Writing team Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are keeping their presence in the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe in a big way with the March miniseries Annihilators, putting the ultra-powerful team of Silver Surfer, Gladiator, Quasar, Beta Ray Bill and Ronan the Accuser against suitably intimidating threats.The series, illustrated by Tan Eng Huat, is four issues at $4.99 each, with every installment containing two full-length, space-faring stories: one starring the heavy hitters of Annihilators, and the other the quirky misfits Rocket Raccoon & Groot; also written by Abnett and Lanning, illustrated by Timothy Green and originally announced as a separate miniseries. Newsarama talked with the writers via e-mail — answering collectively as “DnA” — about their tenure on the cosmic books, the role of the Annihilators, how the stories mesh, and their philosophy behind killing off characters (and as fans of their work can attest, they've killed off plenty). Also, enjoy exclusive, never-before-seen interior art from Annihilators #1 from Tan Eng Huat!
Newsarama: Dan, Andy, when Thanos Imperative was ending and you guys had things like Iron Man/Thor and Heroes For Hire on your plate, a lot of readers — fair or not — assumed that might have meant that your run with the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe was ending for the time being. Obviously, the announcement of Annihilators last month changed that perception. So should we look at is perhaps your swan song for now on the cosmic books or continuing the momentum going — or maybe it's still up in the air?
DnA: As we’ve said before, The Thanos Imperative was always intended to be a big piece of metastory punctuation, a big end stop to major storylines, to allow for a little closure. However, we love the cosmic books, and we’d be happy to find new stories to pursue in that arena for as long as we don’t outstay our welcome. Annihilators, though it grow sout of the continuity we have established, is also very much a new start, a great new place to jump on and get to know the cosmic books. It’s a bold new direction to take. If it’s successful, well then we will do some more. It all depends on how well it’s received.
Nrama: Format-wise, Annihilators is going to be paired with the Rocket Raccoon & Groot miniseries announced last summer. Though they're both cosmic books with what has to be a very strong crossover audience, is it fair to say that both books are pretty different — both in tone and content? Annihilators are the heavy hitters, and Rocket and Groot are much more of the plucky underdog/misfit type cosmic characters.
DnA: Ignoring for a moment the huge value-for-money thing here, the double-header format means that we get to deliver extensions of cosmic continuity for all cosmic readers at both ends of the spectrum: the big, galaxy shaking stuff, and the quirky, character-led end. Reading this will show you how two very different, very enjoyable and very compatible types of cosmic story can be told.
Nrama: The name "Annihilators" conjures up a lot, specifically, your 2006 Annihilation story, plus Annihilus and the Annihilation wave. Should we read any special significance into the name at all, or is it pretty much just a name, maybe for branding's sake?
DnA: There is the Annihilation brand, but the name really comes from a flip comment made by Star-Lord indicating how apocalyptic and heavy hitting this new team will be.
Nrama: Going a bit into the story itself, what can you tell us about the kind of threats — the Dire Wraiths, it looks like — the Annihilators will be facing in the four issues? Since they're all such heavy hitters, is it at all tricky to come up with worthwhile challenges?
DnA: Yes, it is, but it’s also tricky managing the team. Their sheer power is almost their weak spot. As one of them puts it, “we have no subtle register." The return of the Dire Wraiths, sorcery and all, represents a huge threat to the universe, and a very credible menace for a team this powerful. Plus... Galador and lots of space knights!
Exclusive interior art
from Annihilators #1.Nrama: This is a bit of an assumption on my part, but it seems that while a lot of your other cosmic stories might have been considered more event-driven — Annihilation, War of Kings, Thanos Imperative — with a dire threat being posed and characters reacting to it, just the title of the comic alone implies that, while I'm sure the stakes are plenty high, this one might be more character-first. Is that fair to say?
DnA: There’s no point doing a book with characters this bold and strong if it isn't character led. But it’s not just a mission... the adventure, the plot, is integral to the series, to their formation and remit, to their interaction.
Nrama: And given that it's such a powerful team with strong personalities, how would you characterize the dynamic of the team? I'm guessing it's a situation where they can get along for the sake of conquering the threat they're facing, but they probably wouldn't hang out otherwise.
DnA: Yes, they’re like emergency first responders called in if something really big happens. In British police terms, they’re the Flying Squad.
Exclusive interior art
from Annihilators #1.Nrama: To pick out an individual member, it seems the rest of the main characters are pretty much square in your playing field, but Silver Surfer is around a lot lately — he's still the herald of Galactus, showed up in Fantastic Four recently, he's starring in his own solo miniseries starting a month before Annihilators, and played a role in Chaos War. Does using him require a degree of cooperation between other writers and editors, or does this story fit pretty neatly in between all that stuff?
DnA: It fits in neatly enough (between the events of The Thanos Imperative and the upcoming Silver Surfer mini), but we obviously observe courteous diplomatic protocols with other creative teams and editorial offices.
Nrama: As established in Annihilation and proved once again in Thanos Imperative, readers by now expect heavy consequences in a DnA cosmic story. Without giving anything away, of course, should people brace for some major developments (and perhaps casualties) coming in Annihilators?
DnA: We couldn’t possibly comment [Laughs.]Exclusive interior art
from Annihilators #1.Nrama: On that same note — and this is more of a "reflective" type question — as writers who have indeed killed so many characters in recent history, is it difficult at all to really get fully attached to writing them, knowing that they'll be gone soon? Or is it maybe the opposite, that you want to give them extra attention, so the readers definitely care about them when they do indeed get killed off?
DnA: Yeah, the latter, actually. Just because we might kill a character off, it doesn’t mean we’re not terribly fond of them and heartbroken to see them go. And that’s always been a fun part of the cosmic books: most of these characters are not major marvel names, so we can be more experimental and daring with them and their fates. For the reader, that means our stories are exciting and very unpredictable.
Nrama: Before we go, Dan, Andy, definitely need to ask about the work of Tan Eng Huat — he's an incredibly distinctive artist and has put in his time on the cosmic characters of the Marvel Universe, illustrating Silver Surfer: In Thy Name. I'm pretty sure it's your first time working with him — what's your impression been
DnA: Fabulous. Hard working, with a terrific and distinctive style, and the stuff we’ve seen so on issue one will… annihilate you! [Laughs.]