REVIEW: Infinity #1

molly dangerInfinity #1

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Jim Cheung
Inks by Mark Morales with John Livesay, David Meikis & Jim Cheung
Color by Justin Ponsor
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos with Joe Caramanga

Published by Marvel Comics

There is an on-again, off-again debate in the comicsphere about how to review a book well. Some people say a review should be as impersonal and “objective” as possible; none of that first person, autobiographical nonsense. Others, like me me me, think knowing from the outset where a reviewer is coming from is the very fulcrum a review pivots on. In the interest of having it both ways and pleasing nobody, then, let us begin with full disclosure:

This reviewer has a soft spot for Marvel’s New Universe and once wrote The Ballad of the Star Brand for this site.

This reviewer has an even softer spot for his rarely seen pet character, ROM, and the other Spaceknights of Galador. This has been very, very, very well documented.

This reviewer has been vocal in the past about his distaste for Jonathan Hickman’s writing style, specifically his tendency to drop new characters into a story without introduction and substitute portentous fortune cookies for narration.

Given all of the above, then, how’s Infinity?

One thing is certain: this is a gorgeous book. Jim Cheung is at the top of his game with a script that lets him show off some real range. Scenes epic in scope and full of planetary devastation are offset by smaller, more intimate action, though never as subdued as the soap opera living room arguments of Cheung’s Young Avengers.

It is also certain that this book is a panorama of the Marvel Universe scarcely seen since the days of Annihilation. The action stretches from Earth to Attilan to Titan to Kree Space. There are Shi’ar Guardians. There are Skrulls doing that Skrull thing they do, hilariously.

And then there is Galador. Poor, poor Galador. If you are a fan of Rom, you are going to be in futuristic cyberhog heaven, for a couple of minutes. Hickman pulls the entire Galadorian cast of the book out of mothballs for Infinity’s most epic battle. Even Starshine, the Spaceknight whose armor for some reason has a metal skirt and ponytail, is represented in all her glory. Their appearance in Infinity might as well have been pulled directly from one of Bill Mantlo’s drawers. Please understand that it is impossible for this reviewer to be impartial about this. This reviewer does not himself have the heart of a cyborg. Unfortunately, we are going to have to call this development a real “good news/bad news” situation and leave it at that.

The Star Brand is in the cast of this book. Is this development important? It is to this reviewer!

The scope of the book being what it is, the reader could be forgiven for saying, “Oh, right! This is a book about the Avengers” by the time they actually appear in it. This works in the book’s favor, both building anticipation and honest-ta-God setting up what the hell is going on for anyone who dropped the Avengers books half a year ago, as this reviewer did. Faithful Hickman readers will get to see much of what he has been building come to a head, while Hickman skeptics will take comfort in the confirmation that the story which prompted them to drop New Avengers is somehow still going on.

What about Jonathan Hickman? He can be somewhat divisive; fans eagerly drink in his abundant ideas, while detractors would gently point out a difference between world building and storytelling. Whatever else it might be, Infinity is some pretty good Hickman. Characters have personalities, motives, and clearly defined goals. Most of the narration actually narrates, although some of the dialogue is still that elevated fortune cookiespeak that distracts this reviewer and makes him stop for several minutes to imagine what the characters could possibly be like on weekends, or where they get their groceries on the barren Titanian wasteland.

"Actually, I was thinking of taking a sabbatical. I've always wanted to backpack across Europe. Just some 'me time,' ya know?"

“Actually, I was thinking of taking a sabbatical. I’ve always wanted to backpack across Europe. Just some ‘me time,’ ya know?”

Anyway: longtime fans of the author will be delighted to see him “in the zone,” and even detractors will find themselves saying, “Where has this Hickman been?” Has the last page of a Jonathan Hickman book ever made you exclaim, “Oh, snap!”? Infinity will. At least it will if you are as old as this reviewer.

 

Story: 3 / Art: 5 / Overall: 4

(Out of 5 Stars)

ROM Story: -∞ / ROM Art: 5 / Overall: N/A

(Out of 5 Stars)


 

Comments

  1. Great review Jim

    Is it weird that I had no idea this book was coming out this week until I saw it on the pull list yesterday? For some reason I thought we were still two weeks away from this.

  2. Great review.

    I’m looking at this as another chapter of his Avengers work and not much else. Not even buying the tie-ins. I figure I won’t be disappointed.

    And it’ll be cool to see what the Spaceknights are all about.

  3. “heart of a cyborg” – cybernetic organism – I guess technically I can fault this metaphor since a cyborg could have a heart and feelings.

