The first week I broke down the Event: what we can usually expect from our events, what works and what doesn’t.
The second week I tackled the Tie-Ins: why they exist, why we buy them, and when we need to buy them.
Today, I’m going to tell you how it should be done, and I’m going to show you exactly when it was done right.
A lot of you have been asking yourselves for the past weeks: “Man… Matt has been building up to this finale for two weeks. What could he possibly hit us with?” Well, I know. And you will soon, my dear friends! All you have to do is click behind the cut to see the revelation.
It’s just one word:
I know some of you might think that this is a very odd remark coming from me, but I truly believe that the best executed event, when it comes to the use of tie-ins and the event itself, was Annihilation. The reason I’ve been keeping this under wrap is because, as far as my co-writers and most of my friends know, I’ve never been big into the Marvel Cosmic U. It’s all relatively new to me, as it is most of us (generally speaking, since Annihilation only happened in 2006 (right around the time of Civil War)).
So how did Annihilation happen? Well, it all started with one mini: Drax the Destroyer. This mini-series, which came out of nowhere (and acknowledged itself as doing so) featured the return of an old character, Drax, as he and several other cosmic characters (including the Super Skrull Paibok) crash land on our planet, in a small town in Alaska. Their main interest is to get off the planet, and the entire 4 issue miniseries is about them dealing with a town. A new character by the name of Cammi, who goes on to join Drax in his adventures, and by the end of it the two are in space once more and everything that started at the beginning of the mini is paid off at the end.
What’s really great about Drax, though, is it’s a backdoor mini to the beginning of Annihilation. It’s one of those things that you could skip, but it’s better if you don’t (more on that later). At this point, we are given the beginning of Annihilation, an event about Annihilus coming to our dimension with the intent to conquer and destroy. It all begins with Annihilation: Prologue, a one-shot in which all the players of our story are set up, the Nova Corps is destroyed, Thanos rears his ugly head, It’s a great one-shot full of intense action, with great artwork by Scott Kolins, and it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the story. Yet… it’s not actually Annihilation yet. It’s just the prologue!
Spinning out of this book, we have FOUR mini-series: Nova, the Silver Surfer, Super Skrull, and Ronan the Accuser. Each book focuses on those who would go to become major players in the story. The first book, Nova, deals with Richard Rider, the last remaining member of the Nova Corps. The Silver Surfers book opens the door to his and Galactus’ involvement in the story, as well as the release of Proemial Gods. The Super Skrull (in this case Kl’rt, not Paibok) focuses on Kl’rt attempting to save his homeworld from destruction, as well as featuring a prison break (which releases characters who go on to become extremely important) and finding a weakness in the Annihilation Wave. Finally, Ronan’s book focuses on Ronan, now an outlaw Kree, discovering some ugly truths about the Kree as well as bringing in more players for the final book.
Finally, once all these conclude, each book ties in directly to the Annihilation mini-series, in which all these various forces stand up against Annihilus and Thanos, who have captured Galactus and are planning to use his power for excessively destructive means.
So that’s the break down of the WHOLE story, without giving away a) some of the best parts and b) the ending. Granted, this is now a 4 year old story, so you might already know how elements of it end just by reading various solicits. Now, understand I am not here to discuss whether or not Annihilation is a good piece of writing. I am not here to claim that it is the best event ever written, either. I think Annihilation is a great piece of work as a whole though, and it’s a rather brilliantly executed idea. Whether or not you agree that it’s a good story is of your own accord, but let’s dissect the way Annihilation happened as I show you the best possible way to construct an event from nothing into something.Continued below
So why does it work?
When creating an event, I acknowledged that the bigger the book, the more likely that we will have to deal with tie-ins. The main problem, though, is when the tie-ins offer us nothing, and we end up buying a lot of books that are supposed to enhance a larger story that ultimately do nothing. What Annihilation managed to do, from it’s quiet beginnings of Drax all the way to the last page, is create a story in which you a) didn’t have to buy anything else and b) were actually rewarded for getting so heavily into the book that you bought all the tie-ins!
See, the cosmic universe was something that Marvel wasn’t heavily getting into. They had their big initiative in 2004 that re-launched a lot of elements for the main Marvel U (aka Avengers: Disassembled) and since then were working hard on creating brand new comics people would want to read. There was a lot of focus on the darker side of comics with MAX and Marvel Knights, as well as the bringing in of a lot of brand new writers with brand new ideas. So it’s only natual that someone else would come in to pioneer a bold new future for the Cosmic Marvel U. And really, what better way to start off than to kill everything and everyone! That’s what the Annihilation essentially did: we had a lot of things going on in their own worlds, and now half of them were dead and we were left to connect with what remained. This is probably the single most brilliant thing about Annihilation really. This is not something that can always work (see: Ultimatum), but in the case of Annihilation, we got to see the birth of a whole new world for people to get into.
