[3 December 2013]
In this final issue of the Infinity series, the Avengers return home from having saved the universe from the threat of the Builders to find that Thanos’ forces have claimed Earth, and so they gear up to kick him off the planet. Hence, we get a double-sized story in which the Avengers take down each of Thanos’ minions—the Black Order—before facing off against the Titan himself. It has the requisite level of landscape-shattering conflict (and yes, we get to see Thor, God of Thunder, go one-on-one with Thanos … and the Hulk too), and the extra number of pages give the art team (which numbers five!) plenty of space to fit in blasts and explosions. It’s textbook blockbuster comics, but written with enough intelligence and gravitas to keep it from falling into the well of disappointment that has enveloped the conclusions of several other Marvel events over the past decade. That is even with a resolution to the final battle that recalls both the deus ex machina of The Kree-Skrull War and the ending of Jim Starlin’s Warlock/Avengers/Thanos conflict at the same time.
So, in the end, what has Infinity achieved? Part of its goal was to (ugh) as always, set things up for the next big Marvel event, in this case Inhumanity, though at least this happens far more organically within the story than in, say, the Age of Ultron series. Writer Jonathan Hickman’s main achievement though appears to have been to expand the breadth of the Marvel Universe. While the Big Alien Empire Trinity of the Kree, the Skrulls, and the Shi’ar all showed up, as well as Thanos, the focus on the Builders, the Gardeners, the Aleph, and the Ex Nihili have made the Marvel Universe seem a bit deeper and richer, rather than relying on the tired, old (and sometimes somewhat dopey) cosmic entities.
Hickman’s approach—particularly after reading the “epilogue” over in New Avengers #12—reminds this reviewer of a version of the Fermi paradox extended to the theory of the multiverse; if Marvel Comics does have this multiverse, shouldn’t much more advanced threats be encroaching upon the Marvel-616 universe more often? Taking this more expansive view has also informed Hickman’s re-positioning of the Avengers—reasonably subtle at first, but definitely apparent in this series (and beyond) as the representatives of Planet Earth on the galactic stage. After all, if we typically think of alien superteams like the Shi’ar Imperial Guard as one homogenous, superpowered force representing their civilization’s interests, why wouldn’t the Avengers be like that to those on other planets?
When I reviewed Infinity #1, I compared it to Jim Starlin’s aforementioned Warlock series, about which I said that the plots were not always resolved in a logical fashion, but that mattered less than the mood and philosophizing. Infinity was certainly not devoid of these traits, but it followed the more standard Marvel event-oriented route—one can’t as easily imagine college kids freaking out to lines like ‘We gather the proper tools necessary… and we build’. Even the scene echoing the ending of that Warlock series seems more staid and less chilling than it did in Starlin’s magnum opus. On the other hand, unlike that series, where it felt like the threat had passed at story’s end, here it seems as if the stakes are just being raised further. The Avengers seemed to move further and further away from their roots during Infinity—let’s hope that the title Inhumanity does not mean that the Avengers’ own humanity recedes further from view.