    “I’m not a robot” could have been used to better effect, since we know all robots are heartless and want to to kill all humans.

    Good review. Didn’t pick this up as I’m worn out on events – this is an event, right? Crossover?

  4. I’ve been strictly on trades lately, but I’ve been considering going back to issues for stories like this that are, for lack of a better term, the marquee titles. I don’t mind reading comics in trade sized chunks, but I’m only human…the hype sometimes gets to me.

  5. People are praising this event now, but watch, by issue 3 there will be the usual chorus of people saying, “Oh, this is STILL going?” and “Event comics are a scam blah blah nothing changes blah.” Unlike the rest of the iFanverse, I enjoy most big two events; sure they don’t often end very well, but name me a comic that does considering the continual nature of the medium.

  6. If I was reading Marvel; at all, I’d pick this up. Except for Hickman’s Ultimates, I find his storis pretty engaging. Alright, I’m mostly talking about FF and Fantastic Four, but i thought they were brillant.

    • That might be the last great run on a big 2 series from start to finish that I can remember. I like Uncanny X-Force a little better overall but it wasn’t as good following the Dark Angel Saga. Snyders Detective run, Morrison on Batman and Robin and Aaron on Punisher Max are pretty close to I guess.

    • Mark Waid’s DD, anyone?

    • Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Mark Waid’s run on DD is ongoing, and as such, has not ended.

    • Yeah I meant stuff whose writer began and ended already on an ongoing. Sorry should have specified that. There is actually a fair amount of them when you think about it because of Marvel Now and the New 52.

    • @Paul, I know that. But I didn’t think anyone would argue that when it DOES end, it will be remembered fondly in it’s entirety. I understood what @Phess1 was saying, but I had trouble predicting something that will be held up to some of the standards he set. Maybe Fraction’s “Hawkeye” will when it ends. But otherwise, a run from the Big 2 that has been good and/or great the entire time? Been a few years since we’ve seen that I agree.

    • Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Didn’t you say you don’t read any Marvel titles?

    • Maybe it’s better to say I don’t buy any Marvel titles. I tried with “Indestructible Hulk”, but for $3.99 it seemed like all I got was Hulk smashing and little else (which is fine, not what I wanted tho. I dropped after #3). Nothing else from Marvel appeals to me enough to buy, which I’ve posted many times on here. Primarily I’m just reading TPBs from my library for Marvel, which is stuff 2-3 years old. But they have Waid’s DD there, so I’ve been reading that on and off. I thought Marvel would finally publish another Inhumans series; that would get me back in a hurry, but they didn’t so I won’t.

      Never read an issue of “Hawkeye”. But I’ll take the Hype’s word that it’s good.

    • New Inhumans in October/November with Hawkweye writer Matt Fraction. Win/Win for you I guess huh?

    • No, that’s just a series spinning out of an event. It’s Marvel trying fill a mutant void. The Inhumans might be in it but it’s not an Inhuman series.

    • WHAT?!?!?!? Where are you getting that from? From what I read it was going to be the Inhumans with Game of Thrones swag

  7. I think the subjective note at the start was very apt for this review. I think without it the review would be very self-contradictory. You say you don’t like Hickman’s writing because he pulls from Marvel history and drops in old characters without helping the new reader. Then you gush about him using old chapters that are very, very niche because you like them and a have a nostalgic attachment to them.

    I’m pretty hopeful for this. I think there’s been quite a slow burn build up through the Avengers titles and even through the post-Forever F4 storylines. Hickman has pretty much nailed every landing on all his series to date so I’m pretty excited to see where he’s gonna take us.

    • I think it is fair to say that Hickman often does not prepare the reader for character developments. For instance, the villains from the beginning of his Avengers run, Ex Nihilo and the other one (whose name I can’t recall) are suddenly asked to join the team? Wha?

  8. This is exciting. I haven’t read a Marvel event in a long time but I was banking on this delivering on a lot of the potential set up in Hickman’s Avengers. Still, I was hesitant. Now I’m looking forward to it.

    Thanks, Jim!

  9. can a reader who hasnt been reading Hickman’s Avengers jump on in this issue?

  10. JML (@twitter.com/JoshMLabelle) says:

    I’m extremely divided on Hickman: there were some parts of his FF run that I found mostly incomprehensible and other parts that I thought were the greatest stuff in comics. I thought Nightly News was crass and cynical but beautiful visually. His work on New Avengers is great because he’s got the voices of those characters down and they’re all in conflict over one issue, so it’s very focused. His regular Avengers title is pretty much the opposite, a vomit of characters, locales, and plots that go nowhere with a gloss of the fortune cookiespeak over top. (“Fortune cookiespeak” was a great term for it — good on you for coining it.) So far his best work by far has been Manhattan Projects. I think because he didn’t plan that one out ahead of time, he’s forced to just write the characters well instead of falling back on Byzantine plotting. I’m mostly enjoying East of West too.

