In this piece, I try to give background and help answer the question “What is Marvel’s Infinity?” Please be warned, SPOILERS for Age of Ultron and other properties may be included despite my attempts to keep them minimal. You have been warned.
Each year, sometimes multiple times, comic book readers get treated to Events in the universe that tend to setup a new status quo for the coming year. These are generally 6-12 issues (depending on the story) and have results that feed out into other, more focused series (Civil War and Civil War: Frontline, as examples). The concept of Event Series runs back as far as the first Galactus arrival on Earth so many years ago in Fantastic Four and really picked up around the time Secret Wars was published. Bringing all of the Marvel heroes together in one series is something we all love to see and Events are the easiest way to make that happen.
In all fairness, Event comics are the first comics I ever read. Since I was handed a full copy of Marvel’s Civil War, I only read each year’s events and followed up accordingly. It wasn’t until my exposure to the Ultimate Universe did I find character based issues enthralling. In order of release (but not limited to these), I’ve read Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Siege, Fear Itself, Avengers vs. X-men, Age of Ultron and now we’re up to Infinity. Infinity is the culmination of Marvel NOW’s launch of Avengers and New Avengers, two of my favorite titles, with sprinklings of stories from Guardians of the Galaxy and Iron Man throughout. We’re getting a cosmic level event and a threat against Earth all at the same time, which will see a war fought on two fronts.
Infinity takes its name from the prior events, Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, and Infinity Crusade, all which focus on Thanos’ (that purple guy at the end of Avengers) main goal of collecting the Infinity Gems (6 items that control space, time, power, reality, mind, and soul) and socketing them into a single glove so he can essentially rule the entire universe by killing everything. This would make his love, the embodiment of Death, truly love him in return. It’s a tragic love story that turns Thanos into the cunning brute he is today. If you would notice the number of times Infinity is mentioned in there, you might understand where the event gets its title from.
The last time we saw the Infinity Gems in the Marvel Universe, the Illuminati (a secret group of Marvel’s biggest badasses, current roster includes: Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Namor, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, and Beast) were using them to fight off the collapsing reality, which stems from the White Event in Age of Ultron. When used to destroy another merging reality, the gems (all but time, it disappeared) disintegrated leaving that universe’s set destroyed. Thus, these New Avengers (the illuminati) have to create other means of destroying the merging realities in secret, especially from each other.
Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans and Attilan (which floats above Manhattan now), has enlisted the help of his brother, Maximus the Mad, to create weapons that can be used to save their earth by, ya know, blowing up the other ones. This doesn’t sit well with his Black Bolt’s wife, Medusa, and thus a dispute in house Boltagon is almost palpable and brings the Inhumans into one of the main aspects of this grandiose tale.
The Avengers, which I recommend you read from issue 1 to 17, introduces the Builders and their children, the Ex Nihili and Abysses, to Earth. From the introduction of Ex Nihilo (just one), a creator of life, and his sister Abyss, the opposite of course, we get formidable foes for the Avengers. Thus, Stark and Captain America determine to face these bigger problems, they must get bigger. No, this is not a case of going to the gym and buffing up, but in fact growing the core team. Going from the team we saw in the Avengers film, they recruit a specific set of people with skill sets that can complement each other over time. Such staples as Wolverine and Spider-man are included, but also more obscure characters as Hyperion and Manifold. Some of the newer additions to the Marvel Universe also get their introduction issues in the Avengers series. The earth is being plagued by Ex Nihilo’s tampering (making it sentient) and we see those results/conflicts over the issues, leading up to the point where the Avengers have teo recruit more and take off to space.
What is refreshing about Infinity is that Jonathan Hickman has been writing Avengers and New Avengers the entire time. This event was crafted by him from the first issues and is, by no accounts, an accident or forced event. I’m treating his works as I would a filmmaker’s (more specifically Stanley Kubrick) in that nothing is an accident. Everything happens for a reason and we will see the pay off or results of that later.
With the ability to build on these stories and lead to Infinity, Hickman was able to create a cast of brand new characters. We’re not relying on age old friendships or rivalries here (other than Thanos’ attempts at taking Earth), but rather getting introduced to new breeds of species (builders), villains (Corvus Glaive), and heroes (Ex Nihilo). By being able to craft the necessary ingredients for a compelling story from the ground up, he is given a chance to surprise the reader and give them something that hasn’t been done or is expected.
Infinity #1 has just hit shelves this week, but it already brings in all the points from the Avengers and New Avengers books that have been released to date. With it comes a new form of comic book storytelling, chapters within the single book, which show where every player is at the beginning of the story. We know the start; now we have to wait for the end. If story quality and innovation from Hickman continues to follow the mind blowing streak it’s been on, then my friends, I can tell you we will be in for the event of a lifetime this year.