Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Avengers 22, originally released October 30th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Mikyzptlk: Infinity has been, well, infinite in is ability to dish out issue after issue of Epic Space Battles and a slew of intergalactic threats. For the most part though, I’ve been a bit let down by the lack of the smaller character moments that I love to see in my superhero funnies. Jonathan Hickman seems poised to give me exactly what I want in Avengers 22, while gearing up for his conclusion to the Infinity event.
The Avengers are coming home! It seems as if Smasher and Cannonball are celebrating this fact when Sunspot interrupts their makeout session. Sunspot is surprised, but there is no time for reactions as Captain America has called for a “rally the troops” type of meeting. Cap explains what Thanos has been up to while they’ve all been away. Cap and company develop a plan of attack involving superheroes, spaceships, and…more superheroes and spaceships. Looks like the gang’s all here.
Confession time: I actually took a break from Jonathan Hickman’s various Avengers books shortly before the events of Infinity began to take off. I had been enjoying his Avengers and New Avengers for the most part, as I felt the concepts he was introducing were intriguing and on a fairly epic scale. I supposed I stopped reading his books because I knew that DC’s Forever Evil event was around the corner, and I just wasn’t ready for another Big Comic Book Event. When I learned I was to write about Avengers 22, I knew that I had some catching up to do. Marathoning Infinity has been an interesting and somewhat entertaining experience, but, throughout the event, I haven’t been able to stop myself from thinking back to what Tony Stark said back in issue 1 of Infinity.
I can’t imagine that Hickman was saying that he was getting tired with his own story, but Tony’s remarks of tiring of “end of the world scenarios” is something that has stuck with me throughout the entirety of the Infinity event. A part of this is most certainly due to event fatigue. However, I think the bigger problem lays elsewhere. This is a problem that I’ve seen since this the beginning of the event, in that the story is so huge that the characters have become lost in the shuffle.
The majority of this event has been primarily about creating a plan of attack and then…attacking. Sure, the Avengers are in space, and sure, they are working with a ton of alien cultures and long time enemies to get the job done. Tons of heroes, tons of villains, and tons of explosions should be exactly what the doctor ordered. However, I’ve felt mostly disconnected from this series because its all been a bit too surgical and sterile with facts and figures thrown at me minus any emotional backing. I’m not saying that there hasn’t been characterization to be found in this event (both with the heroes and villains), but the majority of it has been swallowed up by the magnitude of the plot.
The reason I’m talking about Infinity as a whole is because it ties in directly with how I feel about Avengers 22. Yes, believe it or not, I’m supposed to be talking about that issue specifically. So let’s do that. As I said, the issue begins with this.
It’s nice to see that during all of the Epic Space Battles things like this have been developing. I like these characters well enough, and I’m happy for them. The only problem is, we, as readers, have not been seeing their story unfold. The story of Infinity has been preoccupied with the bigger picture to the extent that we’ve missed out on smaller moments like two heroes falling in love. To me, this feels like Hickman realizing his omission, but it’s too little, too late. Since my attention has been directed towards the large set pieces, I’m not emotionally involved in this revelation. That said, I suppose it’s possible that Hickman plans on using this reveal to pay off emotionally somewhere else. Until then, this is all just facts and figures.
That said, this issue does have one emotional saving grace in the interaction between Thor and Eden. Captain America’s plan to take Earth back from Thanos involves Eden in a major way. Eden, exhausted from his encounters with the Builders, is weary of plan. Cap tries to give Eden one of his patented pep talks, except he fails miserably. I can’t blame the guy as he has a lot on his mind, but Thor notices Eden’s continued distress and offers words of encouragement of his own.
Look, this may just be one moment, and hell, it’s only one page, but Hickman provides the best example of what this series has needed more of in my opinion: small character moments that show just how important these characters are to each other, and show that, in the end, Gods, aliens, and super soldiers alike are all just people trying to make it one day at a time. Even if that means trying to save the entire universe.
So Spencer, how did you feel about this issue? Were you glad to take a break from the Epic Space Battles like I was? Did Thor’s speech energize you for the upcoming conclusion to this event? Did you need any energizing at all? Lay it on me.
