The Marvel Universe is constantly shifting in size and scope. Now that we know Infinity Wars, Marvel’s newest publishing event, is on the horizon, will the prequel series, Infinity Countdown start to lay the groundwork? Plus, are Peter and Kitty having second thoughts on their upcoming marriage? Check out the newest installment of The Marvel Rundown to find out!
Infinity Countdown #2
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Aaron Kuder and Mike Deodato Jr.
Inked by Aaron Kuder and Terry Pallot
Colored by Jordie Bellaire and Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: AJ, we’re counting down to Infinity Wars with Marvel’s latest (not really but kind of event) storyline. What did you think of the second chapter of Infinity Countdown?
AJ Frost: Hey there Alex. With “infinity” right there in the title, this book was destined to be big, brash, and in your face. From the opening pages, where alliances are recapped and foes set against each other, this book succeeded in conveying the epic scale of a prized Marvel McGuffin. But, did it succeed? In many ways, it did, though there were some hiccups along the way.
Jones: This chapter definitely was not perfect but the grandiosity of the narrative and level of fun really stuck out to me. AJ, I think we are having a critical role reversal here! There were a lot of big moments and bold ideas across the issue spanning multiple planets. More than anything, I feel like this issue cements the tone Infinity Wars is likely going to bear. The creative team has an irreverent tone established in the chapter which is likely going to be a staple for the rest of the narrative. Also, it does seem like the story has clear stakes and a defined central core plot with the issue surrounding some of the stones. I’m willing to cut writer Gerry Duggan some slack because I am having so much fun.
Frost: Sure! This issue has a lot of quality content readers will enjoy: big stakes, epic fight scenes, Groot killing stuff (slight spoiler!), but it also has–surprisingly–a bit of heart to it as well. Duggan sets some scenes apart to explore character dynamics which are more than fist meeting face. At the same time, the story’s ambitions are buttressed by the excellent art.
Jones: I agree with your assessment. There were lots of great individual moments and threads here. I would like to assess one of the greater criticisms I have seen surrounding the title of Infinity Countdown feeling random. There are lots of sporadic threads and ideas and I can’t help but appreciate the way the crazy Marvel cosmic elements are flowing together, but I’m not sure each story feels cohesive. The one aspect tying the stories together is the battle for the Infinity stones, however, the fights are happening on different planets making elements of the plot disconnected. I’m hoping by the time the full event comes to a climax, readers will get a better idea of the endgame from Duggan and company.
Frost: It might be more apt to call the sparse scenes vignettes, which string together to form the bigger narrative. It’s the oldest trick in the book comics-wise, isn’t it? I can see the criticism but definitely wouldn’t hold it against the series.
Jones: I have concerns about the story not knowing what it wants to be. This is 80% Guardians of the Galaxy comic with additional characters thrown in to let readers know the scope is larger than a typical chapter of the series. There are lots of characters flying at the wall here, but I’m not sure a larger mini-series with a different name was earned. However, at the end of the day, even with oddball narrative choices and structure–I’m still happy to read something as devoted to all things fun and Marvel which this series directly channels. I wonder if the actual event is going to have a more straightforward tone or keep this eclectic sense of humor.
Frost: The actual event will probably be more straightforward in tone, Duggan likes to throw more humor into the mix than the average writer might have. While Adam Warlock’s plot might seem tacked on to the issue, I think tonally it’s a nice addition. The scene is just as bombastic as the rest of the comic, with a little more cosmic magic involved.
Jones: For my money, the Adam Warlock twist was one of the best moves the issue had to offer. Duggan did a fantastic job in keeping up with a spooky sense of atmosphere swelling towards the final page. I would also like to take the time here to point the attention towards the pencils–what did you think of the artistic contributions to the issue? Aside from just Aaron Kuder, Mike Hawthorne assisted on pencils with Mike Deodato drawing the opening two pages.
Frost: Aaron Kuder and Mike Hawthorne’s work here is as nice and solid as ever. There is great diversity here in terms of what’s being put to paper. There are epic space battles and more intimate character beats. You can’t deny the amount of hard work being put into these pages. Admittedly, this type of mainstream art can get tiring in its sheer overwrought aesthetic just smacking you upside the head but here, it works.
