(Marvel Comics, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Hickman
PENCILS BY: Jim Cheung
INKING BY: Mark Morales, John Livesay, David Meikis, Jim Cheung
COLOR ARTWORK BY: Justin Ponsor
Now this is how an event is kicked off. Just two short months after Age of Ultron ended with a whimper more than a bang, Jonathan Hickman delivers his stunning first issue of Infinity. He has been building up to this for quite some time now in both Avengers and New Avengers, and it shows. This first issue comes out of the gate with guns blazing; there is no need for a lengthy set up if you have been following the story in both of his Avengers titles. That fact makes this event a little less accessible than most other big Marvel events. Another difference is the relatively small number of cross over books, not every title in the Marvel universe is going to be involved on a deep level. The overall tone of this story is quite different as well, there is much more of a universe spanning, trans galactic feel here, more science fiction than we usually get from the core of the 616, usually a story like this would more likely turn up in Nova or Guardians of the Galaxy than an Avengers title but that has been changing lately. Science fiction themes have been turning up recently in Iron Man, Thor and Captain America’s solo books as well. All exuding a conspicuous Jack Kirby feel and I think that Jonathan Hickman is a major contributor to the raising of the collective eyes to the stars in the Marvel universe of late. The most apparent divergence from event books of the recent past is the overall tone, there is no inner conflict between team members or between teams, instead the stakes feel much larger, more like us, the Marvel Heroes and all they protect versus them, an inter-galactic faction of gods, demi-gods, super villains and their henchmen. So, in removing the thrust of the turmoil from an Earth bound threat and moving it into the far reaches of space, the conflict at the heart of Infinity takes on an air of singularity and uniqueness.
The key difference and what I believe gives Infinity a more cohesive structure is the fact that Jonathan Hickman is not sharing the writing duties with anyone on the entirety of this story. He has said that in its complete form Infinity will surpass the two thousand page mark. It was clear in his segments of AvX that his style fits the epic event design better than most, so what seems ambitious for other writers for Hickman it is merely an exercise in aesthetics and playing to his strengths.
This first issue focuses in large part on the looming conflict with The Builders, the return of The Outrider and the message he brings, as well as The Illuminati and their attempt to stop the ravaging of worlds. Hickman has filled these pages with heavy subject matter such as the concept of more advanced beings like The Builders, interfering and manipulating the evolution of lesser races and species. Hickman has scoured the cosmic branch of the Marvel Universe to deftly use The Space Knights of Galador and The Inhumans to superb effect. The cast of this event draws from every aspect of character at Hickman’s disposal, from the well-known to the completely obscure; he uses both types with equal aplomb. Perhaps most welcome of these cosmic characters is the Mad Titan himself, Thanos. Hickman truly gets this character imbuing him with a personality that goes beyond his typically villainous façade getting to his almost human heart in a way that is even more evident in Hickman’s hands than anyone else’s.
The mechanics of Infinity are flawless; the pace is energetic, a page turner betraying its sixty-four page count, as always in a Jonathan Hickman book, the dialogue is spot on bringing Shakespearean flair to the comic book page in a grandiose yet appealing style. Hickman doesn’t try to fill each page with pointless prose to the contrary he writes believable genuine dialogue coupled with elegant narration that results in some of the best stories on the racks today. Hickman has raised the bar yet again with Infinity. It has the sense of newness and unexplored territory that makes you want to keep reading and isn’t that the point of any good comic book.
The pencils in this first issue are done by the amazing Jim Cheung. He is the perfect choice for a book with such scope. His style is dynamic and hyper- meticulous with a perfect sense of proportion and attention to anatomical detail. The only problem I found with the overall visual presentation of this book was one of consistency and that is due solely to the fact that there were three inkers (four if you consider Cheung himself the fourth) who worked on this book; Mark Morales, John Livesay and David Meikis, every one of them is a top notch professional but their styles are not congruent, giving the book a slight disharmony. However, that being said this is still visually a gorgeous book. Justin Ponsor’s colors are vivacious adding dimension and a depth and richness that are incomparable.
Infinity is epic in scale, spanning not only the Marvel Universe but galaxies as well. It is a tale of human perseverance and overcoming insurmountable odds, an operatic spectacular staged in deep space. Hickman is the perfect writer to handle such heady material and he does so with the deft expertise we have come to expect from him over the years. Infinity is off to an engrossing, entertaining start and besides the tiny inconsistency in the inking it is a perfect comic book earning it a solid 4.8 out of 5 from me. If you haven’t been reading Avengers and New Avengers you might not have the easiest time jumping on but it is worth the effort, give it a try, at 64 pages it’s well worth $4.99. So until next time, see you at the comic book store.
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629