Today, Spencer and Ethan are discussing Infinity 4, originally released October 9th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Spencer: As children, most of us swear we won’t grow up to be our parents. Maybe we just hate the way they nag us, or maybe there’s a more serious fault of theirs we’re trying to avoid; either way, while it’s possible to avoid our parents’ faults, more often than not we end up repeating those exact same mistakes we once declared we’d never make. Poor Thane—the half-Inhuman son of Thanos—has more reason than most to endeavor to never become his father, but unfortunately, it turns out he may be more like the Mad Titan than he ever feared.
Deep in space, the Avengers prepare to surrender to the Builders on Hala, the Builder-Controlled home of the Kree. Captain America sends his best negotiator, but when that turns out to be Thor rather than Shang Chi, it’s obvious there’s a trick up the good captain’s sleeve. Thor “disarms” by launching his hammer into space, but it turns out he actually sent it into orbit, and as the Builder demeans Thor, Mjolnir returns like a boomerang and impales the Builder. The newly-liberated Kree return to the Galactic Council, giving them the firepower needed to enact the next stage of Cap’s plan.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Thanos and Black Bolt both emerge from the wreckage of Attilan and duke it out, with Thanos ultimately proving victorious. It turns out, however, that Bolt and Maximus’ bomb wasn’t meant to destroy Thanos, but instead to unleash Terrigan into the atmosphere, instantly causing any human with even a hint of Inhuman DNA in their system to immediately transform, evolving into a new, super-powered state. For Thane, the gentle healer and son of Thanos, this transformation is a hellish ordeal that ends up reducing his village—and everyone in it—to ashes.
In my review of Infinity 3, I initially theorized that Black Bolt’s suicide attack showed hints of ego, what with him facing Thanos alone, going to Maximus of all people for help, and shutting out Medusa and the other Inhumans, but waffled a bit in the comments as I realized that it was actually more of a heroic sacrifice. In this issue I am equally conflicted. On the one hand, Bolt’s plan is more impressive than ever. Bolt sacrificed not only his home, but possibly even his life in order to allow his fellow Inhumans to gain access to their full power. It’s an infinitely clever move that serves multiple goals—allowing both the general Inhuman populace and Thanos’ target in particular, his son Thane, to better defend themselves—but I’m still uneasy about Bolt’s methods, and that’s largely because of one reason: Poor, poor Thane.
It’s hard not to like Thane, not to empathize with him. He’s such a sweet, gentle soul (whether by nature or because of a desire to be everything Thanos isn’t), and that makes it all the more painful when his Terrigenesis literally brings his greatest nightmare to life.
Notice that it isn’t even Thane’s Inhuman powers that cause the destruction; while his brethren transform within a cocoon, Thane’s metamorphosis take the form of a deadly, fiery explosion that obliterates everything and everyone he has ever known. It’s obvious that, no matter how hard he tried to deny it, some part of Thanos’ nature lurks within him.
So yeah, that’s why I can’t fully endorse Black Bolt’s plan. I don’t envy the tough choices he’s had to make, and I fully believe that he did the best he could, but this plan might have done more harm than good. Thane could still very well fall to Thanos, but if he survives, he’ll be riddled with guilt for the rest of his life. I’d guess that Thane would have rather have sacrificed his life to Thanos than watch his village die. Is this simply a sacrifice Bolt wasn’t willing to make, or is there some grander reason Bolt’s protecting Thane that we still aren’t privy to? I’m not sure, but between Thane’s heartbreaking story and the immensely satisfying brawl between Bolt and Thanos, I’m more invested than ever in discovering the answers.
Thor’s defeat of the Builder was another fist-pumping moment of triumph, but the most interesting aspects of the Avengers’ portion of this issue to me were some of the points the Builder himself brought up.
While this is the most frank writer Jonathan Hickman’s been with it, the idea of Earth and humanity as a narrative has been around since the beginning of his Avengers’ run, when Ex Nihilo and Abyss set out to judge humanity and, if necessary, rewrite them. Here the Builders are setting themselves up as creators and authors, frustrated and possibly even scared of what their creations have become, and humanity, led by the Avengers, are a story that refuses to die. I can’t help but to be reminded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes or L. Frank Baum with his series of Oz books; those authors wanted nothing more than to leave their creations behind and let them die, but their fan-base and possibly even the characters themselves wouldn’t let it happen. What a literary way to express the perseverance of the human spirit; I love it.
This, meanwhile, makes me more curious than ever about why the Builders want Earth destroyed. The fact that Earth threatens “every universe” makes me think of the Incursion threat over in Hickman’s New Avengers—a collision of two Earths that threatens to destroy both universes. Are the Incursions why the Builders want to destroy Earth? Are they somehow humanity’s fault? For all their arrogance and malice, could the Builders actually have a point?!
