Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
It’s been a few years since I wanted to read a Big Two event, and I don’t know if I’ll read this entire saga, but I figured it was time for a page-by-page breakdown of at least the first issue, like I used to do back in the olden days (of 2011, that is). Plus, as an added bonus, I’m doing this as a live blog – I have not cracked open Infinity #1 yet, so these thoughts will be kind of loose and completely raw, just like your mom. HEY-OOOHHHHHHHHHH! Let’s do this thing! MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW, in case you couldn’t guess. If you haven’t read Infinity yet, grab your copy and follow along! If you don’t want to read Infinity, well … read this instead and you’ll know exactly what happens!
Wednesday, 14 August, 3.00 p.m. MST
So, that cover. It’s Adam Kubert, and it’s not a bad drawing by any means, but as a cover, I’m not sure it works. I mean, it feels like the very kind of cover that would repel anyone who isn’t already in the bag for this series, and if that’s what Marvel wants, then that’s fine. I mean, can you imagine someone randomly looking for a comic to read and seeing this? You can tell it’s Thanos, I guess, but there’s something so ragey and unpleasant about it that I’m not sure if anyone just looking for a cool comic to read would pick it up. Maybe they would, though. It doesn’t really tell us anything about this book, though – not that covers do that anymore, but even after several months of build-up, I still get no clue from the cover why this is called “Infinity.” I do like that Thanos is off-center and kind of hunched over, though. He certainly looks menacing.
Page 0: Full white page with “A Marvel Comics Event” in gray written on it. Sigh. I know this kind of thing is Hickman’s bag, but still. I won’t count this as part of the page count for the book, hence the “0.”
Page 1: “Everything dies” is the first thing we read in this comic. Charming. Jonathan Hickman loves these kinds of portentous openings (and middles, and closings), so he’s throwing us in with some depressing stuff right away. “Empires collapse,” “kings fall,” “men perish,” “worlds end” – someone cracked open his handy thesaurus, I see. The page is a standard five-panel stack, with Panel 2 the main one, as in that panel artist Jim Cheung shows a full-body view of the heroes. Panel 1 shows a castle on a hill, with a giant moon/planet in the sky and eight streaks of light angling down from the sky toward the ground. Panel 2 shows eight heroes (well, characters – I assume they’re all heroes currently in the Marvel U.). I assume the streaks of light are the heroes, but the transition isn’t quite as clear as it should be. As I am able to count, though, I’m going to make the cognitive leap that the streaks of light are the heroes. Yay, cognitive leaps!
The eight heroes are: Dr. Strange, Namor, that white-skinned chick who was in New Avengers #1 but whom I haven’t seen since then because I’m not reading Hickman’s Avengers comics, Black Panther, Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Beast, and Iron Man. As I have been reading a certain female blogger who writes for this very blog for a while, I noticed something right away. One of these things is not like the other:
Oh, comics, you’re incorrigible.
Notice that Black Panther is holding some Weird Scientific Device™ in his hands. He’s supposed to do something with it, because Namor asks him what he’s waiting for, and T’Challa (I assume it’s T’Challa) says portentously, “I’m remembering who I used to be.” Ooooh, fraught with meaning!
Also notice the Photoshopped sky in that panel above (it’s in other panels, too). I’m not a big fan of this, but at least on this page, it’s not too noticeable. For a boring layout, Cheung does a decent job leading us across the page. That’s handy.
Page 2: Lot’s o’ FX on this page, yo! T’Challa activates the device, and Kirby Krackle … crackles from it, leading to a big ol’ explosion right in front of the group. Because they’re tough guys (and girl), they don’t flinch at all even though I’m sure the explosion produced a concussive force. The explosion looks like it’s partly drawn and partly FX, with colorist Justin Ponsor filling in the blanks left by Cheung’s sketching. It’s a bit bright, but it looks cool. Looking cool is all that is’s about, people! The explosion disappears as quickly as it appears, leaving a nice blue sky. The characters haven’t moved. I’m not sure what this page means. Hickman tells us that it was an Avengers world – the first of many. Sorry, Travis – this is also portentous! Marvel tells us that we can “AR” the panel of the characters standing still looking at a blue sky. Has anyone tried to “augment” the “reality” on these comics? Why does the reality of a bunch of people staring at the sky need to be augmented?
Page 2½: A white page with “The Tribute” written on it. Above the words is a square with a circle inside it. The circle looks like a crescent moon with five stars inside it. I don’t know what it means.
Advertisement Page 1: There are two ads on the page – on the top we get an ad for Barry Lyga’s books I Hunt Killers and Game, which is a sequel. I just love the name of the protagonist and his “origin”:
The other ad is for, and I’m totally not lying, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., which is a new cartoon on Disney Channel. I’ve seen commercials for this, and it actually looks kind of entertaining, but I really can’t make up the wonderful pairing of a “grittier, bloodier sequel” to a presumably gritty, bloody book and an advert for a kids’ cartoon. Lovely, Marvel. Well done.
Page 3: Titan! Moon of Saturn! Didn’t creepy date rapist guy live there? Anyway, we’re on Titan! Hickman lets us know that we’re about to be introduced to “outriders,” “genetically-engineered parasite-assassins solely devoted to the whims of [their] maker.” Well, that’s pretty sad. I hope we find out why they’re “parasites” and not just assassins. One of them, a fugly thing with four arms and no eyes, tells a hooded dude that it’s had “success” but it was “two full cycles” ago, and hooded dude wants to know about the “gauntlet of the tribute.” Cheung shows a massive amphitheater kind of thing, with a throne at the top of several staircases in a rounded, rocky mountaintop. The floor of the “throne room” is packed with eggs, presumably filled with new “outriders” that haven’t hatched yet. The outrider is pretty keen-looking, frankly.
Page 4: The caption box on the left of Panel 1 reads “The tribute.” Cheung leads our eye to the finger of the shadowy figure sitting on the throne, who’s pointing off-panel. This is the only omniscient narration on the page, and it’s kind of weird. On Page 3, the caption boxes were used as info-dumps, telling us about the outriders. This seems like a response to the hooded dude’s question on the bottom of Page 3, and therefore is perhaps the shadowy figure on the throne’s own voice. That’s not completely unique – using caption boxes as dialogue because the person speaking is so monumental/powerful/shadowy that his (the dude is a dude, as he learn in two panels) voice is so transcendent that it becomes a caption box, but it still seems weird. I don’t understand that caption box. Anyway, Hooded Dude tells the outrider that so far, he’s been successful, but the task is incomplete because “one remains.” The outrider gets one more chance to make it right, and he leaps into a spaceship and takes off. The spaceship is keen – it has tentacles, because why not? Hooded Dude tells the outrider (and us) that the assassin needs to “make known that which dares to remain hidden” and that he should “find us another world to raze.” Dang, so much portentousness!
