If you want to skip to the long review (and possible spoilers), skip down to the bottom (Look for the cover as your signal to start. I have a shorter abridged review.) Otherwise stick with me.
In continuation of Annihilation, we pick up with Book 2. If you want to check out my review of Book 1. The central figures in this story are Silver Surfer, Super Skrull, and Ronan the Accuser. We follow them as we get a little more insight to the destruction the Annihilation wave has wrought as well as some glimpses of plans and ideas for the Wave itself.
We are introduced to the next part of this story as we follow the Silver Surfer. In the aftermath of the Annihilation Wave, there is simply nothing. Yet despite this, Surfer stumbles upon The Air-Walker (aka Gabriel the Air-Walker) who is being attacked by the a group of minions who work for Annihilus. We come to find out later that they are seekers and their leader is known as Ravenous (If his name doesn't speak his intentions, I don't know what does). The crazy thing is that we find out that the attack on Xandar wasn't simply to just kill for the sake of war or genocide, it was to draw out the heralds of Galactus (Whaat!?).
Turns out that the seekers are hunting them for the power that resides in the heralds. It is the Cosmic Energy. Inversely, the seekers are from the Negative Zone and are powered by the Essence (Remember this). Surfer and Air-Walker escape from the seekers, but Air-Walker perishes from his wounds. The conversation that Silver Surfer has with Gabriel results in his motivation for realizing that Annihilus must be stopped. At the same time, Galactus senses (a disturbance in the force?) the balance has been undone and he sends for his former herald. The Silver Surfer ends up finding his way back to Galactus and becoming recommissioned to do Galactus' bidding once more. On the side, trouble begins to brew as we see Thanos wheeling and dealing on the side-his motives unknown and the enemies of Galactus (Tenerborous and Aegis) run amok after being released from imprisonment from the destruction of the Annihilation Wave.
After the destruction of Xandar, the story jumps back to seeing the progress of the Annihilation Wave and we are paired with Kl'rt a.k.a. Super Skrull. They themselves are not faring so well as the great Skrull empire is in shambles. One of the main weapons used by the Annihilation Wave is the Harvester of Sorrow, a large machine capable of destroying planets (Sounds like a Death Star to me). Super Skrull entreats with the local warlord to help destroy this super weapon, but is denied and he is left to his own devices to destroy it on his own. He ends up enlisting the help of Mr. Fantastic to open a portal in the Negative Zone so that he can get an army. Kl'rt goes to a prison controlled by Annihilus and breaks in because the warden happens to be the maker of the Harvester of Sorrow and Skrull uses the opportunity to question him while at the same time recruiting the former innmates to his cause. Garnering enough strength and resources, Skrull and his allies launch an assault on the Harvester but fail because of the betrayal of one of their own allies. Undeterred, Super Skrull and his allies escape capture and fight and eventually complete their mission.
For the last part, we are paired with Ronan the Accuser now not the Accuser. Earlier in book one, we see him accused and stripped of his title. Now he is off searching for a way to clear his name. He seeks various people who knew about those who testified against him. His search leads him to Goothab Omega to find his quarry. Here on this planet, Ronan finds other exiled Kree and has a violent clash with Gamora due to being attacked by one of her acolytes. Turns out that the side conflict between Gamora and Ronan was orchestrated by some guy (Glorian shaper of worlds) to give him access to enough cosmic energy to reshape Goothab Omega in his own image. What? Really? I'm supposed to care about this Glorian shaper of worlds? I'm supposed to care about Ronan? This part though was hard to get through. The story did not flow as well as I would have liked. I know very little about Ronan but I would have hoped that there would have been some semblance of a reason depicted for us to like him but the moment was lost. A missed opportunity. The best part about the creation event here, was since we know that the Annihilation Wave are responding to the invasion of cosmic energy into the Negative Zone, it draws a large contingence to the planet. After the battle, Ronan is driven to go back to warn the Kree Empire despite the threat to his life upon returning from exile.
