Of all the characters in Marvel’s cosmic universe, none possess more interest and intrigue than Annihilus. The creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Annihilus first appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #6 back in 1968. Although his debut came after the debut of the Negative Zone, over time, their existence depended on one another.
For context, the Negative Zone is a fictional dimension within the Marvel Universe. Although the two dimensions, Earth-616
The Negative Zone, unlike
Some have estimated the age of the Negative Zone to be over 1 Million years. This means that it predates many of Marvel’s races. Of the beings in this time period, none were as feared as the Tyannans.
Most of Tyanna fell victim to the destruction, save for one or two ships. One of the surviving ships bounced off a large rock and crash-landed on the planet Arthros. With nothing left to lose, the ship’s captain ordered that all remaining life spores aboard be released. This resulted in the slow growth of life on
But before we get to Arthros, we need to talk about Baluur.
One of the planets that the Tyannans populated during their Universe-wide siege, Baluur, saw its inhabitants grow in a much more barbaric way. Those on the planet grew to be very large and physically opposing. Although the species advanced itself technologically, the advancement came out of necessity and not through natural evolution. This was primarily due to the fact that their race was driven by war. To survive meant to create and develop technology that would allow survival.
The Baluurians were different from many other species in the Negative Zone in the sense that rather than create cities on the planets surface, they created them underground. This, as strange as it sounds, happened because the species is more reclusive than other Negative Zone species. As such, they prefer to remain out of the spotlight and away from the problems within the Dimension.
As mentioned, after releasing the Life Spores on the planet, life started to grow on
Of all the life that could’ve grown, it was an insect-like creature that emerged that’s most important. While physically inferior to many of the other creatures in the Negative Zone, this creature possessed a superior intellect. This was so much that when it stumbled upon the downed Tyannan ship, it was able to use their technology to craft itself a helmet. If this doesn’t seem impressive, know that the helmet contained the entirety of the Tyannan culture and technology. With it, the creature was able to advance itself in unpredictable ways.
It took the discarded canisters that contained the life spores and created the Cosmic Control Rod. The Cosmic Control Rod, when correctly used by its controller, grants them incredible power. This meant that the user gained the ability to control and manipulate both matter and energy. The insect, now called Annihilus, used it to heighten his own strength, slow his aging, protect himself from extreme cold and heat, and fly through space. The Cosmic Control Rod quickly became the mark of power in the Negative Zone and with it, Annihilus set out to cause harm to all who could and would harm him.
Annihilus is more than just an insect with a ton of power. Annihilus is power defined. I’d argue that his inclusion in Marvel Comics is as important as Galactus, Thanos, Adam Warlock, or any other Cosmic being.
Annihilus and The Marvel Annihilation Event
He was the reason for Marvel’s best Cosmic Event. I don’t refer to Infinity Gauntlet, Magus Saga, and every other amazing Jim Starlin story. Don’t get me wrong. When it come to thematic and metaphorical undertones, Starlin is the Master. However, when talking about scale of grandeur and action-packed sequences, Annihilation cannot be touched. Not only did Annihilation see the attempted Galaxy-wide conquest by Annihilus, but it also created the landscape that the Cosmic Universe now sits on.
What you must understand about Annihilation is that it came at a time when Marvel wasn’t what they are today. They were a couple of years away from their MCU and less than a decade away from the near collapse of the industry. Marvel, for as big as they are now, was at a place where nobody really cared about them. And if they were cared about, their Cosmic Universe certainly wasn’t. This is why Annihilation was such a risk.
Look, humans can be a finicky species. We like what we like and want what we want. As such, giving us something new and exciting doesn’t always go as hoped. Case in point, the Cosmic Universe. Outside of Jim Starlin, the Cosmic Universe was like a fish who couldn’t breathe underwater. Dead.
Certainly, before Annihilation there were Cosmic characters, and with those characters came longtime readers. However, outside of that small percentage of the population, nobody gave the Cosmic Universe any respect.
Marvel never gave anyone a reason to give respect. Names like Drax the Destroyer, Mar-Vell, Nova, and the like we’re just that…only names. They didn’t carry the weight and clout that they do now.
The Marvel Annihilation event changed this. Annihilation gave rise to some of the most significant changes the Marvel Cosmic Universe had ever seen.
The Marvel Annihilation event saw Annihilus invade the main Marvel Universe. To do this, Annihilus and his army of insects (Annihilation Wave) made their presence felt when they attacked Xandar. By attacking Xandar, Annihilus did two important things. First, he wiped out quite possibly the only line of defense the Universe had. Second, by doing this and leaving only Richard Rider as a survivor, he unwittingly gave Rider the entirety of the Nova Force and the Xandarian Worldmind.
With the Xandarian Worldmind, Rider was suddenly able to tap into the entire history of the Xandarians and the individual minds of thousands of dead Xandarians. This gave him unprecedented access to knowledge that so very few could ever have. With the entirety of the Nova Force, his regular powers were augmented in such a way that he was now capable of great feats of strength and could harness almost limitless amounts of energy. In short, Nova went from bit-player to one of the most important characters in the cosmos.
But it wasn’t just that.
