Marvel is promises to go cosmic in 2013, so what better time to look back and see if any of the classic cosmic trades are worth checking out? Tradewaiter breaks away from the traditional one-book review to give you a rundown of Marvel’s best (and worst) cosmic sagas!
Check out Part 1 here.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome / The Power of Starhawk
In the year 3000, Earth has been overrun by the invading Badoon. Four outcasts brought together by circumstances beyond their control join together to repel their overlords, with the occasional assist from 1970s era superheroes. The first volume collects a series of tales with a common theme, and the second contains a variety of entertaining science fiction stories. Despite frequent trips to the past!modern era, the original Guardians don’t rank very high on the Cosmic Marvel importance meter.
Avengers: The Korvac Saga
When a villain from the future travels to the past, the Guardians follow him and team up with the Avengers for an extended storyline spanning eleven issues. It features a host of villains and team drama wrapped up in a tight focus on the major plot. While this collection ends with the defeat of the villain, it’s important to note it is not the complete story from the Guardian point of view. The team is still in the past on the final page, and continue to have adventures in “Marvel Team-Up” #61-63, 69, and “Avengers” 181. Like the previous GotG collections, ‘Korvac’ is a terriffic read, but not one you’ll notice missing.
Rocket Racoon: Guardian of the Keystone Quadrant
Out in space, there’s a planet full of lunatics who are entertained by talking animals and robotic clowns. To protect the populace from the occasional danger, the Keystone cops are lead by Rocket Racoon. Unless you’re a diehard fan of Rocket and/or humorous funnybooks, there’s really no need to read this. While Keith Giffen wrote an entertaining miniseries around the character, there’s nothing important here which isn’t in the character’s re-introduction in “Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord.” This is worth a browse, but you shouldn’t have to look far to find something else worth your $25.
While set mostly on Earth, the early issues of “Quasar” touched on some unearthly ideas from Starlin’s “Captain Marvel” and revisited various cosmic elements which had been left hanging in previous storylines. It was written by the late Mark Gruenwald, who was a notorious continuity hound. The first issue is an extended retelling of Quasar’s origin, but the second issue wastes no time in establishing a new status quo for him which is both an excuse to wrap-up dangling plot threads and a great story on its own. This series is highly recommended.
Silver Surfer: The Rebirth of Thanos
The same year Quasar was taking off, Jim Starlin returned to Marvel and ressurrected his pet villain, Thanos. This issue collects the first four issues of his Silver Surfer run and the two issue “Thanos Quest” miniseries. If you’re interested in the “Infinity Gauntlet,” this is a must read. Unfortunately, so is are the next twelve issues of “Silver Surfer,” which haven’t been collected in any form since their initial publication. You’ll have to dig into the backissue bins for the second act of this epic.
The Infinity Gauntlet
If you skip the previous entry and the intervening issues, this book will not live up to its hype, because it’s really just six issues of climax with virtually no build-up. The hero will appear to come from nowhere, and one of the shocking twists will be more than slightly confusing. Don’t be discouraged by this! “The Infinity Gauntlet” is a great story. You just have to start reading at the beginning to realize it.
Avengers: Galactic Storm
When the Shi’ar go to war with the Kree, it takes two teams of Avengers and nineteen issues to stop it and three more to pick up the pieces! Bucking the regular trend, the crossover occured only between regular issues without a miniseries to tie things together. Despite its collossal size, it still manages to be a dense read which without fluff or repetion. Because it stars the regular Avengers instead of a more obscure cosmic lead, this is also a great gateway story to the larger cosmos. The conclusion also alters the shape of the Marvel Universe for years to come. If you can find them, these two volumes will be a great addition to your bookshelf.
The Infinity War
Hot off the success of the “Infinity Gauntlet,” Starlin spearheaded another big crossover just a few months later. Like the mega-crossovers of today, the seeds of this series were planted long ago. Reading the first six issues of “Warlock and the Infinity Watch” will help fill in some plot points, but is not as neccesary as reading “Silver Surfer” was to “Gauntlet.” Starlin lets this story breathe a little more, which sometimes feels like he’s adding filler. Also, for some odd reason the trade collects some tie-in issues at the end, instead of inserting them where they belong chronolgically. This means you’ll either be flipping back and forth in the book, or basically reading it twice. It’ll definately put a damper on your reading. Incidentally, the “Quasar” tie-in to this event is the beginning of the book’s decline in quality. You’ve been warned.
The Infinity Crusade
If “War” was Starlin letting the story breathe, then “Crusade” is one long yawn. A story which could’ve easily been six issues is somehow stretched out to eighteen. Entire chapters are devoted to Adam Warlock thinking about his current situation. And for all it’s longwinded effort, the result is the exact same as the previous two “Infinity” books – nothing is changed except in the monthly book Starlin writes. To give you an idea of how bad Crusade is, the “Marvel Year in Review” magazine for 1993 was mocking the book the year it came out. Unless you just want to complete your trilogy or are reading “Warlock and the Infinity Watch” (which is mostly good), this chapter of Cosmic Marvel is best left untouched.
Thor: Blood and Thunder
This 13 issue crossover began the month after “Infinity Crusade,” and is a little more cohesive. It’s centered on Thor, suffering from warrior madness, and his cosmic friends who try to cure him. Along the way they meander a little, but the action always moves forward. Forward to where? To Thanos. Fighting. Odin. That battle alone is worth any wandering side plot. The story is certainly skippable, but how can you pass by a showdown like that?