Tuesday, 27 October 2009

11 of the Best: Cosmic Sagas

Since we're talking about cosmic comics, here's what I regard as the most unmissably unmissable space tales. Long-term readers of comics may find little to surprise them here...

The Coming Of Galactus, Fantastic Four, 1966 (Lee & Kirby)
Jack and Stan had already introduced us to the world beyond, with the introduction of the Skrull Empire in the early issues of FF, but this was the biggie. A god-like being turns up, heralded by a cosmic-powered sentinel, the Silver Surfer, and the Fantastic Four know this is bad news, because the sworn-never-to-interfere Watcher shows up to warn them. Marvel's first truly epic storyline.

The Kree-Skrull War, Avengers, 1971-72 (Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, and Neil Adams)
Also introduced in the pages of the FF, the Kree were the great space power of the galaxy, with the Earth considered too remote to interest them. That changed when the Kree's centuries-old conflict with the Skrull Empire spread to the Earth's solar system. The Avengers were drawn, via their ally, Captain Mar-Vell, into the war, and fought to prevent the Earth itself being an innocent bystander of the battle.

The Thanos War, Strange Tales, Avengers and Marvel Two-In-One, 1977 (Jim Starlin)
The mad god, Thanos, had been lurking on the fringes of the Marvel Universe for a few years, and had even gotten hold of a Cosmic Cube once, but this was his big play for universal domination. Obsessed with death, Thanos had obtained the Infinity Gems, which he intended to use to destroy the universe. The Avengers, Captain Marvel, and Adam Warlock would stand against him, and one of them would not be walking away from this battle.

The Phoenix Saga, X-Men, 1977 (Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne)
This was the X-Men's first big space adventure, in which Professor X's latest floozy, Princess Lilandra, was kidnapped by her insane brother, the Shi'ar Emperor, D'ken, and the team went to rescue her. Notable for the first appearance of the Starjammers, and the first time Jean Grey was allowed to unleash the power of the Phoenix, this also saw the introduction of the Shi'ar as the other great star empire, one powerful enough to give even the Kree pause in their expansionism.

The Trial Of Galactus, Fantastic Four, 1983-84 (John Byrne)
After being saved from certain death by Mr Fantastic, Galactus finds the Skrull homeworld, and eats it. As well as incurring Reed Richards the displeasure of pretty much every sentient being in the universe, this throws out the balance of power in the galaxy, crippling the Skrull Empire, and setting the stage for...

Operation: Galactic Storm, various Avengers books, 1992 (Bob Harras, Steve Epting, Roy and Dann Thomas, Dave Ross, Mark Gruenwald, Rik Levins, Greg Capullo, Gerard Jones and Jeff Johnson)
In which the Kree and Shi'ar Empires go to war, with the Avengers stuck in the middle. Condemned at the time as a cheap attempt to cash in on Operation: Desert Storm (why, and how, anyone would "cash in" on a war is a bit of a puzzler, I have to say), O:GS is notable for the uncompromising attitude of some of the Avengers, an attitude for which the editorial staff have to be commended: no bottling the tough issues here. Of course, this uncompromising attitude is probably where the current "dickish" Iron Man comes from, so it's not all good...

The Troyjan War, Incredible Hulk, 1994 (Peter David and Gary Frank)
Maybe Peter David was hoping to create the next big alien race, or maybe he was just looking for a villain who could give the Hulk a run for his money. Either way, this wasn't the most successful launch, since the Troyjans haven't (to the best of my knowledge) showed up anywhere since the Hulk led his then-allies, the Pantheon, against the Troyjans and their warlord, Arm’chedon (Armageddon, get it?). However, there's a lot going on in this serial, with appearances by both the Silver Surfer and the Starjammers, not to mention a battle royal between the Hulk and the Troyjan's champion, Trauma. Great stuff.

Maximum Security, various titles, 2001 (Kurt Busiek and Jerry Ordway)
One of the wackier storylines of recent years, Maximum Security saw various alien governments, led by the Shi'ar, turn Earth into an impromtuo penal colony and exile their worst criminals there. The prisoners, regretably, include Ego, the Living Planet, who proceeds to try to take over the world. Bizarre, but great fun, which is all you can ask for in a comic, particularly a 21st century comic...

Fall And Rise Of The Shi'ar Empire, Uncanny X-Men, 2006-07 (Ed Brubaker, Billy Tan, and Clayton Henry)
In which Havok pursues his long-lost brother, Vulcan, into deep space, to try to stop him from taking his revenge on the Shi'ar for killing their mother. Another run which disrupts the balance of power in the galaxy, with Vulcan declaring himself Shi'ar emperor and threatening to cause chaos. Mind you, perhaps the Shi'ar can count themselves lucky; after all, they at least managed to avoid...

Annihilation, 2006-07 (Keith Giffen and Andrea Divito)
A dark power strikes in the galaxy, sparking an interstellar war, which sees the Skrull Empire crushed, the Kree severely weakened, and the Silver Surfer once again swearing loyalty to Galactus. Just about every one of Marvel's cosmic powers showed up in this maxi-series, a title which has done more to open up the expanded Marvel Universe than pretty much anything else in the past forty years.

War of Kings, 2009 (Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Paul Pelletier)
Abnett and Lanning have been building on Annihilation for some time now. They used that title as an opportunity to bring Nova back in his own title. They wrote the sequel, Conquest, in which the Phalanx, a long-forgotten X-Men foe, conquer the Kree, and they used that story to launch their own version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, a book which has made a star of a talking raccoon. Finally, they had the Kree, now led by Black Bolt and the Inhumans, go to war with the Vulcan-led Shi'ar, bringing together pretty much all the cosmic events of the past few years. Since Marvel seem to have worked out that there's money to be made out of these cosmic events, expect Abnett and Lanning, and others, to continue mining this seam for some time to come.

(This post mostly recycled from an earlier post on my other blog.)

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