REVIEW: Infinity Countdown #1 – “AKA GotG 151”

Infinity Countdown #1

INFINITY COUNTDOWN #1 / Writer: Gerry Duggan / Artist: Aaron Kuder / Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire / Letterer: Cory Petit /Publisher: Marvel / Release Date: March 7, 2018 

Infinity Countdown #1

Two lead-in prologues later, Infinity Countdown #1 finally hits stands to answer definitively whether this is an event or not. Despite Marvel’s insistence that it isn’t, Infinity Countdown certainly looks like an event: prologues, a main mini-series, ancillary mini-series. The whole thing reminds me of Annihilation and the subsequent Marvel cosmic stories from several years ago; they may not have affected the main titles but they were still bold in scope. Unfortunately it’s upon this indecisive shore where Infinity Countdown #1 runs aground. It’s a perfectly fine issue but belongs too much to another series.

Infinity Countdown #1 consists of two stories bookended by a four-page epilogue and one-page prelude that tie into the larger Infinity Stones saga. In one of the main stories Drax and the Nova Corps are defending the mammoth Power Stone first from the Fraternal Order of Raptors and later from the Chitauri. In the other story, the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy are fighting the Gardener to restore Groot to his proper size. Over the course of the first fight the Power Stone gets exposed, and eventually Drax and the Nova Corps face overwhelming odds. Meanwhile in the second fight, it’s discovered that the Gardener was poisoned by Loki. And aside from one of the biggest surprises I’ve seen at the end of a comic in a long time, that’s the issue.

Word out of Marvel was that when Guardians of the Galaxy was cancelled…it wasn’t really cancelled. Rather it was on a kind of hiatus because the story Gerry Duggan had started was too big for one series. Certainly Guardians of the Galaxy 150 left three main storylines unresolved—two of which are addressed in this issue, while one is left dangling. Meanwhile there have been two Infinity Countdown preludes, Adam Warlock and Prime (both reviewed on this site!), that purportedly continued in this issue. With the exception of the Power Stone, though, no story element from those issues appears significantly in Infinity Countdown #1.  So by what criteria should the issue’s story be evaluated?

Infinity Countdown #1

Gerry Duggan writes a fast-paced, entertaining story here. He shifts focus between the two battles often enough to keep them from getting stale. There’s plenty of humor, which isn’t a surprise with these characters and this writer. The ending is satisfying and surprising. But if the reader had not previously read Guardians of the Galaxy #150 and was instead buying this on the heels of Infinity Countdown Adam Warlock and Infinity Countdown Prime, I’m not sure they would have had the slightest idea what was going on. The issue recap page doesn’t even recap the Guardians’ storylines; it recaps the Infinity Stones. Duggan’s script provides only the slimmest explanation for why the Guardians and Nova Corps are doing what they’re doing, and aside from the big surprise at the end there is a distinct feeling of, “That’s all that happened?”

Since Infinity Countdown #1 is basically the next issue of Guardians of the Galaxy it’s no surprise that it also features art from Aaron Kuder. He brings the same style to this series, and it always enhances writer Gerry Duggan’s funnier tendencies. In action sequences Kuder’s ability to go ever-so-slightly over the top—such as Peter Quill’s pose as he jets through a frame, Rocket’s perceived size as he jumps for the Gardener, or Drax’s simultaneous assault on two flying Raptors—means that action sequences can be slightly humorous, full of miniature one- or two-panel stories inside that larger narrative. In an issue that was almost non-stop battle sequence Kuder’s playfulness kept the fighting from growing tedious.

Infinity Countdown #1

Lest anyone worry that the art doesn’t achieve the grand cosmic scale implied by an Infinity Stone event, though, Jordie Bellaire’s colors won’t fail to stun. Objects in space light up the page with bright, not quite neon intensity as if Bellaire is trying to reproduce how vivid objects appears against the deep black of outer space. Bellaire also bathes the people and ships in proximity to those intense objects with that same light—sometimes washing out the native color completely such as a Nova Corps member who’s standing close to the Power Stone and other times adding a sheen such as the one on Drax as he walks away from the same stone. Planetside, the colors are muted, more Earth-toned, and less majestic; the contrast highlights the intensity of the cosmos every time the story’s focus shifts.

 

I’m not sure what compelled Marvel to make this Infinity Stone storyline into an event (because based on the issue checklist it is whether they want to admit it or not) but rebranding six issues of Guardians of the Galaxy as Infinity Countdown won’t be good enough. If this issue were Guardians of the Galaxy #151 my review would probably be more positive; aside from my never-ending complaint that comic books need to have arcs in each issue (and this one kind of did with Groot), this is not a bad story within an ongoing series.Infinity Countdown #1

However, as the first issue of a new mini-series set up not just by Guardians of the Galaxy but by two separate preludes, Infinity Countdown #1 is woefully inadequate. Maybe the Guardians’ storyline could have been balanced with other Infinity Stone story threads (such that this resembled the issue sold based on Adam Warlock, Prime, and this comic’s own cover). Or maybe Guardians of the Galaxy could have continued and tied in to Infinity Countdown. While I still have high hopes for this non-event event, I am forced to chalk this one up as an entertaining issue that is an unfortunate letdown as the first comic in a mini-series.

Verdict: 2.75 out of 5 Guardians of the Galaxy 151s

Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he’s published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.

Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he's published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.

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