It’s finally here, Marvel’s next big event. We had to take a look at this series because it’s already been hyped to death. As with every group review the writers/reviewers of Comic Bastards will give the issue a score of: Buy, Borrow or Pass along with a reason for their score. Before we begin here’s a blurb from Marvel about the issue: "The oversized kickoff to the year's most anticipate Blockbuster summer event, changing the way you view the Marvel Universe! The outbreak of war on two fronts: Earth and Space, with our heroes torn between them. The world-shattering return of Thanos! Includes material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: INFINITY"
Kevin R: BUY
If you’ve been reading Jonathan Hickman’s incredible Avengers and it’s even better companion book, New Avengers, then you have an idea of what you’re going in to with Infinity. The event is looking to serve as a first season finale of sorts for both books, as the last year of events come to a head in a lot of ways. As such, plot points from both books continue in a really audacious way: we get a reprise of Reed Richards’ “Everything dies” speech much like the “story that grew in the telling” reprise in last week’s Avengers, and the manifestation of The Universe comes down and just sort of tells us she’s The Universe as if anybody not in the know gets what she’s saying. This is fantastic, giving what we’ve already read importance and making everything feel as organic as it actually is this time. As promised, the Inhumans are finally in the spotlight. They really haven’t been in New Avengers all that much and Hickman catches us up really quickly and efficiently on who everyone is and what they’re about. By the end of the book, we not only know everything we need to know going in to the event, but what we’ll be seeing in both Hickman-written Avengers books. Also, that guy from the end credit scene from the Avengers movie showed up! And he’s, like, a bad guy, right?
It goes without saying that the art by Jim Cheung is outstanding. Infinity earns the gravitas that both of the Avengers books have been going for immediately, with his glorious details pencils complimented by Mark Morales’ (and, like, three other guys including Cheung himself) excellent inks and Justin Ponsor’s brilliant colors. The trade dress (title page) is as gorgeous as the other Avengers books, cutting the different pieces into chapters instead of having the tone shift awkwardly from page to page. Bravo to Marvel’s editorial team- every comic event should look and feel like this.
If you haven’t been following either Avengers old or new, it’s a relatively accessible read otherwise. Especially with the augmented reality enhancements that give handy recaps of previous events. But if you haven’t been following either book, why are you here anyway? I strongly recommend going back and reading the trades for both books not only because they’re pretty much required, but they’re outstanding reads.
The plain and simple is that I liked this issue, but it didn’t feel like an event book. I don’t know if that’s Marvel’s new thing, event books without the event book feel, but that’s how this issue read. It really came across as the type of crossover that you find in the X-Men or even DC Comics. Frankly that was a good thing.
I especially liked the fact that it had Hickman’s flair for empty pages with an icon and text. I think that it’s a distinct style that sets his books apart and without that it would feel like a rip off. There seems to be an abundance of villains in this series which is actually okay. So often these event books have one villain and occasionally there’s a puppet master, but it’s still ultimately one villain. I’m curious to see how the rest of the series plays out and that’s not something I’ve said for Marvel’s last three or four events.
The art was fantastic, but was there really ever a doubt? I believe that Cheung worked with Hickman previously on Secret Warriors and that series was wonderful, so why wouldn’t this be as well. While the story didn’t feel like an event book, the art did. It was big and bold and full of intense splash pages in which Hickman basically says to the artist, “your turn, do your thing” and Cheung did. He did indeed. I’m not surprised that I liked this because of the creative team, but I didn’t love. It was however enough to buy it even if the price tag is a total ripoff.
Since they began, I’ve been an absolute sucker for Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers, and especially his New Avengers. Both employ his by-now traditional long-form storytelling and high concepts, so some patience has been required to allow the stories to gel, cool and hold. For my money, though, his fractured, measured approach to character definition and his meticulous molding of the universe have both been exceptional slow burns, perforated by god-level action and the captivating gathering storm of ... well ... Infinity. This is the culmination of Hickman’s narrative grandstanding and posturing, and in terms of scale, cohesion and follow-through, Infinity works. It works really fucking well.
Think of how much is going on and into this book: the sheer number and depth of the springs from which this story pools is staggering. Then think about how Hickman and his team have managed to vet those elements into a singular story that somehow finds room to incorporate each without suffering under the weight of the next. The grandeur of this storyline itself is imposing, with various gods encroaching from all corners of the universe to deal with the repercussions of what the bigger titles in Marvel NOW! have been setting up over the past year. Each plot - whether it involves the Inhumans, the outbound space-faring Avengers, Space Knights or the earthbound heroes - feeds into the story as a whole without feeling laborious, heavy-handed or forcibly hammered into an incongruous shape. This is the end of the beginning of something big, and with an ominous lyrical thread and a bevy of ridiculously detailed art, it’s how space events should feel. I am 100% on-board with Infinity, as I have been all year.
Saying that, this is most definitely quintessential Hickman, so if you’re a hater, just skip it and save us all the hassle. Everyone else should buy this book, though; and yes, it’s going to help tons if you catch up on everything that has been going on in his other books thus far. You really shouldn’t be missing that stuff anyway. So step lively, kids. Infinity is here ... and it’s pretty goddamn great!
I’m usually no big fan of events. Vile, money-grubbing things they are usually lack much other purpose than to throw together a bunch of big names as an excuse to rake in cash… and that’s just the fiscally corrupt part of them. It takes a special writer to actually pull something like this off (and a studio that actually cares about quality). Big events have so many moving parts and span huge timelines, many, many characters and for all that an appropriate sense of scale and range of emotions needs to be ironed down flat to ensure that the storyline ends up being something that doesn’t disappoint fans of the company, number one, nor any of the fans of all the characters said event will feature.
That being said, John Hickman seems, as of now, to be the man for the job. An expert at taking things to the next level in terms of scale and still retaining the intimacy of a single issue standalone comic Hickman does quite the balancing act on Infinity #1. Planets are conquered and races die out and still the thing never feels contrived-- it feels natural. I’m just as comfortable watching a space war in this issue as I am watching Cap crack down on some illegal (interstellar) immigrants in a shanty. Speaking of, Infinity #1 never gets lost in its epicness. For every time a living god spews some lofty monologue we get an equal or opposite smaller moment. This never feels forced, just like expert pacing that never neglects any part of the conflict—no matter how big or small. This event is off to a damn good start.
Score: Buy It!
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jim Cheung
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: 8/14/13