Today, Ethan and Spencer are discussing Infinity 6, originally released November 27th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Ethan: When I was starting college, I knew – objectively – that I would at some point no longer be a student; I’d graduate, get a job, do the adulthood thing. But at the time, steeped in the day-to-day evasion of and frantic return to schoolwork, hanging out with friends, sleeping as little as possible, the thought if college actually ending rarely crossed my mind. And then BAM it was time to get up to go to the early-morning rehearsal for the graduation ceremony. College was finished, I was moving into a new apartmen and starting a new job. That sense of disconnect – when something long awaited feels as though it happens and is shoved into the past before we have the chance to actually experience – is the same feeling I’ve gotten during most of the turning points in the Infinity event, and the same is true of its finale.
The SWORD station and its surrounding barricade enemy ships bypassed, Captain America’s strike team crash lands near their destination: Thanos and his son. As they head towards the target, Iron Man and the Illuminati face-off against Supergiant and the her mind-controlled puppet, Black Bolt. Bolt’s mad brother Maximus shows up with Lockjaw just in time to teleport Supergiant and the fully armed planet-killer bomb to a different, not-Earth-so-who-really-cares planet where the bomb does its thing and destroys the alien planet and Supergiant both. Back on Earth, Cap’s team of heavy hitters meet their match against Thanos, Corvus Glaive, and Proxima Midnight. Just as Thanos and his posse are kicking the last bits of tar out of the heroes, Ebony Maw plays his hand by releasing Thanos’s son, Thane. Thane accepts his bloody destiny by unleashing his powers on his father, sealing him in an amber block of living death.
If your reaction to all this is “Welp! I guess that’s that!” then we are on the same page. I know I’m biased by this point since we’ve spent so much time talking about our attempts and failures to really connect with this storyline, but I honestly think this issure really is just more of the same. Here’s the pinnacle, here’s the showdown, here’s the big finish: the big bomb neatly vanishes to Anywhere Else before it blows up, and Thanos’s son kills his dad, just like Hickman told us he would back when we first met Thane.
Here’s the thing: both of those actions are completely reasonable in the context of the story. Manifold’s been ‘porting things and people around the whole time, and if you can’t stop a huge explosion, the next best idea is to make it happen somewhere else. Totally makes sense. And a Super-Big Bad like Thanos is going leave a Super-Big power vacuum, so it’s a nice little quirk that his pacifist son ends up being the one to fill his shoes, all because he wanted to do the right thing by saving the heroes and putting Thanos out of commission. A flavor of Greek tragedy, that: to save lives in a crucial moment, you have to accept that lives will be lost in the future, you can’t escape your destiny, etc etc. The same is true of the way the Builders were defeated: Hickman had built them up as such a terrifyingly unstoppable force, it was going to take one hell of a Deus poking its head out of the Machina to save the day, and how apropos that their destroyer would also be the focus of their worship, Captain Universe.
Disclaimer: I’ve enjoyed plenty of conversations, fight scenes, and beautiful art along the way. In the small moments, the down-time, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s when we’ve confronted the biggest, most consequential, most threatening points in time that this series seemed to want to tie everything up in a bow within 2-3 pages. As if to say, “Wanna see a trick? I can pull off my thumb! Annnd there it’s back on again! Magic!” Each one has included some nicely packaged pseudo-coincidence that makes it kind of neat, but it’s not what I would call dramatic, or moving. Given that there’s some terrific storytelling to be found in superhero comics, I don’t think it would have been too much to ask for a more time spent on the resolution of each of these victories, and perhaps less time putting all of the pieces in place for predictable, flashy irony.
But hey! At least we got more rocket cameos.
Spencer, I suspect I’m preaching to the choir here when it comes to being bemused at the turns this arc has taken (and how over-use of the teleportation concept is evidence of the moral decay of our society), but what did you think of the epilogue? What do you think the Illuminati is planning to do with their life-size Thanos action figure? Would you be willing to take a vacation on Praxis-2 “Annihilation World” if it meant that you got to be on a reality show about it?
