I can relate to the sentiment Iron Man expresses in the above image. It’s summer (well, summer’s almost over, actually), so it must be time for another Marvel crossover event. I haven’t had much interest in the publisher’s tentpole crossover titles in recent years and I’ve avoided plunking down my hard-earned cash for them as of late. But I shelled out five bucks (well, less, after discount and after I sold the included digital download code in this book) because I’m genuinely interested in writer Jonathan Hickman’s work. The good news: this is a crossover event for Hickman fans. The bad news: this is a crossover event for Hickman fans.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales, John Livesay, David Meikis & Jim Cheung
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos & Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Adam Kubert (regular)/Arthur Adams, In-Hyuk Lee, Marko Djurdjevic, Skottie Young, Mark Brooks & Jerome Opena (variants)
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
After reading this first issue, I was struck by a number of elements, both positive and negative. First of all, this is a pretty good value for $4.99; it’s an oversized comic that’s dense in its construction, both plot-wise and visually. That being said, some of the opening material reprints pages from Marvel’s Infinity offering from this year’s Free Comic Book Day. I also noted Marvel is finally capitalizing on the profile bump and interest in Thanos from the after-credits scene from the Marvel’s The Avengers movie from last year. That conscious decision to craft Thanos in the image of his big-screen counterpart includes the incorporation of the grotesque emissary/agent with whom Loki communicated in the flick. Infinity promises to be everything a big crossover event should be: universe-spanning, colorful and replete with a diverse array of super-hero characters. There’s just one element missing: accessibility.
Mad demigod Thanos is hatching another plan to give him mastery over the entire cosmos, and he’s dispatching agents to uncover a secret that will prove to be the lynchpin in his machinations. Perhaps not surprisingly, the secret lies somewhere on Earth, but Thanos, his various minions and his five lieutenants, the Black Order, all know Earth has proven to be the ultimate obstacle over the years to his plans and those of other despots. Fortunately for the mad Titan, Earth’s champions, the Avengers, are otherwise occupied by another world-ending threat that’s taking them off-world.
Jim Cheung’s clean, crisp linework is just the sort of bright, genre style that shines with such an ambitious super-hero story. George Perez was the perfect choice for the granddaddy of crossovers, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and while Cheung’s style is quite different, it boasts the same sort of detail and energy that works nicely for a book with so much disparate, fun figures. Cheung’s work here put me in mind several times of that of Arthur (X-Men: the Asgardian Wars, Monkeyman & O’Brien) Adams and John (Trio, Fantastic Four) Byrne. The designs for the various new characters — from the Outrider to the members of the Black Order — are striking and appropriately monstrous. I wonder if the Outrider design is meant to evoke a sense of or comparison to the original Venom design, because I was definitely getting that riff as I read the scenes featuring the bizarre character.
My only real beef with Cheung’s style is how he illustrates characters’ faces. For the human heroes, he seems stuck on one standard male face and one standard female face, all equally youthful and unblemished. They’re solidly emotive, conveying the dire nature of the situations in which the heroes find themselves, but I’d like to see him play more with different features and facial structures.
The return of the Spaceknights (sans Rom) in this issue will no doubt please some fans of some 1980s Marvel comics, but then again, maybe not. Hickman resorts to a tired old trick to convey the deadly nature of the menace in this story. He brings back some beloved and almost-forgotten characters only to eradicate them, thereby establishing how badass the villains/threat truly is. I was immediately put in mind of writer Brian Michael Bendis’s move to kill the members of Alpha Flight in a previous iteration of New Avengers a few years ago to achieve the same effect. The good news for Spaceknights fans, though, is in such scenarios, the beloved characters rarely stay dead permanently. It certainly didn’t bench Alpha Flight for long.
Overall, I have to admit I enjoyed this opening chapter. There’s a real sense of dread thanks to the creepiness of Thanos’s cult-like approach to his plans and the thoroughly alien and disturbing designs for his servants. I’m not quite as enthralled by the plot involving the threat of the Builders and their agents, but I do like the two-pronged approach to the event. The notion of one world-breaking threat being the singular focus of all of the heroes for these events can be a rather convenient one, and throwing another wrench into the works adds greater complexity and tension.
Speaking as a reader of Hickman’s current runs on Avengers and New Avengers, Infinity is proving to be a nice payoff for me. Unfortunately, for those unfamiliar with the reality-altering circumstances and consequences of those titles, Infinity might prove to be quite impenetrable. Furthermore, this crossover seems to take place well after the events of the current storyline unfolding in at least Avengers if not New Avengers, which would threaten to rob those plots of some of their tension. Furthermore, one has to be fairly well versed in Thanos’s past capers (notably Infinity Gauntlet) to fully appreciate some of the references in the script. This comic book is heavy on references to the Inhumans, which are relatively obscure characters as compared to the Avengers and X-Men. Infinity really doesn’t invite anyone new to the Marvel club, and that’s unfortunate, as I’ve always thought these event books could serve as a gateway for new readers into the weird and wondrous worlds of super-hero universes. 7/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.