Comic Book Storytelling: Marvel’s Infinity

Welcome back to Comic Book Storytelling.  This time we will looking at the recent Marvel Comics event mini series Infinity.

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Infinity gets off to a great start.  The first issue is excellent. The story pacing is perfect and it sets up the events to come not just for this event but also for the foreseeable future of the Marvel U.  It opens with a flash forward prologue of the Illuminati (a secret group of the top minds of the Marvel U) forced to use some device they don’t seem to want to use to stop some unseen threat.  Then we go to the followers of Thanos doing some evil stuff.  Thanos just sits on his throne and says very little but still manages to come of as the most threatening son of a bitch in the galaxy.  Then we get a glimpse of another threat elsewhere in the universe, some ancient aliens called the worldbuilders are destroying worlds for some reason.  Their motives are not explained but I trust that they will be later on.  The Avengers answer the call to defend the Earth and other worlds from this threat.  Meanwhile we see the Inhuman kingdom of Attilan and one of Thanos’ minions searching King Blackbolt’s mind and apparently finding something that Thanos is looking for.  Finally Thanos declares that he wants the Earth and all of his followers declare that is impossible because everyone who ever invaded Earth in the Marvel U got their butts kicked by the Avengers, but oh wait, the Avengers are off fighting the worldbuilders.  As I said before the first issue of Infinity is excellent.  It feels like a promise, a promise that this will be an amazing event and we will get to see Earth’s mightiest heroes in action and it has earned my trust that all of he things vaguely referenced will be explained in the end.  Within the first few pages of the second issue all of that promise and trust is squandered and it becomes clear that this whole thing is going to be a mess.

There is a very simple standard I use to judge any comic book event series.  Do I have to read any of the tie in material to understand what is going on?  I have read a lot of comic book event series over the years and the best ones are the ones that can stand as their own story.  With Infinity it feels more like I am reading the cliff notes of the event instead of the actual event story.  Too much of the action takes place across a dozen different titles instead of in the pages of Infinity itself.  When huge chunks of the story are taking place between panels or between whole issues instead of in the title you are reading then something is wrong.  I did not read any of the prelude material or tie in comics for Infinity.  There are giant gaps in the story and a number of questions that are never answered.

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There are several story lines going on at the same time during Infinity and most of them barely make any narrative sense.  There is however one that does work, the story of the Inhumans vs Thanos in his search for his son Thane.  Thanos wants his son Thane dead and Blackbolt knows where Thane is.  Of course Blackbolt is not about to help Thanos murder anyone so instead he sets off a Terrigen Mist bomb that will turn anyone on Earth with Inhuman DNA into an Inhuman.  This includes Thane who turns into a thinner more handsome version of his dad and gets some kind of super death powers which sucks for him because he has dedicated his life to helping and healing people.  There are still some plot holes but it makes for a better story than most of what happens in Infinity.

In theory this is supposed to be an Avengers event but the Avengers barely function as more than props.  They spend way too much time in outer space fighting an alien force that ends up being kind of lame.  The secret to defeating the worldbuilders ends up basically being ‘punch them harder’ and it takes far too long to arrive at that little revelation.  The worldbuilders motivation for destroying the universe is never explained.  The Avengers don’t arrive back on Earth until the very last issue and in the end they don’t even defeat Thanos instead he gets trapped in some kind of ‘living death’ cube by Thane.  It is never explained how Thanos ended up with so many kids scattered across the galaxy or why he wants them dead now.  The epilogue claims that Thane would become an even greater villain than his father and that seems like total bullshit to me.  Thane seemed like a perfectly nice guy and nothing shown makes me believe he would suddenly turn evil just because one of Thanos’ lackeys told him to.

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Overall I found Infinity to be incredibly disappointing and it is only made worse because the first issue was so good.  The prologue scene alone was amazing but then it never gets referenced ever again.  Apparently the device was some kind of anti matter bomb the Illuminati had to use to stop an incursion from a parallel universe, none of this is explained in the pages of Infinity, I had to look it up after.  The best part of this series was Thanos.  In every panel he is in Thanos exudes unrelenting immutable evil.  The only other thing we are getting out of this event it that the Inhumans are actually interesting for the first time in a long time and I look forward to the coming Inhumanity event.

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