Ethan, do any of my theories make any sense to you, or do you have your own ideas? What do you make of poor Thane and his deadbeat dad? And hey, isn’t it awesome that Thor’s attack is basically just an intergalactic upgrade of his teammate Clint’s boomerang arrow?
Ethan: Oooo, I like your comparison of the Builders to famous authors who wish that everyone would just forget their past works. Or to make a cinematic reference, the George Clooney feels about the Batman & Robin film. “We don’t talk about that film” he says, when reporters ask him about it. But at least Clooney is a good sport about it, and smiles when he says it. The Builders take a rather more strident tone when it comes to humanity. Up until now, I’d have said they were more arrogant than malicious in their communication, but the Builder who chats with Thor really lets loose. Check out the purple alien-spittle the guy produces in the course of his rant in your image above. That does NOT look healthy, for the Builder or for Thor’s fancy metal hat.
As for Thane and his transformation from an All-American down-home caterpillar into the fiery, scaly butterfly, I’ll admit I actually had to read those pages twice. At first, I was kind of thinking/hoping that the Terrigen mists were the real culprit for killing Thane’s friends and neighbors – maybe they just couldn’t handle the mutagen? But no, it’s pretty clearly Thane’s fault, sucks to be him. I wasn’t quite as moved by the pathos of his situation, though. First, the rushed introduction of his character left him pretty darn one-dimensional: he’s a kind village healer, good with kids, lean build and friendly features. And I bet he never speaks an ill word of others, doesn’t gamble and never drinks. Ugh. Yes, ok, he’s god’s gift to the world, he doesn’t have any flaws that we get to see, and therefore I don’t respect him as a real person. The big twist, then, that the healer responsible for keeping the people around him in good health is the one who’s violent metamorphosis results in all of their deaths, is just the icing on the fake-cake. Sorry, it was just too heavy-handed of an attempt to jerk some tears for my taste.
Regarding your mixed feelings about Black Bolt’s strategy to drop Attilan into the ocean just offshore from New York City, I am completely on-board the Ambivalent Express.
Yes, Mr. Strong-And-Silent-Type empowered countless people to better defend Earth, and he specifically amped-up Thane to better resist his homicidal father, but… well, that tidal wave doesn’t look too friendly, and those falling skyscrapers probably had some people in them. That level of destruction on an innocent metropolis is usually the work of a villain with really pointy eyebrows, not a superhero king. Couldn’t Black Bolt have fired up the thrusters and pushed Attilan a bit further out to sea? Maybe Thanos would have seen what he was doing and called off the meet, but I’m not sure that balances Black Bolt’s books. He’s a member of the Illuminati, an organization that is especially concerned with the continued well-being of Earth and all of its inhabitants, and if an impartial third-party nonprofit body was giving him a score-card for his performance this time around, I have to think he’d get a nice, fat, red, F. We’re only shown the wreckage as a bunch of debris – you don’t see any severed arms or compound-fractured legs lying around, not even a panicked citizen narrowly escaping a chunk of falling concrete – so the creators seem to be giving Black Bolt at least a bit of slack on this one, but it was a little jarring, and makes the question “was it worth it?” all the more difficult to answer. Due to his silence and Inhuman nature, Black Bolt’s a bit harder to read and it’s therefore harder to form expectations about what he’s going to do. I think that remove makes his horrific action here seem a little less intense, but imagine if the perpetrator of the catastrophe were someone like Reed Richards. The action would be so counter to his personality and priorities – I can’t see him doing it.
Speaking of Black Bolt, I’d actually expected his personal reply to Thanos’s demands to be a bit more forceful (pun intended). I mean, check out the gale-force winds he’s kicking up as he screams his defiance:
My understanding of Black Bolt’s voice is that it has the destructive force of WOW multiplied by YOWZA taken to the power of WHAM-O. More specificallly, his voice has been compared to nuclear weaponry. The speech centers of his brain produce some kind of field that manipulates electrons. He has the power to stream a torrent of elementary particles in your general direction just by thinking about small talk. How the heck is Thanos still standing after that assault? How does he force his hand against that onslaught to cover Black Bolt’s mouth? The only answers I can come up with are “Thanos is a big, scary alien” and “Thanos’s helmet has funny little circular, metal ear-caps that serve as sonic dampeners.” Like the Thane thing, I kind of wish we hadn’t been given such a direct confrontation between Black Bolt and Thanos, because it seems to cheapen Black Bolt’s unspeakable power (heh) without accomplishing any really significant narrative goals, other than “Thanos is a big, scary alien who REALLY wants to know where his son is.”
I’ve been a bit critical of this issue, but truth be told, I think it was a ton of fun. The Infinity arc is ambitious beyond measure, and while it takes some shortcuts that give me pause, I recognize that there’s only so much you can do in a handful of pages, and I appreciate the story that’s being told. The space-opera vibe the Builders bring to the table is terrific, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
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?