    So I’m torn on this expensive-ass event book. I want to see where his Avengers stories have been headed this whole time, but I’m not sure it’s worth it.

  11. Really great review.

    I always thought I was the only one who doesn’t like Hickman. His FF/F4 run was good (but not great), but everything after that wasn’t really for me. I sometimes felt that Hickman is somewhat of a shallow Grant Morrison. Both tend to foreshadow and hinting towards larger than life concepts and developments that pay off in the end of a story. But while I always felt that Morrison does so to get some point across (I mean on a metaphorical level) it always seemed to me that Hickman only does so for the sake of plot. All this building up and all his cosmic concepts seemed to be there just for the sake of an “epic” finally. And in general there is nothing wrong with that, especially if the characters are fun and you enjoy the ride. But I never thought his characters where compelling enough to pull me though his run and the payoff in the end was to me often very disappointing (all this became apparent to me in a second reading of FF/F4, which I enjoyed so much less without the excitement of a possible future payoff).

    The funny thing is that I think Hickman can actually wright pretty interesting and fun moments and characters if he wants to. Especially the FF/F4 issues after all the big fighting were really good (e.g. the issue with old Ben and the final scene with Ben and Read on the couch). I wish he would do more of those great character moments.

    That being said I will still give infinity a chance. Jm Cheung is just one of my favorite artists. And especially because I read Nova and I heard that there is going to be a tie-in.

    • “But while I always felt that Morrison does so to get some point across (I mean on a metaphorical level) it always seemed to me that Hickman only does so for the sake of plot.”
      I disagree with case in point being that Hickmans entire run on Fantastic Four was a metaphor for the importance of family, what that means and how we as individuals face that. He said as much on the essay of his final issues. In fact something about Hickman using big cosmic event tends to bring out his most human writing imo. Granted we haven’t seen this yet in Avengers but if you look at Fantastic Four, Red Wing and Red Mass for Mars (his best work) they are all essentially about the bonds that we make with one another and how we are all connected, what that means and to put into the context of the infinite universe is pretty brilliant. I can understand where your perspective is coming from on some level if say you only read some of F4/FF, Manhattan Projects, Shield, Avengers ect but from my context I think his overall points and character work is pretty fantastic (no pun intended).

  12. I, too, love the phrase ‘”fortune cookie speak.” It does, all too often, sum up Hickman’s style. I would also describe his style with the more mundane “purple” as in, “It’s an Avengers world!” In truth, I do think his “New Avengers” run has been reasonably intriguing and entertaining thus far, but I keep holding out hope for “Avengers,” and I keep getting disappointed. On the whole, I don’t think Hickman’s work can hold a candle to Remender’s “Uncanny Avengers” or Gillen’s “Young Avengers.”

  13. Regardless of anyone’s opinion this will be awesome, mostly because I am a Hickman fan & there hasn’t been anything he’s done that I haven’t enjoyed. I don’t normally get any of the event series that Marvel or DC churn but this is related to the Avengers titles that Hickman does so I will be getting all six issues & love all of it!

    Hurrah!!!

  14. ‘Has the last page of a Jonathan Hickman book ever made you exclaim, “Oh, snap!”?’

    Yup. A fair few issues of SHIELD and FF. That issue of FF where Galactus turned up on the very last page? I genuinely punched the air in excitement.

  15. I can’t decide if Hickman would either be a great or a horrible Deadpool writer. That is, after all, the metric for which I judge all writers.

  16. Dammit, Jim, I’m a title-dropper, not an event-buyer!

    I can’t resuscitate my former budget just to accommodate one writer’s case of Galadorian Slo-Burn.

    /McCoy voice

  17. So, I sympathize with your intentions of transparency here, but I found your review absolutely impenetrable to someone not closely familiar with a pretty extended Marvel universe. I’m going to assume that the comic also is impenetrable to anyone who can’t really follow the review? Yes, maybe? I’ve enjoyed most of what little Hickman I’ve read—very fond of *FF*, am still ecstatic about *East of West*, not happy with the few *New Avengers* issues I’ve forced myself through—and I still have no barometer for *Infinity*. Help a newbie out!

    • Those references to old characters really don’t interrupt the story. It’s nothing you need to know to enjoy the story. You should definitely give it a go.

