Today, Ethan and Patrick are discussing Infinity 2, originally released September 4th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Ethan: Space operas tend to share a few common traits. The first is that they usually happen in space (surprise!). Next, they make some assumptions about technology, concerning themselves with the adventures that take place between the stars rather than the history of how their characters came to be able to travel across the galaxy. Some involve enormous space battles, and many feature a tightly knit band or bands of characters fighting back against monolithic forces of evil. I’m still trying to decide if the Infinity arc fits the bill of a space opera rather than just a standard sci-fi story, but Infinity #2 certainly provides a lot more evidence towards the former than the previous issue did. The heroic attempt by the galactic alliance of good-guys to halt the Builder onslaught didn’t pan out so well, so now they’re licking their wounds and trying to find a new way to survive.
Abigail Brand and Sydren arrive at the SWORD Peak power relay substation to repel a strike force sent by Thanos, only to discover that its core systems have been compromised, just as an enemy fleet arrives at Earth. Thanos’s generals proceed to wreak havoc, seizing the Jean Grey School, Atlantis, and even breaching the Sanctum Sanctorum and hypnotizing Doctor Strange. Some holdouts remain – Black Panther and the warriors of Wakanda fight back, Reed Richards and Tony Stark direct defensive actions from Avengers Tower, and the floating Inhuman capital Attilan remains unscathed. Corvus Glaive brings an ultimatum to Attilan – kill all Inhumans between the ages of 16 and 22, and be spared by Thanos. Meanwhile, elements of the Galactic Council that survived the battle at The Corridor regroup above a farming planet, Whaan Prime. A small Builder battlegroup arrives and is defeated by the allies, who choose to stand their ground. The Builders have the last word, though, sending an Ex Nihilo named Jerran Ko to poison the agricultural planet by committing suicide, turning himself into a bio-bomb that spreads a cloud of disease and decay across the entire surface. The alliance rescues what token portion of the population that they can, before watching the rest die a slow, painful death. Back on Attilan, Black Bolt summons a conference of the Illuminati to share the news of Corvus Glaive’s ultimatum. He also entrusts them with a copy of the Inhumans’ classified records, which he says contains information that Thanos is after. Specifically, Black Bolt believes that Thanos is coming to Earth to find his (Thanos’s) son.
So the Infinity event continues, and this issue was a welcome change of pace. I never thought I’d say it, but thank god we’re done with the nonstop epic space battles set against a backdrop of giant, reality-gobbling singularities. If Marvel had a rich history of well developed, innovative sci-fi technology and in-depth explorations of the mysteries and horrors of deep space, an arc about space ships and stars would be great. But Marvel does caped crusaders, so it wasn’t. Thankfully, we’re back to zeroing in on the people and their place in the narrative, with the space stuff as a bonus.
Oddly, I found myself connecting more with the individuals on the side of the Builders, rather than our standard heroes. First, there was the momentary glimpse of Corvus Glaive’s sense of humor in the court at Attilan:
Glaive is unquestionably one mad, bad, sicko, but this random moment where he cracks a joke – while gazing lovingly into the razor-sharp edge of his Cosmic-Murder Halberd from Hell – was wonderful. It made me stop seeing him as a flat, disgusting killer and gave me hope that he might turn out to be a deeper and more interesting, disgusting killer. Unlike his opening dig at Black Bolt – “perhaps he is a king of little stature. A tiny king of a small, irrelevant kingdom” – this moment, along with a few others during his audience, made me see Glaive as a thinking person who also happens to be a really bad one. He’s got plenty of ego, but he doesn’t think he’s invincible. He’s a willing, almost joyous, harbinger and executor of doom, but he can’t resist the occasional wisecrack in the middle of the blander business of the actual doomsaying.
The second sympathetic character on the “wrong” side of the fight was Jerran Ko, an Ex Nihilo, gardener of life in all its forms. His duty in this war, while a heavy one, seems to be primarily about making a point: the Builders wield terrifying powers, and they do not hesitate to use them.
