Infinity #1 by Jonathan Hickman & Jim Cheung

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<i>Infinity</i> #1 by Jonathan Hickman & Jim Cheung

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Jim Cheung
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: August 14, 2013

Infinity is an event comic that feels like a legitimate event. It’s not just another round of heroes fighting heroes in New York, but a cosmos-spanning story spiraling in around our home planet. It’s tough to judge after a single issue, especially one that weaves so many different plot strands together, but Infinity #1 is a first chapter that leaves me wanting more. I haven’t been able to say that about any major crossover event comics since Final Crisis.

My favorite Marvel event comics have been this kind of universe-hopping sci-fi epic, highlighting the company’s more traditional characters like The Avengers, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Think the first Secret Wars or the underrated Operation: Galactic Storm crossover. With a direct connection to the current Avengers titles, and with a writer known for sprawling, big-idea, science hero adventure, Infinity promises to hit my own personal comic crossover sweet spot.

This first issue gets the job done. It sets up Thanos as a shadow threat poised to invade Earth while the Avengers are off-planet, staving off an attack from a powerful alien race called the Builders. Hickman’s script is self-aware, but not humorously — Thanos’ henchmen protest his plans due to every evil plot on Earth failing, but it’s less a funny note than a sign that Hickman is invested in portraying Thanos as a serious and serious-minded threat who has considered the extremely long history of failed villains within comic book events. It also establishes the main thrust of the entire crossover, which is what happens when ultimate evil comes to an Earth that’s no longer protected by the Avengers. And since earth’s mightiest superteam has ballooned to include almost any schlub who’s spent fifteen minutes in spandex, its absence (which will be detailed in the main Avengers comics, also written by Hickman) basically pits Thanos against a planet with minimal superhero protection. Maybe those rascally mutants can pitch in if they can ever stop quarreling with one another.

Jim Cheung, a personal favorite since Young Avengers, handles the pencils. There’s a slightly cartoonish feel to his rubbery figures, especially when he’s drawling aliens. He has that weird John Byrne thing happening where every face looks the same, but with Cheung it’s an almost manga-inspired look. His action scenes can be a bit flat, which is fine with Infinity #1, as there are only a few panels with traditional fight shots. A handful of inkers work over Cheung here, and it shows — there are slight differences from page to page, and apparently all those years on ice suddenly catch up to Captain America in one particular panel that has so many face lines that it feels like the early ‘90s again. Cheung is a stylist, though, and an inspired choice for such a high-profile event.

Again, Infinity #1 is pure stage-setting, and a bit jumbled at that. This introduction is a series of short, staccato scenes that pop around the universe, and although that works as the first chapter of a larger work, it’s a slightly frustrating way to spend five bucks. The extra “infinite” comic, a brief bit of nothing featuring a Skrull planet and a certain former herald of Galactus, doesn’t add much in value. At this price, Infinity might work better as a single finite collection.