The first problem Annihilation had was that it was going to use a lot of characters that people may or may not be familiar with. We all know names like Thanos, but do we all know Drax? Not necessarily. Drax was a character created with one sole purpose: to kill Thanos. On top of that, he has a daughter named Moonstone. Considering neither Drax nor Moonstone have been large parts of the Marvel U prior to this event, is it safe to say most people might not know who they were and/or are? I’d say so. Going further into Annihilation, we’ve got a character like Nova, who most people might know from his days as a New Defender, but we may not know anything about the Nova Corps. On top of that, most people might not know a lot about the other characters who have their own minis, like Ronan and Kl’rt. I’d venture a guess that most people know who the Silver Surfer is, but how about those Proemial Gods? And what about our main villain, Annihilus? Even smaller charaters, like Starlord and Blastaar? These are names that, looking back, we’re all familiar with now, but then, BEFORE reading Annihilation, I’d guess that most people weren’t more than generally familiar with the characters. Now, for those that read the Cosmic U, those names are all relative staples in the overall continuity.
So right off the bat, you can check off “epic reboot” off the list of things that Annihilation does that a lot of events try and do and don’t necessarily always succeed.
Let’s look at accessibility: as I’ve said, we weren’t necessarily familiar with all the characters right off the bat. I’ve also said in the past that, more often than not, an event spins directly out of a given book (i.e. Blackest Night from Green Lantern, Secret Invasion from New/Mighty Avengers, etc). I could supposedly argue that Annihilation spins out of Drax, but in all reality, Annihilation came from Annihilation. However, despite all this, you can jump right into Annihilation and you’ll be ok with getting what’s going on. Every character, whether you know them or not, is almost brand new. You can hop right in with even the most minimal of knowledge, and you’ll be absolutely square. It’s with this that Annihilation is actually the single most accessible event of all. For example, when I went into it I had a basic knowledge of the villains and the heroes. Coming out of it, I had such an interest in the story that not only did I choose to do some outside research, but I was able to piece things together just from reading the book. So, when the overall goal of an event is to not only be rewarding for fans but also provide a stand alone story for casual readers to enjoy, Annihilation is a winner.Continued below
How about those tie-ins? The bane of any good event is the over abundance of tie-ins, and the bane of any tie-in is the lack of quality or relevancy. However, Annihilation is built off of the tie-ins. The story is secluded as is, and this is one of the few examples where the tie-ins you need to read AREN’T just the tie-ins by the main author (Keith Giffen, who only writes the Silver Surfer tie-in aside from the event). If you want the whole story, you’re going to want to get all the tie-ins, and in this the whole idea of a tie-in becomes relevant. We’re given tie-ins to help make the stories and better, and while sure you could just read the main event, the way the whole story was built is that so you could get a huge story that is connected from different perspectives. It also doesn’t go overboard with the tie-ins, as we have just four pre-event tie-ins and one post-event tie-ins. Quite literally every single tie-in pays off in the main event, and as much as there are open ends by the finale, all the main things from the book do pay-off by the end of it.
In fact, that’s another thing: a lot of people complain about events in that sometimes they are too predictable, or that by the end of it you don’t have enough satisfying pay-offs. Well, let me throw this out there for you: by the time you get to the climax of Annihilation, you’ll get one of the most satisfying payloads I’ve ever read. I promised I wouldn’t discuss the quality of the event versus just the execution, so I won’t go too far into it… but my God, what an ending!
And what about when it’s all said and done? Are there billions of books to buy, confusing the average reader with what they need to buy and read to get the full story? Nope. Three volumes. You read that right: just three volumes. Volume 1 collects Drax, the Prologue, and Nova; Volume 2 connects Ronan, Silver Surfer, and Super-Skrull; Volume 3 collects the series, the Heralds of Galactus post-event mini, and the Nova Corp Files, which gives detailed history on all the players. It’s already all set up for you! Just go grab a few trades and you’ve got a whole epic story that reads great from start to finish, and greats a great inter-connected story that more comics need to follow the example of.
Needless to say, Annihilation succeeded above all odds when it came out of nowhere and relaunched a brand new side of the Marvel U for people to enjoy. When the event was over, we had a short tie-in wrapping up a couple loose ends and a brand new on-going. Soon after, you got a new event that followed the same basic formula, which also launched a new on-going title. Now we have a huge Marvel Cosmic U that many people love and adore, and a new event is right around the corner.
And if all that’s too long to read?
- Annihilation is a successful stand-alone event that accomplishes it’s main goal
- It successfully integrates all of the tie-ins to the point where you DO need to read them
- You can read it without any prior knowledge and still have a great time
- The ending is astounding and incredibly satisfying for the reader
So there you have it. As much as most events become a maligned and standard element of the comic book universe, one event managed to successfully combine all of the elements of your average tie-in into a format that is definitely not a standard. Whether the event is good or not is obviously up to personal taste, but one can’t deny the intense success at which it was pulled off against all odds.