Since the previous issue of The Infinite Vacation was released, writer Nick Spencer's star has risen considerably. It's not that Spencer was a no-name back in April, when we last got a new installment of this groundbreaking tale of commercialized parallel universe travel, but there's no denying that he's kind of a big deal these days. The same summer that saw him nab multiple Eisner nominations for Morning Glories also featured several quality issues of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for DC and a near Architect's worth of books for Marvel. And while most of those other comics have been quite solid, it's very nice to see Spencer return at last to what has, to date, been his most spectacular achievement.
For those struggling to reach back through the seven month-long fog of memory, The Infinite Vacation #2 ended with reality-hopping junkie protagonist Mark going into hiding from a killer who's been bumping off his alternate selves. Issue #3 picks up right where all the genre-mashing high-concept brilliance left off, raising the stakes of the murders and calling into question the foundational premise of the titular Vacation itself. From tense action and believable romance to hilarious dialogue and theoretical physics, this book has just about everything, except for perhaps a palatability for the squeamish. Once the series' villain gets going mid-issue, it's pretty doggone ugly.
Throughout all the topsy-turvy plotting, Spencer maintains the knack for social commentary that, since day one, has catapulted The Infinite Vacation from fun to relevant. As good science fiction is supposed to do, all of the fantastical elements here cleverly allude to issues faced in our real world society. Much of the focus this time around is on religion and the stunted public discourse it often promotes, though what initially looks to be a one-sided view on the matter turns out to be surprisingly nuanced by the end. It's a spoiler to go into too great a depth on how that plays out, but I will caution you to avoid pigeonholing Spencer into one particular worldview before you've read all 32 pages.
If there's one aspect of this issue, though, that causes it to slip behind each of the previous two, it's in the relative conservatism of the art. That may seem like a weird thing to say given the way in which the book continues to overstep traditional comic boundaries by devoting a large portion of its pages to photographic and text-based sequences, but it's nevertheless true. Christian Ward remains a master of color, shape and shadow, but his work feels somewhat constrained here. A disproportionate number of the panels this issue are repetitive and conventional, too rarely exploding off the page as they frequently did before. Essentially, The Infinite Vacation has spoiled us for itself.
It's certainly hard to analyze this book without some mention of the long delay since the previous issue, but the high level of craft within makes it easier to do so. With over half of the planned five issues of the series published this year, the book should be eligible for the Best Limited Series Eisner nomination it clearly deserves. A comic this good transcends the waiting period preceding its release, and you can count me first in line for issue #4 whenever it happens to drop.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!