by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
“In a life of weird experiences, this one is up there.”
-Bruce Banner, Infinity Wars 4
In the quote above, Bruce Banner is referring to the experience of having his soul un-merged from Scott Lang’s by the combined magics / telepathies of Loki and a Power Stone-wielding Emma Frost in the barren wastes of Soul World. It’s a jumble of virtually impenetrable Marvel Universe jargon, but it’s also sort of the appeal of the event as a whole. The Infinity Warps issues that have spun out of this story are sold almost entirely on the wackiness of the premise: a Captain America Doctor Strange hybrid! A Moon Knight Spider-Man mash-up! But with Infinity Wars 4, writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mike Deodato, Jr. start making the case against the novelty of these mash-up characters by asserting the strength and usefulness of the vanilla versions of these characters, to say nothing of just how appealingly weird they are to begin with.
Duggan obviously still relishes the opportunity to mash up characters in exciting or hilarious ways. I mean, when we meet this Ant-Man / Hulk hybrid, he’s referring to himself as “Little Monster.”
Jesus Christ, that’s cute. Would I read a whole series about a Tiny Incredible Hulk stomping around the globe, struggling to punch evil-doers in the shins? YOU BET I WOULD. But it’s important for Duggan and Deodato’s story that this insanely appealing mash-up character be broken down into it’s component parts. We might like Little Monster, but we need Hulk and Ant-Man to save the day.
But I think the most effective argument against Soul World’s endless parade of mash-up characters is a cameo early in the issue. Wolverine-Emma-Frost summons yet another mash-up character from the future: Logan with the Phoenix Force. Now, this is a really soft mash-up – we’re not actually combining Logan with Jean Grey, it’s just a far-flung-future version of Wolverine where the Phoenix has chosen him as its vessel. As Phoenix Wolverine turns to leave, Deodato reminds the readers where this character comes from: the pages of Thor.
Writer Jason Aaron has been working with Thor since 2012 and has been laying the mythological foundations for King Thor and Phoenix Wolverine at the end of time years. We’re not seeing the limitless potential of mash-up characters, we’re seeing the limitless potential of the classic characters fully developed.
So it’s only appropriate that when our band of singular-souled heroes head out to “the real world” Frost is able to summon an army of mash-up heroes as a distraction. Because that’s what they are: a distraction.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
This event has a massive fucking protagonist problem. You would have thought with all the build up in the Guardians book, that wouldn’t be a problem. But wow.
The first issue set up Doctor Strange and the new Infinity Watch as the protagonists, while Loki was clearly the deuteragonist. In fact, his very plotline at the start seemed to position him specifically not to be the protagonist. It seemed clear his story was in support of the main story.
But now he is the protagonist? With a new new Infinity Watch. And now Moondragon and Phyla-Vel are deuteragonists? I mean, I’m happy Phyla is back. She’s been a resurrection I’ve wanted for some time (even if this isn’t technically a resurrection). But this feels like a really bad time to introduce Moondragon and Phyla like this. Loki needed to be more central to events before this point and Moondragon and Phyla should have been introduced earlier.
I also think there is a real antagonist problem. We have Gamora being manipulated by something, but not enough effort on how Gamora is being manipulated. Why exactly does she think the decisions she is making are the right ones? That is not clear, creating a really flat threat.
At least Duggan writes an amazing Emma Frost
I thought that Gamora was a really compelling antagonist for this story…up until she actually got what she wanted. Her story kinda ended when she recovered her soul from the Soul Stone, and I’m not really sure at all why she’s doing the things she’s doing now.
The things she’s doing now are quite fun though, at least, and I’m having a blast reading these last few issues even if I’ve lost the thread a bit.
I agree. She was fantastic at the start. Really compelling, made better by the fact that she’s actually a hero we love. The problem is that she got all the stones and now I have no idea why she is doing what she is doing. I know she’s being manipulated, but not why those manipulations are leading her to make the decisions she is making.
There is a lot of fun though. I had no idea that combining Wolverine and Emma Frost would be such a wonderful character