Infinity returns to its Marvel origins

Review by C.J. Bunce

With Avengers: Endgame still in theaters, another adaptation of the same source material that inspired that movie and Avengers: Infinity War is now available.  It’s James A. Moore′s Infinity, a novelized adaptation of the Infinity comic book event from 2013.  Moore adapts the key story details from Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer’s story across an array of comic book titles, drawn by several artists.  In most ways Infinity will seem completely foreign to fans who are only aware of the movies.  When people speak of the cosmic side of the Marvel universe they’re referring to the kinds of elements that form the backbone of this story.  The Inhumans, known many by the short-lived television series, are a major component of the story.  Like the graphic novel, the novel follows the Avengers and other superheroes of Earth trying to fight off ancient creators called the Builders, who believe that Earth would be better terraformed–leveled, destroyed, and rebuilt–than left as it is.  At the same time Thanos is looking for his son.  One of his loyal Children of Thanos (the Black Order in the novel), which consists of the same henchmen in the films plus a few others, ultimately finds him–his son, Thane–on Earth.

Fans of 1980s brief New Universe will recognize Star Brand and Nighthawk as major characters in this story.  Missing characters seen in the graphic novel that don’t end up here are Luke Cage, Power Man, She-Hulk, Silver Surfer, Wasp, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Hank Pym, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Falcon.  New characters for movie audiences include Manifold, Captain Universe, and the Atlantean Namor, the Sub-Mariner.  Black Panther and Doctor Strange are still key to the story, but in different ways.  Alien races include the Kree and the Skrulls, with Ronan the Accuser as a major player.  The novel adaptation is spread thinly across universes as was the comics version.  Keeping track of the characters without the benefit of seeing their unique costumes may be difficult for anyone not familiar with all the comics.

If you’re bothered by corporate guru Tony Stark as always the smartest guy in the room, which seems to be the thing in more recent years, especially with the popularity of the character from the movies, you’ll find some relief here.  Fortunately Moore also uses Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, Hulk Bruce Banner, and X-Men’s Hank McCoy aka The Beast–the three actual smartest legacy superhero characters–to work the moving parts of the problem.  Ultimately what the reader brings to the book will determine the level of enjoyment.  For anyone new to hundreds of tangent characters of the Marvel Comics, keeping track of Who’s Who is nearly impossible.  Moore takes strides to bring background characters to the fore, including a romantic sub-plot, but who they are and why they should be important isn’t tapped into enough.

Earth and the Avengers have so many enemies in this story, it’s really impossible to imagine them deflecting a massive assault from the mythic creators of all worlds, not to mention the arrival of Thanos.  Viewers of only Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame will be surprised that this Infinity reflects a completely different tale.  It was likely too difficult to get all these characters on the big screen, with X-Men and Fantastic Four counted out back then because of licensing issues.  This is also one of those multi-part, multi-titled stories from the comics that requires readers to buy sometimes hundreds of issues to keep up.  In that regard, condensing the comics into a novel like this was a near-impossible task–and much material was wisely cut.

A prose look at this battle, war, action-centric story, the kind that makes the most of the visual aspect of the comic book medium, doesn’t capture all of what makes these characters exciting, although some adaptations have done it right.  It could be this is too massive a story to capture in a single read.

Anytime superhero fans get to see the likes of Wolverine, Captain America, Black Panther, Star Brand, and Namor woven into a single story it’s a good thing.  James A. Moore’s Infinity reflects the author’s familiarity with both writing superhero adaptations and tie-ins in general.  If there’s anything about the story that doesn’t quite work, it’s the convoluted source material and not his writing.

Infinity is a fun, layered read that fans of the source material will enjoy.  It’s available now in a hardcover edition from Titan Books.  Order Infinity from your local comic book store or here at Amazon.

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