Weber Has Issues Special Edition: Infinity #1 and Marvel Universe’s Greatest Crossover Stories

Happy Tuesday to you, and welcome to a brand-spankin’ “Weber Has Issues” column, where traditionally we dive in to a #1 issue or “jumping on” point for new readers. This week’s comic output was LOADED; we saw the return of the amazing “Saga”, “Batman” continued its look at Bruce Wayne’s early days as a crime-fighter, and “Thor: God of Thunder” wrapped up the amazing God Butcher plot. Absolutely all of these comics delivered, but certainly none of them were new reader friendly AT ALL. Just weeks after Marvel concluded their “Age of Ultron” special event mini-series, another big-time Marvel U crossover started this week. It’s name? “Infinity”.

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Infinity#1(Marvel Comics, $4.99) by writer Jonathan Hickman and with art by Jim Cheung, is a big comic with big ideas. Thanos (who popped up in the post-credits scene of “The Avengers”) is a space-faring nihilist who literally is in love with Death. Not just the concept of dying in an Elizabeth Kubler-Ross sort of way, but he loves the entity called “Death” (think an alternately foxy and horrifying female Grim Reaper and you’ve pretty much got the idea). Every few years Thanos pops back into the Marvel U to try and kill everybody (most notably in “The Infinity Gauntlet” in the early ‘90s.) Thanos doesn’t have the Infinity Gauntlet (a cosmic glove that features gems that can control different aspects of time, matter and energy) this time, however, and he has to get his Titanic (he’s from a moon called Titan, AND he’s big) hands dirty. Well, dirty-ish, as he has a being called an Outsider mass-murdering aliens for him.

Thanos manipulates events to bring war both in outer space (where some of the most interesting things going on in Marvel are happening–check out “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova”) as well as on Earth. There’s a LOT of set-up, but Hickman does a great job of keeping you up with the intricate plot. Thanos indirectly threatens the Illuminati (not Jay-Z and P-Diddy, but the brain-trust among the Marvel heroes) by sending a team of new cosmic meanies to rough Earth’s defenses up. Meanwhile, the Outsider ravages Avengers Tower, the X-Men’s mansion, and a S.W.O.R.D. base to learn Earth’s flaws. There’s a whole lot of things going on, and I will be interested to see where they end up going with this…..I suspect the Inhumans, the ancient race of moon-based not-quite-mutants will get involved somehow. Hickman is a smart man (somewhere in the vicinity of Lanny Poffo and Damien Sandow, but not quite as smart as Kevin Nash….nobody is as smart as Kevin Nash) and this is a smart, smart comic book on par with some of Vertigo or Image’s headier stuff, only done within the confines of the classic Marvel Universe.

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The art is unique; I like Cheung’s post-modern interpretations of the Marvel heroes, especially Iron Man. Cheung easily goes between planetary-based action to interstellar war, making both easy to follow and conveying action and intensity in his panels. I hope that he meets deadlines and that the art for this crossover is not compromised by fill-in pencillers.

My fear is that since this is such a massive story, one will have to buy some of the tie-ins to really get what’s going on. This has plagued some of the company-wide crossover events in the past, (Secret Wars II specifically for all you fellow octogenarians) and this book is already expensive enough at $5. My recommendation: This is a killer story, but there’s going to be a large amount of trade paperbacks. I will personally hold off on getting any more issues and will instead wait for the collected edition and will see if reading anything else is necessary to flesh out the core story.

WHO WOULD LIKE THIS: Fans of the “Avengers” franchise films; rich comic fans who can afford to buy seven comics a month on top of their usual haul.

New Feature Alert!
In tribute to this week’s “Infinity #1” we’re going to take brief looks at some of my favorite or at least somewhat notable Marvel company crossovers in a feature called:

The Five Books of Doom: Marvel Company-Wide Event Edition

5. Contest of Champions

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This is the crossover that really started it all, and while it’s not terrific, it is groundbreaking. Two cosmic entities (one may or may not be Thanos’ love interest) collect Marvel heroes and pit them against each other in battles. It’s weird, but kind of fun in an early 80’s kind of way; not entirely unlike AWA wrestling from the Showboat Casino on ESPN Classic.

4. The Infinity Gauntlet

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Thanos makes goo-goo eyes at Death and kills half the population of the Marvel Universe in tribute. Luckily, characters you’ve never heard of turn up to save the day. This one was really hampered by an artist change halfway through; I adore the legendary George Perez, but he has to be given substantial lead time to finish up his stories. On a book like this, I’d rather wait for a late book with consistent art instead of meeting deadlines by compromising excellence (I’m a flip-flopper on this topic, I know).

3.House of M

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Magneto’s psycho Gypsy daughter, the Scarlet Witch, makes a wish for mutant superiority, and we get to spend time in a dystopian world with a mutant ruling class. A very cool event that uses the X-Men well within the Marvel Universe, House of M is a classic story that eventually thinned the herd of the mutant masses.

2.Civil War

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The Marvel heroes are divided into wants to keep their identity secret (Captain America’s side) and who feels they have nothing to hide (Iron Man’s team). This book REALLY resonates these days after the NSA scandal, and like reality, it’s a tough look at a complicated issue. The only thing that taints this series for me is the fact that (SPOILER ALERT) Spider-Man makes a deal with the devil to reinstate his secret identity six months later. To quote Randy Orton, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

1.Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars

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This series is the crystallization of my junior high school years. EVERY Marvel character I cared about (ok, no Tony Stark) are transported to a distant planet and forced to fight for survival. Many new concepts found their origin here (remember, this led to Venom’s origin) and the story reads even better in trade. This is the best thing Jim Shooter ever did; alas, Secret Wars II is not the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten.

I hope you like “The Five Books of Doom”!

You’d better, because it’s sticking around!

Other new comics I purchased this week: East of West #5 (going to be a great collection), Thor: God of Thunder #11 (if you’re not reading this, you’re dead to me Fredo), Astro City #3, Batgirl #23, Batman #23, Deadpool #14 (conclusion of last month’s ‘70s spectacular), Saga #13 (still the best thing in the world), Justice League of America #7, and The Walking Dead #113.

I recommend buying comic in person whenever possible and supporting your local comic book brick-and-mortar store (visit mine at facebook.com/pages/A-1-Comics-Inc/143922524867) or by using Comicology’s nifty comic-reading app. To find a comic shop near you, call 1-888-COMIC BOOK.

Author: Todd Weber

Old Man Weber, he just keeps rolling along. Send Todd an email