Best Shots Review: INFINITY COUNTDOWN #1 'a Very Welcome Change From Events of the Last Few Years' (8/10)

"Infinity Countdown #1" preview
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Infinity Countdown #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Aaron Kuder, Jordie Bellaire, Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: Marvel Comics

Infinity Countdown officially begins here and gives us a pretty good taste of what we can expect from this pre-event event. That’s what’s kind of interesting about this book to begin with. It’s leading to something, obviously, and with Marvel’s "Fresh Start" books slowly being announced, it’s clear that the outcome of the event that spins out of Countdown will have some lasting ramifications. So Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder figure that if their job is move pieces into place, they might as well do it in the most bombastic way possible. On one hand, that means that this just feels like an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, but considering their track record, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We open with a flashback page that relates to the “Forging of the Armor” according to the credits, with art by Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin, that features an off-panel figure telling a dwarf to forge a specific helm - or face certain death for his refusal. The Dwarves of Nidavellir have forged many Asgardian weapons including Mjolnir, Stormbreaker, Frogjolnir and more, and that realm has been described as one of “every precious gemstone you have ever heard of” according to Malekith the Accursed. Duggan is able to inject a shot of intrigue into the story from page one, and it feels like the best of mighty Marvel storytelling. But that’s not really indicative of the rest of the book.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Elsewhere, Drax the Destroyer is guarding the mountainous Power Stone, with the Fraternity of Raptors hot on its trail. Aside from having the worst name of any supervillain organization in this or any other universe, Talonar and his crew are laughably toothless antagonists, so Duggan leans into that. Drax is a great character to use for physical comedy, and Duggan’s script is full of slapstick. While I don’t love his “voice” for Drax (I mean, Drax says “ass” but Rocket only curses with made-up words?), Duggan nails the characters in general. Talonar is appropriately the dramatic villain, Drax’s literal interpretations of everything fuel the humor of the book, and the Guardians are pitch-perfect all around.

Credit: Marvel Comics

When Duggan’s at his best, he can be really inventive without letting the cleverness of a gag or moment get to that grating territory that we too often see with modern superhero comics. Ingenuity serves a story well, and in an issue that’s essentially a big, long fight comic that’s really important. This issue is full a great moments - from Drax using the Raptors to fly to the double Fastball Special executed by Star Lord, Groot and Ant-Man, Duggan is really at the height of his powers here.

But the Infinity Stone stuff really takes a back seat to the plot involving the Gardener and the Guardians. That’s where it starts to feel more like just another Guardians issue rather than an event book. It definitely holds a big change for the team that some might see as controversial, but it feels a bit tacked on to the Infinity Stone stuff. It’s not bad, but that’s what makes the decision to include it hard to parse here. It feels like a detour from the main narrative even though it’s probably not meant to.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Kuder’s art is really solid here, but at times, his brittle linework really doesn’t do the job. With so much going on in some of the pages due to the action, Kuder’s lines tends to overload the pages from time to time. However, his composition is really strong. The page introducing the Guardians may not be the cleanest in terms of character renderings, but Kuder is able to lead your eye effectively down the page. And his best moments are really the same as Duggan’s — the physical comedy in this issue is tremendous, and Kuder is doing everything he can to sell those jokes. They don’t wouldn’t land without proper pacing but the artist has that locked in, which really goes a long way to making the issue work.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Infinity Countdown is a weird little book in that it’s the set-up for an event, but also includes some big changes on its own. It’s hard to know what those status quo shifts mean for the future, but Duggan and Kuder are at least trying to get readers’ attention. The end of the book leads right into the next piece of the Infinity Stone diagram as we see where the Space Stone is and who is now in possession of it. That’s a great framing device for this miniseries, as it helps contextualize the flow of the book. By the end, we should be primed for what’s next and if we’re not, that’s a failure of the mini - pretty straightforward there - but marrying the issues to the diagram allows Duggan to check off the boxes pretty easily. I like Infinity Countdown so far. It feels like a more organic set-up for an event than we’ve seen in a while, and that’s a very welcome change from the last few years.

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