Only the Beginning – Infinity

The seeds of Infinity were planted from the very first issue of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers restart.  From there he would slowly plant and carry his plot threads throughout the book before realizing a majority of them in the latest giant Marvel engagement.  From character creation such as the awesome Black Order, to the World-Builders to a universe-wide war, Hickman has built a masterwork.  It might have taken awhile to get there, but it was definitely worth the wait as he has given us a crossover, or an event, that sets the bar high for all future Marvel, and other publisher’s, events to strive for.

The series starts off on two fronts, the Builders returning to the universe and essentially demanding fealty from all and the Black Order, followed by Thanos, arriving on Earth while all the heroes are off-world dealing with the universal threat.  Many things start happening including heavy losses by the combined galactic worlds leading them to start surrendering as well as Thanos searching for the Infinity Gems on Earth as well as a search for his long lost son – his last surviving child.  Captain America soon takes charge of the combined forces becoming General Patton in space and leads them to victory after victory until they are finally defeated.  On Earth, Black Bolt has confronted Thanos refusing to sacrifice any of his people and as they fight, he releases a Terrigen Bomb upon the planet leading to the eventual emergence of thousands of new Inhumans.  The Avengers hear about Thanos and what is happening on Earth, and though battle-weary, they prepare for one more fight with the help of the galactic army they have assembled.  They arrive on Earth, they fight, and they battle and finally defeat Thanos with the help of Thane, Thanos’ son who essentially makes him a living statue.  Finally, as things start to wind down the Illuminati are presented with information from Black Swan foretelling that this is just the beginning, that the Builders are just that.  What will they do when the masters of the Builders come, the Ivory Kings and the Black Priests?  The Illuminati of course do not know.

The best thing about this event and why it worked so well was Jonathan Hickman.  Having him write every single chapter kept the books in line and cohesive with a single voice and a single point of view.  Having too many hands in the pot so to speak, as is the case with many events, tends to weaken and dilute the story.  Similarly, while it would have been impossible to have a single artist illustrate every chapter, having artists with comparable styles worked exceedingly well.  Whether it was Jerome Opena, Leinil Yu, Mike Deodato, Jim Cheung or anyone else, the book looked and felt the same all the way through to the end.  Visually and verbally, it was crafted to perfection.
There were a lot of characters in the cast and it almost seemed like it might be too big to handle.  Thankfully, Hickman kept it on track and the books, which could have felt claustrophobic because of it, did not.  By doing such an incredible job juggling his cast, many characters had some truly great moments and a chance to shine within the series.  One such character was Thor, bowing before the Builder in acquiescence only to recall his hammer which returned to his hand only after it passed through the Builder’s chest first.  Another had Ronan the Accuser smashing his own hammer into the head of Black Dwarf and Hyperion blasting Corvus Glaive into nothing.  But even with the high action element, a lot of the best scenes could be found in the quiet moments as well.

The political intrigue between the galactic council was tense and the worry in the air could be cut with a knife.  When Captain America essentially took command of the entire fleet, being in charge of hundreds of worlds as well as friendly planets and former enemies like the Skrulls was inspiring and one of the awe inducing moments to be had.  Maximus the Mad, whispering to himself, to Lockjaw and to his brother seemed conspiratorial when really you would later find out that he really only wanted to help and do the right thing.  Lockjaw even had a small scene to himself which was very nice to see, Cannonball started up a new romance in the midst of everything going on, Doctor Strange has finally decided to do what needs doing and Namor and T’Challa, while not really friends are also not really enemies either.  It was nice to see Hickman not only focus on the big stuff, but on the small stuff as well and it made the series that much richer for it.

Making the book better, aside from the writing, the art and the characters was the design that went into the series.  While many people deride Marvel over the use of recap pages, they work as they are meant to, bringing the reader up to speed on what has come before, especially if they were not picking up the Avengers books.  The cast of characters page was also a welcome addition as the amount of characters was staggering at times, so to have something to reference back to, made it quite handy, even for those who are well versed in the Marvel Universe.  The title pages, while initially seemed like a cop-out to get away with cheating us on numerous pages of story and art we could have had in their place actually make for nice breaking points and let us know when things are about to change, and also when collected into a trade paperback, will look even nicer.  The trade is simple and effective and having a credits page, instead of cramming it all into a normal page with the art was a smart move.

Infinity has been the best event from Marvel Comics this past year and probably the past few years.  Battle of the Atom and Age of Ultron could not come even close to touching the level that this book has reached.  DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW and Dynamite had nothing that could even slightly compare to the scope that Infinity presented.  The closest that anyone came or could even measure up, would be Harbinger Wars from Valiant, almost putting it on par, but the two are totally different beasts.  Where as Harbinger Wars was grounded so to speak with little affecting those outside of the characters involved, Infinity went wider and grander in scope, a story that went bigger and bigger with consequences both immediate and far reaching for all involved.  Both publishers used a single title to tell their tale with two ancillary titles to broaden that story, but where Harbinger and Bloodshot were not a necessary read to get the whole event, Avengers and New Avengers were integral and actual chapters of the book.  If they were a movie, Harbinger Wars presented us with a clear cut film with options for alternate camera angles and Marvel gave us Gone With the Wind – a long form epic told over the course of sixteen issues, not counting the prologues.  Choosing one over the other would be tough, but Marvel just ekes Valiant out with a story that is just massive in the undertaking.  Hickman has proven himself the master of the event book with Infinity and it looks like his Avengers family of books aim to keep that momentum going.

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