Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Marvel’s ‘Infinity’ is only getting bigger

Just imagine him staring at Thanos...

Just imagine him staring at Thanos…

There’s no going around it: Marvel’s fall event Infinity is a slog.

Some people buy the book, read it, and then wonder what it was they just read. Some hate it, like tasting cod liver oil, and swear off of it entirely. There’s so much going on in each chapter, and no one holds your hand and explains a thing outside of a few dense bits at the beginning from the previous confusing chapter. It’s the first event book I’ve encountered in a while that actually has required material to read up on before starting it. How many would understand half of what was going on if you hadn’t been trying to parse the first issues of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers and New Avengers to start with? Those books are all over the place, from the far reaches of space to New York City and Wakanda and Atillan, and new places that just get bombed out the next issues. It’s hard to keep track of it all.

Infinity is a little like sticking your hand in concrete: It’s thick, difficult to push through, might break your fingers when you try to pull them back out. OK, that last part was an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

The most amazing thing is that all of that work is completely worth it. If you hang in there, Infinity is rather unique in its genre. The story is dense because there is just so much drama happening on every page; there’s not a rest between epic layers of destruction and heroic reprisal. After all, if you’re going to have Thanos in your story, why not make it as big and bombastic as possible? He’s not really a guy to be used lightly, and his grand scheme should be something near-unfathomable to we mortal readers. Not to mention the required reading, like Thanos Rising, was really, really good. This is the best use of the Marvel cosmic scale since Annihilation was blowing our minds under Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and even that series could be read to get a little better depth on the space side of the Marvel Universe. There’s a lot going on in Infinity and not all of it is going to stick with readers, but a lot of it will, just be the law of averages. Let me put it this way: You can be overwhelmed by the 6.4 million individual points in Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, but you have to admit they make up an phenomenal work of art.

infinity_checklistAnd let’s face it, other events this year, if not for a few years, haven’t been this advanced. Age of Ultron can be easily summed up in a sentence: Wolverine travels through time to stop Hank Pym from creating Ultron and ultimately breaks time by succeeding poorly. The details don’t exactly matter, just the result that has led to different story arcs. The title concept, an age of Ultron’s rule, is created and destroyed within 10 issues, if even that much. We spent very little time there to get back to the age that really mattered. Any tie-in books were mostly an exercise in the concept (time travel and alternate realities or what it would be like if Ultron had our heroes at their last wits).

Looking back at Infinity Gauntlet, it’s a self-contained story in so much as there’s a clear beginning, middle and end to the trade paperback. It seems separate enough from the ongoing titles at the time that it’s an easy read for new comic fans and remembered fondly by those who followed it when it was first released. Just think for a moment and try to remember the last time a giant story arc definitively concluded. So many of our big events slingshot you into the next one or just the next era of a particular title. You could say that Fear Itself ended as the villain was defeated and clean up was left to Thor’s own title and the Fear Itself: the Fearless miniseries. Even then, the impact on Asgard is still being felt to this day.

Infinity_FreeComicBookDay_CoverThere’s something about what we now call an “event” book, as opposed to a mega-crossover or key storyline, that has become kind of formulaic. Every one of them since Avengers: Disassembled has melded into a simple, functional and seasonal product. The Marvel Universe will never be the same again until the summer, in which it will never be the same again until the fall/beginning of the new year, where it will never be the same again until the summer, and so on. Infinity doesn’t so much break this mold (it’s a seasonal event that releases the Terrigen Mists over Earth and puts Thanos in our sights again), but expand upon it. There’s not one major plot resolution we’re working toward, there are several; if it’s not Thanos, then it’s his army, or the Terrigen, or the galactic upheaval that the Avengers quelled.

There’s a cast of thousands in this book, so much so that it’s a crime to call this an Avengers event. Every hero that looks to the skies can battle Thanos’ lieutenants, be it in New York City or Wakanda or Atlantis or Atillan, or some other world we haven’t heard of. There are going to be multiple resolutions to this story that will, yes, stretch it out past being a self-contained tale, but can you imagine that we’ve released the most genetically evolving substance on to the planet and saved countless worlds across the galaxy and still haven’t fought Thanos yet? This isn’t a story where two sides line up on the battlefield and have at each other until there’s a winner, this is a fairly evolving story as we read along. And the consequences that spill out from Infinity will be continuing through Inhumanity and Avengers and who knows who else?

As excited as Marvel has been to announce what’s coming next, we can only assume that Infinity is another point on the complex canvas where Hickman creates his masterpiece.

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Comments

15 Comments

“If you hang in there, Infinity is rather unique in its genre.”

I feel like you could have said the same thing about Hickman’s Shield series, except I tried to care about that book for what felt like forever until finally giving up due to a complete lack of pathos for the cast.

Hickman likes to incorporate epic, operatic elements from modern sci-fi literature into comics, which is good, but utterly fails to give his characters compelling emotion or posture to indicate why we should be caring about their action, other than “because the author said you should”. Who cares about the Inhuman kingdom when they’re used as a plot-device to setup the next Marvel event-thingy, and worse, at what feels like a sudden, abrupt decision in Infinity’s story.

And lastly, while it is cool that this event is happening on multiple fronts and actually feels huge (compared to AvX or Fear Itself), all the individual strands feel way too separate, so separate that even the inevitable unifying climax won’t provide the illusion of each story strand really affecting the others (or at least Hickman couldn’t make it do so when he was masterminding Fantastic Four before this).

I think the fact that you had to read 16 books to understand it is hugely negative and the author of this piece fails to address. You are looking to spend appx $70 to read a comic book story. It’s ridiculous.

