Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Infinity 3, originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Spencer: Infinity and its tie-ins have been dripping with ego and machismo. Between the Builders, the Illuminati, Thanos, J-Son, the Galactic Council, and even some of the Avengers, there have been a lot of big words and threats thrown around, and almost all of them are strong enough to back up their words with actions (except for J-Son, of course). This isn’t necessarily a complaint; some of the coolest moments of Infinity (such as the spree of sick burns in last week’s Avengers or the Skrulls’ touching suicide mission) have sprung from this kind of machismo. It’s exciting, but in this week’s issue, writer Jonathan Hickman flips our perspective a bit, reminding us of why we probably started reading comics in the first place: its always more fun to root for the underdog.
Thanks to J-Son’s betrayal, the Ringworld of Behemoth—sanctuary of the Galactic Council—has been destroyed by the Builders. The Builders use the defeat to begin intimidating other races—including the Kree—into surrendering. With their ranks decimated, the Avengers and their allies launch one final desperate attack, and thanks to Cap’s clever plan, some tricky teleporting from Manifold, and the awakening of Starbrand, the Avengers score their first concrete victory against the Builders.
Meanwhile, on Earth, the Illuminati are distracted from the invasion by a particularly ill-timed Incursion (did’ja forget about those?). Thanos invades Attilan, but Black Bolt has already evacuated the city. The Black King defies Thanos, combing his mighty voice with his brother Maximus’ machine; the resulting explosion seemingly destroys Atiilan.
So how cool was Black Bolt’s last stand, anyway?
Honestly, this was exactly what I was hoping would happen when these two finally met. Thanos no doubt survived, but Black Bolt is no pushover, and even if he needed the extra boost from his brother’s machine, it’s nice to see Black Bolt getting to unleash his full power and having it do some real damage. Co-penciller Dustin Weaver (forgive me if I’m wrong, but I believe this page is his), along with colorist Justin Ponsor and letterer Chris Eliopoulos, really sell this scene for all its worth. We don’t need that massive explosion on the next page to know how powerful Bolt’s voice is—though its very impressive regardless—we can feel how powerful it is by the image alone.
Yet, as much as I loved this turn of events, its strangely at-odds with the events of the first half of the issue. Bolt’s tactic is one of machismo and probably a little ego as well (he went to Maximus of all people for help while shutting out Medusa and the other Inhumans), and the Avengers’ victory in space seems to be telling us that those two traits aren’t going to be what make for winners in Infinity.
Indeed, as the Builders boast, it’s Captain America’s lifetime of experience as an underdog—something neither the Shi’ar nor the Builders have any experience with—that allows the Council to gain the upper hand over the Builders.
Likewise, the Avengers instrumental in Cap’s plan are underdogs in their own right. Despite being oh so useful—and oh so dangerous—Manifold’s teleporting powers can often be overlooked, but he’s the key to this plan—and the only reason the team lived long enough pull it off in the first place. Black Widow is arguably the weakest Avenger on the team, but her skills at reading people and strategizing allowed her to realize that Starbrand needed to step up—and allowed her to talk him into doing so.
As for Starbrand, he in all possibility might be the strongest member of the team, but he’s also a scared kid, absolutely out of his element, and still struggling to control his abilities. His last second victory is really the first time he’s taken action as an Avenger, and man, what a triumphant moment is turns out to be.
I believe this is one of Jerome Opena’s pages, and he knocks it out of the park. It looks like a Star Wars poster (one of many Star Wars shout outs in Infinity), and besides being flat-out beautiful, it also helps demonstrate Kevin’s power—he literally destroys the entire Builder fleet but specifically spares his allies—as well as give him a much-needed victory. Kevin came into this series as an outcast, then as someone who was so out of control that he had to be locked up. We saw Kevin working to refine his powers, but it wasn’t until now that he could understand why he became the Starbrand, and that’s what gave him the confidence to finally take control of his abilities and do what was needed, and he was greatly rewarded for his “coming of age.”
