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Infinity is ambitious and confusing but beautifully drawn.
Looking at July's sales figures, I was struck by the sales disparity between the first three chapters of DC's Trinity War event. Whereas the crossover's first chapter, Justice League #22, sold over 110,000 copies to retailers, Justice League Dark #22, the third chapter of the event, sold only 61,500. If ICv2's figures (or at least their ratios) are remotely accurate, only 56% of readers who read the first chapter of the event would have access to the third chapter. It's an odd little statistic, one that speaks to the inherent flaw of multi-title crossover events: If retailers don't significantly increase their orders, the readership is screwed.
Infinity, Marvel's new event by Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung, takes the other approach to the crossover event story. In many ways, Infinity acts as a reward of sorts to those who have followed and understood the last year's worth of Hickman comics, a problematic flaw considering that Infinity will reach twice as many readers as New Avengers and Avengers. It's an interesting inverse to DC's Trinity War, which sees readers potentially missing out on later chapters of the book. With Infinity, if you're not one of the 60,000 currently following New Avengers and Avengers, you're likely to be a little lost.
Even those who have read Hickman's Avengers series might have trouble with Infinity. A lot happens in the 64 page first chapter. Infinity is very much a space opera, with brave Spaceknights, alien kings and dark heralds. However, even with the increased page count, there's an odd disconnect between scenes, which made me wonder if my copy was missing pages. Despite Jim Cheung's flawless art and layouts that efficiently pushed a ton of plot and information of the readers, the book was clunky and hard to read at points.
In addition, I felt that Hickman set too grand of a stage, which renders the bulk of his cast obsolete. While Hickman creations Ex Nihilo, Starbrand and Captain Universe as well as the Inhumans are sure to play a large part in the event, it's unclear what role the rest of Marvel's heroes will play. How is a character like Hawkeye (who is struggling against a group of Russian mobsters in his own series) is supposed to be useful in a grand space battle against universal powers? Why would Captain America send the Black Widow or the Falcon to fight a grand battle in space, knowing that there's little chance of their skills being utilized? That's a question that's bugged me throughout his Avengers run, and one that doesn't get any sort of answer in Infinity.
Technically, Infinity is a step above the average superhero comic. Cheung shows off his masterful alien designs. His pencils, teamed wih Mark Morales' inks and Justin Ponsor's colors, are breathtaking and make the book a pleasure to read, even if you don't have any idea what's going on in the scenes. Even the letters, provided by Chris Eliopolous and Joe Caramagna, contribute to the grand event feel of the book, especially with the nifty title pages that pop up every eighth page or so. Say what you want about the plot, but Marvel does know how to make a very pretty looking event comic.
If you're a fan of Hickman's Marvel series, I suspect you'll be a fan of Infinity. It demands a lot of readers, perhaps a little too much, but it's certainly a contrast to the dumb fisticuffs driven events that's plagued Marvel over the last couple of years. If you can stomach the disconnected storytelling and the constant feeling you're missing something, Infinity #1 is probably worth the $4.99 price tag.
Written or Contributed by Christian Hoffer
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