Trade waiting readers should delight in knowing last summer’s cosmic crossover event, The Last Annihilation, is getting collected this week. It’s an adventure that spanned Black Panther, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and more across seven issues and 200 pages of action, adventure, and teamwork. It’s also a curious event, as teamwork ends up being the focal point since Dormammu isn’t so much a threat to be punched but planned for.
It makes sense it’s more about the plan than fighting, though, as Al Ewing makes it clear from the start Dormammu is so overpowered it can’t be as simple as most boss battles. Ewing writes five of the seven issues in this event and is joined by Anthony Oliveira and Evan Narcisse in writing an enjoyable cosmic adventure. The story may be event-caliber, but it never feels like a traditional one, thanks partly to the crossover element spreading the love across titles.
The more casual approach to big cosmic fights with “Annihilation” in the title is partly because Dormammu, lord of the Dark Dimension, isn’t immediately harming or even fighting anyone. He simply exists, but he’s very, very big. This brings unlikely characters together like Doctor Doom–who seems to steal every scene–and an aged-up Cable (who was a kid for a couple of years).
Juan Frigeri draws a great Dormammu, who has melded with Ego to gain even more power than ever. There’s nothing like a flaming head in space to establish a threat. All of the artists involved in this collection–including Stefano Caselli, Bob Quinn, Jan Bazaldua, and Germán Peralta–are exceptional at drawing many characters on every panel and making them look good. More importantly, they all capture emotions and act well. With so much planning and teamwork, a lot of talking is important!
While Ewing handles the big action and high-stakes portions of the story, Oliveira gives us a touching look at Hulkling and Wiccan’s relationship via flashbacks, who also happen to be important to defeating Dormammu. Oliveira uses these issues to show Wiccan and Hulkling earlier in their relationship, when they are just dating. These scenes help flesh out their bond and reveal they were “othered” – made to feel unwelcome and isolated from their peers. They found each other, too, making for a heartwarming look at how their love formed from their experiences. Oliveira uses these past scenes to inform the present, creating a story that doesn’t necessarily connect to the present event for every page but shows how these events can be used to explore the character.
Narcisse’s Wakanda tie-in explores M’Baku and his role in Wakanda and its Intergalactic Empire. Like the Wiccan and Hulkling story, Narcisse uses the larger event to explore M’Baku. Once enslaved by the Intergalactic Wakanda, he hopes for peace and Narcisse gets at the good in the man. Once the action kicks into gear M’Baku and a small team must find Dormammu’s Mindless Ones depicted well by Germán Peralta and color artist Jesus Aburtov. A chaotic war-time fight, it’s a good example of how the fight doesn’t amount to only shooting Dormammu with a big gun.
Yes, that’s pretty much where this story goes. Given Rocket is a central force in the story, it’s a fun conclusion. Doctor Doom aids the team in pulling things off, giving the various characters plenty to do as they acquire a giant bullet and an energy source for a big gun.
The Last Annihilation was a 2021 summer event that excelled at showing events can be used to explore characters deeply while having a ton of fun with high-stakes storytelling. All told, the event was more about working together to stop a future threat rather than punching and kicking every step of the way, but in a world with global warming looming among other threats, it actually feels modern and progressive because of it. At the end of the day though, what beats a really big gun?
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