While the Builders are far from defeated (there are three more issues, after all) it’s hard not to read Cap’s come-from-behind victory—earned through skill, strategy, and faith, not power—as a template for future wins. With that in mind, I’m a bit worried about how Black Bolt and the other Illuminati are going to fare against Thanos. The Illuminati are not used to being underdogs, but they are certainly not going to out-ego Thanos either. I would absolutely love it if these guys had to eat some humble pie in order to survive; in fact, I’m pre-heating the oven right now.
Patrick! What do you make of the Avengers’ inherent underdog-iness vs. the Illuminati’s inherent egotism? What did you think of Cap and Black Bolt’s various plans? Were you happy to finally see Starbrand step up? Did you get a nice chuckle out of the perfunctory check-ins with the Thunderbolts and the Mighty Avengers? (I did).
Patrick: Oh, I absolutely loved seeing tiny little lip-service panels to the harrowing adventures of the Thunderbolts and the Mighty Avengers. The Illuminati’s story is actually granted only slightly more real estate in this issue – the team gets about a page, just enough to let you know that they were distracted by a) looking for Thanos’ son and b) another incursion. That’s cool: we’ve got an issue of New Avengers to fill in those gaps a little bit, but the action here is much more specifically about Black Bolt. For as much as the Inhumans are popping up in everything I read, what exactly they are is still totally mysterious to me. I’m still full of questions (like “what is the deal with that giant dog?”), but watching the Inhumans march to their self-imposed exile was totally awesome.
I’m not totally sure that Black Bolt’s strategy does stem from any kind of machismo or confidence – it’s a heroic act of self-sacrifice. I don’t know what the likelihood of Black Bolt surviving that explosion is, but whatever those odds, he still destroyed his home. And for what? Maybe that killed Thanos… put as Spencer points out – we’re only halfway through this thing, so that ain’t too likely.
I gotta hand it to the art team on this one – the space battles in Infinity have always been spectacular, but these sequences are absolutely flooded with detail. When the Behemoth is destroyed in the opening pages, the carnage is rendered with heartbreaking specificity – there’s even some kind of ugly alien stuffed animal floating around out there, evoking one of my favorite recurring visual motifs from the second season of Breaking Bad*. Or, here’s another great example of a chaotic panel stuffed with so much detail and kinetic motion.
Especially as the rest of the action is space-ship heavy, it’s nice to see our our heroes dishing it out hand-to-hand like this. But, wait, what the hell? Is that Johnny Storm back there? AND HOW!? Or maybe it’s just a Skrull remembering how much he liked those powers.
I had mentioned last week that I get sort of annoyed when a character says they have a plan and then he whispers the plan to everyone else so all the characters get to keep a fun little secret from me. It’s not a huge deal, but I still felt like I was in the dark for much of this issue – and the hopping around between various identical highjacked Builder ships (that our characters teleported into) didn’t do much to ameliorate my confusion. There’s a moment during the battle where Banner Hulks-Out, and I’m not entirely sure to what end… Or even if it’s a good thing or a bad thing in that moment.
Hickman is so good at juggling so many characters at once that I think he occasionally gets cocky and just throws one more in there because he’s sure he’ll figure it out. To his credit, 9 times out of 10, I’m cheering my heroes and not raising a perplexed eyebrow.
Holy shit – there’s a flaming fist in the bottom right corner of that Starbrand image you posted. Is the Human Torch fighting with the Avengers? What’s going on here? I demand answers.
*Quick apologies to anyone that’s not watching Breaking Bad right now. It turns like we’re using the show as a frame of reference for… just about everything right now. Look, it’s just so fucking good. Also, between the DC Villain month, Superior Spider-Man, and the TMNT: Microseries Villains, there are an awful lot of bad guys to discuss and Walter White might just be the most well-realized bad guy in fiction.
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?