This is another boring layout by Cheung – Page 3 was a bit more interesting, but this is back to the five-panel stack, although once again, Cheung always pushes our eyes from left to right very nicely. This is Comics Storytelling 101, of course, but it’s nice that Cheung is doing it. Once again, he does a nice job with the outrider. It’s pretty creepy.
Page 5: So back on Page 3, the assassin mentioned that he had found success on “Ahl-Agullo,” so now we’re there! It’s “Later,” and Ahl-Agullo looks a lot like Saturn. Apparently this is a world that had been destroyed but has been rebuilt, but now their conquerors have returned. Words spreads of the arrival of “Corvus Glaive.” Let’s parse that name, shall we? “Corvus” is probably fairly well known – it’s a constellation, and it’s also the genus for crows. “Corvus” is Latin for “crow,” after all. A “glaive” is a weapon that might be derived from “gladius,” which is Latin for “sword,” but is usually a spear. Wikipedia has what you need to know! So this dude is named “Crow Spear-Thing.” It sounds better in Latin/French, honestly.
Cheung shows a destroyed-ish world in Panel 2, but in Panel 3, he gets to open it up a bit and show a throne room, with the sunlight (I guess) streaming down from the upper left and leading our eye to the dude sitting on the throne, leaning forward and looking somewhat menacing. Because aliens follow Elizabethan fashion, apparently, his wife/partner/mate stands next to him wearing a big frilly collar (the king is wearing one, too, but it’s much less frilly). The light also allows Cheung/Ponsor to put the foreground of the panel in darkness, which is good because those are the evil dudes. I assume that’s Hooded Dude standing there, so he must be Corvus Glaive. Wait, he’s carrying a glaive? He’s named after his weapon? Weird. He’s standing next to two shorter evil dudes, who are carrying some kind of box. Note how the weapon Corvus is holding blocks the light streaming in, so that he physically separates the light (which is symbolically good and/or cleansing) from the dude sitting on the throne. Nicely done by Monsieur Cheung.
Page 6: Cheung gives us a close-up of Mr. Glaive, complete with Nineties-esque spittle connecting an upper and lower incisor. He has a flat nose, an extended ridge brow-line, and looks as Neanderthal-ish as you might expect a brutish villain to look like. He demands to know where “Augollux the Brave” is, and Hickman and Cheung do a nice job with this page, as it’s two panels – Panels 1 and 4 of Corvus yelling, linked by the other two panels – 2 and 3 – which are flashbacks, allowing Corvus to extol the virtues of Augollux while giving Cheung some cool shit to draw. Augollux defeated the “great beast of Pol,” and we see him about to shove a sword into the beast eyes. Augollux “ended the Water Wars and united [the] people,” and we see him … well, he’s running toward the reader, presumably about to fight someone, but it really looks like he’s running away from the battle behind him. It’s kind of funny. Anyway, he’s running through water, which seems a bit of a literal interpretation of “Water Wars,” but it looks cool. Augollux is another ugly dude, but maybe on his planet he’s like Baby Goose:
In the final panel, Corvus ends his tirade by letting us know that Augollux is the king’s son. That’s useful information.
Page 7: The king, who frankly looks a lot like Corvus – he has a flat nose and prominent brow, and he lacks the tusks that Augollux sports, although he does have the Klingon-shaped head – says that they don’t know where his son is. It’s a trick question, because Corvus does know – Augollux was sent to kill him when he landed, but Corvus got the better of the champion, and he shows him the red sword, Ahl-Quito, the Worldcleaver, which was in the box that his two flunkies were carrying. Oh, snap! In the final panel, Corvus turns to the reader and says, “And here is the arm that held it.” It’s a weird perspective – obviously, Cheung wants to show Corvus in the foreground, because he has risen in importance because he killed the great champion, and he also wants to show the grief of the parents in the background, but where is Corvus gesturing? Are we holding the arm? If we look to the next page, we don’t see a panel with the flunkies holding the arm. The perspective shifts back to the king and Corvus, and the entire next page is those two yelling at each other. Here’s the transition from the bottom of Page 7 to the top of Page 8:
Strange. Cheung does do a decent job with the grief of the king and queen when they see their son’s sword. I’m not sure why Ponsor colors them differently than Augollux – as this species gets older, does the color of their skin change from pinkish to orange?
Page 8: The king, as you see, tries to give orders, but Corvus interrupts him by bashing his glaive so hard into the ground that it actually embeds itself in the floor. Corvus tells the king that they’ve been through this before – remember, this world was conquered before, and now Corvus is back. Man, those natives just don’t know when to stay conquered! Cheung gives us a posing Corvus, which shows that, as usual in comics, form triumphs over function. Corvus is wearing a codpiece with big pointy spikes on it sticking out way past his hips. How do you sit on the bus next to anyone with that kind of outfit? What if you want to make time with the ladies? Sheesh, Corvus.
Anyway, Hickman dumps some info on us. Corvus explains to the king (who was, presumably, there) that his master came to Ahl-Agullo, killed over 59 million of the 60 million people on the planet, and left them “soiled in insignificance” (um, what?). He says that they rose and built a city, and he acknowledges that it’s pretty impressive, so the king – who’s named “Luxor,” apparently – shouldn’t be proud and force Corvus to destroy them again. All he wants is a “tribute.” AH-HA!!!! Notice, again, that Cheung, while still not doing too much with the layouts, does good work making sure that everything moves along, including the final two panels, where Luxor is on the right side, smashed up against the border, and he appears to be looking sideways at the final panel, where Corvus is pushed against the left side, separated from the king by only a thin gutter. It’s pretty cool.
Thursday, 15 August, 10.14 MST. Musical accompaniment: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Lion The Beast The Beat.
