Issue(s): Annex #1, Annex #2, Annex #3, Annex #4
Of all the characters introduced in the 1993 annuals, Annex was the most surprising to me. Not because he's at all interesting (he's kind of superfluous in a universe that already has several Deathlok clones) but because in addition to additional appearances in Spider-Man and Marvel Comics Presents, he got his own mini-series! That alone put him in his own special category of 1993 annual characters. You had a very small number of characters (really Legacy and to a much lesser extent X-Cutioner) who really carved out a space for themselves, and then you had a ton of characters who either had a few half-hearted further appearances before petering out or literally no further appearances at all. But in the middle you had Annex, who got his own series. It doesn't really make him any more important than, say, Night Terror, but it makes him seem more important.
It seemed crazy that such a bland character got his own mini with so little prior development (and surely no fan base), but 1994 was the year that Nightwatch got an ongoing, so there's really no point in trying to guess the logic behind it. I may also be placing too much importance on minis. At this time there was no Marvel Spotlight or black & white mags where characters could get a trial run. So maybe the equivalent in the Flood The Market 90s was getting a miniseries. Still, i think the character would have benefited from building up some interest via more appearances in Spidey titles (or anywhere, really). I could see if the idea was to carve out a unique space for Annex (whatever that might have been) away from Spider-Man, but the
Although Spidey seems a bit jealous about it.
The story begins with someone launching an attack while Annex is in the area. The attack is a test to confirm that Annex is working with Dr. Hillman Barto, thus proving that Annex's suit is based on tech stolen from Adarco Technology. Later, Dr. Barto is kidnapped. Annex is with him at the time, but in civilian form (as Alex Ellis, he is on crutches due to war injuries). Alex goes to Barto's family to tell them what happened, and then he heads back to the lab to change into Annex. He's followed by Dr. Barto's daughter, Melody.
Some pretty poor panel layouts when Melody shows herself to Alex and Alex reveals his secret. Not even Arrows of Shame to show us which panel to read next.
Dr. Barto wears a tracking device, so Annex is able to follow his trail. But along the way he's attacked by a villain named *yawn* Brace.
Brace is tasked with killing Annex without damaging his armor, so Annex is able to beat him easily and move on. But Annex does need a recharge. Luckily, Melody shows up in her dad's van; she's clearly being set up to replace her dad as Annex's support person.
Meanwhile, Dr. Barto leads his kidnappers back to his lab and takes them out using a security device. Annex and Melody also return to the lab, but the fear is that Annex's power signature will lead Brace back to them. So Annex flies out to fight him. In the rematch fight, Brace drains Annex's energy. Alex rolls out of the armor during the fight, but Brace leaves with the "Annexing unit".
Dr. Barto and Melody flee the lab, which subsequently self-destructs. Alex catches up with them. Barto is feeling guilty because he developed his Annex technology even knowing that Adarco Technology were up to no good, but he gives an implant device to Alex that allows him to become Annex at will (instead of having to use the chair device in the lab).
By the way, i'm mostly ignoring a subthread with "cub reporter" (complete with bowtie) Kenny Brown, who has been following Annex and Brace around. Here's a pic just to show how bad the art is in issue #2.
Annex and Brace fight yet again, and this time Annex lets Brace take Dr. Barto rather than endanger the civilians in the area.
Annex later tries to infiltrate the Adarco building in his Alex identity, but he's spotted. Someone in a Platoon suit (from Spider-Man #41-43) is sent after him.
We know from the Spider-Man story that the Platoon & ARMS technology was acquired by AIM, and in parallel with Annex's thread, Dr. Barto learns that an Ardarco employee named Janet Galloway is secretly working with AIM.
Annex defeats the Platoon goon with a sonic blaster and learns that Adarco's Arsenal Development Station is being used as a base, so that's where he heads. On his way there he encounters Brace yet again. This time Brace is wearing the original Annex suit. But Annex is wearing the Platoon suit over his new Annex armor. And Spider-Man shows up again as well. Here is your beautiful depiction of all of that.
It turns out that Dr. Barto has programmed the old Annex suit to cure Brace (who had gone mad due to Adarco's experiments on him).