This article is baffling to me, as the LAST thing I’d describe ‘Infinity’ as is a slog. It’s been moving at a lightning pace, and every issue has featured something awesome: a great character moment, an epic fight scene, a spectacular splash page, etc.

By comparison, I dreaded reading the latest issue of the ‘Battle Of The Atom’ crossover, as I knew it would be more pointless talky scenes of the heroes arguing and then fighting for no good reason. ‘Infinity’ and the Avengers books, on the other hand, have been the first books I read in my pile each week, because it feels like the story that’s really MOVING, taking the characters and the whole Marvel Universe someplace new and uncharted.

@Bizzle
The thing I love about ‘Infinity’ is that you really DON’T need to read EVERY tie-in to understand what’s going on. I think Hickman did an amazing job of co-ordinating everything so the main title made sense on its own, and only the tie-ins by Hickman himself are really part of the main story. The tie-ins in the other books have mostly been self-contained stories, most of which have been exceptional on their own (Avengers Assemble and Secret Avengers for two).

Other than Waid’s Daredevil, I haven’t read a mainstream Marvel book in about 15 years, and this article does nothing to make me think I made the wrong decision.

I’ve only picked up the main Infinity book and have had no problem grasping the story. I’m wondering if Carla has actually read the books? I guess if you are not a marvel reader you might have issues

I’ve generally liked Infinity (and Hickman’s Avengers stuff). The most notable thing about it is its sparse and strange quality: it comes off deceptively traditional on the surface, but behind that are a lot of themes that you really have to think about and work to unlock. And I’m not complaining. What I don’t get is how people seem to accept Hickman’s Marvel stuff as if it were fairly traditional superhero fair. It isn’t. And I’m not just talking about scale; I mean the actual storytelling and the aesthetics of what Hickman is interested in as a writer. It’s just… wonky.

On the one hand, it’s very interesting and ambitious. On the other hand, half the time I don’t think that the stories really need to be as complicated as Hickman’s making them just out of his own inability to not make things complicated. But I guess that despite all that there is a more simple, easy-to-grasp level going on with these recognizable-good-guys-vs-bad-guys stories. So overall, it works.

If Marvel’s (or DC’s) non-stop fatigue events no longer suit your taste in four color funnies like in the old days, there are plenty of independents out there, they never went away.

…and if you like Hickman’s work in an event on which he has this many restrictions (here’s who can’t die, here”s who has a movie coming out, include this character in a meaningful way, etc), you should check out his independent work! Manhattan Projects and East of West are two current, ongoing masterpieces!

…which is not to hijack a comment board on a great event. It’s funny you mention Annihilatoon – this is the first since that one that I have really cared. Thanks for this well written reflection!

Today’s Marvel is about the creators more than the characters. The writers write the characters however they see fit for their stories and even the artists interpret the look of the characters however they like to. Want to tell a story that deconstructs Charles Xavier? Do Deadly Genesis. Want to write a story where all the characters develop different philosophies about what they do? Civil War. Want to create a group of powerful guys that reduces their stature as heroes but makes for a “really neat” concept? Make up the Illuminati. Hickman’s Infinity is just that: He wants to tell super complex cosmic story using Marvel characters and it fits with how Marvel makes comics nowadays. It may not be what Jack and Stan created but it’s just the way it is for better or worse.

I am glad that I do not like the writing by most of the creators working for marvel.
I save myself a lot of money.
Infinity would only be great if Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers, Clint Barton, Jessica Drew and Natalia Romanova ALL ended up in a coma for 1 year. The comics that has those characters in them, would depict them showing what is going on in their subconscious. The marvel villain Nightmare could strike. Peter Parker communicates with them and inform them that Otto Octavious is Spock.

Daredevil will be ending with issue 36. I loved buying this title for $2.99.
The character Longshot is an underdog. That is why I buy the 4 issues that comprise the limited series ‘Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe”. The Scarlet Spider will be ending with issue 25. That is a good thing because the Scarlet Spider did an awful job keeping his true identity, Kaine, a secret.

In 2014 the only marvel comic series that I am set to follow is Origin II. I do this because I miss reading about Wolverine. I cannot buy all the comics that this character is starring in because to me it is ridiculous that he does so. Origin II is part of the marvel 616 universe and takes place a 100 years ago. No annoying ‘vengers or x-men to clutter this series with. That’s why I’ll spend money on it.

Marvel largely does not produce comics that I find worth $3.99. Instead my support goes to underdogs like Classic Battlestar Galactica and Red Sonja from Dynamite Entertainment.
Can’t support Kamala Khan because I have grown to dislike Ms. Marvel (and anything associated with her like her code-name) since 1998, when Carol Danvers returned to earth and was set on a path that made me dislike her big time. Maybe I’ll try Moon Knight because Warren Ellis is writing it. He made American Eagle so AWESOME when he decked Bullseye during his run on the comic Thunderbolts.

I don’t see how anybody can put up with so much crappy-to-mediocre art. Sketchy, half-finished drawings where the characters don’t look like themselves. Panels that don’t clearly illustrate the story. Muddy colors.

How come tiny companies like Dark Horse, Dynamite,Valiant and IDW have more consistent quality in their art and stories than Marvel and DC?

Jake, are you referring to the art in Infinity? If so, I am flabbergasted, since I have found the art spectacular and not at all “unfinished”

I second the motion put forth by Dave.

I’m with Cowtools.* I’ve been reading the main Infinity series and Avengers, and I’m having a blast. In fact, I’m actually looking forward to reading the New Avengers issues once they’re out in trade.

*There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type…

If you really needed a ton of backstory or tie ins here, you’re too dense to get it anyway. Step aside and review kids books or nick cage movies where everything is drummed in your skull to death.

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