After months of waiting and watching as All-New Guardians of the Galaxy naturally built to an event story, Marvel is finally ready to reveal Infinity Countdown! Get our impressions on the debut issue and read our thoughts on the opening chapter of Dan Slott’s final Spider-Man arc this week in The Marvel Rundown!
Infinity Countdown #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Aaron Kuder and Mike Deodato Jr.
Colored by Jordie Bellaire and Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: AJ, Marvel is bringing back the Infinity Stones for a cosmic event storyline ala Infinity Countdown! What was your first impression of the debut issue?
AJ Frost: Hey there Alex! Glad to be back. My first impression was: There’s a hell of a lot of stuff going on! At the same time, there’s a lot to unpack here, what with so many major plot developments happening in quick succession. It’s kind of exhausting honestly. On the other hand, this book is BIG! They really didn’t want to skimp on the splash pages!
Jones: The mini-series aspect felt like a cheat as the story is obviously just the next step in what would have been in the ongoing All-New Guardians of Galaxy title. However, I can’t argue the scope here is grander. And even though the comic features a ton of splash pages, the plotting and ambition here is really distributed economically. I also think I may have gotten the wrong impressions from some of the marketing on the issue as I thought this was going to be a massive event storyline but it seems to be the lead-up to something coming down the pipe that is even bigger.
Frost: Hence, the countdown, perhaps? I’m with you that it really is just a Guardians of the Galaxy book with a different name, but it cannot be denied that there is something bigger brewing. I haven’t been as tuned in as you’ve been, so I read the book without any preconceived notions. There were times I was a bit confused with all the alliances and who was on which side. Yet, despite my lack of total knowledge, the stakes presented in the work become evident quickly enough.
Jones: This chapter was the opposite of new-reader-friendly despite the #1 on the cover! There was a ton of different alien races and people with pre-established relationships advancing existing plot threads. Calling this a new #1 is something I have a problem with. Who is going to pick up the debut of the book and know who The Gardener is? You can enjoy the story on a surface level, but even I felt a little shell-shock from the opening page. In fact, it was just really weird in general how the book feels like it opens in the middle of an issue and it is a debut new Marvel #1?
Frost: Ok, good. So it’s not just me. I think this more of a symptom of Marvel renumbering books for seemingly no reason. No. #1s sell because readers assume it’s the natural launching point. But here, we’re in the middle of a huge conflict where so much is happening. It definitely seems odd from a narrative sense, but clearer from a marketing perspective, for sure. Readers need to be made aware of this fact. On the other hand, once I got into the plot, it made a bit more sense. Maybe not the particulars, but certainly the broad strokes.
Jones: There is so many plot thread swirling around the issue, I don’t think I understood everything that was going on either. When I was looking at the characters and reading the plot description, I thought to myself: why are they showing us these characters? After the marketing and weird decisions to stick the comic into a mini-series is pushed aside, I enjoyed everything I read here. I like that Duggan was able to pay off The Gardener plot thread and hit some action-based character beats with Groot. Seeing Drax be badass again is great. The issue also has a couple fascinating surprises packed in the final few pages.
Frost: The moments with Drax were certainly some of the strongest because he has a concrete mission to protect the Power Infinity Stone. Everything else is a swirl of ordnance. On the other hand, I always get a kick out of the Rocket Raccoon stuff, even when he’s spouting the corniest dialogue, which we see in abundance throughout the issue. Speaking of which, what did you think of Gerry Duggan’s story and script? Did you feel he was hitting the right notes? Or do you think he playing with too much at once?
Jones: Probably if you broke the installment down and analyzed it the beginning, middle, and end, this comic may not hold up. Despite everything I said previously, I love this issue. All the elements in the story are unwieldy, huge, bombastic and amazing. The first couple pages are charming and engaging and the comic basically turns into a Guardians of the Galaxy before taking a huge left turn right at the end of the tale. The structure is interesting and tries to remind readers this comic is larger than just the Guardians. Plus there is the gorgeous Aaron Kuder artwork!
Frost: The artwork! It really is fantastic throughout the book. Kuder is a master of creating enormous pieces of dynamic motion and palpable thrills. His rendering of Groot, especially in the final pages of the book, is absolutely spectacular. Whatever perceived weaknesses in Duggan’s script are surely made up of Kuder’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s excellent coloring work. Also, going back to Duggan for a moment, he wrote a scene I felt was atypically dark for a mainstream hero comic.
Jones: Which part?
Frost: The scene where the bad guys are about to execute the Nova Corps and an exceptionally pregnant Eve Bakian. Ya don’t see many mainstream comics: 1) Having a pregnant character as part of the main action and **mild spoiler** 2) About to get executed.
