*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencilled by Leinil Francis Yu
Inked by Gerry Alanguilan
Coloured by Sunny Gho
Cover by Yu and Laura Martin
Dated December 2013
Our outer-space Avengers have come back to Earth and they are ready to kick some major Thanos-butt. That’s it. That’s all. Plot covered.
Yes, when I first purchased this issue I was more than a little grumpy. See, this comic book was $4 (Canadian) and though I knew Jonathan Hickman liked to waste space and time and everyone’s money now and then, I was optimistic that this, an issue nearing the end of his Infinity event, would at least provide a few thrills. It does not. It wastes space, time and everyone’s money.
In the spirit of a fair shake, I’ll dive for details to give you the real experience of this book. Cannonball and Smasher have started a relationship—Sunspot wishes them well but decides to throw a few sarcastic quips their way anyways. The Avengers land on Titan, home-world of Thanos, and knock out a few guards. They bring with them a bunch of spaceships—they are ready to take back Earth. Captain America covers the situation: there is a blockade and the bad guys have control of The Peak (Earth’s anti-invasion space station). There’s a plan, but heck how could there be space to cover that in this issue when it takes four full pages just to tell us “we have a plan”. Oh, and Black Dwarf, Thanos’s shamed henchman, is mad and wants to prove himself and kill the Avengers.
I suppose that’s it, really. But plot development? Nope. How about character development? Well, there is one neat scene that finishes off the issue. It’s really the only enjoyable part of this book, despite being two pages worth of content stretched across five. See, Manifold is new to the hero business, and being Jonathan Hickman’s other go-to dues ex machine (see Captain Universe for the ultimate in cop-outs) is quite a tiring job. He asks Captains Marvel and America how they do it—how they get through it all. Is it faith, or fate, or what? The good Captains tell him they’re just doing their job—it’s all about the next mission and making sure you punch the bad guys before they punch you. That’s all well and good, but Hickman pulls a surprising (and wonderfully executed) move by having Thor pop right in after our Captains leave. He tells Manifold that there are truly gods, destined warriors and that all battles are orchestrated by fate. Whenever I get down on Hickman’s character work, he comes back with a great set of lines for Thor and makes me forget how he portrayed the Avengers as nothing more than a reckless goon squad only a handful of issues back. Between his Builder-smashing and friendship with Hyperion, Hickman has proven he can write a multi-faceted Thor with the utmost respect and dignity he deserves, if nothing else.
You really don’t need any more comments on the art, because Leinil Francis Yu is still drawing it and his work is still pretty rushed looking. There are a few nice moments but blah, blah, blah… you get it.
So we’ve slowed a bit to take time and set things up. In terms of a grand novel, this is a pretty nice chapter. In terms of a high-priced monthly comic book, it’s a bit of a rip-off. But the set-up is over, right? We can get back to the real juicy stuff now?
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Leinil Francis Yu
Coloured by Sunny Gho and Paul Mounts
Cover by Yu and Laura Martin
Dated January 2014
Now we’re getting somewhere. Getting close to Earth, Captain America is able to reach Iron Man, who reluctantly admits that Thanos stole some world-destroying bombs from Wakanda. Cap says “ok”—he’s coming down with the Avengers to save the day. Wait? Iron Man admits to having an arsenal of world-destroying bombs and Cap just says ok? Isn’t the Illuminati some big secret that was mind-wiped from Cap’s memory? Won’t this be a huge plotline that takes up way more issues than it should a little later on (yes, it is)? Then why did Cap shrug it off like that? Was he faking his indifference? Perhaps overwhelmed by other matters? Was it just a poorly written dialogue? You decide.
So the Avengers (with the help of Ronan and the Kree army, Gladiator and the Shi’ar, Superskrull and the Skrulls and Annihilus) aim to take back The Peak in this issue. Little do they know Black Dwarf is on board, and for some reason The Peak is actually fit with more weaponry than most of their fleet combined. How it was overtaken by Thanos so easily is anyone’s guess, but move along! Plot-holes be damned, the Avengers are going to have a heckuva time overtaking this space station.
Which brings me to another issue: they act like they must pass this thin, sword-shaped space station to get to Earth. I understand the need to take it back, but it’s considered a blockade? The Earth is a giant, round ball—it can’t be that hard to skirt around The Peak and enter Earth from any other point in space, right?
And another thing! When the grand allied forces attack, countless nameless soldiers are killed. It’s tragic, sure, but all very “well, no Avengers died, so keep attacking, we’ll get through this”. Even Annihilus points out that they should have let him bring mindless bug drones, which work great as cannon fodder. Annihilus once threatened the entire galaxy (again, see Annihilation, it’s awesome) and here he is so underused that even his good ideas are supposed to be simply page filler. Hickman has a nasty habit of creating grand structures (like the galactic alliance here) and ignoring just how grand they are, for the sake of the plot (or drama, or tension, or maybe he’s just lazy now and then). These guys are the powerhouses of the Marvel cosmos and they just sit around in a spaceship and assess how bad things are. You set up a mighty force, Hickman, don’t treat them like tiny toy soldiers!
So, having lost a bunch of random good guys, the Avengers send in their “secret weapon” (aka answer to all of their problems). Yes, Manifold is back to being the only useful Avenger. He (along with Black Widow and Shang-Chi) teleport aboard The Peak, duke it out with Black Dwarf and hold the line until Hickman’s galaxy squad takes matters into their own hands. Yes, Ronan, Superskrull, Gladiator and Annihilus enter The Peak and get into a real brouhaha with Black Dwarf, eventually pounding him into smithereens. But still, Hickman gives the battle a good few pages and makes it seem like a real struggle. These guys should have taken out Dwarf two panels in. I repeat: these are the galaxy’s most powerful, not a few “we just need to believe in ourselves” type warriors. But I digress…
Having beaten Black Dwarf and taken back The Peak, the Avengers finally head to Earth, just in time for the finally of Infinity.
And another thing! There’s a panel near the beginning when Captain America is explaining The Peak—he mentions they have “help on the inside” and we get a single panel of Starlord and Rocket Raccoon. What? I must have missed that crossover, because whatever those two were up to, it had zero effect on the story as far as I can tell. Perhaps there was a tie-in issue where their adventures were outlined, but as far as that single panel is concerned it was a passing thought that went nowhere. Let me know if you read this issue and didn’t find that brief inclusion absolutely pointless—I may have missed something.
So, we have an action packed issue where something meaningful actually happens and, as far as plotting is concerned, it’s rather poorly orchestrated. We don’t spin our wheels in classic Hickman style too much, but instead swap that trademark annoyance for shoddy workmanship.
“If it is epic enough, they will ignore the details.”
Jonathan Hickman never said that, but it’s the message that comes in loud and clear every time.
Leinil Francis Yu is on his own here, without usual inker Gerry Alanguilan, and his work is better for it. Perhaps he had more time? As usual, his human likenesses are awful, but his monsters, spaceships and aliens are actually pretty neat. The battle between the galactic good guys and Black Dwarf, though pointlessly drawn out, was very detailed and expertly choreographed. Yes, this issue is still a whole lot of uneven mediocrity, but the balance tips in favour of skilled work when the action ramps up. Just, don’t let this guy draw Captain Marvel…ever…again.
Looks like all the pieces are in place. The Avengers are home, the Illuminati have taken back Wakanda, the Builders are defeated and Thanos finally captured his son. When it all comes together in the conclusion of Infinity, it should all end with a pretty loud bang, right? Optimism is the way to go!