Dire situation: Wraith of 'Cons!
In what for some – namely, us Marvel Cosmic fanboys – must be the most momentous announcement from the House of Ideas since the coming of the Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing, this March will see from Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Tan Eng Huat (Silver Surfer: In Thy Name) the teaming of the Silver Surfer, Beta-Ray Bill, Quasar, Gladiator and Ronan the Accuser in a four-issue limited series, Annihilators! Running as a back-up will be the seemingly-vanished Rocket and Groot saga we here in the CBN offices at our practically-abandoned Knowhere HEAD-quarters have been wondering about. The foes first up? The Dire Wraiths! “Awesome bad guys,” Abnett told Marvel.com. “We are slightly redefining them (Wraiths), in as much as we have to in order to bring them back. Their new definition is all part of their new MO. They are not playing.” But who are – or at least were -- these former foes of Rom? Glad you asked! The Dire Wraiths are an evolutionary offshoot of the Skrulls from the Andromeda Galaxy. Like the Skrulls, the Wraiths are shape-shifters, able to take the forms of other creatures. The Wraiths were originally depicted as amorphous, cloudy, vaguely humanoid-shaped beings. However, it was eventually revealed that was a transitional form used for shape-shifting. Their basic appearance, however, is entirely different and is highly sexually dimorphic. The male form is stocky and troll-like in appearance, with red or brown skin; but otherwise roughly human-like in size and shape, though this is likely to be just different artists' rendition of the “transitional” form. The female form has an obese, reddish body with large, pupil-less eyes, small beaks, “hands” that resemble small pincers and tentacles, clawed feet, and thick tails. They also have long, drill-like tongues that they use to suck out the brains of their victims, which allows them to gain their memories. (It also causes the victim's body to dissolve into a kind of goo; this may have been a way for the Wraiths to eliminate the persons whom they replaced.) Wraiths turned into dust when killed (or banished to Limbo). Among the Wraiths, the majority of the males preferred to practice science, and the majority of the females preferred to practice evil magic. However, when a Wraith practiced the skills favored by the other gender they were generally quite accomplished at it. Thus, there was a female Wraith scientist in charge of their efforts for a time, and a male Wraith "high priest" who was able to summon a deathwing to fight Rom on Earth. At some point in their history, female Dire Wraiths began to study evil magic. This caused a rift with their parent race the Skrulls, and they were driven out of the Andromeda Galaxy by the Skrulls (hatred still persists between the two races to this day.) Using starships powered by a combination of magic and technology, the Wraiths entered a region of space called the "Dark Nebula" where they found a planet that orbited a black sun. Finding that this planet allowed them to tap that sun's energies to use in their magical spells, the Wraiths settled there and named it "Wraithworld." They soon found creatures that they could domesticate to their service: the "deathwings," birdlike creatures of black energy that spawned from the black sun itself, and wolflike animals that they eventually mutated into blind, telepathic “hellhounds” that could track their victims via telepathy as well as transform into humanoid, ghost-like forms to attack them. Two hundred years ago, an emissary fleet from the planet Galador entered the Dark Nebula, only to be attacked by the Dire Wraiths. The Galadorians were extremely accomplished in science and culture and were attempting to spread benevolent enlightenment throughout their galaxy. In particular, Galadorian science had allowed them to access energy sources such as the Living Light, an energy force similar to, but the opposite polarity of, the darkforce. After this military success against the expedition, the Dire Wraiths launched an offensive on the Golden Galaxy which contained Galador. Their motivation seemed to be elimination of a culture they felt to be their antithesis. A huge fleet of Dire Wraith starships attacked the inhabited planets in that galaxy, and were heading towards the Galadorian home world, which was inhabited by human-like beings. However, upon arriving at Galador they found out that dozens of young Galadorians had been transformed into cyborg warriors called Spaceknights. Although few in number, the Spaceknights proved powerful enough to repel the attack. The Dire Wraiths returned to Wraithworld, only to have Rom, the greatest of the Spaceknights, follow them there, intent on wiping their evil from the universe, mainly by means of his weapon, the Neutralizer, which could banish Wraiths into Limbo. (Those Wraiths that Rom banished eventually became minions for that dimension's ruler, Immortus.) Realizing that other Spaceknights would soon follow, the Wraiths decided to abandon Wraithworld, and scattered across the universe. Several decades prior to Rom's arrival on Earth, a large group of Wraiths landed near a small town called Clairton, in West Virginia. The Wraiths infiltrated the town in human form, and later, began to infiltrate governments and other important organizations across the world. Because Dire Wraith magic was fueled by the black sun of Wraithworld in the Dark Nebula, their ability to perform magic on Earth was severely crippled. Consequently, the male-dominated technology faction of the Wraiths was in control. Possibly because they were aware that Skrulls had contacted Earth, they as a rule used their transitional form instead of their true appearance when they were not in human form. Later, Rom landed near Clairton, having detected a Wraith infestation, and with the help of some of the locals, eventually succeeded in banishing all the Wraiths there. Then he proceeded to travel around the world, looking for the rest, eventually leaving the protection of Clairton to the Torpedo. Eventually, the female-dominated faction of magically-oriented Wraiths got tired of hiding, or possibly found a way to revitalize their magical abilities. Blaming the technology faction for failing to defeat Rom, a coup ensued and they then proceeded to attack the Earth openly. Their first act was to kill the entire population of Clairton while Rom was away. Later, they then openly attacked SHIELD at their headquarters, the Hellicarrier. This proved a major blunder in that the personnel were able to barely repel the attack and all doubt by the authorities as to the existence and threat of the alien species was removed. Around this time, several Wraiths attack Storm of the X-Men and Forge. Though without her mutant powers, Storm manages to hold her own as the aliens invade Forge's building. They are eventually defeated. Meanwhile, the various Earth governments throw their support to defeating the Dire Wraiths with Rom employed as both an expert on the species and commander of field operations hunting down the menace. Since SHIELD's psychic personnel are essential in this effort, the Dire Wraiths cast deadly magic that target those personnel in particular to make their participation in the field effectively suicide. However, the psychics were determined to continue their part and Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Strange intervened on his own accord to cast a spell on them to improve their resistance to the attacks. Soon afterwards, the Wraiths launched a plan to help them conquer Earth once and for all; they cast a spell on Earth's sun, allowing them to use its energies to draw Wraithworld into Earth’s solar system. This greatly increased their magical powers. Emboldened, the Wraiths made a mass attack on New York City, where they clashed with dozens of the city's superheroes. However, thanks to Rom, who used a special satellite to boost the power of his Neutralizer, Wraithworld in its entirety was banished into Limbo, causing all Wraiths in this galaxy to lose their powers, including, apparently, their shape-shifting abilities. Subsequently, Rom banishes all the defeated Wraiths into Limbo. It was fairly recently revealed (Editor's Note: Jonthan Hickman's "FF#577") that, as with humans, the Kree centuries ago did experiments on the Dire Wraiths that allowed them to differ genetically from their own kind – another branch of the Universal Inhuman family. I cannot wraith – or wait, I mean – to see what DnA have up their sleeves this time around. Let’s say it all together: Ongoing! The Annihilators Assemble this March!