensely weird joke.

Of course, it’s really just a trivia-sourced, semi-arbitrary speculator binge toss: everyone expects the first appearance to be Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #1, so if you really want to make money, you start pointing to something else–one of those “technically, this is the first appearance” books that’s so obtuse it’s hilariously stupid, and yet perfectly tickles the speculator and collector Venn diagram’s center. The part labeled “assholes”. Even if that’s the parenthetical next to “speculators” in all comic contexts…

¹Since deleted in, presumably, the change of Comic Book Resources from interesting fan-site to rather atrocious “network” owned dross, there was once an immortalized argument between me and editor Andy Schmidt. I was very upset about events in that preceding crossover, which are spoilery.

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