Chapter 2: ‘Fall’
Chapter 3: ‘Kingdoms Fall’
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Jerome Opena & Dustin Weaver
Colour by Justin Ponsor
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel
£2.85 (Or £1.99 with SuperCard Go!)
Infinity is doing the impossible; it’s an epic scale crossover that’s not only telling a relative self contained story, but constantly raising the stakes. These two issues are a perfect example as the story cuts between the Avengers-led battle flotilla engaging the Builders and Thanos all but free to do whatever he wants on Earth.,
The thing that leaps out of the page at you is how this is both vintage Hickman and completely unlike him. I’ve always admired his work but rarely been emotionally engaged by it. There’s a cold quality to what he does that means I never quite connect with it, or didn’t. That quality is still present here, but the angle of attack on the story is subtly different. As a result it reads like a feature not a bug, a distance necessary to tell a story this huge and contain it inside this relatively small series.
That combination of the epic and the personal is where the creative team come together again and again. One of the more epic battle is just six panels long, each one focusing on one or more characters. It’s extraordinarily powerful as a result, showing how little the incredible strength of these characters matters in the war. The Builders are implacable, god-like and implacably cruel. The Avengers and their assembled forces have almost no chance and the chilling moment where an Ex Nihili murders itself an entire planet makes that point with total force. This is a war that is all but impossible to win and it’s only half the story.
The other half, Thanos’ invasion of Earth, comes to the fore as the second issue closes and the third opens up. This is the book at its absolute best, as Black Bolt uses a pocket reality with limited sound to finally speak out loud. As the second issue closes, he explains to the illuminati what the war is truly for and in doing so again raises and personalizes the stakes; Thanos is looking for his son. He plans to kill him.
With that in place, the third issue again cuts between the two plots. There’s noticeably more dialogue in the interstellar war plot as the Builders push to close the conflict and Captain America makes one last, desperate gambit. This is vintage Star Trek stuff and builds smartly on the defeat in the previous issue. The arrogance of the builders combines with old fashioned infantry tactics to create the first moment of triumph in the series. It comes at huge cost but the tide may finally be turning. Even better, Hickman warms the cockles of my early-90s Marvel fan heart by putting the Starbrand absolutely front and centre as a major force to be reckoned with.
Back on Earth, again, the focus shifts but the stakes stay raised. There’s an especially nice placement of both the Thunderbolts and Mighty Avengers tie in issues within the story too. Most important though is the meeting of two of the most unreadable, dangerous minds in the Marvel universe; Thanos and Black Bolt. This is an open toybox for Hickman, these two gigantic intellects tailor made for his style. Thanos monologues as he always does and Black Bolt?
A single word, two pages. Total destruction.
With three issues to go this is assuredly not the end of the story but it is one of those events that will do nothing but echo across the Marvel universe. The destruction of Attilan appears total, New York takes a beating too and the Inhumans are scattered across the worlds. Whilst this is all but certain to be the inciting incident for Inhumanity, the event dealing with their rise as a force in the Marvel universe, here it feels like a completely natural gambit. The war is devastating, there is no way to win, but there is a way to stop Thanos doing so. It’s chess on a grand scale, played with individual lives, the perfect culmination of the story’s themes. Hickman’s script combines with Opena and Weaver’s art, Ponsor’s deep colours and Elipoulos’ lettering to create a comic that feels confident, assured and accessibly huge. It never sacrifices impact for scale or scale for character and the end result is legitimately impressive. So far Infinity is everything Age of Ultron should have been and, in the end, was not. This is a hugely impressive demonstration in how to do crossovers right, with the artistic and thematic shifts working especially well. I have no idea what happens next. I do know I can’t wait to find out.