After almost a year of teasing, Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity event is finally here, and, boy, are we in for a ride. Infinity is truly Hickman’s baby. With Hickman at the helm of the Avengers and New Avengers for about a year under the Marvel NOW! banner, all plotlines have lead to Infinity. It has been a rather organic transition to “event mode” — a pleasant change from the abrupt halt in ongoing storylines of which Marvel is often guilty.
Hickman has provided a handy storyline diagram (Hickman sure loves his diagrams) to give the reader an idea of how this story should be read. As you can see (and unsurprisingly), Avengers and New Avengers are essential to the plot. Hickman has stated you can get away with only reading Infinity #1-6, but you should also be reading his Avengers books to get the full experience. After reading the first part of the event, I couldn’t agree more.
As a result, I have decided to review Infinity in the stages the author has laid out. So first up, we will be taking a look at Part 1: Infinity #1, Avengers #18, and New Avengers #9.
With so much packed into one issue, Infinity #1 is a tour de force. Hickman takes us from the far reaches of the universe to the bed chambers of the Inhuman King Black Bolt to Titan and to Palermo, Sicily of all places. It really is awe-inspiring. The story opens up with a the same vignette we saw in the Infinity Free Comic Book Day issue. One of Thanos’ Outrider creatures has returned with news of a planet that owes the Mad Titan tribute, and Corvus Claive, a member of Thanos’ Black Order, journeys to planet to claim it. Upon return to Titan, the tribute is revealed. I won’t tell you what’s in the box (WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!) but let it be known that Thanos’ smile will chill you to the bone.
After the scene on Titan, Hickman brings us to Planet Galador, home of the Space Knights, in the Golden Galaxy. I got really excited at the prospect of the return of ROM the Space Knight, but, sadly, my wish would not be granted. Instead, we are witness to the power of The Builders and their Alephs. If these sound familiar, then you obviously have been keeping up with Hickman’s Avengers. If not, well, you’ll get to know them quickly enough. Captain Universe is present as the Builders reduce Galidor to dust. She turns into what I’m going to call “Captain Universe sparkles” and magics her way to S.W.O.R.D.’s Peak Station to alert Earth of the oncoming apocalypse.
From here, Infinity #1 moves at a rather break-neck pace. Cap and Hawkeye bust up a house of illegal Skrull refugees in Italy. Thanos’s Outrider finds a sleeping Black Bolt and extracts his secrets, including what he and the rest of the Illuminati have been up to (You know, the small matter of blowing up parallel Earths and losing the Infinity Gems.) There is a great fight between Black Bolt, Lockjaw, his guard, and the Outrider, but the Outrider is able to escape, albeit mortally wounded.
The Avengers are summoned to Pinnacle Station, where they learn of the imminent threat upon Earth. Cap decides to take the fight to the Builders and gathers a force to join the newly-forming Anti-Builder Galactic Alliance. He leaves Iron Man (and the Illuminati) on Earth to rally a last line of defense.
The final scene is of the Outrider returning to Thanos, revealing all of Black Bolt’s secrets. Thanos rallies his hordes and the Black Order to raze Earth. At first, his pirate horde resists: Earth, after all, is where evil plans go to die. But something is different this time: there are no Avengers. The book closes with a splash page of Thanos grinning maniacally. Well done, Mr. Hickman.
That is how you start an event, folks. Hickman is at the top of his game here. He has set up a huge stage, and I’m pretty sure he has the chops to handle it. He is pulling in some obscure elements from the Marvel U like The Space Knights and his creation, Ex Nihilo, but I don’t think this will hinder the book too much. The focus is still on the characters we all know and if anything, this will make new readers want to go back and learn more about these crazy cool characters!
Infinity will be handled by multiple artists, and it’s off to one hell of a start with issue one. Jim Cheung leads the charge with some incredible artwork. Teamed with colorist Justin Ponsor and inkers Mark Morales, John Livesay, and David Menkans we get some of the prettiest pages to grace the page. The scene on Galador is the standout for this issue. Everything came together perfectly to convey a once great society on the brink of apocalypse. My only complaint would be that in group shots Cheung’s characters can kind of start to all look the same.
So where do we go from this home run of an opener? Avengers #18 is next!
Avengers #18 was not at all what I was expecting. As with most event tie-ins, I figured the Avengers books would focus more on individual characters and the effects of the event on them. Not so for Infinity. Avengers #18 is an integral part of the overall story, and it is fan-bloody-tastic!
In the issue, Hickman has penned the Marvel Universe equivalent to the Battle of Endor, except this battle doesn’t go nearly as well as it did for Star Wars’ Rebels. The book opens with Kl’rt, the Superskrull, and his fellow Skrull warlords requesting an audience before the galactic council. What follows is a short tale of bravery, heroism, and honor from one of the Skrull warlords who could not attend the council. The Skrulls have been Marvel’s cosmic punching bag for a while now, so it is really nice to see them painted in a better light. With Leinil Yu on pencils, the Skrulls all look amazing; that guy was born to draw Skrulls.
