Comics Alliance x Infinity + 05 = Intergalactic / Planetary
We're fast approaching the end of Marvel's sprawling space war/alien invasion crossover event Infinity, with one more issue to come. If you thought the story's two main threads -- the war against the Builder armada on the one hand and Thanos's invasion of Earth on the other -- were going to neatly come together, well... you may be disappointed. They are in the same comic, however.
War is over. Give Thanos a chance.
The connective thread between the two stories was always that the presence of the Avengers in one story left the world vulnerable in the other. Sure, continuity has never stopped Wolverine being in thirty places at once -- it actually seemed odd that he hadn't run into himself recently in his two separate but parallel Savage Land adventures -- but evidently even he isn't mutant enough to fight Thanos's lieutenants on Earth and the builders' word-destroying spaceships in outer space at the same time.
Infinity #5, by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opeña and Dustin Weaver, formally completes the transition begun in issue #4 from the left-hand plot to the right-hand plot. It picks up where #4 left off: a Builder lies dead with a hole punched through his chest by Thor's hammer. The gut punch heard 'round the universe.
We then see how the Avengers' foreign adventure against a perceived alien threat to their homeland has manifested in a strange sort of imperialism. The grateful people of the liberated worlds raise Americ... uh... Avengican flags and banners in support of their champions.
They do this freely and of their own volition! Not at all out of fear of this weird guerilla force that murders people at diplomatic parleys, teleports assassins behind enemy lines, and drops giant green monsters on people. We love you, conquering Av... liberating Avengers! We love you very much! Please don't take our children!
We see a little more of how this all went down in Avengers #21, by Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu. Thor putting a hole through a Builder gave Ronan the Accuser some hammer-envy, so he put his own hole through the Supreme Intelligence (well, his tank). It's a pretty good way to resign. I'd like to think I'd have done the same if any of my ex-bosses lived in giant glass tanks and if any of my jobs inexplicably involved a giant hammer.
The rest of the issue is a strange feint in which the Avengers pretend they're losing the war that they've basically been winning for a month now just so they can stretch out the tension a little longer.
Sure you are, Cap. The entire war is being fought in single panel depictions of different Avengers on different alien worlds with a caption that either says "we're winning" or "we're losing," so I'm sure you've done the math.
"Page 7 says we're losing, damn it! Quick, send Stingray to stand on Horus IV and someone tell me what the caption says."
The alien allies try to regain momentum by unleashing an Annihilation Wave, which you will recall was the entire thrust of a previous Marvel cosmic crossover event, a thing so terrible and terrifying that it rallied heroes and wiped out worlds.
That's dealt with in three pages.
Now, look, I'm not saying Marvel is giving itself a threat inflation problem here, but it does seem a distinct possibility that Marvel's next big event is going to have to involve Franklin Richards shooting Galactus-bullets at the Living Tribunal while the Beyonder bowls Celestials using Ego the Living Planet as a ball. At which point I may struggle to care what Cannonball and Sunspot are up to.
Speaking of characters I struggle to care about; remember those characters from the first arc of Hickman's Avengers, the god-like creatures who played fickle games with the Earth and committed appalling atrocities that played out over the entire pre-Infinity run, only to get invited to join the Avengers because something worse was happening?
First of all; wow, that whole thing makes the Avengers' patriarchal condescension to the X-Men during last year's big crossover event look like that much bigger a bag of dickery, doesn't it? Second of all; I'd really much rather hang out with Cannonball and Sunspot than this pair of awful cosmic Hitlers.
But we're stuck with them, because it's their gentle coaxing of Captain Universe back into action that really ends the Builders' war. Yes, the major threat of the first four issues of Infinity kinda gets dealt with in the pages of another comic, and Captain Universe defeats with the bad guys just by showing up. Between her and Star Brand, not to mention the combined abilities of Manifold, Hyperion, Hulk and Thor, it's kind of a wonder that the Avengers ever sweat anything any more.
But it's no surprise why aliens all over the universe are raising up flags to show their obedience.
One of the Builders escapes Captain Universe's wrath, only to show up over in New Avengers #11 as the captive of a group of Builders from a parallel universe. Yes, there is a little more crossover between the two main storylines, but it also happens outside of the main Infinity book.
New Avengers #11 also ties back in to that book's major storyline by making it plain that the whooooole Infinity space war was just a supplementary blip to New Avengers' ongoing parallel Earth incursion plot.
"Incrementalism is a waste of time." Note that the Builders are not responsible for Marvel's long term event strategy.
As you know, Bob, the Illuminati in New Avengers have been dealing with a series of incursions by parallel Earths that threaten to destroy everything. Indeed, the Infinity gems were sacrificed to prevent one of these incursions. (Cough cough, threat inflation, cough cough.) The Earth is the focal point in the collapse of the multiverse, and we're now told it must be destroyed in every universe to prevent total destruction. (The parallel builders neatly punctuate the point by blowing up their Earth.) It's a crisis on infinite... hey now, wait a second!
So it seems that the whole of Infinity in all its sprawling bifurcated razzmatazz is really just an appetizer to some future storyline about the collapse of reality. And now that we know that, let's go back and see how the war is faring over in Infinity #5.
Oh, right, the war already ended. War? What war? Alien armada? Don't worry about it. The war wasn't a thing. Drop a Hulk on it. It's done.
No, this is a Thanos story. Always has been. What? And it turns out his Inhuman son, Thane, has turned into a lilac elf and fallen under the sway of Thanos's lieutenant Saruman Krueger (real name sillier than that).
That's enough to lure Thanos away from the cache of world-destroying Illuminati bombs he found in Wakanda's City of the Dead. He really puts family first. So much so, in fact, that he delays destroying Earth so he can go and kill his son personally, even though destroying Earth would be quite an effective way to kill his son. Oh, Thanos, you sentimental goofball.
While the Illuminati storm the Necropolis to try and stop the world from exploding, Thanos receives word that the cavalry have arrived. The space-faring Avengers are heading back to Earth, and they're bringing their new pals with them. The Shi'ar, the Skrulls, the Kree. Yes, the Avengers are now leading an alien invasion of Earth. It'll probably work out fine.
So much happened between Infinity #4 and #5 that there wasn't really much left for Infinity #5 to do. So... it'll all comes to a head in Infinity #6!
And when I say "it'll all comes to a head", I mean we're probably approaching the end of the first page of a twenty-page manifesto that Hickman pitched to Tom Brevoort at a retreat last year, not counting graphs and footnotes.
Seven years from now we'll look back on this little space war and laugh. "Remember when there was only one In-Betweener?" we'll say, "Back before the war of the Super-Watchers, when Groot was named King of the Phoenix-Onslaughts, and every left-handed human was revealed to be a Shi'ar sleeper agent equipped with their own Cosmic Dodecahedrons? Ah, those were simpler times."
Header graphic by Dylan Todd.