Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, John Livesay, David Meikis (Artists), Justin Ponsor (Colorist)
The Story: The Builders are wreaking havoc everywhere in the cosmos as the Avengers prepare to face them in order to defend Earth. However, Thanos might just see this as an opportunity in disguise…
The Review: Event fatigue is something very real for readers. The world can be in crisis so many times before we can get jaded and tired of the fact that Earth (or America) always seems to be the target for whatever catastrophe is coming. Skrulls, political unrest, old Norse gods and so forth have tried to change the Marvel universe in a permanent way, yet nothing real stuck out in terms of quality*, nothing that people really called as timeless or flawlessly executed. However, this one is written by Jonathan Hickman himself, a master of long-form storytelling capable of reaching a rather large scope in terms of stories and conflicts. Could he be the one to actually deliver a Marvel event that could very well be satisfying?
It is, of course, much too early to say, as this is solely the first issue, yet this is a very promising debut. Hickman picks up a vast number of plot threads from his Avengers and New Avengers runs to create something that is logical and organic to his stories. The Builders, the destruction of the infinity gems, the fact that the universe is undergoing a certain crisis, all of these elements are brought to the forefront to create a large conflict that seems to expand as the issue goes on. People that followed both ongoing by Hickman shall be thoroughly pleased by this introduction.
However, there is a certain weakness to this approach, as not all elements are presented quite easily to the newer readers. While there are some deliberate efforts made to bring everyone up to speed toward what is going on, there are a few elements that aren’t presented at all. Ex Nihilo and Abyss are characters that Avengers readers should be familiar with, yet there are no real introductions to these characters made. Considering the importance of the whole Builders concept to this event, a presentation of Ex Nihilo would have certainly been welcome for those who ride the event wave.
Still, beside that potential problem for those uninitiated, there is a lot to like here, as Hickman goes for the ambitious as he sets a multitude of plot points and directions, switching between them with ease as he never hurts the pacing. The Inhumans scenes never clash against those featuring the Builders and the Avengers, making each scene feel important as they build up toward a conflict that hints at being huge in term of potential. The flow is great and the dialogue never seems trite or forced, even though a lot of it is ripe with exposition that could slow things down considerably.
Another great thing about this issue is the fact that it really encompasses the vastness of the Marvel universe. Just looking at the cast of characters page set after the title page should hint at the scope of the thing, which does make this comic seem like a huge deal, like it very well should. Event comics are supposed to feel important and larger than life and this one does its part magnificently. Space Knights, Skrulls, S.W.O.R.D., the universe in danger, the Inhumans royal family and Thanos all incorporate themselves in the narrative naturally and it makes for an issue that delivers a lot of promises for what is to come. Go big or go home as they say, and Infinity decidedly doesn’t want to go back home.
This philosophy also seems to apply to the art, as Jim Cheung, of Young Avengers fame, is the sole artist for this issue and he really delivers. The scope of the narrative is portrayed superbly as the cosmic depths shown in superb motions with the Space Knights and the Builders meet the down-to-Earth scenes with the Avengers and so forth. With his army of inkers, the issue looks impossibly polished as the poses are evocative, featuring larger than life characters in grand situations against terrible foes. Cheung might be one of the best in the business in terms of superheroics and he shows it here. There is perhaps a single weakness that I’d give to his approach: some of the human characters are perhaps too pretty and young-looking, which does not fit for characters like Bruce Banner and Black Widow. However, it’s a really minor issues as the other characters are great-looking, especially his aliens.
Justin Ponsor, on his side of the artistic equation, fully delivers as well, providing enhanced effects in many scenes. He is able to switch from the bright and colorful, the dark and moody to the infinite void of space throughout the issue, granting his expertise to the coloring to create something that is stunning to behold.
The Conclusion: Despite some very minor tumbles here and there, the team of Hickman, Cheung, Ponsor and the army of inkers provide an astounding debut issue that speaks of grand things with a scope that might be very ambitious in the long run. This is a very promising issue that uses the richness of the Marvel universe and its cosmic components very well. I hope that the quality will remain steady. If it does, we’re in for quite a ride.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière
*I don’t count the cosmic events in this, mind you, as they were pretty much set in their own corner, never truly interacting with the rest of the Marvel universe.