Page 9: We’re back on Titan, and Cheung wastes a very thin panel showing the moon once again. In fact, unless the person reading this actually has no brain, the fact that Corvus is standing on a bunch of eggs with mountains in the background should tell us that he’s back on Titan. But the panel is very thin and doesn’t take up much room, so that’s okay. Cheung shows Corvus and his flunkies holding an even bigger container than they were on Ahl-Agullo, and Corvus tells the “master” that the tribute has been paid. He says that “all were accounted for,” and the shadowy figure asks “Are you sure?” Corvus says that he is, and asks if the shadowy figure wants to see. At this point Hickman and Cheung are giving more clues about the identity of the shadowy figure. We see the outline of his head in Panel 4 and his arm in Panel 5. Perhaps a neophyte reader wouldn’t have any idea who he is, but people who have read Marvel comics before are probably putting everything together by now. But first, we get …
Advertisement Page 2: It’s that Audi advert with Tony Stark. I don’t really get this ad. In the first panel, Iron Man is lying in the snow with his mask off, staring up into the sky. I guess this is a scene from Iron Man 3? Either way, he doesn’t look happy, and I’m sure we’re supposed to think he’s just been beaten up. Then there’s the black bar of text that reads “It’s never a bad day at work when the commute looks like this.” Then we get two panels of Tony Stark getting into an “E-Tron” car – well, I guess he’s getting into the car, although the panel is pretty poorly drawn, so he could be getting out, and even sitting the car already. The third panel show the car driving along a road with picturesque mountains in the background. So is the ad saying that in the first panel, Iron Man has gotten his ass kicked, but in a flashback, he’s remembering how good the drive to getting his ass kicked was so it’s okay? That seems … really stupid. An Audi is that awesome? I’ve never understood this ad, ever since it first started showing up in comics.
Page 10: The reason the advertisement is after Page 9 is so the reader has to turn the page to get the big reveal that the shadowy figure is, in fact, Thanos. OOOOOOOHHHHHHH! This is another reason why I’m not a big fan of the cover. I mean, the fact that Thanos is the Big Bad isn’t that big a surprise, but did they have to put him on the cover, too? I mean, if they’re going to do that, why even have this small build-up to the reveal on Page 10? It just doesn’t matter.
Anyway, Corvus shows Thanos that he decapitated a bunch of Agullonians (?), which satisfies the tribute. Charming. This is, unfortunately, a terrible-looking page. It’s three panels, with Panel 1 dominating the page. It’s a big drawing of Thanos, and Cheung does a perfectly good job with it – half of his face is still in shadow, and he looks menacing, and Ponsor gives him glowy white eyes with blue around the edges – it’s very creepy. Panel 3 is a close-up of Thanos’s mouth smiling at his “tribute,” and we’re even closer to him than we are in Panel 1. Panel 2, however, shows the container holding all the heads, but because Cheung just draws the container and not Corvus or anyone else, the perspective is really fucked up. The heads look tiny because they’re between two huge drawings of Thanos, and because Panel 2 is superimposed on top of the bottom half of Panel 1 and the panel borders are thin, it appears that the heads are much closer to Thanos – in fact, a quick glimpse of this page makes it look like Thanos is about to tip a small plate of hors d’oeuvres into his maw. It’s a badly designed page, unfortunately, and it lessens the impact of seeing all those poor decapitated aliens. They look like delicious crawdads or something.
Page 11: Let’s catch up with our outrider friend, who’s approaching Earth in his tentacled spaceship. This is, I should point out, the fourth page that has begun with a small panel that contains a planet floating in it and a single word telling us which planet it is. Anyway, Panel 2 shows us New York – I assume, as it’s the Marvel Universe, where New York is the only city that exists – as the spaceship, which is only semi-visible, flies over it. The spaceship approaches a building that could be a Stark building – the first two letters on the logo are “ST,” after all – and the narration tells us that it’s hunting “for what is hidden.” It’s a fairly dull page, but it’s a set-up one, so we can let it go. Cheung and Ponsor do a decent job with the shimmery feel of a city at night, so that’s something.
Page 12: Three vertical panels, changing the layout a bit, and Cheung does a nice job linking them all as the outrider moves from the upper left of Panel 1 to the lower right of Panel 2, cloaking itself so the people in the panel don’t see it. The narration tells us that the “hidden one” will be found, and the world will pay a tribute or the world will burn. You know, standard Big Event stuff. In Panel 1, it’s looking at Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, who are standing around looking surly. On the video screens behind them are scenes from what I assume are earlier Hickman Avengers comics, because they seem like scenes that aren’t drawn in but placed there digitally. In Panel 2, the outrider visits the Jean Grey School, and we see Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, and Storm. As Kitty is the only character in the Marvel Universe legally allowed to not brood all the time, she’s actually smiling while Wolverine looks at her as if she’s sprouted wings from her forehead. He’s drinking whiskey on the rocks. First of all, Logan drinks beer. If he did drink whiskey, he’d take it neat. Come on, Mr. Cheung! Storm has her mohawk, because she’s waiting for that call from Walter Hill to appear as an extra in The Warriors. In Panel 3, the outrider visits some sort of S.H.I.E.L.D. installation and actually holds the head of one of the agents, which causes his eyes to roll back in his head and drool to drip from his mouth. You’d think someone at this superspy place would notice that.
Advertisment Page 3: “Rittenhouse Archives Presents Women of Marvel Series 2 Trading Cards.” First of all, offered without comment are the women of Marvel:
Second, do people still collect trading cards? Do they trade them? Whenever I see this advertisement, I feel like I’m in 1977. Well, except for the slutty women of Marvel – that’s so ’90s it makes my teeth hurt.
We need the advertisement there so we can get the double-page (?!?!?) credits. I guess when you have four inkers and two letterers and seven (7!!!!!) covers and three editors (plus an editor-in-chief), you need two pages for the credits! That’s just math, people! Tom Brevoort and Lauren Sankovitch edit this puppy, so I certainly hope there aren’t any prophecies in here! The official credits are: Joe Caramagna, letterer; Jim Cheung, penciler/inker; Chris Eliopoulos, letterer; Jonathan Hickman, writer; John Livesay, inker; David Meikis, inker; Mark Morales, inker; Justin Ponsor, colorist. This sucker costs $4.99, but it’s pretty big. I don’t know how many pages it is, because I’m live-blogging this, so I haven’t gotten past the credits page yet! I’m committed, people!
The next page shows a cast. Holy crap, what a cast! I mean, that’s cool that they give us a cast, but man, this is like a Robert Altman movie. There are 51 (!) little boxes with characters in them. Now, some of them are generic – “Skrulls,” for instance, but still. Anyway, that chick on the first few pages is “Black Swan,” which is nice to know. There are also some “Spaceknights” – hey, where’s Rom? Shouldn’t he be there? Phew. Lots of characters. Let’s all keep up!
Page Þ: Another white page, this time with “Constructing Apocalypse” on it. That makes five consecutive pages with no story content on it. Just an observation. Coincidentally, I’ve just reached the last track on the Grace Potter album, which is called “The Divide.” These fives pages act as a “divide” quite nicely. Damn, this is a good song.
Page 13: This time we get TWO panels explaining where we are. We’re 60,000 light years away (from Earth, I assume), in the “Golden Galaxy” and on the planet Galador, which is not having a good day. In Panel 2, it’s clear that spaceships are attacking a city and doing a fairly good job of destroying it. In Panel 3, we’re inside one of the attacking ships and a “caretaker” (cast of characters FTMFW!) is watching a pilot working the controls and telling the “builders” that the world is resisting, which is a complication. You think? The Builders say that all worlds resist, and that’s not a bad thing. They want the Caretaker to be more specific. In the meantime, the narration tells us that the Builders are the oldest civilization in the universe, and all they do is direct evolution in other civilizations. Meanwhile, Cheung draws a “gardener,” who is a tall, brawny woman with antlers and an Ω painted on her chest. Check out this panel, which cracks me right the fuck up:
The “builders” are all male. The “gardener” is female. Nice rigid, traditional gender roles there. Plus, we still haven’t figured out a way to show that aliens are female without giving them breasts, I guess. Plus, I guess she’s naked, which is why she needs the Omega covering where her nipples would be, instead of Cheung or other artists just, you know, not drawing nipples. The conservative nature of comics always cracks me up, and it’s on full display in this one panel. Start nurturing, female! [Edit: Later, I discovered that Ex Nihilo also has something on his chest – is it an Omega too? So it’s not just the females, but it’s still pretty dumb.]
Page 14: The Caretaker explains that the world has heroes. Oh dear. We zip down to the surface, and the shift is a bit disjointing. The Caretaker says “This world, it has … heroes,” and then we see two big robot-type things blasting the shit out of the buildings and killing the natives. I’m not a complete idiot (keep your damned comments to yourself!), but a jump cut like that is kind of weird. When the Caretaker’s last word is “heroes,” we expect the next thing we see to be those heroes, but these things are obviously the conquerors. It’s not that big a deal, but it’s a bit strange. Anyway, the robots target some children, but before they can kill the tykes, they explode. One of them mentions that there’s an “energy cascade in proximity,” which means … superheroes! Yay, superheroes! Then they blow up. Sucks to be them.
Thursday, 15 August, 12.04 MST, after a break to eat lunch and watch the season finale of Franklin and Bash. Musical accompaniment: Awolnation, Megalithic Symphony.
Pages 15: We get a big panel showing the Spaceknights – the “knights of Galador,” who protect the planet. If we return to our cast of characters, the dude on the left, who dominates the panel, is Terminator. Behind him are Pulsar, Starshine, and Firefall, and Ikon helps the two kids they just saved up from the ground. Firefall explains that they’ve been upgraded, and while they’ll burn out because of all the power they possess, at least they’ll save the planet. In Panel 2, Ikon says, cryptically, “It will be morning soon. And the night. Nothing to fear.” Um, what? I guess she’s talking to the kids she just saved, but I don’t know what that means.
Page 16: The kids are named Sanno (the boy) and Kiru (the girl). Sanno says that the Spaceknights will always save them, and suddenly, Captain Universe is standing in front of them, telling them the knights won’t save them this time. Where did she come from? She says that everything dies (callback!), but Sanno disagrees. Captain Universe tells him that she is the universe (I guess that’s why she can just appear) and that she’s there to “see how the end begins.” Sanno says that it’s not the end, but what does he know, right? Cheung gets to draw sparkly Captain Universe, which is always fun, and a small panel of the knights kicking ass. There’s a lot of exposition on these pages, so he doesn’t really get to do too much.
Page 17: Sanno continues talking to Captain Universe, telling her that the Spaceknights will win because they’re so righteous. Captain Universe says it won’t matter, and Sanno asks, “Why do you seem so sure?” She says, “Because … now my children are here.” That’s a pretty cool page, writing-wise. It just doesn’t matter how much the knights want to win, because they’re just not strong enough. Cheung gives us a four-panel stack – Panel 1 shows the robots battling the knights, Panel 2 shows two knights flying toward the reader with an explosion in the background, and all seems to be going fairly well. In Panel 3, while Sanno is talking to Captain Universe, Kiru turns toward the sky and reaches for Sanno’s shoulder. She’s the first thing we see on the panel – she’s on the far left, and that adds a nice touch of foreboding to what Sanno and Captain Universe are saying to each other. “… Now my children are here” is in Panel 4, as all three characters look toward the sky. It’s a nice shift from a heroic resistance to a horrible realization that it just won’t matter, and Cheung and Hickman do a good job leading up to it.
Page 18: Once again, Cheung does the three-panel layout, with the first panel dominating the page, much like the Thanos reveal. This time he shows a big … thing over the city. Is it a spaceship that’s just landing? Is it a tower the Builders have, um, built? It doesn’t really matter, because it looks cool and it’s bigger than everything else in the city. In the middle of the panel, two bright red lights shine from the structure, looking like the Death Star warming up before it destroys Alderaan (except this light is red, not green). Ponsor’s glowing color draws our eye to it, but Cheung makes sure it’s the focus by framing it with big … wings, I guess, that stretch far above it, swirling smoke around it but not obscuring the central image, and putting the larger buildings on either side of the panel but not in the middle. It’s like a double Eye of Sauron (man, I’m using a lot of metaphors today, aren’t I?). Much like the Thanos page, the second panel is the weakest of the three – we see two Builders, one of whom says “Let it be as if they never were,” which is fine, but while we’re supposed to assume they’re inside that big thing, it’s still a cognitive leap. Whatevs, I guess. Panel 3 shows two Spaceknights getting obliterated – the panel is colored almost completely yellow, with two figures (one of whom is clearly a Spaceknight, but I’m going to assume they both are) falling backward as the weapon destroys them. Damn.
Page 19: More devastation, in the standard clichéd “Watchmen” style. In Panel 1, Sanno and Kiru hold each other on the left side of the panel as Captain Universe stands toward the center of the panel. The right side of the panel is colored yellow, and it’s clear there’s a fireball coming toward them. Sanno and Kiru are consumed in Panel 2, and in Panel 3, Captain Universr breaks up into atoms as the panel is colored completely yellow. Then we get two panels showing deep space with a river of stars. So many sad feels.
Page Δ: Another chapter break, this one called “Orbital.”
Page 20: Yet another thin panel setting the scene; this time we’re at “The Peak,” which is the headquarters of the “Sentient World Observation and Response Department,” or S.W.O.R.D., floating above Earth. A flunky tells “Agent Brand” – her first name is Abigail, as the sprawling cast of characters tell us – that the “strike team” is in position, but first she asks if it’s positively a “bug hunt.” When she gets affirmation of that, she calls down to Palermo (hey, I’ve been to Palermo!) and tells Captain Koenig to stand down because she “called in the experts.” As this is another set-up page, Cheung doesn’t have to do too much, but Ponsor does a nice job contrasting the blue of the Peak with the sun-drenched Italian city.
