Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 12: The Infinity Crusade Part One

[In which I continue my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel and begin my three-part look at the Infinity Crusade crossover with The Infinity Crusade #1-2, Warlock Chronicles #1-2, and Warlock & The Infinity Watch #18-19. New "Hello Cosmic" posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

We get two number one issues with special covers--one of which works. The Infinity Crusade #1 features the Goddess and floating heads of various Marvel characters. Out of her flows some lights, all of which is shiny gold and those caught in the light are the ones affected by her mental powers in the issue. It's all foil and shit, but it actually works into the story. The Warlock Chronicles featres a bumpy Warlock against a background of shiny silver with little star-like glowing things. It is bland and doesn't work as well. I get what they're going for, suggesting a cosmic feel, but it's not working for me.

The Warlock Chronicles is an interesting series as it is only eight issues, all of which tie into crossovers (the first five tie into the Infinity Crusade, the last three tie into Blood & Thunder--a Thor and Silver Surfer crossover). It is a book that doesn't live on its own or tell its own story really. It's the Jim Starlin's "Frontline" (especially as it goes over two crossovers).

The Infinity Crusade is not a good crossover. It is bloated and tells a mediocre story, often feeling like Starlin didn't know what to do here. I mean, the villain, the Goddess, is the embodiment of all of Adam Warlock's good--how do you turn that into a villain?

You do the obvious: make her a religious zealot bent on bringing about the destruction of the universe!

Oh. Wait. That's not obvious at all.

This crossover seems like a place for Starlin to attack religion (or, at least, the extreme versions of it). Now, I agree with his position about mindless followers, so it didn't really bother me. I could see it bothering others, mostly because Starlin isn't subtle. He is over-the-top, ham-fisted and... well, boring. While he critiques organised religion for how it tears people apart by putting them into two categories (saved and not saved), and how people follow it blindly, without thought--he doesn't actually say anything that meaningful. He skims the surface and nothing more. That's alright as, ultimately, these are meant to be read by children and I think raising these questions in a major Marvel crossover is ballsy (or, it was at the time--probably still is). I just wanted more.

The plot is simple: various Marvel characters are brainwashed by the Goddess into following her as she tries to do something. She dispatches with Warlock early on. And, strangely enough, Pip becomes the leader of the Infinity Watch (which is just him, Drax and Maxam by this point).

The story is told through the three titles, but Starlin does manage to tell the basic story in just The Infinity Crusade with Warlock Chronicles spotlighting Adam and The Infinity Watch spotlighting Pip, Drax and Maxam. The tones of each book are different, too. Crusade is the big event book, Chronicles is the introspective book, and Infinity Watch is the comedy book that doesn't take the story seriously. It's an interesting way in which to go about telling the story and, somehow, it does flow--it shouldn't but it does. That is probably Starlin's only shining moment here.

I actually found the first issue of Chronicles to be an interesting read as we once again get Warlock's past told to us as an unconscious Warlock is found in a weird Ditko-esque dimension by Darklore and his fariy companion Meer'lyn. The Soul Gem relates Warlock's past and then attempts to bond with Darklore, but Warlock wakes up and stops it. What I particularly enjoyed were the bits about Darklore we get as we learn he is a hero in his own right, not unlike Warlock, but in another dimension and he's undergoing one final quest before retiring. Here, Starlin both re-enforces Warlock's heroic nature by showing there are others like him, and undercuts it by showing there there are others fighting the same battles as him everywhere, so what does this one really matter?

Tom Raney does the art here and, wow, it has some horrible moments. The scientists who created Warlock are the most goddamn built scientists I've ever seen. These guys look like they could form a superhero team themselves. Raney's style is flashy in that '90s way that people must have loved at the time, but is really rough in a lot of spots.

As for The Infinity Watch, these issues are servicable and funny, at moments. But, I will offer one bit of information: Pipman. Yeah, Pip the Troll dons a costume and calls himself Pipman. Starlin was clearly not taking this shit seriously. The heroes, at one point, chase him down and give Pip a bath. Seriously.

However, issue 19 features Tom Grindberg on art and I love his work. He did a couple of issues previously, but he has a Mike Mignola thing going on that is really nice. Not as good as Mignola, of course, but it's much better than Tom Raney's work over on Chronicles.

And, as usually, Ron Lim pencils The Infinity Crusade and does his usual job. He tells the story, draws everything Starlin asks with skill and turns out six double-sized issues on time without fail.

On Friday, part two.