A Crisis of Infinite Crossovers

Avengers #23 finds Infinity limping to the finish line

Have to say, Infinity has lived up to its name. It feels like it’s dragged out forever.

There are those who make art, and those who make money, and it’s not really a secret which side of the line Marvel straddles. The fans might bitch and moan, but the simple truth is crossovers sell comics. Comics make money. Marvel likes crossovers and money.

The problem is, crossovers rarely make for gripping, coherent reading, and Infinity is no exception. You can’t fault Jonathan Hickman for his ambition. Infinity’s scope is huge, probably the biggest event Marvel’s ever seen. But it doesn’t seem to be going much of anywhere.

Avengers #23, the third-to-last installment, just strolls along with that more-of-the-same approach. There’s a big starship battle in Earth’s orbit. Some good guys sneak onto the bad guys’ space station. And stirring speeches all around!

How can an epic space war seem so pedestrian? When you’ve seen it all a million times before. When there’s virtually no humor to speak of, and characters are more or less interchangeable. Even the art can’t save this issue. Leinil Francis Yu’s pencils look rushed and scratchy, with precious little detail in the larger battle sequences. It’s almost like deadlines forced him to skip the inking entirely.

The main problem with Infinity it its basic premise. It’s the end of the world! Well yeah, you think, what can be bigger than the end of everything?

The problem is, we’ve seen this before. We’ve seen it approximately six times a year since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby drew down Galactus from the heavens in Fantastic Four #48. We know the world will survive, and so will most of the background planets, like the Kree homeworld. They always do. The stakes just aren’t believable.

Hickman could have carried the day by making the story more personal, focusing on a few characters and giving them something closely-held to fight for. Instead, he goes for a cast of thousands, most indistinguishable from the next. Black Panther’s gets a nice character arc, saving his beloved Wakanda from an alien invasion, but you see so little of him that the whole subplot loses any dramatic steam.

So, villains! Surely good villains can save this story! Well, no. By focusing on the Builders, some shadowy aliens from another dimension with cloudy motivations and zero individuality, Hickman drops the ball again. Who are the Builders? What do they want? Who cares? A bunch of faceless reflections spouting gibberish about destiny just doesn’t make for compelling reading.

Clearly, the greatest consequence of Infinity will be the fate of the Inhumans. Terrigen mists have been released in the Earth’s atmosphere, transforming anyone with the inhuman gene into a bizarre metahuman abomination feared and hated by humans.

But we just saw this. The whole Mutant thing, remember? Mutants got their powers back. Lots of them popping up everywhere. How is that any different from what’s happening to the Inhumans? Yeah, Black Bolt’s awesome, and it will be neat to see how he handles the population explosion. But again, it’s just a new twist on the same old song.

DC is putting together a solid effort with Forever Evil, so I can’t knock the art of the crossover completely. But even for its mechanical commercialism, any story needs a heart at its center. I’m not seeing it in Infinity.

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