Jones: That was a pretty strange creative decision which I thought raised the stakes of the debut. Duggan made a great decision in terms of the focus and direction of the script to turn in such long sequences breaking up the action between the factions of characters. I thought we really got the chance to spend time with the cast. The plotting felt less choppy than you would imagine it would seem if I told you what happened in the plot.
I realize now I probably haven’t showered enough praise onto Kuder’s artwork. It is really, really great. The artist draws a wonderful sense of action and makes even the smallest parts of the story seem exciting and tense. I particularly love the last scene which has an ambitious layout and makes great use of the space of comics as well, Kuder stretches the medium of comics in an endearing fashion here. Seeing the artist’s profile at Marvel raising with a title like this is a lot of fun. Do you have any additional words about Kuder aside from the awesome Groot fight?
Frost: Kuder was definitely going for some Silver Age vibes in these pages. Heads floating out in space and all that jazz. Real goofy stuff which is also endearing.
Jones: Bring us home AJ! Any last words?
Frost: Do you like rodents with advanced weaponry, demented dudes who control plants, and pieces of rock providing unspeakable power? Then stop on by for Infinity Countdown! You’ll be glad ya did!
Frost: This is definitely a BUY.
Final Verdict: Alex and AJ both say BUY.
Amazing Spider-Man #797
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Stuart Immonen
Colored by Wade Von Grawbadger
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Jones: AJ, Peter Parker, and Norman Osborn are back and they are ‘Going Down Swinging’ with Dan Slott’s final Amazing Spider-Man arc. What did you think of the beginning of the end?
Frost: For the most part, Slott gives readers classic Spidey goodness. All the elements are there: Green Goblin and Mary Jane Watson and hijinks around town to stop criminals. Those parts are all great. Its when Slott’s bogs us down with a subplot with Anti-Venom that my eyes glaze over. Overall, it was a mixed bag for me.
Jones: It may be a struggle for me to say something good about the book. I felt a major sense of been-there, done-that in just about all the major plot points and moves throughout the narrative. I can’t find the reason why this particular Norman Osborn tale deserves or needs to be published here. I might be thinking about it too hard when I was reading the book, but it feels like quality dipped between the first parts of the Legacy numbering when Parker was looking for a job verse some of the plot points that are going on right now. This has nothing on the Steve Ditko, Stan Lee stories, so does it need to be told in the first place? That is definitely a harsh stance because how could you improve on the first Green Goblin stories, but there was nothing present in the story to convince me otherwise.
Frost: The Osborn stuff was the most interesting in the book, although he definitely felt like an ersatz Joker in everything but costume. (They even had him cackling like our favorite green and purple psychopath.) And from an artistic standpoint too, the Osborn scenes were the most fun to goggle at.
Jones: I don’t know if the art was just a rush job but this chapter felt like a dip in quality for Immonen. In addition, I would like to point out that Slott is definitely mining content from the first Spider-Man film in a manner that makes me uncomfortable. There are lots of thought bubbles with just Osborn that I found to be dull and a little tough to get through. Also, some of the arbitrary editorially-based Mary Jane scenes sucked some good will away from me too. If Marvel really is planning on sticking Spider-Man with anyone, Mockingbird seemed to be as safe a bet as any Marvel character.
Frost: Mary Jane’s the head of Stark Industries?! Who knew? Actually, as I said, the Osborn scenes weren’t too bad. From my perspective, they were pretty engaging and also more creative than the rest of the issue. Marte Gracia is probably the reason why. The coloring exceeded expectations!
Jones: I definitely have a different perspective on this but think it might be healthy for us to agree to disagree on this particular plot beat. However, it was a large chunk of the comic. Asking readers to invest in Osborn can also get kind of tricky because of the number of times he has died and come back to life. Some of the teases and big battles between the Goblin and Peter also aren’t even in this issue. While the story does have the right mildly depressing tone, it doesn’t have anything truly interesting happening in Peter’s life.
Frost: I can see it. I think the most interesting thing Peter does is web up some petty thief’s shoes (so other thieves don’t steal them). Otherwise, it’s pretty milquetoast material. Even what should be the epic shots of Spider-Man soaring above New York were vanilla as hell.
Jones: It was probably the Mary Jane sequence actually. Again, it isn’t like every issue of the comic needs to be incredibly exciting but this felt particularly dull to my eyes. The art just wasn’t up to normal standards for Immonen either.
Frost: Except for one panel, nothing has stayed with me. And even then, that panel composition only lingered because it reminded me of Andrea Sorrentino.
Jones: I think this one is probably a SKIP and I’ll check in for the big anniversary milestone. What do you think AJ?
Frost: I’m gonna disagree with you and actually go with WEAK BROWSE. I feel that the Osborn stuff, even if it is a conglomeration of other, probably better-rendered stories, is still interesting enough that I feel readers will like it.
Final Verdict: AJ says WEAK BROWSE, Alexander says SKIP
Next week The New Mutants return, see you in seven!
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics