You’ve no doubt wondered what your life would be like had you made a decision differently. Maybe it was choosing one major in college over another. Maybe it was not asking a girl out. Maybe it was focusing on your career. Or, maybe it was something as small as hitting the snooze button one day and the consequences of that action. Now, imagine the technology that allows you to see what those paths not taken would result in. An infinite number of possibilities that you can visit like you would travel to another city or country. That’s the idea behind “Infinite Vacation,” and it’s a good one that’s introduced extremely well in the first issue.
With such a high concept, it would be easy to get lost inside of it, but Nick Spencer and Christian Ward avoid doing so by grounding us in Mark, a man obsessed with finding the right version of himself, the right world and life where things don’t become stall and boring and fall apart. Right from the beginning, it’s obvious that the problem is him – something another version of himself tells him – but his stubbornness is intriguing, especially when he becomes obsessed with alternate versions of himself that are dying. He thinks there’s something more to it beyond the simple fact that every second, in some alternate reality, he is dying.
By bringing the high concept down to such a human and flawed level, it makes the entire thing accessible. The only part of the issue that falls flat is the fumetti ad scene that’s distracting. It stands out like a sore thumb next to Ward’s trippy cartooning. It’s easy to see why doing that ad in a different style appealed to Spencer and Ward, but it just looks awful and cheesy. Considering so much of the information we get about Infinite Vacation already comes from Mark, how much of what we learn there is necessary or couldn’t have been given to us by Mark?
Ward’s biggest strength is the way he gives the book its own unique visual look. It looks strange and mind-bending, especially his double-page spreads that seek to show us the concepts behind the series visually. There’s an otherworldly quality to his art and a great use of overlays to provide as much information as possible.
His design for Mark is easy to do variations on with the distinctive red hair as an easy to see shorthand when we see other versions of Mark. More than anything, there’s a loveliness to his art. The watercolor look isn’t the sort that you’d normally associate with this sort of story. It seems to work against the futuristic nature of the comic, but that only heightens the feeling that this world is different from our own (literally, of course).
The idea behind the series is strong enough that, when this story is over, many, many more could be told. But, the focus on a strong protagonist is exactly what’s required. A lot of information is thrown at the reader and grounding it all in a very flawed human that could be the reader makes the book accessible, both intellectually and emotionally. “Infinite Vacation” #1 is as smart and engaging a comic as you could hope for.