This is it! Marvel has been leading up to Infinity Wars #1 since the debut of author Gerry Duggan’s All-New Guardians of the Galaxy series last year! Following the shocking ending of last week’s Infinity Wars Prime #1, the Marvel Universe is going in a much different direction with the Infinity Gems, and we’ve got first impressions of the latest Marvel event here. Plus, the publisher’s Marvel Rising initiative continues this week with Marvel Rising: Ms. Marvel & Squirrel Girl #1. Strap in for this week’s Marvel Rundown!
Infinity Wars #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr.
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: It’s officially summer event time over at The House of Ideas! I think without reservation I can say the publisher has gone off the deep end with the unwieldy debut of Infinity Wars #1. Joe, what were your initial thoughts on the debut?
Joe Grunenwald: ‘Unwieldy’ is the best word for it, without a doubt. It was nice to see the disparate threads from Infinity Countdown come together in this issue, but with so many characters in one place things are bound to get a little hard to keep up with, and unfortunately that was the case for me here. What did you think of it? I know you really enjoyed last week’s Infinity Wars Prime #1.
Jones: This didn’t have the focus or one big shocking moment to tie the whole thing together. I certainly appreciated the characterization and audacity of the story. There isn’t really time to get bored when there’s a promise of something bizarre popping out of the corner on the next page. I think author Gerry Duggan is going to have to slow the pacing down in subsequent chapters and make sure all of the big moments land in the coming issues. This also does not feel like chapter one of an event story but rather the next installment of a large-scale, ongoing title. I don’t think Marvel has chosen the best method to present this story.
Grunenwald: I agree completely, this doesn’t feel like a first chapter. The aforementioned Prime issue from last week is essential reading going into this comic. I would say that the Infinity Countdown miniseries is also pretty essential, though I do think Infinity Wars #1 does a decent job of getting people who didn’t read that mini up to speed. I think my main issue with the main section of this story – the meeting of the new Infinity Watch – is that there are just too many characters there. I mean, Turk Barrett rolls up with basically half of Daredevil’s rogues gallery in tow.
Jones: There is so much going on. There are so many characters just standing around, doing nothing. The plot thread with Requiem did not have the emotional weight I wanted it to carry. The Prime issue was really strong and I’m slightly disappointed here. This installment feels like a prologue chapter rather than the inciting incident of a big event. I feel like I still can’t answer the question of what Infinity Wars is and it is a limited series.
Grunenwald: The Loki storyline may be the thing I’m the most interested in here, and I think it’s because Loki has a defined goal in mind. It’s easier to get into the story when you know what the characters are working towards. Based on this issue I don’t know why Stephen Strange felt the need to call together the new Infinity Watch or what any of the members’ agendas are. I’m unclear what Requiem’s ultimate goal is, though I can suss out part of it based on things we learn about the character in this issue. You mentioned the issue not having a big shocking moment to tie it all together – I think the Requiem reveal was supposed to be such a moment, but agree with you that it didn’t quite land.
What did you think of Mike Deodato’s art here?
Jones: Deodato’s art is completely wild and contributes to this insane, claustrophobic feeling. I think his layouts in the issue are so insane it actually detracts from the clarity of the work. Maybe if the issue was drawn by someone else there could potentially be less standing around. I think Duggan and Deodato do a great job conveying a tone and feel but the script is so crazy and could have used someone like Aaron Kuder to tie it together more seamlessly.
Grunenwald: There’s a fundamental darkness to Deodato’s art that I’ve never really been in love with, and while I see less of that in this comic than I have from the artist in the past, there are still a lot of really muddy scenes that are hard to follow, at least when the action starts. I didn’t have a problem with the amount of standing around, though – I thought Deodato handled the large amounts of exposition as well as he could, and his page layouts, to your point, were definitely visually interesting. Again, though, there are so many characters in play here that some of them are bound to get lost in the artistic shuffle.
I will give Duggan this: he has brought together the most random assortment of characters you’ll ever see wield infinity stones. It really is insane. It’s a more grounded Marvel Cosmic story than I’ve ever seen before, if that makes sense.
Jones: I’m going to admit I still enjoyed the issue. It is more of a guilty pleasure for me at this point though. It is a giant stew of everything I love. If Duggan does not narrow his focus in the coming installments and really start to give out a motivation and story structure, even I may not be able to hang on much longer.