So Brace goes after Galloway. But Dr. Barto is killed in the subsequent altercation. When the higher-ups at Adarco learn that they were being manipulated by AIM, they promise to stop going after the Annex suit and to take care of Barto's family. And that's the series.
That's a pretty dubious dedication. It would be one thing if the series spent any time on Alex Ellis dealing with his war injuries or other traumas of war, but this is just a really bad action story. I mean, it's well-intentioned and harmless but it makes you realize that the character did have a tiny bit of a unique hook that could have been developed into something. By the end of the series - really by the time Alex is able to transform into Annex at well - it's too late for that to be an aspect of the character, though. He's graduated into generic superherodom.
And in any event, this is all just really bad. Annex = boring. Brace = boring. Dr. Barto's guilt over developing good technology for a bad company is cliched. Killing him off to replace him with his even less developed daughter is not an improvement. Kenny Brown, if he was supposed to be an ongoing supporting character, is just over-the-top weird.
The one thing i do like is the use of the Platoon armor. It's totally random and doesn't redeem this story in any way, but i just like that some existing tech is used and that a seemingly one-off story is referenced.
And on top of all that, the art is just a disaster.
Despite the set-up for Melody and Kenny, they'll never be seen again. Annex himself won't resurface until Avengers: The Initiative.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Spectacular Spider-Man #215-216.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
This is the last time Annex appears until 14 years later when Dan Slott & Christos Gage dust him off to use in Avengers: The Initiative.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 11, 2017 9:47 PM
The placement of this is complicated. At the start of Spectacular Spider-Man 215, the Bugle staff hasn't seen Peter "all week"- as a result of May's stroke he's turned his back on his responsibilities as Peter Parker. Peter injures Cussler at the end of issue 215. Issue 216 opens with the "next edition" of the bugle having been printed and Peter trying to clear his name. It ends leading into the first arc of the Clone Saga- "Power and Responsibility". From there Peter doesn't get his head on straight until Spectacular Spider-Man 220- but he's poisoned and he doesn't get cured until issue 221. Then in Web of Spider-Man 122, he's first telling Robbie about MJ's pregnancy (which he first found out about in issue 220). The MCP assumes that this takes place IN BETWEEN issue 215 and 216, which is a bit of a stretch. It's possible it takes place after Power and Responsibility but it's weird that nobody seems to mention that Peter hasn't been accepting assignments lately. (Yes, Jonah says that Peter's undependable but that seems to be the usual Spider-Man stuff.) You might want to push this into 1995.
Posted by: Michael | December 11, 2017 11:20 PM
Terrible art (although I have seen much worse) and the dedication to Desert Storm people is disturbing to say the least, but the writing is halfway decent. I expected worse from Jack C. Harris, who I know of as a DC mainstay of usually shallow stories.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | December 12, 2017 12:27 AM
I think the early 90's broke our beloved fnord when it comes to trying to fit the gratuitous 90's appearances in order.
Posted by: Bonez | December 12, 2017 12:34 AM
I wonder if the idea was for Marvel to flood the market with as many #1s as possible in the hope that they could get lots of sales just because it was a #1 issue?
Posted by: JSfan | December 12, 2017 6:23 AM
I don't think #1 issues of mini series counted for the rarity part. I believe it was more for the first issue of an ongoing series.
Posted by: clyde | December 12, 2017 9:24 AM
Okay, what the heck is a "cub reporter"? Jimmy Olsen's one, too...
Posted by: Piotr W | December 12, 2017 4:46 PM
"Cub reporter" is a newspaper industry term for a young, inexperienced beginner in journalism.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 12, 2017 5:03 PM
I see what you mean, Clyde. Just seems silly to over saturate the market. On another note. I’m taking an educated guess that the reason we’re not seeing as many reviews as we did when fnord reviewed the 80s is because the stories were so bad in the 90s that it’s becoming a chore rather than a pleasure. The one book I liked up until 94 was Spider-Man but even that’s so hard to read now.
Posted by: JSfan | December 12, 2017 7:01 PM
Actually, FNORD said he doesn't have as many comics from this year as he did for last year.
Posted by: clyde | December 12, 2017 7:28 PM
Clyde, Completely forgot about that. It explains everything. Thanks.
Posted by: JSfan | December 13, 2017 8:06 AM
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