Annihilation also saw Thanos partner with Annihilus. That’s right, Thanos of Infinity Gauntlet partnering with Annihilus of, well, Annihilation. And why does he do this? Simply because Annihilus piqued his interest when he told Thanos that he sought to create balance in the Universe. That is, he claimed that the Marvel Universe had encroached on the Negative Zone for far too long and he desired to fix it.
Look, Thanos isn’t stupid…not by any stretch of the imagination. He acts and does things that are in the best interest of himself. Aligning himself with a creature bent on balancing the Galaxy only gets him closer to achieving the same goal. That, and it gives him a front-row view of the happenings of the Cosmic Universe.
But this wasn’t the regular Thanos.
Annihilation presented the reader with a different kind of Thanos. The entire story saw him flirting on the line between villain and anti-hero. As mentioned, for much of it he gave aid to Annihilus. However, when he learned that Annihilus had lied and actually sought to wipe out all life in the Universe, he changed his tune and began helping the heroes.
Don’t mistake this though. This doesn’t mean that his past didn’t catch up to him. He was still a genocidal maniac and his past caught up in a big way.
Drax the Destroyer
Arthur Douglas and his family lived a fairly simple life on the California Coast. One day while traveling through the Mojave Desert, the family noticed a space ship flying above them. As it turned out, the ship belonged to Thanos who was on Earth gathering information about the planet. Realizing he had been caught, Thanos shot down at their car, destroying it and the family inside.
Mentor, the father of Thanos watched this play out and did two things. First, he brought Arthur’s wife, who had survived the blast, back to Titan to heal. Second, he asked his father (Thanos’s Grandfather) to go to Earth and bring back the consciousness of Arthur. His father did just that and with Arthur’s mind on Titan, the two began working on a new body for him. The body was given superhuman strength and durability and once complete had Arthur’s mind placed inside.
Now called Drax the Destroyer, any notion of Arthur’s existence was wiped away. In its place was installed a belief system that only wanted to see Thanos dead.
Annihilation made this happen.
During the Marvel Annihilation event, Drax was killed and his mind was placed in a new body. While the body was physically inferior to his old body, the desire to kill Thanos lived on. In one of the most violent panels from the event, Thanos is seen with the hand and arm of Drax through his abdomen. Yes, Drax had finally killed Thanos. If it seems strange that a depowered Drax could kill a much more powerful Thanos, know that this Drax grew stronger as he got closer to Thanos.
However, even Drax killing Thanos isn’t the greatest part of the Annihilation event.
At the height of the event, Galactus and the Silver Surfer are beaten by two Gods, Aegis and Tenebrous. After their defeat, the Gods hand over the two to Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave. With quite possibly the most powerful being in existence at his disposal, Annihilus does the unthinkable and turns him into a weapon for his own use.
Just think about that for a second.
Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, turned into a greater weapon than he already is. With Galactus attached to the Flagship vessel, the Annihilation Wave makes its way through the Galaxy decimating planet after planet. It was so one-sided that the heroes looked on with disbelief as Annihilus seemed to have finally won.
Or did he?
As great of a spectacle as this was, there was no way it could last…and it didn’t. Eventually, Drax, with the “help” of the now anti-hero Thanos, frees the Silver Surfer and in turn, the Silver Surfer frees Galactus. Once free, a very angry Galactus obliterates the Annihilation Wave that he once stood by. Consequently, this marked the beginning of the end for Annihilus.
By the end of Annihilation, Annihilus had been killed, and the Galaxy restored, yet forever changed. Richard Richard was the only Nova left. Drax had fulfilled his lifelong mission. Galactus had been used and abused like a torn up paper towel. And, more than all of these combined, the Cosmic Universe was suddenly a major player within Marvel. Without it, characters like Drax, Thanos, Phyla-Vell, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Ronan, Gamora, Kl’rt, and Star-Lord, the last few of whom I didn’t even mention, wouldn’t be where they are today.
Just think about that.
Without Annihilus, the most well-known and loved version of the Guardians of the Galaxy wouldn’t exist as a team. It was Nova joining forces with Drax, who then brought on Star-Lord and Gamora that created the Guardians of the Galaxy. Not James Gunn. Annihilus.
As great of a story as Annihilation was, and it was great, you must remember that at its heart stood Annihilus, one of the most interesting and unique characters in Marvel’s catalog. I’d be wrong if I told you that he hadn’t been used before. He had been to varying degrees of success, but he had never been used in a way that triggered Marvel-wide change like Annihilation did.
Make no mistake, Annihilus is odd, both looking and the way he’s used. He’s basically a giant fly with the brain power of Tony Stark or Reed Richards. However, for as odd as he is, great stories have been written about him. He’s a villain who is bent on gaining and holding as much power as he can. Which, by the way, is no different than most villains. But, unlike most villains, he is capable of causing change on a grand scale.
Annihilus is to Marvel’s Cosmic Universe what Dr. Doom is to Earth … a leader of his own world. Like Doom, Annihilus controls the Negative Zone through fear and power. Like Doom, he does this with an Iron Fist. And like Doom, he’d do anything to protect it. What separates him from Dr. Doom is that to protect it means destroying everything around him.
Annihilus is one of the greatest villains Marvel has ever created. Each of us owes him a debt of gratitude for what he’s done for Marvel. Without him, there wouldn’t have been a Marvel Annihilation Event to even talk about.