The end of “Annihilators: Earthfall” is filled with little moments of potential and hints of a story that could have easily been the basis for a big multi-book event story for Marvel, but none of it pays off enough. The story is too big for the comic. Instead of creating an impression of so much content, scale and story that every page is a crazed mess of trying to fit it all in, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning rush through and use the same storytelling that they would use if there was enough room. The limitations and execution of this series undercut the story potential, no more so than in this final issue where the end just sort of happens.
The Magus is on Earth and has taken over a third of the minds in the United States. The forces of his church are strengthening and it’s becoming apparent that you can’t defeat a being that’s taken over so many civilians. Within that plot is the question of how Quasar demands that the Annihilators treat Earth differently than any other planet when their solution is to simply destroy the U.S. and be done with it. Why worry about millions of lives when trillions, maybe more, can be saved if the Magus is stopped and destroyed there? The moral questions behind this team has always been the most interesting part, and Abnett and Lanning get close in some spots to articulating those concerns, especially when Quasar and Captain America get talking. That’s the one spot in this issue where they miss by so little margin that you barely notice.
The actual resolution to the Magus plot is clever and convenient. After such a build, and after he takes over Gladiator’s body, it all ends so quickly that it feels too easy and unearned. There isn’t enough room to deliver a stronger payoff; the solution to that problem is the ending we get instead of something more imaginative, both in concept and execution. The storytelling and pacing of the issue push the story into a corner that it can’t get out of, a problem that goes back to previous issues where the pacing made this final issue such a rush to the finish line.
Where the writing fell down in this issue, Tan Eng Huat stepped up. His art on this series and the “Annihilators” one that preceded it has been more restrained than usual but, in this issue, he lets loose a bit. When the Magus takes over Gladiator, Huat has some fun and depicts the character in as over-the-top a manner as possible. This big, hulking purple man is two steps away from ripping arms out of sockets and killing the Annihilators and Avengers dead. That depiction adds a lot of energy to a part of the book that needed it. Along with Timothy Green II’s quirky art on the Rocket Raccoon and Groot back-up story, Huat makes this final issue a visually satisfying one.
“Annihilators: Earthfall” was a big enough story to warrant more than four issues, something that was apparent early on and no more so than in this final issue where rushing to the finish undercuts the entire story. Everything continues along at the same pace it always has and, then, it’s suddenly done. With no new Annihilators comics or any cosmic books from Abnett and Lanning on the horizon, it’s a disappointing way for their time on the cosmic books at Marvel to seemingly end.