Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Mike Deodato (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)
The Story: The Black Order arrives to Earth as each member of the Illuminati tries to deal with them in their own way.
The Review: With Infinity still in its debut, we have already seen most of what the Builders are doing as we have seen a bit of what threat looms over Earth with the Black Order and Thanos. Since there are multiple threats and the other title by Hickman covers what happens in space, this one covers the Earth as the big response team is gone. Does this title uses this big threat in an original and entertaining way, though?
For the most part, it does show the scope and the motivation behind the attack as the Black Order is shown in action. Considering they are all new characters, Hickman does well in showing their capacities in action as each of them try to attack a member of the Illuminati, with Black Dwarf against Black Panther, The Ebony Maw against Doctor Strange and so on. We get the kind of threat they can be, yet they are still mysterious in some ways as to pique the interest of the readers. However, we don’t get nearly enough characterization for them to be compelling just yet as it is an area where they are mostly vague. Perhaps they’ll become incredibly memorable after this event, yet for now they are much more a threat than actual characters.
Part of this problem comes out of another issue the book has: pacing. It is by no mean a jarring and devastating problem, yet the issue jumps from scene to scene quite rapidly, leaving some of them without much room to breathe and develop. An obvious one would be the Wakandian conflict with Black Dwarf as Black Panther deals with the intruder, showing him as competent and full of bravado against a foe so large. However, the next scene we see shows the foe beaten and retreating, leaving the readers to wonder just how T’Challa did vanquish him. There are some other scenes which have that kind of trouble, setting up some the conflicts between other characters yet does not continue it, making sure there would be something left for the other issues tying into the event. It is fun to see what might happen, yet it only hurt the pacing to see two pages of Doctor Strange without us seeing any payoff or the character again for the rest of the issue.
Still, even with those flaws, the comic remains enjoyable as several factors are quite well done. Hickman usually has a talent with ongoing subplots and themes, which he shows here with Namor and the Atlantean/Wakandian war and how the first battle had resulted. He uses the setting of this event quite well in most pages as the action goes in without relent without hurting the more political side of the title. He also use the Marvel universe well in some case, playing with the X-Men, the Inhumans, the Baxter Building and so forth to show that the conflict is set in most places.
The characterization for the Illuminati is quite apt too, as the calmness of Reed Richards, the wits of Tony Stark and the ominous presence and planning of Black Bolt all come to the pages naturally, adding to the tapestry of the conflict that is growing. The two more preeminent and definitely interesting characters are Black Panther and Namor, who gets a good chunk of scenes and moves some of the subplots forward. You can see the desperation of Namor and the confidence of T’Challa on the pages as their actions and decisions become something very enjoyable to read and to follow.
Of course, the enjoyment of this issue comes from Mike Deodato’s art as well as he brings his expertise with ominous scenes and action in this issue. While the narrative pacing may be off in some places, the action is always fluid and big, never letting down the violence and the power behind some of the strikes shown on the pages. The characters benefit greatly from this as well, be it the hulking Black Dwarf or the agile Black Panther, the characters are expressive through their motions, poses and with their facial expressions. As if it was not enough, the backgrounds are pretty great as well, as Deodato shows the chaos going around each battle and the destruction that accompanies it. The depth of the sea, Wakanda, the depth of space and New-York looks distinct and it adds up to the experience very well.
The colors are also well-done, as the darker colorization of title comes once more from Frank Martin’s palette. However, he never goes too far as to make the action or the emotions gets absorbed in them as he cooperates with Deodato and his preferences for shadows. He can create a striking contrast with the use of heavy light and heavy shadows, which in its turn create a sinister presence in some key moments, like when Thanos speaks to the Black Order.
The Conclusion: The pacing may be awkward in some areas and there is perhaps a bit too much set up here and there, yet the action, the ongoing subplots, the characters and the art sell this tie-in to Infinity quite well despite the weaknesses.
Hugo Robberts Larivière