Infinity: Part One of Six
by Hickman, Cheung, Morales, Ponsor
Reader Appeal/Publisher Rating: T+ (Teens and up)
Superheroes trade on constant danger and escalating stakes, so in comic-book-world it's no surprise when a villain appears and threatens the destruction of, well, everything. Even so, it's telling that Iron Man himself utters this line near the end of Infinity Part One:
"I'm getting tired of end of the world scenarios."
We are too, Iron Man, we are too. And therein lies the problem of the latest "Marvel Comics Event." How many times can the House of Ideas throw out same old "fate of the world's at stake!" plotline before we start to yawn and flip to another comic instead? It's a question that should be asked, but one that maybe doesn't have an answer. So, let's put off that conversation and talk about what we've got here instead.
Infinity Part One is a big deal in the Marvel universe, and for those ready to read a new-old story, it'll do just fine. It's a sprawling, complicated narrative that takes all 64 pages of the oversized issue #1 to simply set up for the reader.
A warning here: If you're unfamiliar with things like Kree, Skrull, Inhumans, and such, you're going to have a hard time following this book, at least at the beginning. The Infinity series features a cast so large and diversified—no less than 51 players to start—that the Marvel editors felt it necessary to thumbnail each character for the reader in a contents-style page early in the book.
Mostly, it appears, the Infinity story arc is going to spotlight our favorite Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and so on) along with some supporting-cast Avengers, a few Inhumans, the near-omnipotent Builders, a smattering of X-Men and Spaceknights, and...well, you get the idea. The uber-villain behind it all is the world destroyer, Thanos.
Thanos, it seems, is either a master-planner or one ready to take advantage of a set of favorable circumstances, and because of that...THE FATE OF THE WORLD IS AT STAKE. (Yawn.) When the Avengers leave Earth en masse to stave off an oncoming horde, Thanos spots an opportunity to claim the planet that has previously eluded him. That, then, is the set up of Infinity Part One. My guess is that you can predict what will happen in Parts Two through Six.
Scripter Jonathan Hickman ably tackles the task, but I think his scope is simply too wide and his assignment too all-encompassing to deal with this story and these characters in more than broad strokes. Universal destruction is a lot to try and piece together into the limited page count of a comic book.
Artist Jim Cheung faces the same obstacle as Hickman, albeit from a visual perspective. Again, the illustrations are serviceable, and the pacing of panels is nicely varied and interesting. But Cheung seems to struggle with facial expressions, and his expansive background always seem a little bland, as though he was working too hard to meet his deadline and that caused him to scrimp on more detailed star- and cityscapes. It's not that the art is bad, it's just that I wanted (and therefore expected) more emotive visual power in a "Marvel Comics Event."
As for parental issues, be aware that Infinity Part One uses violent imagery and plot elements right away to introduce the threat in the story. There are severed arms and heads, planetary explosions, military destruction, and the like. It's all clearly fantasy, but the more sensitive ones among your children may be disturbed by some of it, or may be excited by it and want to imitate it. A such, this comic is probably not suited for kids ages 12 and under...of course, they'd probably be bored by it anyway as there are so many elements to learn and try to keep sense of. Still, you'd be wise to read the comic yourself before handing it off to a child, just to make sure you are comfortable with the content.
From the perspective of a superhero fan, I was disappointed by Infinity Part One. I felt like it didn't live up to the hype surrounding it, and that the series as a whole is going to struggle from a literary and artistic standpoint. That doesn't mean Avengers fans in your family won't be taken with the set up created in this comic, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Also, Marvel fans already comfortable with the interstellar dynamics of this comic book universe will fare better than those who are newcomers to this world (i.e. those who saw the movies only), so keep that in mind if you intend to gift this book to a family member.
I expect the Infinity narrative to strengthen and grow tighter through the upcoming issues, so don't count this series out yet. Just keep your expectations in check for what's to come, and let's hope the end of the world doesn't happen before Hickman and Cheung can get us to the payoff for this ho-hum "Event."
Let’s Talk About It
If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:
• Comic books in general (including this story), are fascinated by "end of the world scenarios." Why do you think that kind of theme is so popular with readers?
• What are your thoughts about the "end of the world." Describe them.
• If you could ask Jesus any question about the end of the world, what would it be? And how do you think he'd answer it?
Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.