Infinity #1

I cut my comic book reading teeth and learned the magic of a comic book budget on "Crisis on Infinite Earths," making me a sucker for event stories, especially if they occur during the summer. "Infinity" #1 hits the mark on both criteria. Jonathan Hickman hones his work on "Avengers" and "New Avengers" to a fine point and weaves everything -- I mean everything -- together.

Hickman's roster of Avengers has been nothing short of staple-busting while his work in other sectors of the Marvel Universe only serves to add depth and color to the canvas of a much larger tale. In addition to the twenty Avengers from "Avengers," Hickman brings in the Illuminati from "New Avengers" (only Iron Man counts among both), a trio of X-Men, Spaceknights from Galador (keeping it spoiler-free, the most anticipated Spaceknight appearance does not occur in the pages of "Infinity" #1), Inhumans, Thanos and the Black Legion, Skrulls and S.W.O.R.D., most notably represented by Abigail Brand. To kick off "Infinity," Hickman introduces readers to the Builders, alluded to in issues of "Avengers," but given faces and caste in these pages.

With so very much jammed into a fifty-four page story (although nine pages are text only or text and info-graphics, while ten are a reprint of the Free Comic Book Day prologue), Hickman paces the adventures in "Infinity" #1 like a blockbuster movie with a pre-credits scene followed by near-torturous credits that drag out the upcoming action, teasing the reader. He brings an avalanche of story, characters, emotion, action and adventure to the issue. The total story contained within is broken into six chapters, which may contain more than one scene, but the story and throughline of each chapter remains tight. The end result in this installment of "Infinity" is a simply breathtaking story.

Visually, this comic is most striking in the seven pages on Galador, featuring Spaceknights, Builders and Captain Universe. Washed in glowing reds and soft amber with stunning glints and gleams of most of the rest of the spectrum thanks to the coloring of Justin Ponsor, this scene is vibrant and alarming, filled with critical decisions and pure raw power. It may not be the most critical moment of the series, but it is definitely the most devastatingly gorgeous scene of "Infinity" #1 with its broad range of activity and emotion.

Jim Cheung is a stellar talent. I wish he could do more, but alas, he's only on board for this issue. However, he certainly is able to provide a nice range in this one comic. Cheung really nails the creepiness of the Outrider and provides ferocious imagery for Thanos' Black Order of Dreadlords. Many of these newer characters have swiftly appeared in "New Avengers" already. Among their number are Corvus Glaive, a pale, sharp-fanged wispy spokesman (who seems not unlike the robed advisor of Thanos in the post-credits scene of "The Avengers" film). Black Dwarf is a hulking, hideous beast. Proxima Midnight possesses skin of richest sea blue and apparel of darkest midnight shadow, and seems to potentially be of Kree origin. The quintet of Thanos' generals is rounded out by Supergiant, a mysterious feminine character shrouded in a cloak and the Ebony Maw, a wizened pale creature, more refined than Corvus Glaive, but reminiscent of Grand Moff Tarkin in a riding-a-power-trip kind of way.

Cheung finishes off the issue with a most memorable image of the mad Titan, Thanos. Thanos' wide, imbalanced grin shows the confidence and madness and will undoubtedly serve as a trademark image of "Infinity." Cheung is definitely performing well here. The assembled Avengers team is possibly his weakest effort, as some of Cheung's faces look really young, like maybe Shang-Chi and Bruce Banner are checking in from "Young Avengers."

While kids nowadays likely don't take their summertime, hard-earned, lawn-mowing money and run to the comic shop to pick up summertime comics, that doesn't stop me from holding fast to the concept of "summer comics" and their allure: big events, lots of characters, humongous fights and final pages that leave me wanting for more. "Infinity" #1 is a summer comic in all its glory. The cast is immense, the action is intense. The scene between Outrider and Black Bolt elevates the Inhuman king, who becomes one of the most interesting and mysterious characters in the Marvel Universe just by virtue of his "Infinity" appearance.

Rounding out "Infinity" #1 is a handy checklist, illuminating the path this sprawling adventure will span through sixteen comics. Facing that page, however, is an in-house ad that also boasts covers for tie-ins not represented on the checklist image. "Infinity" will have no shortage of influence over Marvel's comics this summer, but it all really starts boiling right here. The "Infinity" gauntlet is thrown, and it makes for a tremendous read.

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