A very happy (belated) Halloween to all who celebrate it! I don’t know about you all, but I definitely had fun. On top of Halloween, we’ve got a truly fantastic week of a new comics, including Avengers 22, Avengers A.I. 5, Captain America: Living Legend 2, and Infinity 5! (For all you Neil Gaiman fans out there as well, the first issue of The Sandman: Overture prologue series also came out this Wednesday. I’m so excited.)
Infinity 4 introduced us to Thane, the secret son of Thanos, just before Black Bolt triggered the Terrigen Bomb which triggered Terrigenesis worldwide in everyone with even the slightest bits of Inhuman DNA in their genetic makeup. On Hala, the Galactic Council’s parley with the Builder in charge of the planet turned out to be a ruse, as Thor defeated the Builder and the Accusers rose up with him, intending to defend their planet. But in Avengers 21, we see that only the Accusers joined with the Council in fighting the Builders, as the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence declared that the Kree Empire would continue to surrender to the Builders for the best chance at survival. The Council has been trying to liberate more worlds, and succeeding in some places, while failing in others. Their last-ditch attempt of releasing the Annihilation Wave from the Negative Zone failed, and it’s only through the miraculous recovery of Captain Universe that they stand any chance at all. Her confrontation with the Builders (meaning victory is unachievable) triggers an “erasure protocol” in the Alephs: Self-destruct all systems. Destroy everything.
“Of Suns and Storms” picks up right where Avengers 21 left off, with the universe-wise broadcast of Thor’s defeat of the Builder on Hala inspiring other worlds to stand up and fight back. On Dockrum VII, the Avengers fight alongside the world’s heroes to take down the remaining Alephs, and the planet’s population declares it an Avengers world, in honor of the fighters who turned the tide of the battles again and again to finally break the enemy and lead a world—and many worlds—back to freedom. World after world regains its freedom and world after world declares itself an Avengers world, until, finally, they’ve won. But in the midst of the celebrations, Gladiator brings grave tidings—Earth has fallen.
“This Ebony Now” begins as the Ebony Maw approaches the newly transformed Thane, surrounded by those his new powers have killed. He offers him a protective suit, so as to contain his powers enough that only a physical touch would be enough to kill. But the suit is, of course, a trap, meant to immobilize and contain Thane until the Maw can report his success to Thanos. When contacted, Thanos is in the middle of extracting information from the imprisoned Black Bolt, and departs for Orollan immediately to kill his son. After dealing with another Incursion, the Illuminati learn Wakanda is under heavy attack, and set forth for the Dead City to try to beat back Thanos’ forces. Thanos arrives in Orollan, but before the Maw can tell Thanos exactly why Thane has to be in a containment field, a message arrives—something’s happened on Titan (a moon of Saturn and Thanos’ homeworld). “In the Shadow of the Giants” concludes the issue with the Avengers, Shi’ar, and Skrull fleet arriving back in the solar system, preparing to save one last world: Earth.
Oh, man. Each subsequent issue of Infinity seems to keep getting better and better, and this issue definitely does not disappoint. The sheer grandeur of the storytelling is incredibly powerful, and the gravitas of the idea of worlds rallying behind the standard of the Avengers is simultaneously chilling and very, very exciting. The term “Avengers world” is not used lightly here, as it hearkens back to the terminology used for Earth all the way back at the end of issue 1 of this volume of Avengers, and I have a feeling that this specific term is going to continue being important in the issues to come. The term is first used on Dockrum VII, narrating a panel where we see some of the planet’s people raising a giant scrap metal A on a pole, in a strikingly similar visual to the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. This parallel can’t be an accident, as it raises all sorts of questions about the liberation of the planet: yes, the Avengers have now liberated this world, but at what cost, and who will be paying that cost? It’s very likely that this isn’t the last we’ll see of these Avengers worlds, and it’s very possible that these exact questions will be investigated in the future.
We’re drawing back in terms of scope from the universal threat back to the Earth-level threat (although, let’s be honest, Thanos could very well be a universal threat if he felt like it, but no, he’s occupied with potential filicide at the moment. Nobody ever said he was called the Mad Titan for no reason), as the Avengers who went off to fight the Builders are finally coming home. I’m still intrigued by Thane, as we still don’t know very much about him other than that he is Thanos’ son whom Thanos wants dead, was a healer in his community, and now has some sort of power over death after undergoing Terrigenesis. The Maw comments on the irony of the situation, as Thanos has spent his life chasing Death, but now he’s fathered someone who has power over death itself, which is the one thing he likely desires above all else.
