Marvel Comics’ “Infinity” event saw the Earth imperiled by two great menaces: The mysterious Builders who were hellbent on destroying the planet, and the intergalactic tyrant known as Thanos who wanted to pillage and raze it. The Avengers headed into space to intercept the Builders’ armada while the remaining heroes of Earth tried to hold the line against Thanos and his legion of followers who invaded the planet shortly after the Avengers left it.
The bulk of “Infinity” was a massive two-front galactic war with many twists and turns. In “Infinity” #6 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Jim Cheung, that war finally came to an explosive conclusion as the Avengers and their allies in the Galactic Council, who had already triumphed over the Builders, fought one last series of battles to liberate their planet. Then in “New Avengers” #12 Hickman and artist Mike Deodato, Jr. gave readers an epilogue to “Infinity” that had the secret super hero think tank known as the Illuminati dealing with the aftermath of the event and realizing their quest to save their planet from total annihilation was far from over.
In this final installment of THE INFINITE WAR REPORT, CBR News examines those events and more as Hickman and Marvel SVP of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort join us for some commentary and insight into “Infinity” #6 and “New Avengers” #12 and what the future holds for the Avengers and the Marvel U in the event’s wake.
CBR News: Tom and Jonathan, let’s kick off this discussion like we usually do by chatting about the work done on these issues by artist Jim Cheung, who returned to help close out “Infinity,” and Mike Deodato who brought his arc on “New Avengers” to a close. Which of their sequences on these issues really stood out for you? And what do you feel they added to the larger story of “Infinity” as a whole?
Jonathan Hickman: I think they were the big draw. I think Jim Cheung is absolutely amazing, and guys like Leinil Yu [on “Avengers”] and Mike Deodato have been unbelievable workhorses. The volume of pages that everybody has done throughout the entire event, and that includes Dustin [Weaver] and Jerome [Opena, who both did sequences in “Infinity” #2-5] as well, has been stunning. I’m overwhelmed that they were able to get it all done and it’s so beautiful.
I don’t think there’s one thing that you can point out that’s good. I think it’s all really, really good and I’m grateful that I got to work with all of the artists involved with “Infinity.”
Tom Brevoort: Let me point out a few good things. [Laughs] Because I can point to a few things that are good beyond the fact that these were difficult books to draw and we had a difficult schedule, but everybody rose to the occasion and competed with each other to keep from being the weak link.
In particular, Jim did a dynamic and explosive fight sequence in “Infinity” #6. Most of that issue is a big throw down with a lot of characters, and I think Jim really brought the goods when it came to getting the intensity across and making you feel all those punches, hits, blast rays and what have you. So with that in particular I thought he did a fantastic job.
Let’s start our talk about the events of these issues with “Infinity” #6. We finally get the big confrontation between Thanos and the Avengers and an interesting five man team was chosen to take on the Mad Titan: Hulk, Thor, Hyperion, Captain Marvel, and Captain America. Why were these characters chosen? Was it mainly because they’re all heavy hitters?
Hickman: I knew where we were going to end up. So I did construct a mechanism where the characters were split up because I did not want to end with Thanos versus 37 people. That would have been a really bad choice.
So I decided to go in a direction where it was basically the most powerful people on the team whose powers aren’t esoteric or are still being defined. I of course included Captain America because he ended up being the linchpin of the entire series in a very real way.
Brevoort: Plus there’s still plenty of stuff going on around the Earth. Thanos had pirates, soldiers, brigands and ne’er-do-wells all over the place. There’s a lot more action going on than just the battle at this one locale with Thanos himself. You see a little bit of that with Cannonball and Smasher up above the Earth. So there’s other stuff that needs to be taken care of. It’s not like the other 20 Avengers are sitting around and watching the fight go on. They’re off dealing with the rest of this.
Also, we wanted to make it a manageable fight. So that’s another reason why it’s only five Avengers. To me, super heroes become less interesting the more of them that you pile up. Essentially they become a shelf of action figures. It’s like, “Look at all the costumes!” They can no longer really be characters because you can’t give them the amount of time to be characters. You can’t really be specific because you’re just having to deal with so many of them. So it seemed like a better choice all around to focus on a manageable number.
In this case everybody was a heavy hitter and most of them were very familiar faces. People know who the Hulk is and here you have a chance to show him in the way you would want to see him in a fight like this. You don’t want it to be seven guys getting knocked over like tenpins because you don’t have the space to deal with them. Or being bland because you don’t have the room to allow any of the characters’ personalities or specialty of skills to come to the fore.
