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Comicscape: Infinity #1-3
By Joel Rickenbach
September 27, 2013
Welcome to Comicscape! Each week we'll be taking a look at a few of the week's new books in hopes of informing your comic shop purchases, or at the very least giving you 4-color thrills and chills. A few weeks ago we covered Marvel's Battle of the Atom crossover involving the mutant side of their universe, this week we take a look at Infinity, which pretty much features the rest of the universe.
Juggling all the different characters and personalities is one of the hardest aspects of a company-wide crossover to get right. There's just never enough time to give everyone their due, but if you don't at least give them a panel or two fans will notice their absence, and rightfully so. Jonathan Hickman is not scared of your fandom, and to prove it he packs over 50 (50!) "Who are they" floating heads on the recap page of the first issue, and he adds even more in the subsequent issues. Avengers? Check. Inhumans? Check. Builders? Check. The Cull Obsidian... check? The X-men, S.W.O.R.D., The Shi'ar, Thunderbolts, Illuminati? Check, check, check, check, check.
Here's the thing-- somehow all of those characters, teams and races feel necessary. Infinity is a space opera crossover of galactic proportions, and it needs all hands on deck to pull it off. That's not to say every single character has their moment (not yet, at least), but Hickman justifies their presence thanks to the massive stakes he puts forth. Plus, it's worth it for the single panel moments such as Corvus Glaive impaling Wolverine on his scythe. Normally a splash page moment, here's it's relegated to a montage. This is big time, baby.
The short version is Thanos and his Black Order (aka the Cull Obsidian) are ready to wreak havoc on the galaxy again, and of course, Thanos is after something in particular, but the most interesting bit is- it may not be what you think. However, for most of the three issues, Thanos is still taking a back seat, while his dark emissary, Corvus Glaive does all the heavy lifting. He's like a galactic grim reaper with many evil things at his disposal, including Outriders- eyeless, four armed creatures that can turn invisible, dematerialize through objects and steal the secrets buried deep in your head. I won't spoil it, but one of the many memorable moments of so far in this crossover involves Black Bolt and one of the Outriders, it's a panel I think you'll rather enjoy.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story is how Thanos and his Black Order handle the “Earth problem.” Every member of Thanos’ council advise against going after Earth- “there’s too many heroes”, “it’s too unpredictable”, “we fail every time we try to make the humans submit” etc. It’s a fascinating idea, and ties in nicely to the current tone of the Marvel universe, which has the rest of the galaxy and beyond a bit miffed at Wolverine and Beast’s time travel manipulation and it’s subsequent unraveling of the space-time continuum. Earth unapologetically does what it damn well pleases. Unlucky for us enfant terribles, Thanos has a plan.
It would be easy for the human race to get lost in the shuffle once the giant space war commences, with all the players being far more advanced technologically. However, the man with the plan, and the one everybody involved looks to as a leader, is the most human of all the Avengers- Captain America. He doesn’t have powers that even come close to what they’re dealing with, but he has his tactical mind and is cool as a cucumber in the face of battle. Hell, even Ex Nhilo defers to his wisdom. Cap takes a page out of Greek mythology to turn the tide of the conflict, proving a good plan works anywhere in the cosmos.
Of course, this is all going swimmingly for Thanos, because what he really wants lies with the Inhumans, and a secret their silent leader has deep in his mind. First, an Outrider is sent to steal it, then Corvus Glaive arrives with an ultimatum- Every Inhuman child between the ages of 16-22 must be killed, or their kingdom falls, and finally, Thanos himself appears, and the confrontation is memorable, very memorable. If nothing else, grab a copy of issue #3 off the shelf and turn to the last two pages.
Overall, Jonathan Hickman is doing a spectacular job quarterbacking this crossover. He’s been engineering it in the pages of Avengers and New Avengers for the past year, and it’s truly paying off. He’s even dictating style with his patented chapter breaks and info graphic style timelines. If I had a criticism, and this goes for his writing in general, it would be that his writing, particularly the narration, can feel a bit self important. The voice is always from the perspective that seems to be explaining just how dramatic and world shaking the events we are watching are, which may be the case, but sometimes the story would benefit from just letting the events play out, and the weight will be felt through the actions of the characters. That’s not to say Hickman doesn’t do that at times (see the end of issue #3), and when he does it’s usually brilliant, it just needs to happen more often. Hickman’s compatriots are Jim Cheung (Issue #1) and Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver (Issues #2, 3 and beyond). It was great to see Jim Cheung’s work in the first issue, his style is so vibrant and clean, it sets the stage incredibly well, particularly when he’s rendering Thanos, Corvus or an Outrider, it’s just a shame he is only doing the first issue. Opena and Weaver do great work on the subsequent issues, and it’s fitting since they’ve handled the duties on Hickman’s Avengers book.
Infinity is almost at it’s half way mark, so there’s still plenty of time to catch up and join the cosmic fun. Thankfully, much like DC’s Trinity War, there are only a few essential tie-in books, and you can get away with just reading the core book if you chose. After his little credits cameo in the Avengers, Thanos has been on everyone’s brain, now’s your chance to catch up with the purple pain in the ass, and it’s well worth your time to do so.