*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver
Coloured by Justin Ponsor
Cover by Adam Kubert
Dated November 2013
Quick recap: most of the Avengers have left Earth to join an inter-galactic assembly in an attempt to stop the Builder’s path of destruction. The Builders are the first species, the ones who created the systems of the universe. The go around created and engineering, apparently, and have created (at least) 3 types of beings to help them. First are the Alephs—robot looking things that talk all robotic-like and basically do any destroying that needs to be done. Next are the Gardeners—being like Ex Nihilo, who are yellow and have horns, and go around planting life and helping it evolve. Ex Nihilo tried to do this with Earth by wiping out all existing life and making the planet sentient. The Avengers didn’t let him and instead got him to join the team. The third race is the Abyss… and we know of only one—Ex Nihilo’s “sister”. We haven’t seen any other Abyss and aren’t exactly sure yet what they do. For some reason, the Builders are going through the galaxy and deciding that the next step in evolution is complete annihilation. We’re not entirely sure why, but remember folks—“the system is broken”. And there have been other systems before this one. And so forth…
Back on Earth, Thanos has taken advantage of the Avengers absence. He’s come in search of two things—the missing infinity gem (the time gem, to be specific) and his “tribute”. Last issue it seemed like the tribute was just another way of worshipping Death (remember, Thanos has a bit of an unhealthy obsession with the female-looking personification of death). Here we find out that this tribute is simply the death of youths between the ages of 16 and 22. Why? Oh, we’ll get to that. To collect this “tribute” and search for the gem, Thanos has enlisted a few crazy powerful minions and titled them his Cull Obsidian (though they prefer to be called The Black Order). All their names are “black” themed, too: Corvus (as in raven, a blackbird) Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf, Ebony Maw and Supergiant (like the star? Not sure, but awesome name, right?). According to the recap in these pages, the Black Order and Thanos have basically succeeded in taking over some major portions of the world.
Got all that? It’s just the tip of the iceberg and we’re only 3 issues into this event! (That is, if you’re including the Avengers tie-in books, which you should be, because I’m reviewing all of this).
So where do we go from here?
Things kick off at S.W.O.R.D. where Agent Brand blows up a few zealous Thanos-nuts who’ve invaded. She quickly finds out that they were only trying to get control of some basic operations—operations that for some reason lead to a page full of enemy spaceships surrounding Earth. I’m going to assume that because they were agents of Thanos, these ships are part of Thanos’s army. They look sort of similar to the Builder’s ships so it’s a tad confusing at first, but I’m sure the Builders haven’t made it to Earth—yet!
Next, Corvus Glaive hits up Attilian to let Blackbolt know about the tribute. Thanos want’s the head of every Inhuman between 16 and 22. Why? Thanos is there to murder his son!
…yeah I guess Thanos has a son. I guess he’s an Inhuman. I guess we’ll find out more about that in a later issue.
In space, the Avengers retreat from a fresh licking from the Builder’s and head to the Shi’ar mothership. A few Builder ships follow, but Gladiator has had enough. They duke it out in space and the combined might of the Shi’ar and Avengers win the day. Ex Nihilo notices something especially sinister, though. A fellow Gardener and Aleph touch down on a nearby planet and the Gardener turns black, committing suicide and sending an unstoppable plague across the planet. The Avengers rescue all they can, but most of the planet’s population dies in the pestilence. Bummer!
Now a few things bugged me in this issue. First: I’m not sure why Hickman decided to call Thanos’s little group The Black Order if he really wants to call them The Cull Obsidian. Glaive describes this as “he called us that, but we prefer this” but it’s very strange to be arguing semantics about a team that was created only one issue ago. Is there a reason for this semi-renaming/explanation, or was there some confusion behind the scenes? It’s all an unnecessary distraction. Or maybe I’m too easily distracted.
Second: it looked like an incursion was about to happen at the close of New Avengers #9 (and one still may happen), but here we’re shown that when the Illuminati’s hands all lit up it simply meant that they were being summoned by Blackbolt so he could explain some stuff to them. Anticlimactic, I say! Also, Hickman is back to calling them the Illuminati, officially, in the roster page. Again with the naming! And why, when the group gets together, does Namor not go directly for the throat of Black Panther, the man responsible for the death of Atlantis. They play it all cool, like background characters that don’t notice each other. Missed opportunity, I say!
Something that definitely did not bother me was the art. Jerome Opena handles the S.W.O.R.D. opener and the space scene while Dustin Weaver tackles Thanos and Attilian. They’re both top notch artists, completely worthy of a Marvel Event book, and though they’re styles are different it was never overly distracting. Things were nicely divided and consistently detailed and laid out well. I don’t miss Jim Cheung in these pages, splitting the chores between Opena and Weaver was a smart move.
I’m still hooked on Infinity! I can’t wait to read why the Builders are destroying everything, what the deal with Thanos’s son is and how the heroes will come out on top (because they have to, right?).