Anghus Houvouras reviews Marvel's Infinity #1...
As a comic fan, there are moments when you genuinely wonder if the big comic publishers are blissfully lacking any sense of self-awareness. I had that feeling several times while diving into the first issue of Infinity, the new six part crossover event from Marvel.
It's not that the first issue isn't interesting (it is) or well put together. But it's very existence seems odd for several reasons. First, it's right on the heels of Marvel's Age of Ultron which meandered aimlessly for ten issues before concluding up with an ellipses of an ending. I never liked the idea of one event leading right into another because it strips away the very idea of what makes an event comic 'an event': If you're staging an event every month, (on in Marvel's case, several), then it really isn't an event now, is it?
Marvel has crammed 2013 with event comics. Age of Ultron, Hunger, Infinity, and Battle of the Atom all come out this year and have taken the idea of crossover comics and epic mini-series to ludicrous heights.
There's also the story itself, which seems to borrow so heavily from DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths that it feels practically litigious. Even the title, Infinity, feels like an intentional not-so-sublime way of saying 'This is the Marvel version of that thing everybody loved'.
I've been a fan and stalwart defender of Hickman's Avengers run. While others have complained about the long form storytelling and slow pace, I've appreciated the title for trying something different. Infinity is supposed to be a payoff for this year long story that has played out in the various Avengers titles: An intergalactic, Universe sprawling event that sees Thanos once again rise into prominence as the 'Big Bad'. While all the elements for an exciting series are there, I found myself being removed from the narrative as the story felt more and more cribbed, if not practically plagiarized, from DC's now legendary Crisis.
There's so many comparisons to be made. There's the ancient race of sentient beings, The Builders, who feel an awful lot like The Anti-Monitor. There's the opening scene of worlds being decimated that can't help but make you think of the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths. That hopelessness that permeates every panel. Captain Universe shows up playing the same emotional role that Pariah played in the DC version: Traveling across the universe witnessing these worlds being erased. It isn't just that there are similarities between the two titles, it's how blatantly they are borrowed.
I never want to take the role of 'enraged fanboy'. The truth is there are a lot of thematic similarities in every kind of storytelling. Tropes and themes that carry over into any piece of fiction. Here's a simple standardized test style analogy to draw a comparison.
Eragon is to Star Wars as Infinity is to Crisis on Infinite Earth.
We're living in a time and place where people are writing stories based on what inspired them. I can't imagine there's a comic creator out there who hasn't read and/or adored the 12 Crisis series which helped define the very idea of an event comic. But Hickman has borrowed so much from it that it not only feels disappointing, but kind of insulting. You can see the seams: Hickman is obviously a huge fan of that era. Why else would he be weaving in Starbrand and Nightmask from Marvel's New Universe Line that debuted right around the same time as DC's Crisis?
The first issue of Infinity presents us with several plots. There's the world destroying Builders who are destroying world after world on a collision course with Earth. Captain America rallies the troops who will take off into space to try and head off the threat. A mysterious alien assassin travels the universe to find out secrets for his master taking great interest in the Inhuman leader Black Bolt. We get some foreshadowing about what is to come, with heroes having to resort to some unforgivable acts in order to survive. And of course, what would an intergalactic event comic not be without a shot of Thanos smiling, making sure to match that post-credits scene from the Avengers movie.
If we're being intellectually honest, the first issue has boldly declared that this Marvel's 'Crisis'. It's not a bad read, but it's very disappointing. Little things that normally would have excited me (like the return of the Spaceknights) is dulled by rapidly diminishing expectations due to sobering realization that this whole event is basically a photocopy mash up of Crisis and another chance to bring the Infinity Gauntlet out for a spin. Does Marvel have any other cards to play in their intergalactic deck?
It's disappointing because the Marvel Now titles have been so fresh. Infinity feels like a slow, plodding march back to the well.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.