Renato Arlem really takes the cake for his art in these pages. With his interesting and unique shading paired with strong anatomy is a testament to his abilities and really helps to showcase the beauty of space and the setting that this whole story takes place in. Arlem makes all the right choices in his backgrounds as well using appropriate line weights to reference scale and detail without being too messy and chaotic. The shading is almost reminiscent of literal sand or noise in photography. For the characters, it makes for a unique and visually interesting style that I haven't seen much of before. This also helps with the depiction of stars and the cosmos and helps to give a visual texture that is beautiful and surprisingly not distracting at all. Renato shows he can work on a small scale as well as a large scale giving power and dominance to the size of Galactus while giving speed, motion. and energy to Surfer and his actions.
The style for Super Skrull is immediately different yet still stands strong in its own particular style. The strengths here lie in the use of color, mood, and expressions to create an exciting tone for the story while still allowing the reader to easily understand the characters that are being presented. Kl'rt is dark and fearsome and prone to aggression and rage in order to bring about the things that he is trying to accomplish. The bright color palette gives a sense of beauty to everything even the enemies. It also makes all the plasma bolts, fire, and energy feel hotter as a whole.
Now, for Ronan's arc, while solid, this art style was not my favorite. Maybe had to do with the the story side for Ronan's story arc. The backgrounds were pretty simple but had a gritty, dirty feel to it. This helped to make the worlds that Ronan was traveling seem poorer and less civilized. His exile has led him across these backwater planets in contrast to his former glory.
I really think that this is a climactic and triumphant moment that is being told here. After all the guilt and confusion Surfer goes through, he finally comes back to Galactus. Even though this may not be the course that he wants to take, it is the best one. He does it to save as many lives as possible while attempting to stop the Annihilation Wave. The overall composition of the panel really makes me excited. That lightning....
The conversation before Gabriel Air-Walker's death was one of my favorite moments within this volume. In many Earth-centric stories, Galactus is portrayed as an evil, villainous, and uncaring fiend who seeks to devour just to satiate his massive appetite. While this may be partly true, Galactus is actually a necessity and a balance to the essence of the universe itself. Even the billions of people who perished at the hands of Galactus were important to feeding his hunger. If Galactus were to die, the universe would somehow be different but not better for it.
The same thing goes for Super Skrull and Ronan the Accuser as well. Super Skrull is a self admitted villain and even goes as far as to be called evil and ruthless. We see him, however, burdened by his past and at times exemplify noble qualities like loyalty, tenacity/perseverance, and great prowess as a warrior. On both ends it's nice to see him not as a villain, yet still get a no-holds-barred attitude when dealing with ones enemies.
I got a feeling of subtle Star Wars references within the story as well. Were they intentional? I don't know, but if they were, they made me smirk and chuckle here and there. So his statement might be a little out there, but the Jedi talk about balance to the Force all the time. For exhibit 2, I swear this is the Emperor's Throne room from Return of the Jedi. Finally, there is the Harvester of Sorrow-destroyer of planets. Sounds like a Death Star to me. Anyways just some thoughts.
Annihilation Book 2 (Teen+)
Story: 8/10- Silver Surfer and Super Skrull both have strong and individual stories that make their story arcs interesting and exciting to see how it ties into the story later. As stand alone stories, we get a sense of how the Annihilation Wave works and what they are looking for. Subtle yet insightful. However, Ronan's perspective was a little dry (which brings my total down a bit) and left me questioning the full purpose and necessity of this story to the greater whole.
Art: 8/10- Major points to Silver Surfer and Super Skrull for leading out strong. Even though both were extremely different in style each were no less beautiful and well done. Ronan's arc was decent but not as visually impressive as its predecessors causing it to lose momentum.
Dialogue: 8/10- So many different characters, thoughts, cultures, and styles. Nothing really stood out as different, but there were enough subtle changes between varying characters. (Galactus' word choices and air of superiority, Skrull's grim and gritty mentality as a warrior)
Resonance: 8/10- I cannot get over Surfer and Skrull's story arcs. I really, really enjoyed them. I would highly recommend them. As for Ronan (sorry) I feel like you could pass on his story. If someone would want to read it go for it. It is enjoyable to see his path and the direction that he is taking as it sets up for the final book, but otherwise it's almost supplemental.
Overall: 8/10- This is a solid volume. Despite my complaints with the latter third, it really is a well made piece of work as a whole.