Page 21: The “experts” are, of course, the Avengers. Captain America and Hawkeye are in the hallway, with a few S.H.I.E.L.D. redshirts behind them. Clint Barton speaks Italian, apparently, and he tells some slack-jawed civilians to get out of the hallway. Or something. In Panel 3, Cap finds out that there are “six to eight targets inside.” We get a shot of their “backup” – Hyperion and Thor are outside the apartment building. In the final panel, someone kicks down the door. Cheung again does a pretty good job with the movement on the page – in Panel 1, Cap is larger than Clint and on the left of the panel, so our eye moves easily from him to Clint, and Panel 2 is just a close-up of Clint telling the civilians what to do, and we easily move from Panel 1 to Panel 2 (perhaps too easily – there’s no gutter). In Panels 3 and 4, the heroes are placed on either side of the thin, horizontal panels to balance them, and the kick to the door comes from the left and pushes the door to the right. The sound effect “SMASSHH!” leads us to the page turn.
Page 22: Hickman pulls the rug out from under us nicely, as sitting in the room are four schmucks and a cat eating pizza (well, not the cat, although that would have been awesome). They’re just chillin’, yet here are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and superheroes kicking the door down. So not cricket, Cap! In Panel 2, Cap and Hawkeye aren’t buying it, and Cap asks Koenig if he has the “thing” – even Cap doesn’t know the name of everything! – and Koenig uses it. In Panel 3, the dudes (and cat) are revealed to be five Skrulls, and Cheung does a nice job showing their anxiety as they stare at the dudes about to bash them. They ask Cap if he wants a slice, and Cap tells them it’s their choice about how this is going to go down. As usual, I’m no archery expert, but Cheung has Clint holding the bow vertically in Panel 2, but by Panel 5, he’s rotated it 90 degrees and it’s almost horizontal. I imagine this is for the sake of flow – if Clint were still holding the bow, you know, the correct way, it would get in the way of Cap’s word balloons and block our eyes from moving easily from Cap to Clint. It’s still annoying, though, because there had to be a better way to do it – perhaps make the panel a close-up on Cap and cut Clint out completely? It’s not like he’s actually real and will complain about getting cut out of the shot.
New musical accompaniment: Eagles of Death Metal, Death by Sexy …
Page 23: Back on the Peak, we find out that this isn’t the first time recently that the Skrulls have been found on Earth. As we see a big panel with what’s happening on Earth, the voiceover narrator (a S.W.O.R.D. flunky) explains to us (well, to Brand, but really to the reader) that it’s the seventh incident in two weeks, including the Skrulls they “intercepted before they hit atmo,” which is makes me want to punch that flunky because he can’t add the syllable “sphere” to that last word. Brand responds that they should start trying to figure out why the Skrulls are coming to Earth, but she’s cut off by what looks like static obscuring everything in the final panel. As Cheung linked the destruction of Galador with the river of stars and then with the Peak (in the first panel, it looked the stars had shown up over Earth), is this still linked to Galador? Perhaps. The only thing we can do is turn the page! But first, Panel 2 kind of angers me. It shows Cap, Hawkeye, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. flunkies beating up the Skrulls. Obviously we’re supposed to believe that the Skrulls chose poorly, but is Hickman trying to imply that those schlubs attacked a heavily armed group of soldiers or that ‘roidy Cap and Clint decided to not wait for an answer and starting hitting the poor aliens? I mean, the schmucks eating pizza on Page 21 don’t look like the kind of people who would start fighting, especially when the “good guys” have the drop on them. One of them was disguised as a fucking cat, for crying out loud. It’s a weird panel, because I’m not sure what Hickman and Cheung are saying.
Page 24: Well, this is even weirder. Brand needs a “sitrep” from Cap, and he tells her just a minute while he bashes the final Skrull in the jaw, knocking him out. In Panel 2, Hawkeye says it doesn’t make any sense, because none of them are from the “warrior caste.” So did the heroes actually attack the Skrulls, or did the Skrulls freak out? I know I’m overthinking this, but in a world where heroes often don’t act very heroically, this bothers me. Oh well. Brand agrees that something is wonky, and she tells them they need to get to the Peak quickly, because behind her on the floor, Captain Universe is lying insensate. Oh dear.
Page ☮: Chapter Break! This one is called “What Was Hidden, Now Uncovered.” Uh-oh. Sounds like our outrider friend is going to make an appearance!
Page 25: Hey, it’s Attilan, home of the Inhumans, floating above Manhattan! What the hell is Attilan doing floating above Manhattan? Does the FAA know about this?
Two Inhumans who aren’t special enough to show up in the cast of characters – Tolos and Kirren – are gossiping. Tolos says that Black Bolt and his wives – wait, what? – are sleeping in separate chambers. He thinks that’s a bad sign, but I always assumed that Black Bolt would need to sleep alone – what happens if he snores? Wouldn’t he kill everyone in the bedchamber? Anyway, Kirren doesn’t want to hear about it. This scene is (presumably) necessary to introduce the idea of discord in Attilan, and also so that Cheung can show the outrider, still invisible, sneaking around in the background, as he does in Panel 3. In Panel 5, we see the outrider again, sneaking past Gorgon and Karnak, who are also gossiping about the sleeping arrangements of their polygamous king. In Panel 6, the caption box explains that the outrider is able to “phase through walls, break gravity, and become shadow,” which makes it a formidable assassin indeed. Once again, while the page layout is a bit dull, Cheung moves us nicely through the page, making sure that we shift easily from tracking the outrider in the background to the conversations in the foreground. We move easily to the next page.
Page 26: We learn that the outrider is best at collecting secrets, and that’s why it’s in Black Bolt’s bedchamber. Cheung does a nice job here, too. In Panel 1, the outrider enters from the left, and directs our eye to Lockjaw, sleeping on the floor next to the Niagara-Falls-Honeymoon-Suite bed that Black Bolt sleeps in. In Panel 2, the outrider remains on the left side, but it’s closer to Lockjaw, moving past him. Panel 3 is expanded a bit so that we can see the outrider hovering over Black Bolt, and the orientation is angled slightly so that we move from upper left to lower right, from assassin to sleeping king. Panels 4 and 5 are a continual movement as the outrider moves its hand toward Black Bolt’s temple, touching it in the last image on the page to draw out his secrets. Well done, Mr. Cheung!
Page 27: This page is Black Bolt’s memories, so the panel borders are indeterminate and fuzzy until Panel 5, where we’re back in “reality.” We get a crash course in Inhuman history – Kree experiment, Black Bolt’s awesome voice, his five wives (one of whom is a Dire Wraith, one of whom has a horse’s head), and his cray-cray brother. Some of this feels very Hickman-esque – he uses the phrase “wheels within wheels,” which he used in Secret Warriors, and I wonder if Black Bolt’s polygamy comes from his run on Fantastic Four. Anyway, the outrider hasn’t found what it wants, so it “digs deeper.” Into … an advertisement!
