“of course, huge spoilers ahead*
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencilled by Jim Cheung
Inked by Mark Morales (with John Livesay, David Meikis and Jim Cheung)
Coloured by Justin Ponsor
Dated October 2013
We made it.
Despite spinning his wheels for the past few months in both Avengers and New Avengers, Jonathan Hickman promises big with this event book. We’ve been told “the system is broken”, that “everything will end”, and that there are threats out there that are about to endanger the very fabric of the Marvel Universe. Hickman talks big, that’s for sure, but can he write an event book epic enough to live up to his own non-stop hype?
Judging from this issue, it looks like it, but we’ll have to see if he can pull it all off.
Infinity opens with a big fat white page with little gray letters reading “A Marvel Comics Event”. The first actual story pages form a brief two page recap of the New Avengers team (they haven’t used the word Illuminati in a long time) using their anti-matter injection bomb to destroy an alternate Earth—and save their own. It’s a panel-for-panel recreation, with some new captions that claim “It was an Avengers world. The first of many.” Cue another big fat white page, reading “The Tribute”.
We’re then transported to an alien world, somewhere far off in the galaxy where we meet an Outrider—a stealthy alien ninja thing that’s on a mission to “find another world to raze” for his master. We then see his master, an alien with a huge bladed polearm named Corvus Glaive, land on a wrecked planet and demand tribute from the remaining population. Hickman sets the scene quite nicely, showing that Glaive is one heck of a force to be reckoned with. He slays the planet’s champion off-panel and we find out this “tribute” involves murdering everyone and collecting their heads. I even like the name Corvus Glaive—it’s pretty on the nose (“raven”…and glaive, which is essentially the weapon he carries) but it’s memorable and better than something like “Rrrfturath”(we’ve seen crap like that before). I’ve got enough crazy Hickmanisms to keep track of; Corvus Glaive is easy to digest.
And who was this tribute to? Why, Thanos, of course—the original Death-worshipper.
We then get to see the Outrider head to Earth, all invisible-like, as he travels around various superheroes completely undetected. I don’t really buy that he could just waltz into the Avengers meeting room or hang behind Wolverine completely unnoticed, but whatever.
Cue a huge, white, two-page spread for title and credits, then a roster page detailing the characters you’ll see in the book, and one more big, white page reading “Constructing Apocalypse”. I don’t really know how I feel about these title cards… in some ways they accomplish what they are there for—they make everything feel very epic and important. At the time same, my inner critic (still ripe with anger from Hickman’s constant waste of space in his monthly Avengers books) screams that these are pages I am paying for, bulking up this issue and sticking a $5 price tag on the cover. Is it yet another example of wasting space, providing less story for your buck, or is it worth it, making this comic feel like it isn’t just any ordinary book? I’m still not sure.
Back into the story, we find the Builders touching down on Planet Galador. They’ve brought with them a whole bunch of Alephs and even a female Ex Nihilo. Remember, these Builders are the “oldest species in the universe”. They are “system builders, creators and engineers”. These are the first children of the universe, who spawned the Alephs, Nihilos and other such beings to create the Marvel U as we know it. And now they are cracking down and destroying Galador for some reason. Luckily the Space Knights are there to stop them!
Remember back in Avengers when Hickman showed us a panel of the Space Knights? I was pumped, but he didn’t do anything with them! Finally, we get a bunch of pages with the Space Knights battling the Alephs in an attempt to save their planet. Captain Universe shows up and basically tells the civilian population that they are screwed and even the Space Knights can’t save them. Why? Because, her “children are here”. The Builders toast Galador. Those bums!
Back on Earth, Hickman decides to continue his idea that the Avengers are the grandest or grand heroes—the earth’s mightiest, most brilliant minds. They are figures that can change the tide of universal forces, pinnacles of the most important events in the multiverse! And they are big, fat, stupid bullies, too! Yes, at S.W.O.R.D.’s behest, Captain America and Hawkeye team up with the military and bust in on some Skrulls hiding out as humans. These Skrulls are just minding their own business, enjoying a meal disguised as a bunch of average guys, and in come Cap and Hawk to smash their heads. The Skrulls do not put up a fight and in the end Hawkeye states “Doesn’t make sense. Not a single warrior caste member among them.” They were just alien refugees, hiding on Earth to save their skins from some galactic threat, so Cap and Hawk and the military decide they need to beat the crap out of them. There’s a bevy of things wrong with this scene—it rivals the Avenger’s handling of the Starbrand situation for top spot on the “most jerky things the Avengers have done” list. Why Hickman chooses to write the Avengers as a group of thugs who misuse their authority and beat up children and defenceless refugees is beyond me. Let’s move on before the issue is ruined.
