Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 9: The Infinity War Part One

[In which I continue my series of posts examing the work of Jim Starlin on Marvel's cosmic characters. In this part, I begin my look at "The Infinity War" crossover with The Infinity War #1-3 and Warlock & The Infinity Watch #8. The second part will go up on Friday.]

After five lacklustre (and two solid) issues of Warlock & The Infinity Watch, we get into the second of the three big "Infinity" crossovers of the '90s, The Infinity War--and Starlin's return to form. In this story, the Magus returns and he's going to fuck everyone up but good. Like The Infinity Gauntlet, Starlin throws a lot at us, but most of it is just decoy padding that gives reasons for characters other than Thanos and Adam Warlock to show up. Ultimately, all of your favourite Marvel heroes are useless and irrelevant. I think that little trick is one of Starlin's best as you don't really notice it until you look at the core story and the resolution.

Now, you may ask, "Chad, I thought the Magus was a future version of Adam Warlock that he killed by changing the timeline... how can he be back?"

In the second issue of The Infinity War, we (and the characters) learn that while Warlock had possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, in an effort to be a more fair, just and worthy god, he expelled all good and evil from himself--and the Magus is the embodiment of the evil part of Adam Warlock. And, if you're paying attention, you can see how Starlin already sets up the next crossover, The Infinity Crusade with that little revelation.

The plot here is that the Magus is doing something evil, we just don't know what. He has created an army of doppelgangers of the Marvel heroes and, in the first issue, we get a few fights between them. The doppelgangers begin by looking like twisted versions of the heroes, but then, in they defeat the hero, can absorb them and take their place. We see Iron Man absorbed, Wolverine and Spider-Man defeat their doppelgangers, and an unknown outcome for Reed Richards in the first issue. There's even a doppelganger of Thanos, but he looks identical to the original. Of course, Starlin is playing off the fact that the Magus is a doppelganger, of sorts, so if he's going to take on Warlock, an ally (well, sort of) of these heroes, why not have his own group?

There's also subplots with Galactus, the Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange as they hunt down the Magus (well, an energy source), and Dr. Doom and Kang who do the same. But, as I said, these plots don't actually matter.

Warlock & the Infinity Watch #8 expands on some of the scenes in The Infinity War #3 where Thanos and the Watch prepare to take the fight to the Magus, only to be ambushed by the Marvel heroes who think the group is behind trying to kill them--as they saw the doppelgangers of Iron Man and Reed Richards teleported away by Thanos' doppelganger and the Magus, who looks just like Adam Warlock, only purple. Again, the Marvel heroes act merely as distraction and delays for the real heroes of the story. The issue of W&TIW is used well--as they all are throughout this crossover--as Starlin picks a moment and expands on it, focusing on these characters in this large epic. There's a great bit in the issue where Thanos and Gamorra kill time by sparring, playing out the father/daughter relationship they have (something that's expanded on in issue nine). We also have Gamorra get a glimpse of the future thanks to the Time Gem, showing her Adam captured and put in a cross-like bond and the Infinity Gauntlet reaching out at him. Starlin uses this trick a few more times, again suggesting that Gamorra cares deeply for Adam, which is why the only times she is able to tap into the Time Gem is to see visions of him in trouble.

The Infinity War features Ron Lim on art, doing his standard great work. It's not the most flashy art in the world, but he can draw anything Starlin throws at him and tells the story well. The Infinity Watch issue has art by Tom Raney, who will be a consistent contributer for a little while. His art is rough and falls flat in some places, but shows promise of improvement (which he lived up to).

This story once again emphasises that Adam Warlock's greatest enemy is himself as he confronts everything evil that was once inside of him. It also casts Thanos in a more heroic light as he works to stop the Magus from doing whatever he plans to do. After his experience with the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos is obviously moving beyond the villain he was into a more complex and ambiguous character. No longer driven by his obsession with Death, he is able to work to protect life--although usually only when his own is at stake.

Until Friday.