Spencer: Thor’s speech is fantastic—there’s a reason I chose him as my Avengers “mentor” back when we discussed Issue 12—but to be completely honest, I feel like I need a little more energizing after reading this issue than I did before. The cliffhanger at the end of Infinity 5—the Avengers ready to take back their planet—had me all pumped up, but I feel like spending most of an issue planning that attack instead of just jumping into it has robbed it of some tension and excitement, especially since so many of those details feel inconsequential. I hate to say it, but I kind of glazed over the entire middle portion of this issue.
All the planning, and particularly the focus on breaking through Thanos’ defenses, feels especially superfluous when the Avengers count a very powerful teleporter among their ranks. I can understand why the Avengers would take the Quinjets into space instead of having Manifold teleport them—if something happens to him, how would they get back?—but it seems like this issue spends an inordinate amount of time detailing how the Avengers will return while I’m just sitting there muttering “use Manifold!” under my breath, growing more frustrated with each panel.
I understand that the defenses Thanos has established will have to be taken down at some point, and perhaps Manifold has some sort of weaknesses we aren’t privy to—although Hickman has never shown us that Manifold has any limit on where he can teleport, how often he can do it, or how many people or objects he can move—but I’m mostly just annoyed that the bulk of the issue is spent addressing a problem that isn’t all that important in the first place. Just the fact that we’re discovering Cap’s plans ahead of time in the first place feels unexciting in its own right; it’d be much more interesting to watch those plans unfold on their own when the attack actually happens.
Really, then, the character interactions are left to carry the issue, and despite their brevity, they almost pull it off. That Thor scene is a classic; Hickman truly has an exquisite handling of the character. I loved the scene with Smasher, Cannonball, and Sunspot as well; I’ve actually been looking forward to seeing these guys, as Hickman has been planting clues about this potential love triangle for quite a while now. I’m also intrigued to find out whether Bobby actually is cool with it, or if he really is resentful of his friends.
I legitimately can’t tell which emotion is the act here.
As much as I enjoyed this scene, though, I have to agree with my buddy Mik up there that this plotline lacks an emotional connection, and is weaker because of it. Sure we’ve seen some knowing looks between these two, but we haven’t seen their relationship grow; why do Sam and Isabel even like each other? Why does Isabel prefer Sam to Bobby in the first place? I mean, those two have basically been treated as a single unit throughout the course of this series, but still, Bobby’s usually been portrayed as the more suave and composed of the two while Sam comes across as his hunky-but-slightly-dim-farmboy sidekick; before this issue I assumed she’d be into Bobby. Then it hit me: Izzy grew up on a farm too, so of course she’s into Sam.
It’s a lot of fun to make those connections, but it’s all subtext, and the storyline—as well as the issue itself—is weaker for not allowing us to go on that journey with the characters. For that matter, I think it makes Infinity as a whole weaker; this crossover has been excellent at building up threats to the Earth, other planets, and perhaps even the entire universe, but when stakes that high are coming one after another, it can be easy to lose sight of what they mean to our protagonists, and that’s been a weakness of Infinity’s from the very start, especially in regards to this space storyline.
Now I absolutely hate to gripe about how I feel an issue should have gone—analyzing what actually happened is usually so much more interesting and enjoyable—but this is one case where I kind of feel like I have to. Wouldn’t this issue have felt much more compelling if it simply slowed down and showed us how the various Avengers felt about their battle in space and the upcoming battle for Earth? I think it would have been a huge help in humanizing the events of Infinity (and I know Hickman is capable of wonderful characterization when he wants to be, so it always disappoints me when he passes up the opportunity).
I still think that Infinity has been a fun, exciting event—especially in its flagship series—but that doesn’t mean it’s without flaws, and this issue highlights many of the event’s biggest weaknesses. It’s not a terrible issue by any means, but it feels inconsequential to Infinity as a whole, and when the story is this close to the end and juggling this many plot-lines and characters, the last thing we need is an inconsequential tie-in.
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