Monday, November 5, 2007

Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord #4

The Kree and the Phalanx, a pair of extraterrestrial races, are having one hell of a knock-down drag-out. Actually, it’s more of a slaughter: the techno-organic Phalanx have decimated the Kree, virtually conquering their entire population in record time and barricading them off from the rest of the civilized universe. As a last-ditch effort to overcome these stacked odds, the Kree have recruited a former galactic civil servant, The Star Lord, and a small group of adventurers to overthrow the opposition with a last-ditch suicide mission. So far, it’s worked wonderfully: one member of the team lies dead, while the others have already surrendered to the enemy.

If that sounds complicated, that’s because it is. There’s so much going on at any given moment in this book that I constantly found myself trying to comprehend what happened on the previous page, while the story barrels headfirst into the next meticulous proceeding. This is a much bigger problem in the first half of the issue than the second, where the characters finally quit talking and do, but it sets a bad initial tone that carries through those more action-heavy later pages.

My biggest problem was identifying with the members of Star Lord’s attack squad, who admittedly didn’t get much of a chance to distinguish themselves in this issue. Where the majority of this month’s focus was on Mantis and Captain Universe, an analytical being with a zero on the personality-meter and a dull intergalactic superhero, respectively, the fleeting moments we got with Rocket Racoon, Bug and the Star Lord himself were enough to tell me who the real driving personalities behind the issue should’ve been. There’s room for growth here, if Giffen chooses to take notice.

Timothy Green II’s artwork is inconsistent and tough to put a label on. When the getting’s good, his stuff is downright breathtaking. He channels Travis Charest and Leinil Francis Yu at the same time, texturing backdrops and environments in the style of Yu and detailing characters’ expressions and body language like Charest. While he frequently displays a mastery of these styles, he just as regularly throws his abilities into question by dropping an awful panel or page from out of nowhere.

He routinely struggles with posturing, wasting a beautiful rendering of Captain Universe early in the book with a dull, emotionless pose. His textured shading style has the potential to be incredible, but hasn’t been refined to the point that it’s really clicking yet. It’s maddening, really, to look at the third page of this issue, which is just amazing, and then the fourth and fifth – both atrocious. If he could really hunker down and deliver twenty-two pages of consistent artwork, (he’s good for about a dozen here) Green could be a major force. Until then, he may be best relegated to covers or background work.

Ultimately, this is an above-average book... inconsistencies, excessive details and all. Despite their subdued personalities, the team actually has a fairly interesting rapport with one another, especially in the middle of a firefight. Keith Giffen still knows how to write a nicely paced action scene, and the issue’s parting shot hints at similar adventures for the team in the very near future. Borrow this from a friend if you’ve got the chance, it’s not a long read after you’ve made it through the first six or seven pages, and once it starts moving, the plot provides for good entertainment.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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