At this point, two issues into Marvel's mega-crossover, the one word I'd use to describe Jonathan Hickman's "Infinity" is 'big'. A big cast. Big ideas. Big battles. Big consequences. This is Hickman taking approaches that he's used and perfected in his last few years at Marvel – creative reinterpretation of established history, character-based high concepts, bizarre science-adventure – and blending them into one multi-layered story. The action takes place on numerous fronts: all across Earth, on various occupied planets, and in deep space. There's a half-dozen story threads, each with its own distinct cast of characters. And as all these elements build and develop, they're being inextricably drawn together.
Hickman does a spectacular job juggling all these parallel plot lines, advancing all the players in methodical fashion, tightening the screws and heightening the stakes. And Jerome Opeña and Dustin Weaver's illustrations convey the immense scale of events while capturing every tiny nuance of emotion.
The universe is being torn apart at the seams. The situation is grim, the forecast is dire. And there's a serious undercurrent, a nagging sense of doubt as casualties continue to pile up. Marvel's finest are struggling in the face of overwhelming odds, and risking not just their lives, but even their souls in their attempt to save all of creation. Tough choices will have to be made, and the methods employed will be drastic. And I'm getting the sense that the question at the heart of this series isn't just 'will our heroes prevail?', it's 'will our heroes prevail and still be heroes'?
The first part of this crossover (reviewed here) was to me, a picture-perfect study in how to kick off a major storyline. The set-up was established, characters were clearly defined, the plot began to advance, and it wrapped with a big kick in the teeth cliffhanger. So, after doing all that in the introductory chapter, what happens next?
Well, in short, all hell breaks loose. Excessive use of time-travel comes back to bite everyone in the rear, mysteries and misunderstandings ensue, characters act, react, and over-react, surprises are unveiled (including one particular character making a most unexpected appearance, and Brian Michael Bendis juggles elements with masterful skill and apparent glee.
Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger's art is both intricate and effortless, telling the story in concise and beauteous fashion. (Double-page spreads are used throughout the issue to marvelous effect, using the widescreen canvas to give a sense of scale and import to even the quiet scenes.)
As with the first part of this crossover, much of the joy to be found here is in Bendis' acceptance of Marvel's mutant history, without being slavishly devoted to recreating it; telling a story that works for new readers, yet has added resonance for long-time fans. It celebrates all the giant X-Men formulas and puts a whole different spin on them, taking familiar scenarios in a new direction.