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Jason Schachat hopes to be beaten then arise stronger, smarter and a whole lot greener.

Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

The first installment didn’t do much, but, to some relief, Annihilation #2 actually gains ground. Sure, they skipped right through Galactus’ defeat. Yeah, cosmic characters are being tossed around left and right without much fanfare beyond “Look!” Uh huh, the damage to the Universe is widespread and irreparable as pestilential hordes sweep over known space.

But now it’s somewhat entertaining.

Drax The Destroyer learns that Thanos has kidnapped his daughter, so that’s got HIM off his green ass. Ronan was about to be executed by the Kree running the remaining armies, so HE’s finally taking charge. Super Skrull’s body shows up along with his resistance cell from the N-Zone, so you know HE’s not gonna be dead for long.

Still, this comic barely manages to earn your dollars. After months of build up with all those miniseries, Annihilation should have jumped right into the fray. Instead, it rewarded loyal readers with a recap issue and hesitated to weave the numerous threads together.

This issue gives the story some much needed momentum. It’s not at the same level Rann-Thanagar War was by this point, though. The characters have all been thrown into the mix, yet they still have no idea what they’re going to do. The former book chose to pound readers relentlessly with battles and new warriors appearing on the battlefield, but Annihilation has been far too content repeatedly taking stock of the situation. Unfortunately, the situation is always “Annihilus can’t be stopped. Keep fighting.”

Maybe that’s an unavoidable problem when your villain’s goals are so dull and simple. Destroy and conquer. No sex, love, or rock and roll. Of course, Ultimate Galactus covered that up by giving us more of a clue about the villain’s inner workings and history. Annihilus just crouches in painful poses and yells. They probably should’ve given him more to do...

Finally, DC tries a little hentai...
Sadly, the cover of Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #44 ruins this issue’s big surprise, but other developments are more important. As the subtitle tells us, the Ocean Master is the one behind all the recent destruction and enslavement. The Aurati are merely pawns bent to the will of powerful surface dwellers with big, big guns. That work underwater. And stuff.

Young Arthur is a tad perplexed by the moral issues that crop up, but a good talking to from the Dweller in the Depths and the Sea Devils gets him to take a look at the bigger picture. Not only will they rescue Mera and the Atlanteans, but they must take down the humans who caused all this suffering in the first place.

And then we get the big fight with Ocean Master which would’ve been surprising if they hadn’t put it on the cover.

Derek was going on and on about the new concept of this Aquaman, and I must admit that it draws you in more than any other recent take on the character. Kurt Busiek really has tapped into the old myths (be they Celtic, Greek, Norse, or Sumerian) to recreate the underwater world for these post-Crisis adventures. Admittedly, it does seem pretty obvious who the Dweller in the Depths is, but there’s enough doubt to keep the guessing game going.

The lion’s share of credit has to go to the artists, though. Butch Guice’s pencils/inks with Dan Brown’s colors make for an underwater epic with all the raw edges of a Conan story. The look not only makes the book stand out; it gives the story the texture it needs. Pick this one up before the story passes you by.

A whole damn month late, Green Lantern #13 still manages to do what no other issue in this run has: weave a story with lasting impact. And a friggin’ awesome one, at that. Finally, we have villains tearing through the cosmos, vengeances sworn against our heroes, and tie-ins to both the events of Infinite Crisis and 52.

It also resurrects enough dead characters to fill out an entire Justice League.

To catch us up on some GL history, Geoff Johns reminds us of Hal Jordan’s doomed romance with fellow Lantern Arisia. He then retcons her race to have a hibernation mode that looks JUST like death and uses that to bring her back into the epic battle between Jordan’s group of lost Lanterns and forty point three million Manhunters.

Oh, and they’re being led by Hank Henshaw (the resurrected Cyborg Superman) who’s created a new army of giant Manhunters powered by captured Green Lanterns.

Ivan Reis’ pencils are great, but the production by Inker Oclair Albert and Colorist Moose Brumann make this conclusion to “Revenge of the Green Lanterns” truly stirring. In less capable hands, the drawn-out fight might read like another dull shoot-em-up. This art sings.

We also have to give props to Geoff Johns for finally leading Green Lantern into thrilling new territory. As we knew when the book launched, a “square one” Hal Jordan just wasn’t going to be as much fun as the sprawling space opera he played a part in.

Now that Guy Gardner is on “Prime duty” and Henshaw lurks near “the path," Green Lantern will have a tension running through it until those inevitable conflicts come to a head. Let’s just hope Hal’s Earthbound solo efforts don’t take up too much of the limelight again.

The JLA if Ed Wood was in charge...

While you can appreciate Howard Chaykin’s dense storytelling in JLA Classified #27, the plot points are pretty few and far between. Part two of “Secret History, Sacred Trust” is much like part one. It keeps building up the conflict between a pair of third world military dictatorships and how the UN keeps the JLA from interfering.

The problem is we really only get one major development in this issue.

Martian Manhunter and Aquaman are keeping up appearances while the rest of the team infiltrate these nations which are building up super-powered armies. The President acts like he’s obeying the U.N. declaration. The U.N. repeats their concerns that America has become the Metahuman hegemony. Then a Metahuman soldier from one side attacks one from the other in disputed territory.

Even then, nothing really develops. The scenes come at us rapid fire. There’s plenty of narration and dialogue. Wonder Woman dons a skanky outfit. End of issue.

The premise is still interesting, what with the allegory for nuclear weapons in our own time. I just can’t recommend buying this issue since so little happens. Next month might give us more story, but this one is dead on arrival.

Ultimate X-Men #74 concludes “Magical," the arc focusing on the Ultimate Universe’s latest overpowered mutant, Magician. Last month revealed that he’d been manipulating the team the whole time. Topping that, this story also furthers the growth of Jean Grey’s Phoenix powers, throws the team into disarray (again), sends members packing, and calls into question the limits of high-and-mighty Charles Xavier’s mentoring capacity.

Man, Robert Kirkman tells a good tale.

I don’t want to spoil anything, since the first half of the issue is dedicated to the showdown with the Magician. The real plot development happens in the second half, and that’s what gives this story a pulse.

The differences between the Marvel and Ultimate Universes are made quite clear here. Rather than star-crossed lovers who instantly fall for each other, Xavier and Lilandra learn to trust one another first. Jean’s powers aren’t as sloppily retconned as in X3: The Last Stand, but she’s also not the same cosmic avatar we knew in regular X-books. Instead of being the saint we know and love, Nightcrawler turns out to be just as bigoted as the people who fear him.

Does this mean we’re going to end up with a radically different group of people as the story progresses? Probably not, but the journey’s going to be a helluva lot more interesting.

Jason Schachat

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