We are continuing here our ‘face-off’ between the two issues that mark the left and right-hand sides of the space just over half way through the Infinity checklist – Avengers #21 and New Avengers #11. As I said in Part One, given that the continual threat from the Builders to our Avengers’ Earth is not going to end in its actual destruction, there are three main ways that I think Infinity can capture its audience. The first way is the level of cataclysm that might occur to other worlds before the Avengers put a halt to the Builders’ path of destruction. The second way, related to the first, is how the decisions the characters make to stop said destruction changes and defines them. Finally, there is what I call the ‘wow factor’ – the moments that stick in your end regardless of the eventual outcome of the Builders’ schemes.
Avengers #21 did OK on the first two criteria, and got a hefty assist with its ‘miracle’ of Captain Universe rising up to save all our skins. How will New Avengers #11 fare? It’s time for Part Two…
Level of Cataclysm: On this front, this issue starts things off ‘right’ by showing us the ‘fall of Attilan’, home of the Inhumans. Presumably this will have lasting effects, or at least effects that will last into the next big Marvel event, ‘Inhumanity’. Beyond that though, most of the highly important, galaxy-spanning action is taking place over in Avengers. New Avengers, by contrast, is much more of a talk-fest, and not always an enthralling one, with only the attack of Thanos’ forces on Wakanda serving to break up the series of discussions. However, New Avengers finally shows some signs that it will have major ramifications for the Infinity storyline in the final pages of this issue, when Reed Richards agrees with the Builders to destroy every Earth in existence in order to save the multiverse! Which brings us to the second point…
Difficult Choices: Captain America and Thor killing a solitary Builder over in Avengers is dwarfed here by the prospect facing the Illuminati Avengers. ‘Tell me, human …,’ says one of the Builders to Reed Richards, ‘do you possess the ability to destroy your own world?’ ‘Yes. We do.’ is Richards’ reply. He may well be bluffing, but even the appearance of having the cold-hearted fortitude to contemplate such a thing makes for a somewhat memorable moment. Having said that, such a blank, terrible statement almost seems par for the course for the Illuminati nowadays, who routinely seem to make the decisions that would dismay their superhero fraternity. That is, Richards’ claim, while slightly shocking, isn’t really anywhere near as shocking as you might think it would be.
“Wow Factor:” One point in New Avengers’ favor is that, unlike Avengers #21 Thanos makes an appearance in this issue, coming face-to-face in Wakanda with the captives of the Illuminati. But as he has been throughout the crossover, the Titan is rather more staid than usual. Unfortunately, New Avengers as a title doesn’t really move its audience. While I admire Hickman’s decision to try and craft an intelligent read with the sharpest minds amongst Marvel’s heroes, New Avengers can be a soulless book at times. While having one or two characters Iron Man or Reed Richards in a title works, having half a dozen such characters can make for heavy going. However, there are still some memorable images in this issue – the cover for one, and also the fall of Attilan.
So, who then is our victor? Neither issue will likely be remembered as an Avengers classic, and Infinity overall is turning out to be a solid crossover epic rather than a spectacular one. But it still feels like the main action is going on over in Avengers. It’s Avengers #21 by a solitary point.