  18. ” although some of the dialogue is still that elevated fortune cookiespeak that distracts this reviewer and makes him stop for several minutes to imagine what the characters could possibly be like on weekends, or where they get their groceries on the barren Titanian wasteland.” I really don’t want to take shots like this for someone whose work I really like on here but when you rag on Hickmans dialogue and then rave about modern Bendis as if he hasn’t been writing all his characters with the same 4-5 voices for 10+ years that seems kind of suspect.

    • JML (@twitter.com/JoshMLabelle) says:

      The difference for me is that Bendis’s dialogue, repetitive, shticky, and same-y though it can sometimes be, seems at least mostly drawn from observation of how people actually talk. Or at least from other dialogue that was keenly observant (Mamet, Sorkin). Overplayed though some of his dialogue his, it still makes my brain-voice mimic an actual human’s voice… at least at its best.

      With Hickman’s dialogue, it seems like he has to stop for a minute every time somebody talks to cobble together a cool sounding line. There’s no flow, no sense that the line emanated from a living human being/alien/superhuman coming up with things to say in real-time. I have no problem with that in and of itself, but with Hickman the real problem is it’s frequently ponderous, portentous, and joyless. When he lets loose like in the Manhattan Projects, or for some of the kids in FF, and just makes it a bit silly, I love it and think his crisp turns of phrase are great. Other times, like with a lot of the fortune cookiespeak in Avengers so far… it’s a big turn off.

      I’m so divided on Hickman. Half the time I think he’s the best thing going in comics and love the way his brain puts stories together. I like that it’s different. But then the other half of the time I find his storytelling extremely cold and robotic. I think Avengers has mostly played to his weaknesses so far.

    • I see where you coming from. I was actually reading East of West this morning and had moments where I thought Fortune Cookie Speak as I was reading the text. With that said I read almost everything he does and those moments never take me out of the story. Maybe because those stories are so well thought out that and interesting that I just don’t notice some of his more heavy handed dialogue. As for Bendis in comparison (and really Sorkin and Mamet) that dialogue consistently takes me out of the story because it’s always the same and more over I don’t think it sounds like a human voice at all. I think it sounds like an idealized version of what they think a human voice would sound like if everybody had the same sense of humor and thought they were smarter then everybody else. Which actually represents a very small minority of people that are often delusional privileged assholes (of which Sorkin and Mamet definitely are). I think I pick apart Bendis almost every week in the comments section and I feel bad because he does do somethings really well and I’m reading all of his X-Men work. But this is a dude that prides himself and built his reputation on character dialogue who thinks Sorkin is better then Spike Lee (and Sorkin never wrote anything close to the fortune cookie speak that Denzel Washington gives to his son after he loses to him in one on one at the end of He Got Game. Let’s not even get into Do The Right Thing or 25th Hour) and his plot points are either OMG everything’s crazy, plot twist, betrayal and Dues Ex Machina. I’ll take the guy that can write dialogue as good or better sometimes but occasionally falters, gives his characters different voices and is going to make some of the most intricate storytelling this side of Grant Morrison.

  19. “Divisive Writer”?

  20. I am really torn. Loved ROM and the thought of seeing the spaceknights again in Marvel universe pages plus the Imperial Guard is a great selling point for this not so young Marvel zombie but this is still Hickman. I’ve grown to dislike or even hate his slow burn story technique. Considering this is just a prelude to something even bigger makes this even less appealing to purchase.

  21. After everything has been building up to this, I decided to pick up #1 and am going to give it a shot, even though I hate Thanos and think he’s a weak-ass Darkseid ripoff (Pro Tip: he is).

  22. Early review? Saga PotW confirmed

  23. Marvel Cosmic has been my favorite corner of comix for yrs off & on but completely my favorite under DNA’s tutelage. Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Kirby and even Peter David created amazing characters and stories for them to build off of in ways I didn’t think I would come to love so much. But it was Jim Starlins reign on the cosmic that brought me in and up to DnA.
    With this solid review (if you read it and not just look at the stars awarded) written by someone with little room for error followed by optimism, I think this review cements itself as only getting better as its footings gain momentum then cement some more.

  24. I think of Hickman as one of the best writers in the industry right now. Certainly the most hard-working. Avengers, New Avengers, East of West, Manhattan Projects, Secret, that other Image GN. And now Infinity.

    • Oh yeah he’s the greatest, the other image graphic novel? you mean Feel Better Now? Secret is back on the 28th of this month & next month through Avatar he has a 6 part mini called God is Dead!