REVIEW: Infinity Countdown Captain Marvel #1 – “Artistic Heavy Lifting”

Infinity Countdown Captain Marvel #1

Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1 / Writer: Jim McCann / Artist: Diego Olortegui / Color Artist: Erick Arciniega / Letterer: Clayton Cowles / Released: May 30, 2018 / Publisher: Marvel

Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1 cover

A sense of jeopardy is like a concealer: it will cover up imperfections but may itself be obvious. It’s too bad that’s not really a quote. It should be. Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1 is a comic book with imperfections—really one big imperfection—that it’s trying to conceal. The book, little more than a Reality Stone primer, is devoid of almost any plot—barely escaping being a slice-of-multiversal-life vignette. The question is whether that is compelling.

Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1 begins with Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) defeating Blastaar in New York City after his fall to Earth causes significant damage. The destruction and fearful onlookers lead Carol to wonder if there had been a better way to defeat the villain, so she consults the Reality Stone which allows her to not only communicate across other realities, but also visit them. Carol’s counterparts reveal potential ways to defeat Blastaar, but ultimately that’s not enough for her; Carol wants to visit the other realities for alternate perspectives even though she’s warned that it’s possible to stay too long and lose oneself. Nevertheless, Carol wants to be better so she undertakes the journey.

What follows is enough introspection to fill three-quarters of a comic book. But it takes place in multiple alternate realities with multiple Captain Marvels (some are Carol Danvers and some are not). The four most important of which are: Carol being dead after saving Miles Morales, Carol being an alcoholic, Carol dying from cancer after saving Mar-Vell, and Carol having Rogue’s personality thanks to a different outcome of their initial fight. When Carol’s journey is finished she returns to the same place but before her conflict with Blastaar, now able to use the insight she gleaned to defeat him in space rather than risk collateral damage on Earth. She also comes to realize the immense power the Reality Stone holds and how it might be misused in the wrong hands.

Describing Infinite Countdown: Captain Marvel #1 as “talking heads” would be largely correct. This issue has virtually no action. In comic books art is always important, but with a slow comic book it becomes an urgent concern. Diego Olortegui delivers a solid issue that is built on one boring, but necessary thing—consistency. Consider: this issue features Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, Mar-Vell, and Rogue all in significant roles along with several major character cameos. Few artists have experience with all of these characters, yet Olortegui renders them all not just so the reader can recognize them but so their appearance remains consistent and doesn’t change based on angle and lighting. This kind of detail is key in a slow paced issue. With limited action and heavy dialogue, pages in an issue like this are turned much laboriously, providing readers with more time to examine the art on a first pass.

Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1

One other way Olortegui lifts this issue is his ability to express emotion through facial expressions. Jim McCann’s script contains no shortage of emotion, but it’s nothing more than words on a page if the images have no heart. That is not a concern here. Furthermore, most of the hard emotions are felt by Danvers, and Olortegui does a good job of changing angles and lighting to keep the experience fresh. In this and other ways Olortegui’s art becomes the heavy lifter in this book.

Benefitting from the art’s heavy lifting is McCann’s script, which is largely good if not slow paced. If the Blastaar scenes bookending the issue were removed it would be a character study without action or story. The confrontation with Blastaar gives Carol motivation and a goal, a problem to solve; it introduces a sense of jeopardy—however thin—and entices the reader to continue turning pages where boredom might otherwise keep them from doing so. This criticism aside, though, McCann infuses this Reality Stone tutorial with a lot of heart. It’s not the most compelling story from page one, but it grows in emotional intensity as the pages turn. By the end the reader has learned a great deal about both Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel.

Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1

Anyone who’s read my review for Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock knows I excoriated that issue for having no real plot. So how am I justified doing anything otherwise here? That’s a fair question. While Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1 almost falls into that same trap, it does have a plot in addition to some character development—wafer thin though they may be. The issue has an arc—the protagonist begins in one place and chooses to risk a journey to go somewhere else. She has agency and is not simply manipulated. This light story is helped considerably by art that conveys emotion and, in a few places, elicits it. This verdict is a squeaker. But the book earned it.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 Monica temporal clones

 

Infinity Countdown Adam Warlock | Infinity Countdown Prime | Infinity Countdown #1 | Infinity Countdown #2 | Infinity Countdown #3 | Infinity Countdown: Daredevil #1 | Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #1 |

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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