Jones: I felt the work looked a bit rushed at times and was unable to completely discern the difference between Hawthorne and Kuder’s pencils. This issue has a higher page count and sticking to a monthly schedule is likely difficult on the creative team. I think there is some ultra-detailed work and love the Groot and Scar battle; The spread with Gamora is fantastic as well. Unfortunately, as the issue progressed, I found the artists strained to keep up with the increased page count.
Frost: Yes, I see where you’re coming from, however, I thought the work stayed consistent throughout, sometimes even exceeding my expectations.
Jones: AJ, what can Infinity Countdown do to win your affection further? At this point, it would help for me to learn more about what is going on with Black Widow or Adam Warlock to keep me invested in the narrative. I think Duggan should also try and slow the pace down for some character development in the next couple of installments.
Frost: I’ve been enjoying the vibe of Infinity Countdown.
Jones: I think I’m still at a BUY here; this story has entertained me every step of the way. The high points are the interlude and epilogue and I’m fascinated to see how all of this will tie together with the main Guardians plot thread.
Frost: I’m with you. This is a BUY. I’m excited to see how the Adam Warlock story connects to the grander narrative happening here!
Final Verdict: Alex and AJ both say BUY.
X-Men Gold #26
Written by Marc Guggenheim
Illustrated by Michele Bandini and David Marquez
Colored by Arif Prianto and Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
Kitty Pryde and Colossus are getting married! The couple has been through a lot together, from dying of the Legacy virus to being resurrected by aliens to being trapped in a giant bullet hurtling through space, and now they’re ready to settle down (as much as they can while still being mutant superheroes hated and feared by the world at large). I haven’t read an X-title since Bendis left them a few years ago, so I thought I’d check in and see how the merry mutants are doing now that two of my favorites are tying the knot. X-Men Gold #26 kicks off the “‘Til Death Do Us Part” storyline leading up to the big wedding, and unfortunately everything’s not all sunshine and roses for the happy couple – or for the overall issue.
Writer Marc Guggenheim crafts a fast-paced issue with some well-developed character interactions and enjoyable action. I also found everything really easy to follow, impressive given I haven’t read an X-Men comic in three years. That said, the main character ‘conflict’ of the issue – are Kitty and Piotr having second thoughts? – felt really forced. The two share a scene together at the beginning of the issue and there’s no recognizable tension between them then, but even the vaguest joke from Kitty about ‘cold feet’ – a joke that Piotr joins in on – is apparently enough to make Colossus mope around for the rest of the issue. Given their light and comfortable tone together earlier in the issue, Piotr’s later angst felt like it came out of nowhere.
Michele Bandini and Arif Prianto provide the art and colors for a majority of the issue, with David Marquez and Matthew Wilson working only on the first-page flashback. The two art teams’ styles complement each other well, to the point where the transition from one to the other is hardly noticeable. Bandini is a decent storyteller. Her action is easy to follow and energetic, her characters distinct and expressive. As with the writing, though, there were a couple of things which made me scratch my head. The strangest thing was that, in one scene that takes place in Kitty’s office, there’s a giant portrait of Rogue on the office wall. It’s there solely so Bobby can make a point in an argument he and Kitty are having, and it’s a clever way to win the argument, but now it’s canon that Kitty Pryde has a very large portrait of ‘90s-costumed Rogue on the wall in her office. I don’t know if the portrait was in the script or if it was something Bandini added, but either way, it made me do a double-take – at first I thought it was a window and Rogue was flying by – and it distracted me from an otherwise strong scene.
X-Men Gold #26 had a lot of strong things going for it, but an unevenness in the writing and some truly strange art choices dragged the overall experience down. It’s a shame Kitty and Piotr’s wedding celebration didn’t get off to a stronger start.
Final Verdict: BROWSE for some decent punching, questionable conflict, and to check out
Kitty’s weird Rogue portrait.
Next week we’re taking a look at the latest and greatest Marvel issue of the year!
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.