This is the big Marvel event of the year, the one that follows the other big events and promises to change everything – at least until the event after that one. Kind of infinite, isn’t it?
Epic crossovers and events are a fact of life in the comic book world. We could complain about the continuous cycle of one event begetting another, and we will with alarming regularity, but it is a simple economic fact of comics publishing. The short term gains in sales spikes as the Big Two go tit for tat on the advanced reorder lists outweighs any audience fatigue, a weariness felt from being kept in a state of cat-like readiness from Fear Itself through Avengers Vs. X-Men. Some years, it is like the summer of blockbusters that never ends, taking the good with the bad, and we’ve certainly had the latter in the misguided Age of Ultron. Yet where that series failed to connect with anything beyond its own mini-event spinoffs, Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity is firmly tied to his Avengers and New Avengers arcs that have been building since the start of the Marvel NOW! relaunch.
If you’ve been keeping up with Avengers and New Avengers, then Infinity is the book that starts to tie the events of those books together. If you haven’t, Infinity may seem like a lot of sudden movement enveloping your periphery. Hickman throws a stack of information in our general direction at once, although the upshot is that something big is headed towards Earth. Some heroes head into space to stop it, while a contingent lead by Tony Stark remains behind to defend the planet if the shock team fails. Of course, Thanos is involved in this invasion, even if his great power is turning up at the end of chapters and wordlessly grinning like a loon.
Make no mistake: Infinity is a massive project, a successor to a cosmic crossover that runs from Infinity Gauntlet to Annihilation. The sheer scope of the book is impressive, and it is entirely clear that Hickman has an infinite number of moving parts rattling around in his noggin. Perhaps it is too much at once, as a single reading of this 54-page monolith is bound to overwhelm the senses, assaulted as they are through sheer perpetual motion. Indeed, this first issue barely pauses for breath, hyperkinetically bouncing from Earth to the stars and back again, encompassing Earth’s heroes, the Inhumans, the Kree and Skull and of course, Thanos himself. (Curiously, the Guardians of the Galaxy remain uninvolved for now). Yet some of the book is also a retread, with the first eight pages or so effectively reprinting material already found in the Free Comic Book Day edition of Infinity, and Hickman following his East of West formatting with another eight pages of title cards and graphics.
Cheung’s art, accompanied by Mark Morales’s inks, has all the promise of ‘epic’, from the dark landscapes of the intro to the hints of a galaxy spanning saga. There are a plethora of character close-ups, restraining himself from showing the entirety of this world in a single outing.There’s a one page splash of the collected heroes that is a dead ringer for John Romita Jr., but Cheun plays to his strengths of the hero pose, something that is always welcome in a large-scale project such as this.
“It’s possible that we solicited a six-issue miniseries and are shipping a sixteen-issue series,” Hickman recently told Comic Shop News. The fear, of course, is that he’s dead on the money, but just in a way he didn’t intend. As it has already been revealed that this series will “jumpstart a long-dormant genetic inhuman strain” with Matt Fraction and Joe Madureira’s Inhuman later this year. Despite this, it’s a cautious thumbs up for this first issue, pointing the Marvel Cosmic Universe in the right direction for a major clash, but still needing to show us the ability to pull it all together.
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