Six issues down with ten to go, and “Infinity” just keeps on impressing. Part 2 of Hickman’s epic is a pretty heavy gut punch. There are plenty of revelations, tragedies, and fist pumping moments to go around — so let’s dive in and break this all down!
Infinity #2 starts with a little vignette on The Peak, S.W.O.R.D.’s orbital defense station. It’s a neat little piece that lets us see Abigail Brand (A new favorite of mine!) kicking some ass and realizing just how big of a hole the Earth has found itself in.
Before getting into the story proper, Hickman provides us with a brief recap of the invasion that was depicted in New Avengers #9. Normally, recaps like this drag a book down, but this one was actually helpful: it helped me understand that Dr. Strange wasn’t resisting the poisonous words of Ebony Maw, but was actually falling under his thrall, so thanks for that Mr. Hickman!
Things start to pick up when Corvus Glaive confronts Black Bolt on his throne. I wish there were a word for “pure evil swagger” because Corvus Glaive has all of it. He and his entourage march up to Black Bolt’s throne, demand the heads of all Inhuman children between the ages of 16 and 22, and then threaten to destroy them all unless they give Thanos his “tribute” (mic drop.) Medusa tries to fight back, but her threats fall on deaf ears and empty veins. As a show of their might and fearlessness, Glaive has his escort kill themselves to show the Inhumans that death is not a threat worthy to them. The best part of this sequence was the look on Maximus’ (Black Bolt’s crazy mostly evil half brother) face. Everyone stares in horror while he rocks the ‘holy shit that was awesome!” look. Corvus Glaive did make one miscalculation: one does not $%&@ with Black Bolt.
Hickman changes gears, bringing us to Shi’ar flagship Lilandra in orbit above Whaan Prime along with a portion of the remaining galactic fleet. Cap and the rest of the Avengers that managed to escape the defeat at The Corridor barely get a minute to breathe before they are beset by more Builder ships. (This sequence reminded me of that BSG episode where the Cylons attack every 33 minutes.) They are broken and beaten, but still they fight on.
While Cap, Gladiator, and the other Avengers battle the Builders, we are treated to an interesting study of Ex Nihilo. Hickman begins to peel some of the layers back on this very strange and enigmatic character, and what is being revealed is a surprisingly human and somber creature. He was created to bring life, yet those who created him are hellbent on ending life. It’s a wonderful conflict brought into sharp focus when the small Builder force, accompanied by another Ex Nihilo named Jerran Ko, is defeated. In defeat, his Aleph orders him to commit suicide upon Whaan Prime. His death unleashes a plague that quickly sweeps the planet, extinguishing any remaining life on the plane. God bless artist Jerome Opena providing the perfect look of abject horror and then solemn mourning for Ex Nihilo. I look forward to more from this very interesting character!
Hickman ends the issue with one hell of a reveal. Black Bolt summons the Illuminati to a pocket dimension where he is able to speak without destroying everything around him. He uses this rare opportunity to explain the demand that was delivered by Corvus Glaive and, more importantly, why Thanos would demand such a thing.
** MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW!** By killing all Inhuman children within that age range, Thanos would guarantee the death of his son! Well done, Mr. Hickman. Well done. I didn’t see it coming. Especially since, according to Thanos Rising, we are to believe Thanos had already killed any of his progeny.
In Avengers #19, Hickman graciously begins to give us glimmers of answers. Nothing is outright explained, but at least some motivations are realized. Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Sunspot, and Cannonball all wake up in Builder captivity after being left behind in the Battle at The Corridor. A female Ex Nihilo is intrigued by Captain Marvel’s hybrid Kree/Human physiology and demands to know more. During the questioning, we see that, before being captured, Carol had returned to her Binary form. It is this power that the Ex Nihilo and the Builders are interested in, and so Carol is dragged off for further questioning.
After escaping the razing of Whaan Prime, the Avengers have joined the rest of the Galactic Council on the Behemoth Ringworld along with countless refugees from the Builder attacks. The Galactic Council is licking its wounds, attempting to figure out what went wrong. Cap suggests the Council speaks with Ex Nihlo, but the Spartoi Emperor dismisses him as no more than cannon fodder. In response, the Kree Supreme Intelligence reminds them all of the countless times humanity has defeated the Kree and that they should probably listen. J-Son is an ass, and any time The Supreme Intelligence can lay the smack down it’s pretty awesome!
