I’ve never been the biggest proponent of event books, primarily those coming out of Marvel. They seem to put out an event every two months or so (or at least it seems that way). So when Infinity came around I was both skeptical and excited because a.) It’s a Marvel event book. This comes with all sorts of preconceived notions about the how book is going to read and how it will be written (based on who’s writing it) and b.) It’s a Marvel event book, written by Jonathan Hickman, a writer who I trust to inject a sense of coherency into the pages that is usually sorely lacking from an event book. And aside from a few storytelling hiccups, Infinity has been the most enjoyable Marvel event in a while, but this changes that in a way. Infinity #5 was dreadfully weak, and killed a lot of the momentum behind the event. Now, before any of you go off on a tangent about how wrong I am, let me explain myself.
Infinity #5 acts as a calm before the storm-type issue (like Avengers #22 before it – also released this week). Therefore it suffers by having to be both an issue of resolution and an issue of buildup. This comes with all sorts of preconceived notions about it, that in fact, end up being very true. The first of these notions is the ending of the threat of the Builders. The Builders may have seemed like the main villains thus far (which in fact, they pretty much were. The Thanos story feels like an editorially-demanded offshoot of what Hickman may have originally intended) but are killed off-panel with zero emotional resolution. It feels like this was meant to speed up the process of the story but it comes off feeling very lackluster and hollow. We are told that everyone has united to create an Avengers world and defeat the Builders, but we are never actually shown it. This is poor storytelling.
The other preconceived notion is that event books don’t come with much in terms of characterization (which should, honestly, be expected but I expect some acknowledgment of growth and how that’s affected everybody so far). Infinity #5 proves this notion to be true, with characters often feeling like ciphers or prophets foreshadowing the imminent destruction of worlds. This adds to the hollow feel when you can’t empathize with any of the character’s actions because they don’t feel like actual people.
That being said, I do enjoy a few things about this book, one of which is Thanos’ generals, The Black Order. These characters are critically underutilized so far, having only attacked earth a few times (although those few times have really wrecked Earth as it is.). When they are utilized, it is always enjoyable. My particular favorite is the Ebony Maw, because he doesn’t function like you’d think he would. He doesn’t seem to have any powers but he’s always equipped with the right kinds of words and technology to keep others under his jaw (excuse the pun). I fully expect him to last past Infinity and to bring something new to the table.
The other important aspect that keeps this from being a completely terrible issue is the art by Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver. Weaver’s art is a little more cartoonish than the hyper-detail of Opena’s art, which reminds me of a cross between the best aspects of Leinil Yu and David Finch, but Weaver injects a bit more life into the book than Opena does. Opena’s art looks amazingly fluid yet has a static feel to the movement while Weavers is expressive and bouncy in a way, creating a nice contrasting vibe between sections of the book. Both artists are pretty damn good, and one of the book’s saving graces.
With all of the trashing I’ve done, Infinity #5 is not what I would use as an example of quality work. It reeks of rushed filler before the final battles and has some bad storytelling choices, yet it is saved by some cool characters and amazing art through and through. With everything said, I do look forward to seeing how Infinity #6 resolves the first parts of Hickman’s run and begins the second. Maybe we’ll finally end up seeing this Rabum Alal guy that’s been teased in New Avengers.