Advertisement Page 4: An “interactive movie experience” of Marvel superheroes at Madame Tussauds of London. I’m scared to ask more.
Page 28: Back at the Peak, we see Captain Universe lying in some kind of futuristic hospital bed. Iron Man, Captaion America, Ex Nihilo, and Abigail Brand watch her. Ex Nihilo tells them that “mother” will recover – she’s rebuilding and regenerating as they speak! Cap explains that she disappeared a week ago and jumped to another part of the universe, “rambling about impending doom,” according to Elon Musk – I mean, Iron Man. Ex Nihilo says that those were words to be heeded, because Cap U. knows things. Brand takes them away from the bed by telling them about the other thing she wanted to discuss – a Kree “omnicast” (basically, a distress call) from one of their outposts, which is not how they do things, according to Tony.
Page 29: In the first panel, we see the rest of the Avengers as Brand leads them into a bigger room and admits that no, the Kree don’t do that. I don’t mean to keep bringing up odd gendered things, but notice that all the men are standing ramrod-straight with their legs in inverse “V”s, while Captain Marvel, the only other female in the room, stands with her arms crossed and her hip cocked. It’s just weird when you start looking closely at stuff like this.
The middle three panels of the page are scenes from the “big monitor,” showing the Kree distress signal. Cheung and Ponsor do a good job with the “static” on the screen and the washed-out colors – it really does look like a bad transmission from deep space. The three panels basically tell us that the Builders have arrived, and they’re trashing the Kree. In Panel 4, some dude with horns who looks vaguely like Ex Nihilo tells them they should run if they have the chance. From what I recall, Ex Nihilo was a bad dude in Avengers #1. I guess he switched sides. Anyway, in Panel 5, he seems confused that the Builders are attacking. Sucks to be them, I guess. Brand begins to speak on the far right of the panel, leading us onto the next page.
Page 30: Brand exposits that somehow she can plot the path of the “Builder fleet.” Don’t ask how – it’s SUPER SCIENCE!!!!! Earth, naturally, lies right in the center of the path, which means the Builders are coming to Earth. Well, dang. This news makes Cap look like he has to pass a kidney stone. See a doctor, Cap!
Advertisement Page 5: A house ad for Mighty Avengers #1. I’m not sure if I can continue reading this comic because Greg Land’s “art” just made my eyes bleed.
Page 31: Back on Attilan, the outrider is still digging. The panels alternate between it sticking its fingers straight into Black Bolt’s mind and the fuzzy “memory” panels we saw before. We see the existence of the Illuminati, with possibly the six douchiest “heroes” of the Marvel Universe, each possessing an Infinity Gem. The outrider sees this and doesn’t react well – it says “No” as it continues to probe. The next “memory” is the same panel, except that each “hero” is now a skeleton, and the narration tells us that the gems are lost and the men are “covered” in “sweet death.” Well, that can’t be good. Cheung does not draw good skulls – they look like rubber masks.
Page 32: A new memory in Panel 1, as we get five strange-looking people wearing Kirby Klothing™, looking sternly toward the reader. They are “hidden kings and a lost queen,” and of course we get a bit of female cleavage (SORRY!). In a nice transition, the second panel is the same height, except everything has disappeared and Black Bolt has taken the central king’s place. He says, “Get out of my mind,” because he’s awesome and doesn’t suffer weird-looking mind assassins poking around. The outrider reacts too slowly, and Black Bolt gets medieval on it. It’s another nice composition by Cheung – it looks like the outrider tries to pull away, but Black Bolt’s grip on its arm is so strong, that it yanks the arm right off. The way the speed lines are on the paper and the fact that Black Bolt is still lying down makes it clear that he’s not putting too much effort into pulling, but he’s so furshlugginer strong that the outrider can’t escape without its arm tearing off. It’s a pretty cool panel.
Page 33: The outrider reverses its course through Attilan, and Cheung reverses the way we see it. In Panel 1, Karnak and Gorgon are now on the left side of the panel, looking back toward the assassin fleeing the bedchamber. This leads our eye from the left to the right, and in Panel 2, their movement to the left is canceled by the outrider’s movement to the right, as it phases through the two to escape. In Panel 3, it’s on the left and the Inhumans are on the right, again looking back as it gets away. This is a very well done slice of movement by Cheung, as we can see if we track where our eyes go as we read the panels:
In the bedchamber, Black Bolt rises and somehow (with a “fwashh!” and some Kirby Krackle) gets his fancy outfit on. He gazes down at the arm on the bed, which leads us to the next page.
Page 34: Cheung’s dedication to thin, horizontal panels and fairly boring page layouts hurts him here, as Panel 1 shows Gorgon using his superpower of … stamping his feet really hard to disrupt the outrider’s escape. It’s a very confusing panel, because Cheung shows the effect of it first – the assassin is swirling on the left side of the panel, and then we see some destruction, and then Gorgon standing on the right side of the panel. It doesn’t even look like he’s stamping his foot, and the sound effect (“Stommmsshhh!”) doesn’t help. If you don’t know what Gorgon’s power is, you have no idea what’s happening in this panel, and because Cheung uses horizontal panels, both this and Panel 2 are difficult to read. In Panel 2, Tolos and Kirren are waiting for the outrider, who is thrown through the door toward them by the blast from Gorgon’s foot. After doing such a nice job on the previous page leading our eye around the panels, Cheung drops the ball here – a more vertical panel with a full-length shot of Gorgon could have shown him stamping his foot and could have propelled the outrider from that panel to a panel next to it, where Tolos and Kirren could have been waiting on the right side of the page rather than the left side. This would also help the flow of Panel 5, where the outrider slaughters Tolos and Kirren and moves from the right side of the panel to the left side, which is counterintuitive. I get that when the outrider entered Attilan, he was moving from left to right, so when he leaves, Cheung wants to show him moving from the right to the left, but while that’s clever, sometimes you need to sacrifice cleverness for clear storytelling. Panels 3, 4, and 6 show Black Bolt giving the arm to Lockjaw to sniff and then teleporting away. Panel 5, where poor gossipy Tolos and Kirren die, is drawn well, but it’s still not the greatest way to show the scene.
Advertisement Page 6: It’s a house ad for the NEXT big Marvel event (sheesh!), “Battle of the Atom,” with information on how to get your “free” digital copy. Of course, you had to buy this issue of Infinity to get the code for the “free” copy, but whatever.