Spencer: Reality shows don’t really appeal to me anyway, and one set on Annihilation World would likely be one of those varieties that kills off the losing contestants, so I think I’ll be taking a pass on that vacation. That new Ex Nihili planet with the giant tree looks like a pleasant place to spend a week, though, even if it is a tad Avatar-ish.
Anyway, Ethan, I’ll get to the epilogue in a bit. First, I just want to say that I agree with most of what you had to say about this issue, but despite all that, I just really, really enjoyed this one. Part of why I’m so pleased with it is because of how tightly it focuses on the Avengers/Illuminati; the other intergalactic forces get their moment to shine and their stories resolved in the epilogue, but our heroes from Earth are the focus of most of the action, and some of the more minor Avengers are allowed to carry the battle exposition in a way that only the two Captains have prior to this point:
There are plenty of other little moments that make this issue feel genuine, such as Black Widow playing mission commander on the Peak, the painfully-passive Doctor Strange finally taking a stand, and Namor shielding Beast from Black Bolt’s voice; there hasn’t been a lot of space for small character beats like this throughout Infinity, and they do wonders to make this giant story feel even just the tiniest bit more grounded.
The action itself is probably the biggest draw of this issue. Infinity has featured a lot of massive space battles, but — besides a few stand-out scenes — very little in the way of hand-to-hand. This issue fixes that by devoting the bulk of its space to the final brawl between the Cull Obsidian and the Avengers, and its one for the record books. The expanded page count allows room to watch the battle unfold in detail, and I literally cannot remember the last time I saw a fight this bombastic in an American comic. Pencillers Jim Cheung and Dustin Weaver — plus the rest of their art team — deserve much credit for bringing these fights to life, whether its creating the spectacle of Hyperion blowing Corvus Glaive to bits with his heat vision or simply allowing us to feel the weight behind Thor’s hits.
Still, perhaps the biggest boon for these fight scenes is the fact that the Cull Obsidian are such well-developed antagonists. Thanks to the Cull’s distinct personalities and power-sets, the match-ups never feel boring; instead, the inventive abilities make things more engaging.
Sure, Thanos smacking Hulk across the page is shocking and exciting, but Proxima Midnight’s gravity spear and Corvus’ atom-splitting Glaive are threats we’ve never seen Hulk face before, which I find much more interesting than just watching Hulk duke it out with somebody physically stronger than him.
Likewise, the personalities of the Cull provide insight into the kind of people Thanos associates with, be it sadists like Glaive or Midnight or simply someone like Supergiant, someone who was discarded and broken and in need of help, but instead received only Thanos. Then there’s Ebony Maw, who is easily the most interesting of these villains to me.
Maw is the weakest of the Cull Obsidian, yet he’s the only one who escapes this fight unscathed, and it’s only because he’s manipulative and cunning. He sees in Thane somebody not only more powerful than his current boss, but also someone much easier to control; Thane is the perfect weapon for Maw, so why wouldn’t he betray Thanos? In an issue filled with epic brawls among some of the most powerful sluggers in the Marvel universe, it’s intriguing that the character who comes out ahead of everyone does so through nothing but his own cunning.
Of course, with all this space spent on fight scenes and resolving the threat of Thanos, there’s really no room to further explore the upcoming end of the universe that put much of Infinity — especially the Builders story — into motion. I can see why that would be a major failing, but since that plot began in New Avengers, perhaps it’s better left explored there. What I like about how Infinity ended — here’s that epilogue you mentioned, Ethan — is how it left the rest of the Marvel universe. While the immediate threats of Infinity — Thanos and the Builders — have been eliminated, the universe has still been changed in ways that will affect stories for a long time to come, but these changes aren’t the kind that will disrupt what other writers are doing in their books. We aren’t skipping ahead a year, nobody died, and most of the major upheaval is in space; what a refreshing way to end a major crossover!
I’m not saying Infinity was perfect; I’ve done more than my fair share of griping about the event. I do think there are aspects it fumbled but also aspects it excelled in, and I feel like this issue focused more on Infinity‘s strengths, allowing the series to go out with a bang. When I think back to Infinity, I hope I remember the thrill of this issue, and not the glut of spaceship battles or redundant tie-ins.
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?