[Jack Kirby cover art; Vince Colletta inking Thor #155; Joe Sinnott inking Fantastic Four Annual #6]
If you missed our 1968 entry on The Silver Surfer and Captain Marvel solo series, check it out!
As a Marvel Cosmic menace and a classic instance of pulp cosmic-horror, Annihilus is fairly unique. Occasionally approaching the threat level of Thanos, the dire bug lord can be just as existentially terrifying to sentients everywhere, especially in 2006’s Annihilation, but he’s as much cosmically powerful warlord as insect horror trope—both spaces that, of course, the much more well-known Brood occupy successfully. Still, while the Brood’s depictions have often played both aspects to the hilt, Annihilus’ storytellers generally haven’t emphasized the horror of his being, whether that’s the alienness of his biology or his motivations (the clearest exceptions here being Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning in the Annihilation event and Jonathan Hickman in his Fantastic Four run 12 years ago). The guy’s got a lot of untapped potential when it comes to skin-crawling thrills and chills.
Mangog is perhaps more horrifying for appearing so bizarre, chimeric almost, and mindlessly brutal—and properly mammoth. He’s also simply much more cosmic horror than particularly cosmic, beyond, that is, his origin; here, too, there’s still untapped potential in Mangog’s status as a cosmic player. Since his debut, the fullest realization of this alien monstrosity’s brutal terror and the most impressive battle against him are to be found in the epic story arc that is the beginning of the end to Jason Aaron’s spectacular Thor run (see The Mighty Thor #700-705, recently followed up on, rather underwhelmingly, in the current Thor title from Donny Cates). Of course, there’s very little prior competition even his original story is deeply flawed in its resolution, as was so common in the Silver Age, with a lame and quite literal deus ex machina (However, it’s been 20 years since I read Dan Jurgens’ 2000 Mangog/Thanos* epic in Thor vol 2 #20-25, which probably still holds up for some quick fun, but it’s not going to have the pathos or intensity of Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson; *it’s really just a Thanos clone, though, so…).
The clear challenge with nemeses like these is that rolling them out onstage means the stakes must be high, apocalyptically dire; otherwise, they should be offstage or they lose the edge to their terror—though why not have a one-off, fun and cruelty-free version of these two brutes in something like a Squirrel Girl Beats Up Marvel Cosmic or Gwenpool Gone Space Merc?