Collects Captain America #400-401, Avengers West Coast #82, Quasar #34-35, Wonder Man #9, Avengers #347, Iron Man #279, Thor #446 and What If? #55-56
By various writers and artists
This volume does not kick off in the most exciting manner, as there's a strange narrative slump in the middle of the story as a whole, and just as the first collected volume suffered from ending right in the middle of this slump, this collection struggles to get going as various plots and subplots circle in a holding pattern, waiting for the climax to begin. Fortunately, while that climax does depend somewhat on idiot plotting (as two Avengers sit bickering for about four issues instead of dealing with an extinction level event), it is strong enough to largely make up for the lacklustre lead-in, as the Avengers finally track down the instigator of the galactic conflict and are forced to decide what to do with him/it. There are hints of Civil War here as the Avengers are divided along ideological lines, but unlike the more recent crossover, there's an actual attempt here to grapple with the central moral question, and the sides the various characters take in the discussion actually make sense in relation to their established personalities. This sequence also presents an interesting subversion of the standard hero-villain dynamic as the heroes find themselves faced with a situation and a villain that are fundamentally antithetical to their own essential natures, and the result is a breakdown of their strongly held moral principles and, to a certain extent, their basic abilities to reason. The villain of the piece breaks all the rules of good honest hero-villain antagonism with his actions, leaving the heroes utterly lost and confused. Even during the 90s, a time and context in which almost every superhero title was relentlessly grim, the climax of Operation: Galactic Storm stands apart. The bleakness is not gratuitous; rather it seems natural and perfectly in place, serving the story rather than reaching for cheap shock tactics. Although there's perhaps a bit too much in the way of padding to get to this point, I'd say it's worth it, as there's lots of fascinating stuff going on in these last few chapters of the story, not least an indication that Marvel once knew how to create an epic crossover with an actual point.
On the other hand, the newly-included What Ifs are a complete waste of space. The art is particularly awful in its attempt to mimic the Jim Lee type look popular at the time, all bulky torsos and gnashing teeth, only without any of the skill Lee had back then. The story is similarly ugly, following the mid-90s What If formula of chucking away any attempt to do something interesting with the alternate timeline in favour of a parade of cheap deaths with no dramatic impact whatsoever. I suppose it works as a DVD-style alternate ending type thing, but I'd have much preferred a reprint of something like Avengers Forever #8, which at least has a direct, in-continuity, connection to Galactic Storm and adds to the original story, rather than just using it as a springboard for wallowing in pointless, manipulative misery. It's particularly disappointing given that the main story does so well to avoid such exploitational storytelling.
Galactic Storm is not one of the best Avengers storylines, but it is perhaps one of the better crossover-based epics involving the characters. The unfortunate slump in the middle of the story means that each of the two collections suffers from a bit of padding (and the What Ifs are particularly worthless), but nonetheless, Galactic Storm is well worth owning.
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