When we return to Captain Marvel and the Builders, the real juicy stuff begins. Unsurprisingly, the Builders consider themselves gods. According to them, anything worth anything in the universe is purely thanks to them. They are wonderfully arrogant, and I can’t wait to see them fall! But the really interesting part comes when they demand to know how humanity got their hands on a Starbrand, a Nightmask, an Abyss, and – most troubling – Captain Universe, whom they regard as the Great Mother and had long ago rejected. All of these characters were slowly introduced throughout Hickman’s Avengers run without too much explanation, so it’s nice to get an idea what we are dealing with!
When we return to Ex Nihilo being questioned by the Galactic Council. He is just as baffled as they are as to the actions of his fellow Ex Nihili (plural of Ex Nihilo) on Whaan Prime and of the Builders, but he does point out that all of their actions have been direct and linear. This turns on the light bulb over the Supreme Intelligence who calculates that The Builder end-goal is Earth. Now, the rest of the Council understands why the Avengers are even there. Cap admits as such and goes on to suggest a new strategy. J-Son is called away.
Back with the Builders, Captain Marvel is still being questioned. The Builders again assert their superiority, but are interrupted by a transmission from J-Son. Hickman writes what may possibly be my favorite exchange of titles: J-Son introduces himself as the Emperor of the Spartax Empire, and the Builder introduces himself simply as “more.” J-Son attempts a truce between the Spartax and the Builders. He offers up Earth and the rest of the Galaxy in exchange for his people’s well being, but the Builders, being the assholes they are, explain there is no need for truces in a cleansing. They trace J-Son’s signal and send suicide ships that destroy the Behemoth Ringworld.
I am so happy with the fleshing out of the Builders. They’ve gone from being the space boogeyman to evil space gods. Hickman does a wonderful job of showing their total disregard for all lesser life, which is anything other than them. Again, Leinil Francis Yu’s art was impeccable. I would go so far as to say this book looks better than the main Infinity books! And on a personal note, I was very excited to see the return of Binary, if only for a short bit. Looks I’ll be checking out the Captain Marvel tie-ins afterall!
New Avengers #10
The final chapter of “Infinity” Part 2 is also its weakest. New Avengers #10 slows Infinity’s breakneck pace, allowing the reader to catch their breath and join the Illuminati in some serious discussion and the global hunt for the spawn of Thanos.
The book opens right where Infinity #2 left off, with Black Bolt informing the Illuminati about the son of Thanos. He informs them that there are actually more tribes hidden throughout the world and the galaxy, and that, many years ago after an encounter with Thanos, an Inhuman woman returned with Thanos’ seed. Black Bolt gives the Illuminati members the information they need and sends them on their way. I love that the Inhumans and especially Black Bolt are getting more play. They are a terribly underrated and underused chunk of the Marvel Universe.
When we check in on Thanos, the Black Order has returned from their missions, unsuccessful in their hunt for the Time Gem. The Ebony Maw is still missing after his visit with Dr. Strange. Black Dwarf, defeated by Wakanda, reports his failure and resolves to do better next time. Thanos repays this by dropping an angry Thanos-fist hammer on his head, banishing him. Thanos isn’t a big fan of failure. Proxima Midnight informs Thanos that the Time Gem may be in Wakanda. Thanos orders the entirety of his forces to descend upon Wakanda while he attends to the Inhumans.
What happens next is pretty much the Illuminati version of The Council of Elrond. The Illuminati all sit and discuss their current situation and what they should do. There is some great tension between Panther and Namor, which makes sense considering the Wakandan military wiped out Atlantis in a sneak attack. They remind each other that even though what’s happening is terrible their main focus should still be the incursions that threaten to destroy the entire planet (if Thanos doesn’t do that first!) In the end, they decide to aid Black Bolt, splitting up to search the six possible locations for the son of Thanos.
Dr. Strange is the one who stumbles across the correct Inhuman tribe, but, as soon as he locates the boy, something goes terribly wrong: out from his shadow comes The Ebony Maw, who had been controlling and influencing Dr. Strange this whole time. Instead of killing him, Ebony Maw leaves Strange with the gnawing notion in the back of his head of what he has done. As Ebony Maw prepares to depart, Dr. Strange is alerted to an incursion. Ebony Maw laughs it off as rubbish. As he put it, why worry about an imaginary end to the world when one was there right now. The book ends with three rather haunting panels: the Illuminati minus Black Bolt arriving at the incursion site in Australia, Thanos’ fleet arriving above Wakanda, and Black Bolt sitting alone in his Throne Room awaiting the arrival of Thanos.
“Infinity” has been one hell of a rollercoaster ride so far. Part 2 has left the readers on the edge of something huge. The showdown between Thanos and Black Bolt should be one for the ages. HIckman has been dead on, and the art has all been near perfect. I think Marvel may have finally found an event truly worthy of that title. Check back soon for Infinity Part 3!