Marvel's Next Event: INFINITY's Possibilities

 

On Tuesday, Marvel made their Free Comic Book Day plans clear: A one-shot titled Free Comic Book Day 2013: Infinity, featuring a main story written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Jim Cheung, along with a reprint of the first Thanos solo story, plus "a sneak peek behind a major Marvel release that hasn’t been announced yet."

OK, so — what's Infinity? Marvel's press release describes it as "The grandest Marvel Comics event of all time," one with Thanos as the antagonist and involving "The biggest super heroes in comics today – the Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Fantastic Four, Inhumans, Superior Spider-Man & more!"

Yes, as pointed out here on Tuesday, that would mean the grandest Marvel Comics event ever is coming even before the first one on deck, Age of Ultron has one issue out. Age of Ultron is scheduled to run through June, so though the FCBD issue is out on May 4, Infinity likely won't start until July or later.

Days before the Infinity announcement, we talked to Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort — who's worked on just about all of their big events over the past few years — about Age of Ultron, and asked if it would be the only big Marvel event of 2013.

 

"The Age of Ultron is a big storyline," Brevoort said. "That doesn't mean we're going to shut down in June and go on vacation and only tell little stories. We're going to have other massive stories. We've got another massive thing that's coming around August. But it's not like comparison shopping — it's not like I sit here and go, 'Is Fear Itself bigger than Secret Invasion?' It's Fear Itself, and that was Secret Invasion, and that was Siege, and this is Age of Ultron."

Marvel declined to confirmed if any of that refers, even in the vaguest sense, to Infinity, but it's at least possible that it's the "massive thing that's coming around August," and the timeline makes sense. Given precedent, it's also possible that Infinity could be much further away — Marvel's 2012 Free Comic Book Day issue was a reprint of Avengers #12.1, an Age of Ultron prelude; though that was something of a special case, as it was a story that was hinted at as early as 2010.

Though it appears that Infinity isn't exactly coming out of nowhere, either. Very little has been revealed about the story other than "the entire Marvel Universe on the brink of intergalactic war," but given the title and the presence of Thanos, it's not exactly a leap to guess that this involves the Infinity Gems, which in the past were a central part of stories like The Infinity Gauntlet and are currently playing a major role in the opening arc of Hickman's New Avengers. (Sure, similar titles aren't always especially meaningful — Secret War didn't ultimately have a lot to do, plot-wise, with Secret Wars, but this seems a lot more blatant.)

 

"New Avengers will be the most important book in the Marvel Universe for the next couple of years," Hickman told Marvel.com in December. "It won't be obvious at the beginning, and I'm talking about in regards to the Avengers corner of the Marvel Universe. But we are going somewhere, and this is the primary driver of where we are headed."

As Graeme McMillan noted on our blog, both the Hickman-written Marvel NOW! Avengers and New Avengers thus far have dealt with parallel Earths — with Avengers looking to explore the '80s "New Universe" concept in future issues — which not only seems to be leading to a very big deal, also might lend a separate meaning to "Infinity."

With Infinity seemingly coming soon after Age of Ultron, speculation naturally turns to what one event might have to do with the other. The answer could very well be "nothing," but keep in mind that Age of Ultron writer Brian Michael Bendis has stated that the ending to that story is so surprising, very few people within Marvel even know what it is. That sure sounds like a pretty big deal, and the kind of thing that would probably impact subsequent other big deals.

 

Given the presence of Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy in the initial Infinity press release, it also looks like the story is further payoff of what Marvel has been talking about for a while now: Getting the "cosmic" characters further integrated into the Marvel Universe as a whole, a move that only makes sense given the high-profile teams on the upcoming books (Bendis and Steve McNiven on Guardians; Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness on Nova) and the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy live-action Marvel Studios movie. Definite signs of this push have already been seen, like adding Iron Man to the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series and introducing the new Nova in Avengers vs. X-Men — getting a whole bunch of space-faring heroes working with the X-Men and the Avengers against one of the biggest cosmic bad guys is a natural next step. 

It might be a while before we know much more definitively about Infinity. Marvel appears to be intent on keeping details limited for right now — instead of announcing the story via a mainstream news article or press conference, it was simply introduced as a part of their Free Comic Book Day offering this year, and the publisher declined further comment on the subject at this time. With three months to go before Free Comic Book Day and likely at least another five months (quite possibly more) before whatever Infinity is actually starts, there's plenty of time left to speculate wildly — the superhero comic book fan's unofficial pastime.   

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