Grunenwald: Guilty pleasures are perfectly valid pleasures. I’m pretty sure that’s how the X-Men got through the ’90s. If I were to hang with this series at this point it would be mainly to see what’s going on with the Loki storyline, and maybe to see what in the world Iron Lad is doing here. I’m giving Infinity Wars #1 a WEAK BROWSE.
Jones: I think there is certainly enough good here to merit a BROWSE as well. There is some potential and I really hope the coming chapters will start to capture it.
Final Verdict: Joe says WEAK BROWSE, Alexander says BROWSE.
Marvel Rising: Ms. Marvel & Squirrel Girl #1
Written by Devin Grayson, Ryan North, and G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Ramon Bachs and Irene Strychalski
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Review by AJ Frost
The Marvel Rising line has been a bit of a gamble since its launch several months ago. While the team-up of Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel was always going to be an affable affair, the quality of the whole endeavor was left up in the air. The crossover-ness and YA skew of the line always meant that there had to be some kind of editorial mandate that ensured that the characters would behave a certain way and hit all the marks of their individual books to appeal to what can only be supposed to be a new readership. And while the final books have been sufficient in their execution on a story level, much of the material around the books has been nothing less than frustrating and user-unfriendly for readers.
First, let’s get the plot stuff out of the way. The story picks up immediately after the cliffhanger of Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl & Ms. Marvel (notice the positioning of the character names), with our heroes at the mercy of digital zombies in an ersatz video game world created by a troubled villain named Emulator. Kamala and Doreen, along with America Chavez and Inferno (Dante Pertuz) seem to be in mortal peril before they realize that their entire situation can be manipulated using the logic of gaming conventions and, thus, things happen exactly as one might imagine. The hordes of undead are wiped away and everything is back to normal. The story itself isn’t as intriguing as the character interaction. As the issue progresses and the characters begin to get more comfortable around each other, a lot of the forced set-up ebbs away and we finally begin to see the potential of the whole enterprise.
(As a side note, the numbering of these Marvel Rising books is simply bonkers. While this issue is a #1, it’s the third part in the overall arc. What Marvel is trying to achieve here is baffling.)
That being said, the twist right before the cliffhanger that caps the issue is not the most dynamic in the funny pages, and I have a sneaking suspicion that astute readers who spend a lot of time around games will be able to figure out the figure pulling all the strings behind the scenes. Or, at the least, can follow the coins…
But when it comes down to it, co-writers Ryan North and G. Willow Wilson are so in-tune with their characters that by now its second nature to make them relatable and interesting. While Squirrel Girl can be hit or miss for many readers, North has restrained her a bit here, and she acts a tad more mature than usual. Kamala’s increasing confidence in this team dynamic is fun to watch unfold with every turn of the page, and while I was not much of a fan of the America solo book from last year, America Chavez here is solid and brings some much-needed muscle to the team. Where the book gets a tad grating is in the repetition of its themes and its own cleverness. Look, Squirrel Girl is not subtle about her meta-ness, and this ethos permeates the whole book. This in-universe transmedia awareness—of whether a character exists within the pages of a comic book, or a video game that takes place in a comic book—can only go so far in terms of wit. Once the concept is there, no need to linger. No need to nudge a reader into a certain corner; just let everything breathe. But, at a heavy fifty-two pages, there’s a lot of space here that is wasted with needless expository dialogue and self-involved situational awareness.
There are still some redeeming qualities to the book. As mentioned above, the interpersonal relationships—and the rapport between Doreen and Kamala, especially—are fun to experience. In the past, I was a bit down on the artwork, but Ramón Bachs and Irene Strychalski’s tag team finally clicked and I see the value in it. It’s a bit dryer and more mechanical than the solo books for each respective character, but it has a quirk all of its own, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s coloring work remains top notch no matter what project she’s working on.
So what’s the verdict, you may be wondering? Overall, this latest Marvel Rising outing is an imperfect jaunt, but hopefully is starting to get everything lined up for the final issue of the run. And because of this, this book is a BROWSE. There are nice character moments here, but the general nature of the story and Marvel’s bizarre numbering scheme limits the pure enjoyability of this comic.
Final Verdict: BROWSE!
Next week: The First Family of comics returns!