I don’t usually bother to write about such short stories, but this one left such an impression on me that I felt the need to immediately discuss it. Annihilator is a story about a writer, Ray Spass, who is dying of a brain tumor and trying to finish his last and greatest work about a devilish sci-fi anti-hero and deal with his hidden feelings of guilt over his failed relationship. Or…Annihilator is a story about a devilish sci-fi anti-hero, Max Nomax who has beamed his volatile memories into the mind of an Earth writer for safekeeping, as part of his latest mad escape plan. Or..Annihilator is a commentary on the perils of fame and/or the entertainment business, and the nature of life, and…maybe all just a weird sci-fi religious allegory too? Or…Annihilator is a story about all of these things…or none of them?To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure myself after the second read and I feel like that’s part of the point, that there is often a thin line between parts of a story that come entirely from the writer’s imagination and parts that are really the writer’s actual deeply personal experiences and emotions that are being injected into the plot, which to an outside observer would be entirely indistinguishable from one another, and maybe sometimes even to the writers themselves.
What I do know is that it’s a beautiful, complex, and utterly mind-boggling story that will keep you guessing what is “real” at every turn. One or more times each issue you will think you know what is really going on, only to be quickly turned around again to suspecting that the other side of the story is the truth. The further you read the more you find yourself questioning it all. Is so-and-so character even “real”? Are any of the characters other than Ray or Max “real”? Is this all just one or the others dying hallucination or is this all just a metaphor for something else entirely? A lot of stories make the claim of being able to keep you guessing like this, but very few actually do. I think the last time my imagination was so provoked was during his RIP-era Batman run, and it’s even more impressive that he was able to achieve this same effect in only six issues. The way it’s all cleverly tied together through the repeated imagery of the various forms of the Annihilator, which is either the black hole, and/or the brain tumor, and/or many other things throughout the story just makes it all the more mysterious and dreamlike. I would put it up there with his best works like The Invisibles or Batman, and just like those were, when Morrison is at the top of his game, it’s not just a comic book, it’s an experience.