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Comics Alliance x Infinity + 6 = Finity [SPOILERS]

And lo, we come to the end of another epic Marvel crossover event and — quick head count — it looks like all the black characters are still alive. If it’s dead minority superheroes you’re looking for, you’ll have to go read Uncanny Avengers instead. Sorry, gang.

In fact, the Avengers’ cosmic war-on-two-fronts is surprisingly light on a body count, which is the usual way the PR guys tell us that the stories matter. So now that Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity is, paradoxically, over, did all that kerfuffle tell us anything profound about the human condition? And were the Jim Cheung fight scenes good?

SPOILERS FOLLOW

Infinity 6 marvel cover

 

First things first; remember the war with the Builders? Yeah, don’t. Not really important any more. It served its purpose keeping the Avengers off the board during Thanos’s invasion, and it gave the Avengers some quirky new despotic alien allies. Captain America is now co-chair of an Avengers Universe softball team with the Living Death That Walks.

The last two tie-in Infinity issues, Avengers #22 and #23, set up and knock down a diversion to the main story as the Avengers break through a pirate space blockade. They send Black Widow, Shang-Chi and Manifold to take back the Peak, and when it turns out the combined abilities to kick, punch and run away are not enough to defeat pirate aliens, the League of Extraterrestrial Genocidal Men — Annihulus, Gladiator, Ronan and Super Skrull — arrive to finish the job.

Also, Cannonball kisses a girl, Iron Man pets a lion and Leinel Francis Yu draws more butt. You don’t need to know any of that. The key details get recapped in the first few pages, and then it’s off to Earth to save humanity from Thanos.

Isn’t there still the rest of that pirate space fleet to worry about? Sure, but, you know…

 

 

Star Brand. Lucky break, the Avengers getting their own Star Brand, and training him up so quickly to wipe out alien armadas left and right. Imagine if the Marvel Universe version of the White Event had thrown up a Kickers Inc. instead? They’d be trying to punt spaceships across the cosmos.

So what else needs to be taken care of? Well, the Illuminati were building bombs to blow up parallel worlds that threatened to wipe out our own, and both the bombs and Black Bolt fell into the hands of one of Thanos’s generals, Umbridge BorgQueen (real name sillier than that).

 

 

Black Bolt proves to be a useful weapon to take the Illuminati down no matter what Lovecraftian tapas Doctor Strange throws at him, but there are few problems in this epic event that can’t be solved with either a cosmic explosion or a teleporter, and Maximus the Differently-Calibrated has both.

Lockjaw takes BorgQueen to the Phantom Zone, and she goes boom. Canis Ex Machina. Good dog.

 

 

Thanos and his final three level bosses, Tywin Cryptkeeper, Cruella Ratched and Leatherface Blofeld (real names… well, you know) stand around in the dead Inhuman village with the captive Kid Thanos, waiting for the dramatically appropriate time to kill him. How abooooout… NNNNNOW-oh, wait, Hulk.

 

 

So it’s an all out rumble between the Addams Family Circus and the alpha level Avengers; Hulk, Thor, Hyperion and Captain Marvel (Binary class). And Captain America. Remember that scene in the Avengers movie where Thor and Iron Man have a scrap and Captain America gets in the middle of it, and it’s like a carton of eggs trying to stop a Mack truck from hitting a wall, yet somehow he doesn’t end up a fine mist drifting on the wind? This is like that, only now there are four Mack trucks and the wall is made of angry bulls.

But sure, Cap’ll be fine. He has a shield and some patriotism. He’s not going to let the fact that he’s considerably more squishable than Captain Marvel stop him from being showily gallant, no ma’am.

 

 

Hyperion gets to deal the killing blow to one of Thanos’s bad boys, but Thanos himself takes down Hyperion and Thor, and that’s game over for the heroes. Unless… could it be… did any more ridiculously powerful characters get introduced into this plot that could awkwardly insert themselves into the action at this point in the narrative?

 

 

Right, Thane, son of Thanos, now under the guidance of his own morally dubious Jiminy Cricket. The skinniest and therefore most deceitful of Thanos’s generals gets the son to betray the father and steals away with Thane as his prize. Thanos’s fate, far worse than death, is…

 

 

… an archival quality CGC comics slab?

This is not only “worse than death,” it is “darker” than death. It… doesn’t look worse than death. In fact it looks like something a villain might easily come back from in some future storyline. OK, the same can be said of death, but all Thanos needs to do to get out of this one is to spend fifteen minutes on defrost.

When all is said and done, Star Brand, Thane and Lockjaw save the world by showing up. Add to that Captain Universe ending a war by waking up, and it’s a job well done for the Avengers! Here’s an idea for future events; why not invent an Avengers version of the Fastball Special where Manifold drops one of the team’s many universe-rattling bad-asses on top of the bad guy? Call it a Godball Special. Wrap it up, go home, order take-out.

 

 

Epic scale is clearly Hickman’s forte. He enjoys throwing everything at everything, and this event was certainly that. I’m impressed by his ability to construct and write a sixteen-part story with a cast of dozens across four months. He certainly gave readers plenty of big moments and lots of impressive punching.

I wish a single artist could have handled the six main issues, because the squeaky-clean lines of Jim Cheung, the gristle of Jerome Opeña and the grain of Dustin Weaver made for strange bedfellows. Even between the three of them, none of them seemed to be working at a relaxed pace. I suspect that’s in part because of the number of scripts Hickman was juggling. The event was too ambitious for a single author.

 

 

What’s most peculiar about Infinity is that, despite having one author write three separate strands of the same event (Infinity, Avengers and New Avengers) it still lacked an overall sense of an arc.

Marvel seems devoted to the idea of crossover as cast ensemble piece. We never get to see the story unfold from a limited point of view. We never follow one or two or even as few as half a dozen characters consistently through the story — it’s always the ur-view, the camera running to the corner of whichever room the action is in.

The tie-in books now give us personal angles for select characters, but the main book, the one where the action unfolds, feels shapeless because of its ambition. That narrative distance means that all the resolutions feels like dei ex machina, because the reader never knows where the focus of the story is meant to be.

 

 

Hickman doesn’t seem to enjoy writing character moments. It’s not where he takes the action. He’s an odd contrast to Brian Michael Bendis, whose character moments are typically so strong that he sometimes spends issue after issue building on them before he remembers to tell a story. I find myself wondering what a Marvel event might look like if Hickman and Bendis wrote one together — not alternating, but sharing, and learning from each other’s strengths.

Infinity ends with a few housekeeping beats. The Boltagon brothers, Boltagar and Maxagar, decide to fade into the shadows, presumably so they won’t get in the way of the forthcoming Inhumanity storyline. The alien races all go back to building their empires for the next war, with the addition of an Annihilation World that drags Annihulus out of the Negative Zone. And Thelma and Louise go on a jolly little road trip.

 

 

(Real names sillier than that.)

And what becomes of Thanos in his paperweight? He goes into the Illuminati’s vault of future storylines. And that is the end.

But of course, Marvel events don’t actually end any more, and the epilogue in New Avengers #12 makes that plain.

 

 

The appearance of finality ends now, and that’s just the beginning.

Awkwardly phrased, but you get the point. This was all just preamble. The Illuminati still have incursions from parallel worlds to worry about. Earth remains a threat to the fabric of reality. Whatever sits above the Builders will show up in some future event to cause a stir, and it’ll be a fight so huge that it’ll require the Avengers of Many Worlds to meet it. One story leads to the next leads to the next to the next.

Ad infinitum.

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