Page 35: The outrider leaps for the bannister as Gorgon and Karnak chase it. This is laid out a bit better – the outrider is still running “against the grain,” so to speak, but at least Cheung leads our eye back to Gorgon and Karnak as they chase it. In a thin Panel 2, a yellow “fwasshh!” from the bottom of the panel implies that Black Bolt has teleported in somewhere on the floor below, so when the outrider leaps over the railing, he’s right in Black Bolt’s kill zone. Cheung reverses the orientation so that the outrider is leaping down from the upper left toward Black Bolt in the lower right, and Black Bolt says “Stop” in tiny, tiny letters and really does a number on the assassin. I’m not the hugest fan of blurry special effects in comics, but they seem to work well with Black Bolt and the effects of his voice, so this is a cool looking panel. You can also “augment” this “reality” if you so choose.
Page 36: The outrider falls, but it lands right on its invisible spaceship. As Karnak and Black Bolt watch, it climbs in and the ship escapes. In Panel 6, Karnak, Black Bolt, and Lockjaw (who must be standing on his hind legs to be level with the other two) stare grimly to the right and up, following the ship’s path. Well, actually, Black Bolt is looking down a bit, because he knows the thing got away with some vital information. The narration asks, “What king can keep his throne if all those secrets are laid bare?” Beats me, narration box. Beats me.
Page §: This chapter is called “Outbound.”
Thursday, 15 August, 3.54 MST (No musical accompaniment; since the last time I wrote, the kids have come home, and I don’t want to bother them with loud music, especially because one daughter is watching The Princess and the Frog.)
Page 37: We get a thin panel on the left side, changing up the layout just a bit. We’re still on the Peak, and a bunch of heroes has assembled, as they do in these events. Captain Marvel takes point. I’m not listing the heroes – consult your cast of characters!
Page 38: This is a pretty dense info-dump – Carol says that space empires are mobilizing, Smasher says that Guardian, who’s ruling the Shi’ar these days, is recalling all superguardians, and Abyss, who is Ex Nihilo’s sister, says that if the Builder fleet reaches Earth, humans will be extinct (extincted?). Well, damn. There’s not much to say about this page – Cheung draws everyone looking grim, because that’s just how you must look in Big Two Event Books. Someone better smack Kitty Pryde.
Page 39: More info-dumping/inspirational shit: Cap says they’re taking the fight to space so they can stop the Builders before they reach Earth, Starbrand wonders if he should go with them, and Sunspot and Cannonball talk about how cool it will be to be in space, like they’ve never been there before. I mean, really? Iron Man is staying behind to “enact some contingency plans and marshal the world’s defenses” in case the other Avengers fail. Again, Cheung doesn’t have much to do.
Page 40: The “quincruisers” are leaving the station – there are two of them. Why are they called “quincruisers”? I assume the original “quinjets” were called such because the Avengers had five members, but those days are long gone, so why is the inelegant and false prefix still being attached to everything? Weird. Anyway, Iron Man speaks for all comicdom when he tells Cap that he’s “getting tired of end of the world scenarios.” AMEN, TONY! I imagine no one involved with this comic appreciates the irony of that statement. Cheung, once again, doesn’t have much to do, although he does constantly push us from left to right, which is nice.
Page 41: We’ve moved from an establishing shot of a planet in the first panel to just empty space. We’re back on Titan, as Panel 2 tells us, but you wouldn’t know it from the blank sky in Panel 1. Anyway, something streaks in from the upper left and crashes on the surface, bottom right. In Panel 3, three dudes find the outrider and pull him from the wreckage of his spaceship – at least I think so, because we don’t really see the wreckage, unless the curved piece of what looks like rock arcing over the scene is meant to be part of the ship. They drag the outrider away, and the dudes mention that the “omen” says that it’s “right where he should be.” They chuck him up the hill and say that everyone is waiting for them. Once again, Cheung is back on solid ground, as each panel moves us nicely from left to right, taking us onto the next page.
Page 42: The outrider kneels before Zod – I mean, Corvus – and says that it’s had success. Corvus acknowledges this and says that because of its success, “all five” of the “dreadlords” have assembled. So we’re introduced to the “Black Order” – Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf, The Ebony Maw, and Supergiant. I should point out that the Black Dwarf is not actually a dwarf and Supergiant is not a giant, but I guess these are like their wrestling names. They all look menacing, though.
Page 43: So, I guess Corvus is the fifth “dreadlord”? He doesn’t introduce anyone else, and Thanos doesn’t seem to be around. He specifically said there were five of them, so I guess he’s the fifth. I was waiting to turn the page and get introduced to the final one, but we just move on. He asks where the outrider found the secret, and the outrider tells him that Black Bolt “hides what Thanos seeks.” Corvus tells it that it’s done well and rewards it by killing it. That’s nice of him. Cheung actually does a decent job making the final shot of the outrider look somewhat pathetic – as pathetic as a creature with no eyes can look, I suppose. I feel a little sorry for the poor bugger. We get a poorly colored panel of the outrider’s decapitation – the background is quite dark, and the blood and the outrider’s head flying across the panel are black, so it’s not immediately clear what happened. But it’s a decapitation! Luckily Geoff Johns didn’t write this, or we’d see it as it happens, rather than the aftermath! Corvus, meanwhile, turns to the right side of the page in the final panel and asks “Does this please you, master?” to the presence on the next page. Again, not a bad transition.
Page 44: Thanos isn’t pleased. “No,” quoth he, “Earth would please me.” Well, fine, douchebag. In Panel 2, all the smart aliens express their amazement that anyone would want to invade Earth. So far, this might be my favorite panel in the comic, as everyone knows that it’s really not smart to attack Earth:
Corvus, however, tells them that Earth is riper for the conquest than usual. The Inhumans are divided. The mutant schools are divided. And there’s even more favorable news. While he says this, the dude in S.W.O.R.D. who helped send the quincruisers off a few pages earlier stands there, looking evil (it’s the glowing eyes). Wait, how did he get there? Is he enslaved or willingly helping Thanos? What the heck? Anyway, Corvus tells the horde to “sharpen [their] teeth” and to “prepare for a great meal.” Why? Because …
Advertisement Page 7: DAMN! An ad? It’s not even a real ad, it’s an advert for Marvel’s version of DC’s “Channel 52,” which they’ve oh-so-cleverly named “The Watcher.” You can check out “Marvel news and behind-the-scenes content!” I don’t get this kind of promotion, because unless stuff like this tells us like who’s putting what in whose tea in the Marvel Bullpen or what kind of weird porn Tom Brevoort watches, who cares, really? This ad promises “the inside scoop on Matt Kindt’s wild new limited series,” Marvel Knights: Spider-Man. I have no problem with this new series, and will probably get it in trade, but what on earth will they tell us that’s an “inside scoop”? Anyway, go check out “The Watcher” on Marvel.com if you literally have nothing else to do in your entire life, including organizing your sock drawer.