While the Avengers are battling Thanos and his generals in Orollan, the Illuminati is battling Black Order member Supergiant to keep her from destroying an antimatter bomb in their base of operations. It’s Maximus who ends up saving the day by triggering the bomb and teleporting it and Supergiant away. Jonathan, why did you choose to make Maximus the hero here? You seem to enjoy writing him, but what about him is most interesting to you?
Hickman: I think he’s interesting because he’s crazy and smart, which is always an interesting combination.
I think he was kind of super narrating that sequence. [Laughs] I think he was basically stating what was going on and it was actually Lockjaw the dog that saves the day. So I was laughing while I was writing because I wasn’t planning on doing that and I thought it was good comic book fun.
While the battles in the Illuminati’s City of the Dead and Orollan are raging, the Battle of the Peak continues in orbit above the Earth and it looks like Nightmask and Star Brand proved to be invaluable players in that battle. Were they created to essentially be living planetary defense weapons?
Hickman: Yeah, that’s some of it. Obviously there’s a whole lot more to come. “Infinity” and the “Avengers” and “New Avengers” issues collectively sort of told a concrete story. [Laughs] I think we’ve been pretty obvious and forthcoming though in saying that this is just the end of the first act of what we’re doing in the Marvel Universe proper. So I think we’re just scratching the surface with a lot of these characters and you’re going to get a whole lot more down the road. Those two would be good examples of that.
During the battle in Orollan the Ebony Maw uses his silver tongue to persuade Thane to take action. His dialogue and some of his actions in this issue had me wondering how devoted he actually was to Thanos. Did he join up with Thanos’ forces because he believed in their cause? Or did he join the Black Order because of the power it promised?
Hickman: I think like any story that involves a charismatic leader there’s always guys that start out as true believers and then ego and personal desires get in the way and at some point they decide that it’s them who should be leading things, or they should have a little more power, or maybe they develop a slightly bigger appetite than they originally had.
I think the Ebony Maw is a pretty good example of that. He’s a liar and deceiver and he can’t physically compete with the other members of the Black Order or Thanos. So he has to weasel his way into greater and more powerful positions and he saw the opportunity to do so.
Brevoort: Yeah, I think the Ebony Maw is something of an opportunist. That’s how I view him. So he always goes for the best deal on the table. I think he’s completely loyal to Thanos as long as Thanos is the best deal he has in front of him. I don’t think he would hesitate to push Thanos out an airlock though if he thought he could get away with it and thought he would end up in a better position. So not a lot of long term loyalty, but a lot of enlightened self-interest.
The Maw’s new meal ticket is Thanos’ son Thane. At the end of the issue we get a panel with the two of them flying away. Can you talk about the course that Thane has committed himself to? Is he still a good person? Does he think of himself that way? Has he completely rejected his old life as a healer and become his father’s son? What can you tell us about his thought process?
Brevoort: I think some of that will play itself out as we see more of him in other places around the Marvel Universe in the days to come, but certainly all the things that you just described strike me as the makings of an interesting character. I can’t imagine that he’s the same guy that he was when we first saw him in “Infinity.”
He was a guy who was just a doctor and healer, and while he had this family history it was sort of hidden. Now not only has his dark secret come out and come to the fore so much so that he physically resembles his dad, he accidentally and inadvertently wiped out everybody that he ever knew. So even if he wants to believe he’s a good person, that’s a heavy burden for anybody to bear or deal with. The weight of that is something that’s going to change the trajectory of that person’s life.
We’ll see what Thane’s new trajectory is. Certainly the fact that the Ebony Maw has set himself up as Thane’s mentor and consigliere does not bode well for what’s next for this guy. [Laughs]
The final scene with Thane and the Ebony Maw appears in a sequence that includes check-ins with all the galactic empire members who assisted the Avengers against the Builders and Thanos. Does that sequence set these empires up for their future roles in the Avengers books and other Marvel titles like “All-New Invaders?”
Brevoort: There’s stuff going on in “Invaders” that does deal with the Kree. It doesn’t specifically jump off from where they land in “Infinity,” but certainly the fact that they are once again an intergalactic military power and have got some of their mojo and self-respect back will inform what’s going on in “Invaders.”
You won’t find anyone talking about “Infinity” on page one of “Invaders” #1 though. The fact though that the Kree are in an interesting place and are once again major players in the Marvel cosmology is something that will be explored in “All-New Invaders” and will be the backbone of the series’ first storyline.
