Another six months, another big event from Marvel. There’s no avoiding it. Well there is but it’s impossible for Marvel to not publish at least two or three event books each year. I get it. In fact, we all get it. Event books do wonders for a company in short term sales and need to be pushed out in order to keep the money flowing. However, when you rush a product out and put a writer on an event book who’s clearly not suited for something like that (Bendis, Fraction) you get Age of Ultron and Fear Itself (while some other readers may feel differently and of course my opinions are subjective, both of these books aren’t very good because writers like Bendis and Fraction are not suited for writing big event books stylistically).
Even though the past 3 or 4 years (well actually since Civil War) haven’t been good for Marvel in terms of event books, Infinity may be Marvel’s saving grace. With a boost in promotion and sales by the now big-name Jonathan Hickman (of East of West, Manhattan Projects and my personal favorite, Secret fame), this is Marvel’s best and most coherent event book in a long time.
The thing is Hickman is a writer who actually has a grasp of structural foundations and all of the key elements to making a story enjoyable (such as pacing, thematic tension, symbolism, etc.). Rather than having it be Hickman blowing his metaphorical load in the first issue, he teases us with just enough storylines and hints to get us going/foaming at the mouth for more. Every converging storyline is full of tension and he makes all of the build-up in Avengers and New Avengers worth it by referencing and pulling those storylines into one coalescing epic. From New Avengers we get references to the incursions and from Avengers we see the multiple storylines all pulled in together into one coherent element. Hell, we even get stuff from Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four here. Hickman makes the months of reading worth it.
That being said, I still feel there are some problems with Infinity at this point (yeah I know it’s only one issue in). The cast is too large to the point of being irreparable; Thanos doesn’t do much other than obscure his face, bark out orders, and grin (although that grin is devilishly wicked, credit goes to artist Jim Cheung for pulling off these amazing facial expressions but more on that later); Basically, the typical problems of a Marvel event, although the sense of purpose and scale involved in this one makes it easier to follow everything (or it could just be that I’m more invested in this event than any of the others). It certainly isn’t perfect, yet its attempts at keeping every little bit balanced and purposeful makes the experience that much more pleasurable. In other words, its flaws end up being repurposed as strengths, and vice versa.
[There’s also two Hickman-isms that I love seeing in his books whenever they pop up: pages with charts or info graphs on them, or white pages with ominous, foreboding words or phrases. It breaks up a story quite nicely and they are always fun to look at. Now back to the review.]
Visually, everything about Infinity #1 is perfect. I don’t think I’ve read anything with Jim Cheung penciling, but his artwork seems defined by its striking detail and ability to render a humanistic quality to its characters. And although it kind of fits in with Marvel’s recent house-art style (stuff like Coipel and Yu) it differentiates itself by having a distinctly apocalyptic science fiction tone. Everything is foreboding and ominous and easy on the eyes, with pages never being too cluttered and incomprehensible to the point where understanding is incapable. Cheung’s fight scenes and pages with more than five characters on them are clear and easy to understand whilst providing tremendous amounts of detail into every panel. His characters also have realistic (i.e. realistic for a comic book) body anatomies that don’t make me cringe every time I see them, so that’s another plus. His art may not be very stylistic but it has a distinct tone and is filled with enough substance to keep the momentum flowing. Ponsor’s colors are also very warm and balanced without being outlandish, and the army of inkers gives each section of the story a different flavor. I commend the art team for putting out such a quality product with so many people working in the art department.
If you skip down to this summary of everything, then here’s the short of it: consider me sold. This is the first readable Marvel event in years (and the one I’ll read more than two issues of!). Credit goes to Hickman and Cheung for such a spectacular start with only a few inherent flaws. Pick up Infinity #1 as soon as you can, or then Hickman’s “death of everything” will come true (maybe).