New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books; explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
Avengers: Endgame hits cinemas tomorrow night, and in our lead-up to the blockbuster, we’ve reached a comic that very heavily influenced the film’s precursor, Infinity War. Today, we’re looking at Infinity.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Jim Cheung, Leinil Francis Yu, Mike Deodato, Jerome Opeña & Dustin Weaver,
Real Name: Thor Odinson
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: Journey Into Mystery #83 (August 1962)
Before Captain America, Spider-Man, or the Fantastic Four – the world had a different type of hero, the mighty Thor! Son of the almighty All-Father Odin and sworn enemy of his own half-brother, Loki, Thor – the Norse ‘God of Thunder’ – hailed from the Golden City of Asgard, and would often come to Earth seeking adventure and glorious combat. But when his arrogance proved too much, Thor was stripped of his power and his enchanted Uru hammer Mjölnir and cast down to Earth under the mortal guise of the handicapped doctor, Donald Blake. There, he was forced to learn humility, which he did so with the help of his love Jane Foster, and in turn, reclaimed his Godhood and thunder-casting weapon, becoming one of the greatest and most powerful heroes in the universe.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Perhaps the perfect comic book to read pre-Endgame (with the exception of The Infinity Gauntlet), Infinity is a Marvel Comics event that came out in 2014. Pretty much every year, Marvel will pen an event that brings together all their central heroes to face off against a threat too powerful for the likes of the Avengers or the X-Men or the Fantastic Four (etc.) to handle by themselves. The ‘event’ will be a storyline that threads throughout the majority of the company’s ongoing series, as well as having a central story told in a limited series, Civil War being another famous example.
The reason I think this is an important bit of reading material in the lead-up to Endgame is that it’s clear from Infinity War that the film’s writers and directors took a fair bit of inspiration from this storyline. Thanos’ generals – The Black Order – make their debut here (known in the film as the Children of Thanos), as does their attack on the city of Wakanda (although the film’s version is much more interesting), the outriders and even the ‘boss fight’ between Thanos and Thor (sort of). Also of note is the fact that these generals split off to find the Infinity Gems on Earth, whereas, in the original Infinity Gauntlet saga, Thanos already has the stones, and has acquired them from other places across the cosmos.
Infinity is the culmination of all three of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers volumes so far: Avengers World, The Last White Event and Everything Dies from New Avengers. By itself, the event series is only six issues long, but doesn’t feature all the neccessary context needed for a complete reading experience. So alongside Infinity #1-6, the complete volume also collects Avengers #18 – 23, and New Avengers #9 – 12. The collection on Comixology also features Avengers #14 – 17, but since they’re also included in the Prelude to Infinity arc, I’m just going to skip them, as in my opinion they’re mostly pretty irrelevant in regards to the overall ‘Infinity’ storyline (apart from, perhaps, where they end off).
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
When it becomes clear that a threat is growing on the other side of the universe – one that is ravaging various planets on its way to destroy Earth, the Avengers assemble and fly off into space to unite with various other alien societies to halt this armada in its path, unaware of just how unmatched they are.
With the Avengers now gone, Thanos and his Black Order realise that the time is right to strike at Earth, allowing Thanos to complete his ultimate goals. However, the timing is even more inopportune than the heroes realised, as not only does the Illuminati have to deal with Thanos’ invasion, they also have to respond to the multiversal crisis of another ‘Incursion’.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Much like the prior two volumes of Hickman’s Avengers, the dialogue takes some getting used to. However, this time, it’s less because it’s trying to be intelligent, and more due to the grandiose, unrelatable way the various characters talk. I guess it’s mostly down to Hickman trying to make the alien tyrants seem like alien tyrants, but at times it just feels forced.
As for background knowledge; you’ll need to have read at least the prior three volumes we’ve covered so far, otherwise, the story will make very little sense. The New Avengers side of the story is very reliant on the fact you know what their deal is, and the Avengers side has become so packed with characters who won’t be familiar to general audiences that you may find it hard to follow, because, as always, the character work on display here, apart from a few characters like Captain America, Captain Marvel and Thor, is very very limited.
There’s also the fact that a lot of the alien characters established prior to this, such as Gladiator, Ronan and Annihilus will have little significance unless you have some knowledge of classic Avengers and Fantastic Four stories (although I suppose Ronan has shown up in two films at this point, but his comic book and movie personas are fairly different).
The core series by itself is probably manageable, but a lot of it is just relaying the events that have happened in Avengers and New Avengers respectively, rather than telling its own unique story.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
If you’re willing to put the work in (and it does feel like work at times), you will be rewarded for reading this comic. The first half of the Avengers chapters are a bit dry and lacking, but things really start to pick up in the second act. What starts off as a slightly plain comic about colourful characters in space become a rewarding story of heroism and what the Avengers can accomplish if they put their minds to it.
On the New Avengers side of things, Hickman continues to showcase his true passion. The character work is great, and the way these dominant personalities bounce off each other makes this series well worth reading in and of itself. The mystery of the incursions and how our heroes are going to stop them continues to be rivetting – perhaps more than the Avengers space-conflict with the Builders or Thanos’ invasion of Earth.
The core series is interesting enough. This is generally where the artwork is at it’s best, and although it is very prose-y for a medium that is very reliant on pictures, it manages to carry the story on nicely. However, as I said before, if you read it by itself, you would probably find it to be quite lacking, and the Avengers and New Avengers comics are instrumental in getting the whole story, which feels a bit cheeky (it’s almost as if this stuff is put out by a business whose primary motivator is money).
But when it’s good, it’s great. Strong art and strong writing, with only a few occasions where you have to trundle through bad examples of both before getting back to the good stuff. But in a story that’s almost six hundred pages long, it definitely leans more positive than negative.