Collects Captain America #398-399, Avengers West Coast #80-81, Quasar #32-33, Wonder Man #7-8, Avengers #345-346, Iron Man #278 and Thor #445.
By various writers and artists
Crossovers started out as a fun way to tell a different kind of story with a greater, more epic scope, with the added bonus of a few new readers brought in from one or the other included titles. But somewhere along the line, the keenness to tell a good story got overtaken by cynicism and greed, and crossovers became something to be avoided rather than enjoyed, with lacklustre stories limping listlessly from title to title. This problem was at its worst in the 1990's and well into the new millennium, when Batman alone was in a crossover at least twice a year, and the X-Men seemed to be in a perpetual state of crossoveringness. But even then there were a couple of highlights, and Operation: Galactic Storm is certainly one of them.
While Iím sure that it too was sales-driven, the various included titles at least share a cohesive storyline rather than just a random graphic on the cover telling you that "This comic is definitely part of Big Crossover Event and you HAVE to read it! Honestly!" Admittedly, itís not the most complex storyline, but it does run through the various Avengers titles of the time and in doing so draws them rather effectively together into a coherent narrative.
Originally released in 1992, hence the title alluding to then-recent world events, the story concerns yet another inter-species galactic war in the Marvel Universe, this time between the Kree and the Shiíar (the latter a race whose machinations are normally restricted to the X-books), and the Avengersí attempts to stop it. It ran through twenty-two issues of Captain America, Avengers West Coast, Quasar, Wonder Man, Avengers, Iron Man and Thor, and was revisited in the relatively recent Avengers Forever. This release covers a little more than the first half of the epic.
As mentioned above, the story isnít particularly complex, with only two or three major twists occurring, but given the amount of planning needed to get various creative teams all working together without contradiction, a more elaborate plot would probably be asking too much of the architects of the event. One negative consequence of this is that the middle sections of the tale, while by no means bad, tend towards the forgettable, as various squads of Avengers really fail to achieve a great deal, and itís fair to say that a sizeable chunk of the story could be taken out without causing too much disruption to the story as a whole . The on-again, off-again alliance with the Shiíar is perhaps the most notable example; the Avengers go to them in peace, get attacked under suspicion of espionage, prove their innocence, get attacked again for being hot-headed, prove themselves, get attacked again, and so on. Captain Americaís capture-escape-capture-escape shenanigans seem similarly pointless. By ending the first collection right in the middle of this slight slump in the action, Marvel are taking something of a risk, as some ominous blather from the Supreme Intelligence aside, the book does not end on the most compelling of cliffhangers.
That said, the strength of the story comes not from its structure, but from the many interesting ideas floating around. While I wouldnít go as far as saying that this is a post-modern crossover, it is fair to say that on the whole Galactic Storm has a certain amount of self-awareness regarding the mechanics of these big event stories. In fact, the crossover as a whole seems to be defined by a tendency towards doing things differently, to defy expectations of how crossovers work. One such interesting deviation from the norm is the fact that the war really doesnít directly involve Earth and its heroes at all; the general impression is that Earthís heroes (Mightiest or not) would be quite happy to let the aliens tear each other apart, an interesting inversion of the more traditional idea of the superheroes intervening in galactic affairs that do not concern them (ironically the concept behind Maximum Security, the indirect sequel to this tale). Rick Jones gets kidnapped by alien operatives early on, but is saved easily enough, and the heroes wouldnít seem to be too concerned about following this up, if it werenít for the fact that Quasar (in an odd but welcome central role) discovers that the use of Earthís solar system as a handy jump point between the two alien empires is destabilising the sun. So the Avengers split and send a team each to the Kree and Shiíar homeworlds, not to try and avert the war necessarily, but to tell them literally to take it somewhere else. While it is strange to see Captain America (among others) endorse this not-quite-pacifist standpoint, itís a refreshingly different take on things that immediately makes the story a little more interesting. The heroes are essentially on a diplomatic mission, a task that requires a somewhat more subtle approach than superheroes, and superhero fans, are familiar with; no one doubts Thorís ability to smash his enemies, but his ability to negotiate a peace is a rather more uncertain, and immediately more compelling, prospect.
The strength of the story not only covers for slumps in the pace of the plot, but also goes a great deal to distracting from some occasionally disappointing visuals. It would be utterly unreasonable to expect too high of a standard throughout when so many separate titles are involved, and with the directly sequential nature of the crossover necessitating a smooth release schedule, but there are moments when one wishes for better work from the art teams. That said, thereís really no ugly work here, and all of the artists seem to approach the big visual concepts that are part and parcel of these cosmic events with considerable gusto.
Iím not a big reader of the X-books, so I canít really talk about the quality of the big event stories there, but in terms of the non-mutant titles, I canít think of many crossover-type storylines since 1992 that have attained the level of quality of this one. If youíre in the shop and have to make a choice between this and the House of M collection, Iíd plop down the extra five dollars (or local equivalent) for this one, because itís probably not a ridiculous stretch to call Operation: Galactic Storm the last great Marvel Universe crossover event, and even half of it is better than the more recent story. Get this and see how badly wrong Marvel and Bendis have been getting it of late.
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