The Marvel cosmic train keeps on a'rollin' with "Annihilators: Earthfall," the latest in the series of mini-series devoted to the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. Like this year's "Annihilators" mini-series, this one has two stories: a main feature about the Annihilators and a back-up story starring Rocket Raccoon and Groot with the same artists joining writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning from "Annihilators." As a format, it's one that works. Each story arc is focused and stands alone while fitting into the larger picture. It also means that the stress of an ongoing title isn't put upon the book, allowing it to come and go as it pleases. If there's a story to tell, it returns and, as the first issue showed, there's definitely a story to tell in "Annihilators: Earthfall."
The cover to this issue promises exactly what's delivered as the Avengers and Annihilators come to blows. It's another 'heroes meet and fight over confusion as to what's actually going on' plot and it works well in this issue. That Abnett and Lanning can take a cliche of the superhero genre, make it refreshing, and build an entire issue around it is impressive. Since the Annihilators are comprised mostly of characters that have attacked Earth at one time or another, the Avengers seeing them as an invading alien force makes sense. This is not a group that, on the surface, engenders positive reactions on Earth.
One of the best parts of the fight is when the Avengers begin to realize that the Annihilators were possibly right and the Thing responds with "Let's deck the lot o' them, then figure out who's fighting who." With a name like "the Annihilators" and members like Ronan the Accuser, that approach seems best. Abnett and Lanning play up the fact that, if we didn't know who the Annihilators were and this was an Avengers comic, we'd probably assume that the alien supergroup attacking the regular humans were bad guys, too. It's a smart approach that doesn't merely cast the Avengers in a negative light.
Since this is one big fight issue, Tan Eng Huat's art carries things to a large degree and, for the first time in a while, it doesn't do the job. In an issue that's nothing but fighting between two superteams, the problem is going to be finding a balance between clarity and chaos, making sure things look chaotic without coming off cluttered or lacking in storytelling clarity. Huat's art is certainly chaotic and far too busy; there's a lot of detail in his pencils and it makes for pages that are too cluttered. The art is so busy that, instead of directing the eye and moving it from panel to panel, it reflects. The way he draws characters, as well, is lacking; they look distorted and not in a stylistically attractive way. After the polish of "Annihilators," this is a definite move towards Huat's more odd, scratchy style that he displayed on books like "Ghost Rider." Unfortunately, it goes too far.
The back-up story continues to be a pleasant thruway, with Rocket Raccoon and Groot trapped in a television production by Mojo without knowing it. At only five pages a chapter, there isn't much room for the story to advance and that plays to the strength of the feature. Rocket Raccoon and Groot work better in small doses like this, and Timothy Green II's art is more polished and exciting than it was in "Annihilators."
Conceptually, "Annihilators: Earthfall" #2 is smart, playing the Annihilators and Avengers against one another in a manner that makes sense and would seem out of place if it didn't happen. The art doesn't carry its share of the load for the fight scenes, though, which is disappointing. An entire issue of the Avengers fighting the Annihilators could have been a visual feast and, instead, it's merely a good comic.