Advent Review #9: Infinity by Jonathan Hickman (Graphic Novel Review)

This year has certainly been the year of mega-crossovers and events. Barely does one stop when the next one begins. With Marvel, it was, first, their Marvel NOW! relaunch last fall, which was quickly followed by the universe-wide Age of Ultron, and then immediately after that we delved into TWO crossover events. The first of these was Avengers and New Avengers scribe Jonathan Hickman’s grand space opera Infinity and the other was Battle of the Atom (Part 1, Part 2) for the primary X-Men team books and was penned by multiple writers. And barely has either event finished that we are moving on to the next event: Inhumanity, which has already begun in bits and pieces but won’t kick into overdrive until next year. And not to forget, Marvel’s Ultimate universe is also undergoing its own event right now, Cataclysm which just might see the destruction of that setting.

So indeed, there’s been a lot going on at Marvel next year, including their All-New Marvel NOW! relaunch of certain titles from the current range and which will see some new books debuting as well. Through all of it, I’ve stuck with only two events: Battle of the Atom and Infinity. The former event had a really good start in its first month but fizzled out completely in the second. The latter, which I just read back-to-back (just the core event issues), has been a much better read, primarily because of its incredible scope which covers a lot of different characters and teams and organisations within the Marvel-616 universe and thus giving the reader a good taste for all of it.

Infinity Part 1The premise of this event is that the Builders, the mysterious first race of the universe who created all life in the galaxy and even had a hand in the development and evolution of most of the species/races that inhabit it, have gone all destroyer-mode and are now systematically wiping out all life as they see fit. One by one, worlds and galactic empires fall to their fleet armadas and their Aleph foot-soldiers in a grand orgy of destruction that is bringing them straight to Earth. As most such premises go, this one isn’t too innovative, but it is indeed quite an interesting one because of all the forces and heroes and villains that it draws together as a result. Multiple teams of Avengers take off from Earth to combat the Builders’ armada and end their reign of destruction while others are left behind to guard the keep. The Mad Titan himself, Thanos, steps in as well to take what he wants from Earth since its greatest defenders have now left it and he draws in the Inhumans and their King Black Bolt into the conflict as well.

With events like these, it is always a given that there are going to be multiple characters involved, perhaps more than it is possible to keep track of even. I remember reading DC’s Crisis on Infinity Earths and Infinite Crisis and often being confused by some of the characters that showed up. Of course, that was also when I didn’t know all that much about the DC universe, so that was a factor as well. Reading DC’s big events this year, Trinity War and Forever Evil, I have a much better base of understanding and this applies to Marvel’s Infinity as well since I’m now much familiar with a lot of these characters, whom I’ve seen either in cameos or in their own books, whether solo or team books. So I wasn’t lost all that much.

Jonathan Hickman does well to draw all these characters together. There is absolutely no central protagonist(s) for this event and so we really do get a wide perspective on event. Each issue is divided into multiple sections where for a set number of pages Hickman focuses on a particular team or character and shows what’s happening in their corner of the universe with this event going on. For my money’s worth, the Inhumans stole the show, particularly Black Bolt and his brother who got some of the best lines and dialogue in the event. Then there would also be the Illuminati, some of Earth’s greatest heroes (such as T’Challa, Iron Man, Richard Reed, Black Bolt and others) who protect its darkest secrets and are privy to some really staggering bits and pieces of knowledge, knowledge that is too terrible for any others to handle.

The characters who come off rather the worse for the wear are the Avengers that Captain America leads on the star-system hopping adventure to stop the Builders. They don’t really get all that much attention, popping up only in some absolutely key sequences and little besides. Nature of the beast however since Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers books are a part of this event as well and the entire story of Infinity is told across these books in addition. And I haven’t read them, not yet.

Infinity Part 2

Thanos’ invasion of Earth, when it happens, is portrayed quite well, giving a great perspective on how his forces assault all the different strong points of Earth’s defenses and overwhelm some, while others they face resistance and are forced back from. Thanos is one of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe, going back to my reading of Jim Starlin’s grand escapades of yesteryear and Jason Aaron’s 5-issue limited-series Thanos Rising (review) that was released this year. With his portrayal of the Mad Titan, Hickman definitely does the character justice and he even builds upon and references Aaron’s series, which was a nice touch. In fact, Thanos’ reasons for invading Earth at this point can very well be sourced in that story by someone with a discerning eye. It adds a lot to Thanos’ character and I definitely had fun reading all of his scenes.

More than Thanos however, it was his lieutenants who stole the show, Corvus Glaive in particular. That guy is full-on creepy and badass throughout the event and you can fall his… evil roll off him on the pages and then off the pages too. If I had to pick, he was my favourite character to read in the entire event because Hickman went all-out with him.

But, back to the Builders for they are the main course here. If you start reading Hickman with this event series, then you are going to be lost with respect to just why the Builders have gone all crazy on the universe. I know that I was. Having missed out on all the stuff that’s happened in the lead-up to this event in the Avengers and New Avengers I was disadvantaged going in right from the start. And the wrap-up of that plot was a little clumsily handled since it was all over in a jiffy essentially. Thor proves to be quite instrumental in setting an example, which was fantastic and provided for some great entertainment, but it was all over way too quickly. I would have liked to see it dealt with in more depth than it was. It would have made the switch from Builders to Thanos as the big bad of the event much more natural.

Now, where the art is concerned, there are a lot of artists involved here. Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver, Justin Ponsor, Jim Cheung, Mark Morales and many others are in the lead here, working all the different aspects of the art. There are some changes in how characters are drawn from one issue to the other but most of these are minor changes. Overall, the artwork remains quite consistent and almost breathtaking. There are a ton of characters to play with here and all the artists do their bit to make sure that these characters all stand-out. With an ensemble cast like this, some characters always end up getting the short-end of the stick, but that’s not the case here because attention is lavished on almost all of them.

There are a few scenes involving space battles here, but they are largely static unfortunately since they are little more than one big armada fighting against each other, or Thanos’ forces laying siege to SWORD’s orbital command facility around Earth. I would have loved to see more starship-on-starship action or even just the heroes all going up against the ships and taking them out, or the Builders’ Aleph forces. That would have really helped sell the whole space opera scope of the story, beyond the obvious.

Infinity Part 3

One small criticism, but the way that Gladiator, the Magister of the Shi’ar Empire kind of bothered me. I recently read and saw the character in the pages of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men Annual #1 and there he is drawn very differently by penciller Nick Bradshaw. This was the only real point where the art tripped me up. Opena/Weaver’s Gladiator is a lean-mean fighting machine compared to Bradshaw’s hulking WWE super-heavyweight wrestler. Quite a major difference.

But overall, I have to say that Marvel’s Infinity was an extremely fun event to read throughout. Some minor stumbles here and there that prevent it from being the best event I’ve read this year (that goes to DC’s Trinity War and Throne of Atlantis), but still, for my second big event, Infinity was superb. And now I have the burden of trying to catch up to Avengers and New Avengers, which is going to be a long process. Six graphic novels’ worth of reading involved!

Rating: 8.5/10

Posted on December 9, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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