In terms of art, Opeña’s work is once again unbelievably gorgeous (joined this issue by Dustin Weaver), and he strikes such a wonderful balance between dramatic, intense battle scenes and the quieter scenes, like those smaller scenes shared between two team members in a calm moment. The vibrancy and the expressiveness of the characters leap off the page, and the overall visual narrative (as well as the work with color and lighting) is very impressive. Hickman’s writing is gripping and extremely well done, with the story neatly slipping between narrative-driven and dialogue-scenes with a minimum of fuss. I just know we’re leading up to something very, very big, and I can’t wait until we see what’s next.
We left off in Avengers 21 as we learned that the Galactic Council’s efforts to reclaim Builder-occupied worlds after the freeing of Hala has not gone as well as they’d hoped, with victories on some planets, and stalemates or outright defeats on others. In a last resort effort, they opened a portal to the Negative Zone to unleash the Annihilation Wave on the Builders, only to have the Builders turn the Wave on itself to devour each other. Through the combined efforts of the Ex Nihili, Captain Universe woke from her coma and confronted the Builders, questioning them as to why they wished to destroy Earth. They believe that Earth is the axis point for the gradual deterioration and destruction of all the universes, and through destroying it, the universes will be saved. Captain Universe defeats the Builders, possibly all of the Builders, but one of them triggers an “erasure protocol” in all the Alephs, leading to them wishing to destroy everything.
Aboard the Shi’ar flagship on its way back to Earth’s solar system, Sunspot goes looking for Cannonball and Smasher, finds them kissing, and tells them that Cap’s called a meeting before the big attack. On Titan, a team of Falcon and other heroes arrives to take the planet. Meanwhile, at the Peak, Black Dwarf and his forces prepare to fight the incoming fleet on Thanos’ orders. In the meeting, Cap updates the rest of the fleet to the events on Earth, and they begin to plan. They intend to break the blockade, but have to deal with the overrun (and extremely weaponized) Peak first. Later on, when the fleet has almost reached Mars, Captains Marvel and America both talk to Eden, who’s feeling run-down and overwhelmed by the thought of fighting for the life of not just any planet, but his own. Carol and Steve proffer the assurance that comes with choosing one’s own path—“There’s no hero’s journey—there’s just life and how we choose to live it,” says Steve—but privately, Thor tells Eden that every being in the universe has a purpose, and for them, it is this day: to teach the “oldest lesson of all.”
The underlying nervousness of troops before a battle permeates this whole issue, which is only appropriate since the Avengers are gearing up for their most important battle yet, one for their own home. There’s a beautiful thread that carries through the whole issue as we see different people dealing with that stress in different ways, from Cannonball and Smasher finding comfort in other people to Falcon taking action and getting things done, to Cap preparing his team, and Eden looking for reassurance from those he looks up to. I love the scene between Carol, Steve, Eden, and Thor, as it’s a beautiful characterization of the core values of each of the characters. “Just make sure you hit the other guy before he hits you,” Carol says, a fighter till the end, while Steve offers his own beliefs in doing one’s duty and supporting those who depend on you, and Thor speaks about the inherent purpose of every living being. In a time where I’ve found myself railing against poor characterizations of some of the core characters in the Marvel universe (I’m looking at you, Remender), a scene like this is like a breath of fresh, familiar, encouraging air. I am incredibly excited to see what’s in store. We’ll be seeing Avengers 23 before Infinity 6 is released, so I assume we’ll pick up right where we left off, with the Avengers and their fleet closing in on Earth and preparing to engage the blockade. Wherever the story takes us, and whatever Thor’s “oldest lesson” may be, I’ll definitely be following along—Infinity and its tie-in comics have me well and truly hooked.
Eve is asexual panromantic, a graduate student with no time for sleep (but always time for comics), a senior contributing writer for the Rainbow Hub, and an avid consumer of any type of media she can get her hands on. When not perusing her incredibly large collection of Marvel comics, she can be found reading, knitting in front of the TV, or on her laptop.