There are plenty of times when the tie-ins to an event are more enjoyable than the event itself. Marvel’s Original Sin comes to mind, where the very setup established in the main story built a stronger foundation for its spin-offs than it had for itself. It’s a little different here, but in a way, the situation is a little worse, because what Infinity Warps #1 does is highlight how good the Infinity Wars event could be, if only it didn’t take itself so seriously.
With a classic What If style nod, the framing sequence for this anthology is an introduction from the Watcher who, in this warped universe, is the merged forms of both Uatu and Charles Xavier, going by the name Observer X. (Just in case you didn’t get the hint that half of this being is the former leader of the X-Men, Observer X’s language is liberally sprinkled with X-pressive X-cerpts that X-ceed your X-pectations.) Aside from really driving home this character’s origins, the tone of this anthology is firmly set here: This is a book that’s here to have fun.
The first story -- 'Moon Squirrel and Tippysaur' -- takes, rather appropriately, the writer of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ryan North, and one of the artists of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Natacha Bustos, and warps them together for a genuinely charming six-page tale of Luneen Lafagreen and her best friend, a Red Squirrel the size of a T-Rex. Merging together two of the most heartwarming all-ages characters currently in the Marvel Universe and throwing them into a short tale about their confrontation with “Doctor Doomactus” is a guaranteed winner if you’re a fan of either of the individual books. Even if you’ve not read either series before, you’d find it hard to dislike the wholesome adventure that unfolds.
North does what he does best, building his narrative into the fiction of the world he’s writing, meaning there’s a fun couple of ‘editorial notes’ which reference volumes of comics from the history of this character that, of course, doesn’t exist, and ends the story with a tease of what’s next for the character which will likely never happen. Similarly, Bustos applies her trademark expressive and welcoming art, accompanied by Tamra Bonvillain’s wonderfully bright colors, and the character design is absolutely on point. Who doesn’t want a squirrel the size of a T-Rex?
The next story -- 'Green Widow,' from Mariko Tamaki and Francisco Herrera -- is a fun team-up between the titular hero and Cat’s Eye, a warped version of Hellcat and Hawkeye. Tamaki’s script is frenetic and full of energy, with Cat’s Eye providing most of the excitement at being involved in this heist. Herrera has a very expressive style, exaggerating the form of Green Widow as she fights through the building. There’s also a neat layering effect of panel borders that lead the eye through potentially chaotic pages in an intuitive way. Overall it’s probably the weakest of the three stories, but purely because there’s not as much to these characters as there are in the other two tales.
'The Terrific Two' is the subject of the final story, where the entirety of the Fantastic Four has been folded in half, forming two new characters with all of the superpowers of the entire team. There’s Mister Invisible, aka Reed Storm, with the powers of both Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, and Hot Rocks, with the powers of Thing and the Human Torch. Hot Rocks may be the best character to come out of the entire Infinity Warps, if for no other reason than the perfect choice of name. Plus, he’s basically Thing, but he can turn on fire? What more needs to be said?
Jim Zub’s story takes its cues from some of the earliest FF tales, by pitting the Terrific Two against a warped Mole Man (the Master Mole and his Sentinoid Slaves!) after the Baxter Building disappears into the bowels of the Earth. It already feels like something you’d have read from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and Zub’s script is full of the enthusiasm of the era. The art team of Todd Nauck, Ozgur Yildirim and Scott Hanna do a solid job of recreating the bombastic adventures of the FF without pushing into any particularly new ground, while the three color artists -- Ruth Redmond, Matt Yackey and Chris O’Halloran -- bring the scenes to life, especially Hot Rocks who practically burns up the pages he’s on.
The biggest flaw with Infinity Warps #1 is that it contrasts so starkly against the main event book. While Gerry Duggan is bringing some level of humor to Infinity Wars, the intense art of Mike Deodato Jr. is perhaps not doing the overall tone of the series any favors. Here, where all of the creative teams are given the breathing room to let loose and have a little fun with a concept that’s basically Amalgam by way of What If, the quality of the core concept has a much better chance to shine through. Perhaps, when all is said and done, Infinity Warps can help to make the entire event feel like more than the sum of its parts.