â€¨We’ll also see more of the other galactic races like the Shi’ar, the Skrulls, and the Annihilation World. All of that stuff will appear in a bunch of places. “Guardians of the Galaxy” will certainly be a spot where those elements turn up in, but they’ll also be part of the Avengers books and the X-Men titles as well. So the newly shined up and reestablished Marvel cosmos will impact and be part of many of our titles.
That epilogue also reveals that Black Bolt planned on ushering in this new age of Inhumans all along. So from what I understand the stuff with Thanos wasn’t originally part of “Infinity,” but what about the elements with the Inhumans? Did the original plans for “Infinity” involve expanding the Inhumans’ role in the Marvel Universe?
Hickman: I think saying that the stuff with Thanos wasn’t originally in there implies that some of what’s going on isn’t completely organic, which is not accurate. The point of “New Avengers” was always to illustrate the fallout of what these guys are going through in their various corners of the Marvel Universe.
There always was going to be a fallout for Black Bolt, Maximus, the Royal Family of Inhumans, and all the connected pieces, so I don’t think it’s accurate to describe it that way. The specificity of it? Sure, but the idea of it? No, I wouldn’t agree with it.
Let’s talk about the final shot of “Infinity” #6 where Iron man says to the Illuminati, “We build — preparing for the unthinkable.” This to me suggests that the Illuminati are in danger of walking down the same road as the Builders. Is that something we should be worried about?
Hickman: I think an argument could be made that in “Avengers” they’re building towards one thing and in “New Avengers” the Illuminati are building toward another. That ties back into the duality of the two books. I don’t think it was subtle. [Laughs]
The Illuminati’s post-“Infinity” exploits continued over in “New Avengers” #12, which served as an epilogue to the event. One of the big things that happen in that issue is T’Challa’s sister Shuri, the Queen of Wakanda, finds out that he’s been working with Namor. With that revelation coming to light is T’Challa essentially persona non grata in Wakanda?
Brevoort: He’s allowed in the Necropolis, which is his domain, but certainly Shuri doesn’t want him around in the capital city. It’s not like Wakanda is that big of a place. It’s a country though, and it’s got some territory. In certain areas T’Challa could walk down the street and still be respected for who he is or who he was.
In a political sense though there’s not a lot of warm feelings towards him right now from the top of the pyramid.
Hickman: Shuri is not going to run around the city and yell, “T’Challa is a traitor.” That’s bad politics. So that’s not the way it will go, but it is a total disaster. It’s not good.
That revelation leads to a talk with Namor where he says to T’Challa, “Welcome to the edge, for it is the perfect place” and smiles. Can you elaborate more on what Namor means by this? Is he telling us that he enjoys what the Illuminati are doing?
Brevoort: I think you’re reading that slightly differently. Namor has been on this road alongside the Panther and at the beginning of “Infinity” he had sort of lost everything. The war with Wakanda went badly. Atlantis was decimated and destroyed. So he was a man without a kingdom. He lost most of what he was protecting, and the Panther was fine. Now at the end of “Infinity,” the Panther has lost his kingdom and the respect of his people. So he’s in a similar situation to Namor, and I think Namor is getting a little chuckle out of the fact that T’Challa has now experienced the same sort of come down, if not the same specifics, as a result of all that they have done. So he’s enjoying the schadenfreude of the moment.
Hickman: Yeah, Namor would argue that the position that T’Challa has been holding on to is a hypocritical one and not one that you can actually have in the scenario that they find themselves. He’s starting to embrace the nihilistic nature of what he’s involved with.
Brevoort: He’s definitely become more fatalistic about what they’re dealing with. Among all the Illuminati he’s probably the one that’s furthest along, although they’re all drifting that way as they’re dealing with the fact that this is an ongoing situation and they’re not really any closer to solving it than they were at the outset. They’ve just gotten very, very lucky so far and haven’t had to directly get their hands dirty and do something awful.
Hickman: They’re not very good at this. [Laughs] They’re not anywhere near as good as they would like to believe they are.
Brevoort: And as they need to be. Because the clock is ticking and another incursion is going to happen sooner than any of them would like. Then they’ve only got eight hours to find some way through it or one or two Earths will end. They’ve been lucky so far, but that can only hold out for so long. That’s why they have a crypt full of antimatter bombs. [Laughs]
We also saw Black Bolt dealing with the after effects of the Terrigen Bomb and Doctor Strange choosing to use a powerful but costly mystical tome. It felt like the theme of this issue is also the larger theme of the book, which is making touch choices and living with the consequences of them. Is that correct?