Page 45: “She has no Avengers”! says Corvus, off-panel, as the issue ends with Thanos smiling, looking weirdly like Leonard Nimoy. Seriously, what the hell? This is, of course, “to be continued!”
After this, we get a checklist that looks oddly like a bunch of Sefirot. You can’t just read Infinity, you must read Avengers and New Avengers, too! I assume you can read Avengers #18 and New Avengers #9 in either order, as long as you read them both before Infinity #2. Meanwhile, Marvel also helpfully shows us three tie-in books – Avengers Assemble #18, Captain Marvel #15, and Thunderbolts #14. Next issue, we’re promised an “INVASION!” Man, Captain America does NOT look happy on that cover.
What should we make of this first issue of this huge event? Well, first of all, it’s a superb value. At a time when Marvel is gouging consumers by selling them 20-page comics for 4 dollars, this is over twice that size for one more dollar. If Marvel wanted to charge the same price-per-page that they do for their regular, 20-page comics, this would have been 9 dollars. If they don’t spiral into bankruptcy by selling this comic at such a smaller price for their regular books, we will all know that their 4 dollars-for-20 pages price point is, well, utter bullshit. So there’s that. This book is packed with content – there’s not a lot of waste – and it’s cheap compared to most comics. Plus, there are only 7 ad pages, none of them double-paged spreads, and that’s pretty cool, too.
I haven’t been reading Hickman’s Avengers or New Avengers, so the fact that you don’t really need to know what’s going on in those books in order to understand this was pretty cool, too. I imagine it’s helpful to know who Ex Nihilo or Black Swan is, but it’s not necessary. We get plenty of information about the Builders from this very comic, and even though we’re not quite sure what Thanos wants (that is, if you aren’t familiar with Thanos, because he only ever wants one of two things), we can hazard a guess. So it’s well done in that regard.
Hickman is an interesting writer in that he’s really, REALLY interested in world-building, so we get quite a bit of seemingly ancillary stuff that, let’s hope, will pay off later in the event. I mean, maybe people who have been reading his Avengers comics know what the heck is happening on the first two pages, when Black Panther sets off that device, but I don’t know what’s going on, and Hickman never returns to that vignette. It’s just part of the big tapestry, with its 51 (!) characters, that he’s creating in this single issue. So while we don’t really get that big of a deal with a plot – wait, TWO evil things are going to destroy the Earth rather than one? why, it’s like a Joel Schumacher Batman movie! – at least we have an interesting time getting there. It’s difficult for writers of Big Events – they have to present a threat that’s big enough to justify the Event, but at the same time, Iron Man’s boredom with “end of the world scenarios” is a big deal, at least for this reader. In Marvel time, it’s probably been six months since the Serpent and Odin planned to destroy the world, and I imagine Marvel’s superheroes are a bit sick of it. In fact, I’d totally read a Big Event where the heroes lost because they didn’t take the latest threat seriously enough – “Dudes, we just beat the Skrulls, the Serpent, Thanos, and these ‘Builder’ things in the past month – we don’t need to worry about Evil Forbush Man!” So it’s all about the journey, and at least that part is interesting. The ending bugs me, though, because it seems more dire than it actually is. Sure, a bunch of Avengers leave the Earth, but do the bad guys really think that the divided mutant schools won’t put their differences aside to fight Thanos? And wouldn’t even villains like Doctor Doom stand against them? There are still a bunch of Avengers left, too. The Earth is stuffed with superheroes, and 18 Avengers (including lightweights like Cannonball – “Ah’m invulnerable when Ah’m blastin’!”) leaving to fight the Builders isn’t going to put too much of a dent in the roster, even if Thor and Captain Marvel and Hyperion are among them. I know it’s meant to be a big dramatic moment, but it’s only that if you don’t think about it too much.
Cheung won’t be drawing the entire mini-series (based on his output, I imagine he began working on this at least 18 months ago), but he’s not a bad artist to use to launch it. He’s a decent enough superhero artist, and this book allows him to cover up his one major weakness in his actual pencil work – the fact that pretty much every human he draws looks exactly the same. He doesn’t need to worry about that because he gets to draw a lot of aliens and a lot of people in masks. When we do get a page with a lot of faces, the results are not too great, but luckily it doesn’t come up that often. Meanwhile, Cheung is never going to challenge the way comics are made, so the layouts of this book won’t set the world on fire, but that’s okay. Nobody is here to be challenged by the art (they’re not really here to be challenged by the writing, either, but Hickman tries to dazzle us a little bit, if not overwhelmingly so). It’s a bit frustrating that Cheung sets the scene exactly the same way pretty much every time – with an establishing, horizontal panel that shows the location and names it (the lettering, of course, isn’t exactly Cheung’s doing). I don’t know if Hickman wrote this Marvel Method or full script, but it’s still disappointing whoever made the decision. In two instances, the scene is set by a vertical panel (how radical!) and only once, when we return to Attilan and the outrider is probing deeper, is the establishing scene part of the greater scene itself. On 19 of the 45 pages, we get horizontally stacked panels, either three, four, five, or six of them, which is a fairly boring way to lay out a page. An artist once told me that it was a good way to lay out a page because it was more cinematic, which makes me sad, because comics shouldn’t be “cinematic” – they should be “comical.” If Cheung is going for “cinematic,” well, congratulations – he did it. It’s still kind of boring.
Cheung, as I noted, does a pretty good job with the storytelling, for the most part. There are a few odd pages, but he moves us through the book pretty well, and there’s only a few places where we get hung up slightly. Part of the problem with this issue is that Cheung isn’t that great at conversations, so the fact that a lot of this book is set-up works against him. The dynamic action parts are quite good, but because this issue is a lot of Hickman moving parts into position, it doesn’t take full advantage of Cheung’s strengths. Hickman could have used an artist whose facial expressions and body language are a bit better on this issue and maybe Cheung could have drawn a more action-packed one. It’s not an ugly book by any means, but it doesn’t work quite as well as it could.
Overall, like a lot of Event Books, the first issue is usually the best one, because at least there’s a sense of menace about everything and you can have hope that this time, it really will be an “Event” worth the name. Hickman moves everyone around pretty well, so there’s that – it’s always nice to see a writer not take a completely linear approach to these kinds of books – but this is still just an issue that sets up everything else. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep buying this, but it certainly did pique my interest. We shall see.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Thanks for sticking with me, everyone! I don’t do these too often, but they’re still pretty fun to do!
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