On Attilian, the floating city home to the Inhumans, the Outrider sneaks into Blackbolt’s chambers. The Outrider is a stealthy assassin of the highest order, but apparently his main job is to collect secrets. Bad guys never take the easy out and just kill the heroes when they have the chance—it’s the universal rule of fiction. Of course, Blackbolt doesn’t take kindly to the Outrider’s prying and blasts him out of the palace. Unfortunately, the Outrider makes his escape and heads back to Thanos—he got the information he wanted, but we won’t find out what that is this issue.
With Cap and Hawk done playing tough guys, they report back to S.W.O.R.D. to find Captain Universe had teleported there, injured (remember, she was on Galador when it blew up). She’ll be okay though, Ex Nihilo (now an official Avenger!) assures them. Who won’t be alright? The Kree. They send a universal S.O.S. showing that the Builders have made it to one of their outposts. And guess what? The Builders are headed for Earth! Who’d have thought!?
The Avengers then decide they need to take the fight to the Builders. They gather up everyone they can (leaving Iron Man back home to set-up defence, should they fail) and head out into space.
With the Outrider returning to Titan, we get a role call for the rest of Thanos’s newly gathered minions, The Black Order. Corvus Glaive we know, but there’s also Proxima Midnight (a blue female with a Galactus-like helmet), Black Dwarf (a Thing-looking brawler), The Ebony Maw (who looks straight out of Mass Effect) and my personal favourite—Supergiant. She’s blue, she’s got a hood, whatever. Her name is Supergiant—and she’s not even that big! I love it. Hickman, you’ve given us some crazy names before, but this new cast of baddies takes the cake. In the 90s these guys would have been called “Slasher”, “Badblood” and “Wreckmasher” or some stupid nonsense, but this is was 2013, and we’re reading a Jonathan Hickman comic book—it’s a new era for ridiculousness!
So the Avengers have left Earth to fight off the Builders in a galaxy far, far (not far enough) away. Looks like the perfect time for Thanos and The Black Order to drop by and take care of business.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is one heck of a set-up. We’ve got the original children of the universe, the uber-ancient Builders coming to Earth to wipe it clean from existence. We don’t really know why yet, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t one top-notch threat. If that wasn’t enough, Hickman throws Thanos and a new group of overpowered villains towards Earth. Two threats, both unbelievably devastating, and the Avengers are both clueless and divided. Oh, and the multiverse is collapsing and Earths are slamming into each other. Our heroes must decide if they are to destroy the other Earth to save their own, or let both perish in these multi-dimensional “incursions”. Yeesh!
Hickman may take 40 pages to say what he could have in only 5, but I’ll give him this: he knows how to ramp up the stakes. All his “system is broken” talk finally seems to form into an actual, tangible threat. Besides that stupid refugee bashing scene, this comic had me thrilled to the gills.
Jim Cheung is on art duties here and for the most part his work matches Hickman’s epic tone. Panels are constructed mostly in the widescreen format; his alien designs are quite good (though perhaps a tad too reminiscent of Mass Effect, but maybe that bothered only me), his detail is abundant and the action is always top notch. The problem I have, and have always had with Cheung, is the way he draws human faces. Every single human face looks like it was constructed from the same template. Namor looks as old as Starbrand. Falcon and Hyperion share the exact same face, with different hair and colours. Cannonball and Bruce Banner are virtually indistinguishable (except for the goggles). I mean, Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight are worlds apart, each their own neat, original design. Cap and Hawk? Twins.
If you were excited for Infinity, thinking it would be a widescreen epic—a culmination of all of Hickman’s grand concepts (for better or worse), you probably enjoyed this issue as much as I did. I consider this one of the best examples of an introductory issue for an event book, especially in recent years. It has its flaws (oh boy does it ever have its flaws!), but overall I couldn’t be more excited to see what happens next.
The wheels are back in motion; the pace is back on track. Hickman’s last few issues of Avengers and New Avengers may have reeked, but Infinity looks to bring back the original sense of excitement those books had—and then some!