Hickman: I think the book is about very clearly stating that most victories are hollow and the ones that we just enjoyed are even more so.
Brevoort: Yeah, this is the subtext the Illuminati have to deal with in “New Avengers” #12. The whole of “Infinity” is about the Avengers heroically uniting the galactic powers of the universe to repel the Builders and by doing so they unknowingly continue to imperil not only the Earth itself, but all of the planets that are in existence. Victory in this case is actually kind of a bad thing for the universe because it means that another Incursion is going to happen and the worlds involved are going to be on the precipice of disaster.
â€¨The Illuminati realize this. So Iron Man knows, but Captain America doesn’t. That means it’s a great day to be Cap, the Hulk or Captain Marvel. There’s a sense of “Whew! We did it! We’re safe!” But the guys that are standing two guys away from them are thinking, “No, we’re not at all safe. We can’t lay our burden down.” So they take another breath and then it’s back into the breach. This is an ongoing problem.
If the Builders had won it would have been a horrible thing for the Earth and humanity, but it would have been a pretty good thing for everybody else.
Hickman: It would have been a good thing for the universe in the short term. For the long term, though, other universes would keep dying and therefore the overall multiverse continues to barrel forward toward oblivion.
Let’s conclude with two questions about “Infinity” as a whole. “Infinity” was an event story and major characters often perish in those stories. Because “Infinity” was a two front intergalactic war you could have killed off a major character and it would have felt totally organic, but no major character died. Why was that?
Brevoort: Events tend to be painted with a very broad brush Every event is different though and every story needs different things. It’s become a big cliche that somebody always dies in a big event, but if you look at “Age of Ultron,” as far as I can remember, nobody actually died. Hank Pym was killed in the middle of it, but he was alive by the end of the story. There were no actual fatalities.
In “Battle of the Atom” there was a lot of stuff that went on and some big consequences and changes for people, but again nobody actually died. The idea that every event has to have a fatality is erroneous thinking. It doesn’t happen all the time. No one died in this event, but someone might die in what we have planned next or further down the road.
â€¨Deaths are an easy thing to push, but they’re not what these stories are intrinsically about. They’re not the only outcome that makes these stories consequential or matter to people. So we build each story in the way that seems best for the kind of story that it is, and yes, we could have killed off any number of people in the course of this. We had two wars. We didn’t need to do that to make the story work though, so the deaths weren’t necessary.
Finally, “Infinity” was different from past Marvel events in that the core story was featured in three titles all written by you, Jonathan. What was it like writing such a massive story? How does it feel to bring the story to a close?
Hickman: [Laughs] Well, I don’t think we should have done it that way. I think it was irresponsible, but as soon as I got into it there was no other way to do it.
It was a lot of work. it feels good to be done, and I’m happy that we didn’t screw up too badly. That’s a terrible answer. [Laughs] Tom, do you have a better answer?
Brevoort: [Laughs] I think that’s a pretty good answer. As we’ve said before, we completely failed in this instance to make the core series stand alone. We always try to do that, and more often than not in the past we’ve succeed. This was one where once we got into it, it just couldn’t be done. So fairly early on we made the choice and the switch. We realized that we were going to have to treat the “Avengers” and “New Avengers” chapters as essential pieces otherwise we were going to need twice as many “Infinity” issues for everything to happen. We just didn’t have that strategically, resource wise, or the time. It couldn’t be that way.
â€¨That’s kind of a reflection that every event is different. In this case the shape of the story and how it sat in “Avengers” and “New Avengers” and how much you could convey and make matter in just the core book dictated that we had to do it this way. It was a choice, but it came from having no choice. This was really the best option we had in terms of being able to do this.
â€¨So it’s a glorious failure, but it’s a failure nonetheless. [Laughs]
Hickman: The biggest problem was how late it came together and that I wasn’t really expecting to do it. So we were always racing against the clock. Once we made initial decisions we were locked into them and that’s how we got into the situation where the six-issue event book basically became a 16-issue story. [Laughs] Everybody did as good of a job as they possibly could though, and in some instances, especially with the art, they really exceeded expectations. So I think it all turned out okay.
Brevoort: I’ve been sort of astonished by how positive everyone seems be about the story. Even people who weren’t completely on board with it at different points seem to not dislike it as much as they have other things that we’ve done in the past. I’m not quite sure if that’s a good or a bad thing quite frankly, but the reactions and reviews to issue #6 that I’ve seen so far have been pretty good and pretty positive. People seem to like it and that’s always gratifying. So we’re happy about that.
“Infinity” #6 is on sale now.