Once the book re-focuses on the Avengers, the true scale of Infinity is revealed. In the grand scheme of things, the Avengers are just a brave few from a single planet in the Milky Way. They are only a small, near-meaningless contingent amongst a galaxy’s worth of empires and planets. When the Kree Supreme Intelligence, the Shi’ar Emperor, the Brood Queen, the Emperor of Spartx, and Annihilus of the Negative Zone all sit at the same table terrified for their lives, you know shit has gone sideways fast. They come up with a plan to wipe out the Builder fleet at The Corridor, a black hole that was the site of an ancient Kree/Shi’ar battle.
The Battle of The Corridor is breathtaking. The scale of it is crazy. The Builder Fleet is massive, but so is the Galactic Alliance. The Avengers comprise just two small ships, but they are able to pull their own. Yu’s artwork shines here, showcasing some amazing visuals of a space battle at the edge of a black hole. I wish they would release some of the pages without the word bubbles just so I could frame them.
So, how do our heroes fare in the battle? Well, do you remember how, at the Battle of Endor, the entire Imperial Fleet came out of nowhere, but the Rebels were still able to prevail? This is kind of like that, except the exact opposite. After taking out the command vessel, the Galactic Alliance thinks they have won, only to be silenced when the rest of the fleet decloaks and wipes them out. One Avengers vessel is able to escape, while the other is left careening toward the event horizon of the black hole. It’s one hell of a cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to see what happens in Infinity #2!
New Avengers #9
But what of Earth and Thanos, you ask? New Avengers #9 takes us back to Earth where we find a planet under siege. Thanos’ armada is bombarding the planet, and the members of the Illuminati are attempting to mount defenses where they can. Thanos discovers that all but one of the Infinity Gems has been destroyed, so he sends his Black Order to uncover the lost gem while he hunts for “The Tribute.” I’m still not 100% sure what The Tribute is, but it has to due with Black Bolt and the Inhumans which can only lead to awesome things.
Each member of the Black Order squares off against one of the Illuminati. Black Dwarf, a monster that could give The Hulk a run for his money, and his forces square off against Black Panther and the Wakandan military. I love Black Panther, and I love that Hickman writes him with Batman-esque mystique. He has no powers, but you know he is going to win. Why? Because he’s the goddamn Black Panther, that’s why!
The Ebony Maw has a rather up close and personal encounter with Dr. Strange, as he attempts to extract the location of the Infinity Gem from him. This was probably the most disturbing scene in the book. Poor Wong is strung up on the wall with a face of utter terror, while Ebony Maw is wrapped around Dr. Strange like a serpent. All the while, the Sorcerer Supreme is in what looks to be a demonic trance — if Dr. Strange is tapping into crazy dark magic, interesting things should follow!
Corvus Glaive and Supergiant face off against Beast and the X-Men in a pretty spectacular battle. And by “spectacular,” I mean it’s spectacular how quickly the X-Men are cleaned up. Supergiant claims Ice Man’s mind and start tearing through the X-Men, while Corvus Glaive impales Wolverine on his crazy spear/staff/thing. I know Wolverine can’t die, but the state he is left in makes you wonder. Mike Deodato, Jr. has penciling duties for New Avengers #9, and he really shines here.
The two most interesting aspects of this issue revolve around Namor. In the issue previous, Atlantis was destroyed by a Wakandan surprise attack as payback for Namor nearly destroying Wakanda with a tidal wave while he had the Phoenix Force. In this issue, Namor is sitting utterly defeated amongst the ruins and the dead when he is approached by Proxima Midnight. I’ve always felt Namor was a douche at heart no matter how hard he tried to play hero, and he proves it here. He is a broken and vengeful man, and he decides to turn on the Illuminati and tells Proxima Midnight that the last Infinity Gem is located in Wakanda. This one act guarantees that the entirety of Thanos’ armanda will focus on Wakanda, ensuring its utter destruction.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Infinity is huge. Hickman has used Part 1 to set up multiple story lines, while upping the ante for all of our heroes. He isn’t afraid throw a few curve balls, and he isn’t afraid to be absolutely ruthless to characters where it is required. The comic book event trope is that a major character will die in a cheap book sales grab, only to return a few years (or issues) later. But the way Hickman has set this all up, a character death probably wouldn’t be cheap. The threats presented in Infinity are bigger than anything I’ve seen from Marvel or DC in a good long while. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this has the potential to surpass the Infinity Gauntlet in terms of size and gravity.
Time will tell whether my prediction proves true as Infinity progresses, but for now it is off to one hell of a start! So go out and grab Infinity #1, Avengers #18, and New Avengers #9. If your shop is out (they shouldn’t be), then you can grab all of them off the Marvel App or Comixology.
Be sure to come back in a couple of weeks when I bring you my review of Infinity, Part 2, which will incorporate Infinity #2, Avengers #19, and New Avengers #10.