Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are the maestros of Marvel Cosmic, but they're certainly not infallible. They've reached great heights with the Annihilation sagas and plumbed the depths with their CVO story in Infestation. That dichotomy seems evident in Annihilators #3.
The concept behind Annihilators seems like a slam dunk, taking all the cosmic heavy hitting A-listers and putting them on a team together, but it doesn't seem to be meshing well for them. The character voices seem off – Ronan's never been one to speak very casually at all, much less crack sort of wise, and Quasar's been around far too long to be shoved back into the nervous rookie role. The shaky, unpleasantly angular art from Tae Eng Huat isn't helping much, but it's just lacking the charm that previous DnA works have had. It's possibly due to the fact that the two Annihilation stories, plus the Guardians of the Galaxy series focused on small groups of underdog heroes who had to find a way to put a stop to threats insanely beyond their ken and save the universe. This book, however, has all the super-powerful types sniffing out problems then can squash, and their name means they destroy things utterly.
In this issue, the problems continue as the Dire Wraith threat continues to unfold, but we learn that the mortal enemies of the Spaceknights are just misunderstood and crazy with the need for self-preservation, not the evil we've all been led to believe. Turns out there's some ugly goings on in Limbo that earns the attention of Immortus – and Quasar makes a point of saying that NOW this team of worldbeaters is way out of their league, perhaps to try to recapture that underdog spirit. However, they need to show, not tell.
In all honesty, it feels like the main Annihilators story is just something they whip out to justify writing their much more interesting backup story featuring Rocket Raccoon and Groot, from their late, lamented GoTG series. Even the much more appealing art from Timothy Green II would seem to lend more credence to the theory that this is what they actually want to be writing, but economics have forced them to try out the 'big name, big power' concept.
In this issue, Rocket regains his lost memories and finds out he had a whole other life as security chief of a remote interstellar asylum, and all of his travails to this point have been to lure him back there so a mind-jumping crazy thing can escape from lockdown. Anthropomorphic animals and giant tree guys running around trying to contain super criminals shouldn't be this engrossing, but it's hard not to root for the little furballs – and it's even more charming after treading through the main story that you keep wishing was more interesting than it is.
Things could still turn around – by all rights, Spaceknights, Asgardian horse aliens, shiny dudes on surfboards and the potential resurgence of the Skrull threat (cousins to Dire Wraiths in a way) should be really compelling stuff, but that same energy just doesn't feel like it's there anymore. Fingers are crossed for DnA to find that magic space mojo again.