In powerful contrast to Glaive, Jerran Ko seems to be a more virtuous or peaceful soul who is thrust into the role of doing something which is neither. He is not happy about what he does. We don’t know if that’s because he is merciful by nature and dislikes the conflict and killing of innocent civilians, or whether he disagrees with the larger goals of the war. What we do know is that he exists only to nurture and advance Life, in so many various species and on so many worlds as to render the meaning of Life as an abstract, eternal, inviolable thing. Sometimes the gardeners must prune or train those under their care, but always and ever the goal is the same. More diversity, more endurance, more vitality, more Life. In reversing his fundamental cause and creed – brilliantly mirrored by Ponsor’s inversion of the colors of Jerran Ko’s body – the Ex Nihilo’s suicide draws an ugly curtain of death over a beautiful, thriving world. I wonder why he did it, in the end. What tipped the scales for him? Against the vast backdrop of his purpose, mere orders, or pressure, or threats from his superiors seem weak. Maybe there is some crystal of meaning at the heart of who the Builders are and why they are on their crusade that overrides even the gardener’s enshrinement of Life, to the extent that he is finally willing to become its opposite. Maybe it’s just narrative necessity, but I will choose to believe it’s something more.
Patrick, now that we’re back down to the scale of actual people, did you find these or any of the other characters especially compelling? And do you have a theory about Black Bolt’s cryptic reference to Thanos looking for his son?
Patrick: I have no idea who Thanos’ son could be, but boy howdy do I feel bad for that kid. I don’t know if you read any of Thanos Rising, but it details the childhood, adolesence and maturity of Thanos, and the one constant in his life seems to be brutally murdering those that love him. It’s sort of oppressive in its darkness: recommend with reservations.
And actually, that’s how I’d measure the other dimension you’re asking about, Ethan. “Oppressive in its darkness: recommend with reservations.” It is fascinating to get a clearer image of what motivates and drives our aggressors. Jerran Ko’s moment of ennui is beautifully realized – I love that he seeks the counsel of the Aleph accompanying him, even though he knows damn well that the thing is just going to advise him to follow orders. Further, he has a little existential meltdown, asking his robot friend if he believes in the afterlife. Let’s pump the brakes there for a second, and remember how frequently the Builders are referred to as gods. Even without the very explicit conversation between Ex Nihilo and the Majestor, the symbolism as been clear throughout – I mean, come on, the when Ex Nihilo first made Nightmask, they called him “Adam.” Your Genesis references don’t get much more blatant than that.
I guess I really like that division of divine labor. The builders may be responsible for guiding evolution and creating life throughout the galaxy, but that doesn’t make them any wise when it comes to death, which they still fear. For a character we spend all of six panels with, it’s a surprisingly potent idea.
On the flip side of that is Corvus Glaive and the small band of warriors that deliver Thanos’ message to the Inhumans. Ethan, you might have been moved by Corvus’ joke, but then I trust you were shocked back in to hating his everloving guts when he had his guard demonstrate how they are unmoved by the threat of death. I mean, Jesus, that is hardcore. It’s almost as hardcore as the reveal about what The Tribute is. As a symbolic gesture, making a kingdom slaughter everyone between the ages of 16 and 22 is absolutely horrifying, and it paints Thanos as a genuinely terrifying threat, and not just the generic kind that “conquers worlds” — whatever that might mean. It’s actually sort of a bummer to read by issue’s end that Black Bolt understands the reason Thanos states this age range is to target an individual. If Thanos just didn’t give a fuck about people, and wanted them to do something horrible to their own subjects, that would make him much much scarier. This way, he just seems to be prudent.
Also, come on Thanos — 16 to 22? Had a wild couple of years, can’t remember when exactly it was you sired a son. Look, was he born before Kurt Cobain killed himself or after? Surely you know that much.
But enough talk about the villains of this piece. There are heroes too. The two heroes on display are some of the deeper cuts from Avengers and New Avengers, and while I like them both, neither Ex Nihilo nor Black Bolt actually does anything in this issue. I suppose it’s too early for either group to make substantial strides in fighting their enemy, but it’s frustrating to see them both reduced reaction. Black Bolt at least comes up with half a plan — and then we get to see him talk through it, which is awesome in and of itself — but poor Ex Nihilo knows just enough to announce when they’re absolutely fucked.
I’ll tell you what this issue makes me irrationally excited for – it’s the tie-in issues for this month. Those couple panels of Hyperion and Thor zipping around that garden planet and saving the day were awesome, and this event could use some fun positive heroics right now.
Look at Thor nonchalantly spinning his hammer while rescuing a baby. He’s so cool!
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?