The first major comics even I ever read was 2005’s House of M, in which Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlett Witch, has a breakdown and utters the now infamous words “no more mutants,” instantly de-powering 99% of the Marvel Universe’s mutant population.
While that particular story was not my first introduction to the wonderful, shared universe that Marvel heroes occupy, it was the first story that had universe-spanning repercussions. It began something of a love for these event stories of universal stakes. Such events also give you a chance to learn about characters you are less familiar with, and that was very much the case for me with Avengers: Operation Galactic Storm.
Originally released in 1992, the story is interesting in that the Avengers, and Earth overall, are not directly threatened by any particular enemy. Rather, the two universal powerhouses of the Kree and Shi’ar have declared war on one another, and Earth is caught in the crossfire. While the two galactic armies hardly give a passing thought to the Earth, the Avengers are, of course, rather worried about the whole ordeal. They discover that the Shi’ar have placed a Stargate — a device allowing for hyperspace travel — in Earth space, and the effect of ships constantly going through it is affecting the Earth’s sun. If left unchecked, the sun will eventually explode, destroying the Earth.
Clearly, something must be done about this, and herein lies the first of several interesting story points the various writers of the event (Operation Galactic Storm is told within the pages of Captain America, Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Quasar, Wonder Man, Iron Man and Mighty Thor) chose to go with. Rather than simply have the Avengers go out and fight against either or both of the waring armies, they instead decide to try the diplomatic path. After discussing the situation with his fellow Avengers, Captain America splits the assembled heroes into three teams; one will head to the Kree capital, another to the Shi’ar homeworld, respectively. Both teams are hoping to at least convince the two peoples to move their fight away from Earth space, if not cease their war entirely. The third team remains on Earth to handle the Kree Imperial Guard who are searching for the Nega-Bands of the now deceased Captain Mar’vell.
What I really like about this is that it places the Avengers as a team whose first and foremost goal is peace, at least for the Earth. They understand that the Kree and Shi’ar care little for Earth and thus never considered the planet’s plight. However, due to having dealings with both races before, their leaders might just be willing to listen to the Avengers and reconsider their strategies. In regard to the Shi’ar this actually works, as the Shi’ar Majestix Lilandra actually shows remorse at unwittingly putting the people of Earth at such risk, although that realisation comes too late. This also shows the Avengers being proactive in their plans. Rather than wait for Earth to be directly affected by the war, they start on their peacekeeping mission as soon as they figure out what is going on. Too often in Avengers comics the team is simply reactionary to whatever threat is occurring. Here, they are trying to stop the threat before it becomes a real issue, which is a very nice change of pace.
Of course, nothing goes right for the Avengers and try as they might, they cannot get either side of the war to see reason. I don’t want to spoil too much, but apart from the warring armies, the Avengers also have to deal with the Skrulls taking advantage of the situation, as well as the Kree Great Intelligence manipulating things from behind the scenes. There is a lot going on in this story.
Later in the story we learn that the Shi’ar have created a gigantic bomb they plan to detonate in Kree space. It would end the war, sure, but it would mean the genocide of the Kree. There is an interesting discussion here that asks if mass murder could ever be justified. If that genocide would wipe out a war-like race and bring peace to billions, should it be done? Even if you just wipe out that race’s army and spare the people, is there not the risk another army will simply rise in its place to continue their reign of war? And what of the allies made because of that threat? Would they still exist if that threat were to be wiped out? It’s an interesting discussion about morality and the “greater good” that echos some of the themes in the brilliant 1975 Doctor Who serial Gensis of the Daleks.
Outside of the grandiose space opera, there are many characters in this story I knew very little or nothing about. The bigger names such as Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye (although he is mostly as Goliath here,) I already knew. Some of the smaller players such as Carol Danvers in her Binary persona, Wonder Man and Black Knight I’d seen in other books previous to reading this. However, there were many I had never come across before. Quasar I had never come across before, nor had I the Eric Masterson Thor. It was interesting getting to know these characters, and I’d like to read more about them. Similarly, I found Princess-Majestrix Lilandra Neramani to be an intriguing character, although she only appears in the latter half of the story.
Having now read several evet titles over the years from across Marvel and DC, as well as other publishers, I would say that Operation Galactic Storm is well worth the read. While it doesn’t quite match the hights of Infinity Gauntlet and is a fair way from Crisis on Infinite Earths (but isn’t everything?) it is a solid, well written story that is only really let down by the big calamity at the end being robbed of some of its power as the Marvel editors obviously didn’t want to kill off too many characters.
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