Is it that time of year already? For those of us no longer in school or working in education (and, living in San Francisco, perennially devoid of any true seasonal awareness), summer doesn’t start until Marvel officially rolls out its big annual event series. In 2018, unsurprisingly, the focus is on the company’s cosmic canon, with the Guardians, Avengers, and this new breed of Infinity Stones taking center stage. We have borne witness, in recent years, to the way Marvel Studios has dictated the central cast and plot points of these crossovers. Whether by editorial mandate, or merely a concerted effort to boost sales with cross-media awareness, the hyped-up books on the shelves vary depending on whichever Hollywood blockbuster is currently stuffing the company’s coffers.
That may be a cynical stance on the inception of these events, but it doesn’t necessarily take away from the quality of the stories themselves. Marvel crossover events in recent years have run the gamut between convoluted, uninspired slogs (Civil War II) and engaging surprise-filled epics (Infinity). How these stories will pan out is not always apparent going in, which is why we examine, with particular interest, the first volume of any given core title. And this week we get the first official chapter of Infinity Wars, courtesy of Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato.
Duggan has been doing a bang-up job on Guardians of the Galaxy since following Bendis’s run and, indeed, has been sowing the seeds for this particular event ever since. I wouldn’t have guessed it from his work on Deadpool, but Duggan does seem to have a knack for negotiating a quirky ensemble cast, with personalities in some part refreshingly distinct from their film renditions, through the rich, mysterious world of Marvel’s cosmic catalog. Veteran artist Deodato, who had recently brought his beautiful collage-style grid design to Jeff Lemire’s Thanos, gets to show off his prowess with a larger cast of Marvel characters, of both the prominent MCU-relevant class, as well as the marvelously B-list variety (Typhoid Mary, anyone?)
The main title’s first issue largely involves Doctor Strange pulling together a new incarnation of The Infinity Watch, recalling the team led by Adam Warlock in the 90’s, wherein each member was tasked with safeguarding a different Infinity Stone. These new Stones, arriving in the Marvel U subsequent to the post-Secret Wars reformation of the multiverse, might be somewhat enigmatic, but there isn’t anything too surprising about the new assemblage of protectors. Apart from Turk Barrett, who hasn’t graduated from the television arm of the MCU; Strange, Black Widow, Star-Lord & Co., Captain Marvel, and Warlock are all current or future big-screen scene-stealers. But… what’re you gonna do? This is the new normal.
At least there’s one thing that already seems to be setting Wars apart from any of its Infinity-titled precursors: the absence of a certain despotic Titan. The mysterious Shadows of the Empire reject Requiem (or, not so mysterious any longer, after this issue… no spoilers, because #ThanosDemandsSilence) lopped off Thanos’s dome in last week’s “Prime” event prologue. Beyond that, and another attempt at shocking the audience with a prominent character’s demise in this issue, it seems like business as usual for Marvel’s summer blitz.
Am I going to read it? Of course. The synergy between Duggan and Deodato is already apparent, and there are layouts and sequences that are truly stunning. I love these characters, despite reaching saturation levels in recent years. And even when you know it’s going to end with cake or a champagne toast, who doesn’t love a good party?