Infinity Countdown #1 Review
Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder, continuing their pairing from All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, launch Infinity Countdown #1, the first issue of the new cosmic event focused on the core Guardians cast, as well as some mysterious corners of the Marvel Universe. With a short lead in by guest artist Mike Deodato, the premiere issue, which is preceded by the Adam Warlock and Prime one-shots, essentially just continues the story from Duggan and Kuder’s Guardians, which, seeing as that was the best incarnation of the team since Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning stopped writing them, is hardly a bad thing.
As the threat of the Infinity Stones rises, the Guardians are still struggling to take care of a problem that has plagued them since their previous series began. Groot, the walking, talking tree, has been stuck in cute--and relatively powerless--”Baby Groot” mode, unable to return to full size. This is due to the machinations of the Gardener, an Elder of the Universe, who used to be benevolent but, due to a mental infection caused by Loki, has become murderous and vengeful. Stealing Groot’s power, he has created an army of Flora Colossi (which is what, according to the Gardener, Groot is) to enact his revenge on sentient life. Meanwhile, Drax is guarding the massive Power Stone, just as two sinister powers have become aware of its existence and are on their way to take it from him and the Nova Corps.
Gerry Duggan’s All-New Guardians of the Galaxy was a welcome return to the type of storytelling long-time GotG fans (as in, people who read the DnA run) love, with big, bombastic cosmic set pieces, whip-fast dialogue, and intriguing plotlines. Sadly, it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, which is part of the reason the series was ended and turned into an event--Marvel is hoping to draw attention to a book they know is strong but isn’t being recognized for it. However, much of this is the fault of editorial, who diluted the characterization of the Guardians and allowed their main title to become a glorified team-up book. Add to that an odd infatuation with following the movies’ lead, and this has created an overall negative view of the comic, despite the explosive success of their film incarnations. Oddly, Duggan has been able to bring trappings of the film versions, like baby Groot, to the page in ways that are creative and detached from the way the films have done it, but jaded fans see this and assume the film elements have just been forced into the comic version.
Kuder, who launched All-New Guardians of the Galaxy with Duggan, is still along for the ride, bringing his quirky, kinetic style to the story. He nails some of the most explosive moments of the issue in spectacular fashion, particularly the Flora Colossi monsters and fan-favorite Rocket taking the fight to the Gardener. Some, however, may not be a fan of Kuder’s art, which can have exaggerated facial features or be a bit cartoony. That said, his “acting” is excellent, his layouts are dynamic, and he draws fantastic battle sequences, so it’s hard to imagine Kuder not winning over readers. Still, some may have just joined the story with the previous Prime special. This was drawn by Mike Deodato, who also draws the introductory sequence, whose style is vastly different than Kuder’s. This juxtaposition may be jarring for some, particularly those who haven’t been following the story for long.
While the core of the issue is strong, it’s flanked by two sequences (included the aforementioned intro by Deodato) that don’t serve that narrative and feature characters, one a nameless dwarf and the other a recently dead ex-Russian spy, who have not appeared in any part of the story so far. These teases seem largely meaningless and the logic behind the one at the end of the issue is questionable and comes across as a shock-for-shock’s-sake, especially for readers unaware of that character’s very recent return. They don’t do much good for the story as it stands and, though these may be teases for the story later, detract from this issue instead of enhancing it.
Infinity Countdown #1, in the end, just feels like a really big issue of Duggan’s Guardians, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, except too much of the page count is tied to setting up the conclusion to plot thread that’s 19 issues in the making and only ancillary to the story that was teased in the Prime special. Luckily, it’s still a great Guardians issue, with a really satisfying character development and some really excellent action storytelling that should keep all but the most jaded reader engaged, even if the issue doesn’t really deliver what what advertised.