Uncanny Avengers 14 by Rick Remender and Steve McNiven
It's unfair to expect creators to bend to my unknowable creative expectations, which is actually a common and slightly inappropriate long-term problem in fandom. Elements of superhero fandom seem to think that they have personal ownership of the characters, that they understand what makes characters work better than the skilled professionals whose job it is to create stories; they take personally the creative changes and outre storytelling risks with which they disagree. I find this attitude frankly repulsive. I'm a big believer in choosing one's own Continuity - oh, that dirtiest of c-words! - and if I don't like a story, or how it fits into my own idea of its place in the larger puzzle of the shared universe, I just ignore it. And anyway, I approach stories based more on who's making it than who's in it, and I also try a lot of new stuff if I don't know the creators in question. A creator's track record makes a difference, and I just don't like Remender's track record.
So: Uncanny Avengers. Launched in the wake of the AvX silliness of last summer is Marvel's go at integrating the X-Men and Avengers franchises. The X-Men, while solidly enmeshed in the larger Marvel Universe, has largely existed in its own corner with its own separate weight of continuity. Uncanny Avengers features a team of various X-Men and Avengers as a public face of human-mutant relations within the Marvel Universe, and also deals with the legacies of both organizations. Remender's first story is an example of that, featuring Captain America's nemesis dicking around with X-affairs. His follow-up stories, to the best of my tangential knowledge, features Apacolypse, then timey wimey Kang, with various rotating (and quite good) art teams. As we dive into the story at hand in issue 14, all of these elements seem to be coming together, and it's somewhat entertaining.
It certainly helps that Steve McNiven (with John Dell and Laura Martin) is on the art. McNiven is a consistently entertaining practitioner of high-quality superhero art, and his stuff expectedly shines here. The combination of McNiven and the epic trans-time scale of the story gives the book an Event feel. I'm defining Event by scale of storytelling, not necessarily in the terms of over-hyped mini-series with countless pointless tie-ins. By my definition, the current "All Out War" story in Walking Dead applies, and so does the story presented here in Uncanny Avengers 14. Big Things Happen Here That Will Change The Marvel Universe Forever!(tm) including deaths and status quo changes that are bound to be reversed by another writer eventually, but nonetheless will have some lasting impact. I think. It's still all middle right now. It's a little refreshing to see such high-impact story in a single unheralded title, but it still has that Eventy tinge of Yet Another Superhero Death. I'm still not a fan of the Apocalypse/Skull/Kang stuff (which is largely minimized here anyway), but what is presented here is straightforward and entertaining enough. That is, if you are a dedicated Marvel fan. Even a Marvel Zombie may find it a stretch to really enjoy this whole thing and it will be completely incomprehensible to the uninitiated.
McNiven's art carries the story but even McNiven may not be able to save the whole thing when all is said and done. I'm not terribly inclined to keep reading after this nor to catch up on the stuff leading up, and it doesn't change my view on the quality of Remender's stuff. Nor am I inclined to really recommend it over, say, any random creator-owned book. But as a standard-fare Marvel superhero book, it's quite pretty, and if you have an affinity for the characters starring here it will either make you very happy or very, very mad.
And if it upsets you, just ignore it and pick up a better comic.
Like Infinity! Segue!
Infinity 6 by Jonathan Hickman, Jimmy Cheung and Dustin Weaver
Strong words in a cycle that gave us Civil War, but the goal posts were/are different. Civil War was very much a vehicle for other things, and while flawed, was quite good. It also set a standard of sales and expectations that following events haven’t quite met. So I’m not really applying the same kind of standards, and looking at Infinity as its own unique order of Event storytelling. And unique is a great way to describe it. Writer Jonathan Hickman is a rare talent. His creator-owned books of the past year have been some of the best mainstream comics being published. And indeed, Infinity – the whole rigamarole that includes Avengers and New Avengers – might be the year’s best Superhero comic.
Let’s start with the art. Infused with Hickman’s distinct visual design aesthetic, Infinity features the prodigious talents of (alphabetically) Jimmy Cheung, Mike Deodato, Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver, Lenil Francis Yu, and more. I can get frustrated with inconsistent art. But different is not always inconsistent and the art teams were consistent with the different stories Hickman was naturally telling. And damned good at it, too. Yu’s stuff suffers a little in the end, but otherwise the entire team is flawless, even Deodato (who I usually don’t really get, I guess) who changed up his style. Any series with 100 pages of Jimmy Cheung is a graphic-novel’s worth of content, more than worth the trip. Infinity 6 stars Cheung with an assist from Weaver, who give the work detail and care, the flash and energy they bring to the proceedings, the scope and execution of the grand space-operatic Epic and superpowered battling. Hickman and Marvel give them a ton of space to play and they tackle the proceedings with glee. If you haven’t been reading Infinity to this point, then picking up issue six might seem like a pointless exercise if not for the visual astonishments, and there are plenty.
The story in issue six is all action and it’s big big BIG. By this point, Hickman’s already pulled out all the stops. The twist of Inhumanity came a couple of issues ago, the juicy space opera elements have come and gone, the incursion has been averted. But Hickman keeps creating more stops to pull. This is all in the genius of the series’ structure. Secret Invasion, another invasion story as a point of comparison, was all decompressed middle and a silly twist to set up some other nonsense. But Infinity is so much more and then some. There’s been so many amazing visuals from the falls of Wakanda and Attilan, to the glorious space battles, to the Illuminati’s machinations, to every single thing involving Black Bolt. There sheer amount of story that is going on, has gone on, so masterfully juggled and interwoven by Hickman, complex yet accessible, all funnels into this finale issue.
Infinity is dense, thrilling, beautiful, intense piece of superhero sci-fi comic storytelling. The final main chapter is the capstone to this grand epic. Hickman’s vision with this story was clear and the execution flawless. And this is a fun, visually stunning (in story and art and Ideas) mainstream productions, written by one of the comic medium’s best talents.