Infinity, Marvels crossover event of 2013 is creating big changes in the Marvel Universe and the way the Avengers are looked at, on a galactic scale. Jonathan Hickman ‘s vision for the Avengers is ambitious, planting the seeds of Infinity well before the Free Comic Book Day preview last February. Primarily in the pages of his re-launch of the Avengers franchise flagship book Avengers and his Illuminati team in New Avengers. Hickman started by making the Avengers “Bigger.” Adding new characters to the roster; a parallel world Hyperion, Smasher, Earth’s first member of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard (and perhaps Dan Dare’s granddaughter), as well as a new host for Captain Universe. He further expanded their ranks with some unexpected b-list heroes (sorry Sunspot) like Cannonball, Sunspot, Manifold, and Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu.
Hickman used concepts from New Universal, Warren Ellis’ abandoned reboot of the New Universe, to give us the main Marvel Universe versions of Night Mask and Star Brand, as well as the main antagonists of the event, the Builders. The Builders essentially want to wipe the slate clean, destroying the worlds of the universe with a focus on the Earth. While in New Avengers the Illuminati (Black Panther, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Namor, Beast, and Mr. Fantastic) struggle to prevent the destruction of Earth and the universe, by incursions, a domino effect that will wipe out Earths throughout the multiverse. The Illuminati are hampered by infighting and personal agendas among several of its members; while dealing with the morality of sacrificing whole worlds and personal values for the greater good.
Hickman stacks the deck against the Avengers even further by adding Thanos to the mix. Once the bulk of the Avengers leave to unite the universe against the Builders, Thanos invades with his army and his five elite followers the Black Order. A universal threat in his own right, Thanos is in search of his son Thane to kill him. As revealed in the Thanos Rising mini series, Thanos sowed his royal oats throughout the universe and is now rectifying that mistake buy demanding the heads the youth of several planets between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two as tribute. He demands the tribute from the Inhumans of Earth. With a diminished presence of super-heroes, the defending of Earth is left to several solo heroes as well as the Illuminati in New Avengers, and the formation of the Mighty Avengers by Luke Cage.
In space, the Avengers team with friends and enemies from around the Universe. Becoming brothers-in-arms with the Shi’ar, Skrulls, Annihilus, and the Kree. This creates an interesting dynamic as we see a Skrull save Captain America and the heroes of Earth facing death and extinction side by side with sworn enemies; enemies who come to admire and rely on the power, tactics and inspiration of the Avengers. In one fantastic scene Captain America sends Thor as the representative of the Alliance to surrender to the Builders; an event transmitted throughout the universe as a lesson to those who would defy them by the Builders. It instead becomes an object lesson in resistance and defiance as Thor’s “negotiation” inspires the many worlds of the Universe to fight and brings them not only valuable allies in the fight against the builders, but the admiration and awe of the entire universe.
Cap’s tactics and selection of Thor to deliver the message was brilliant, and in effect without the Avengers the Alliance would not have won the war. This creates a profound change in the way the races of the universe see the Avengers and Earth. Earth has never been popular with the Galactic powers that be. The Phoenix, Reed Richards saving the life of Galactus, the Avengers roles in the Kree/Skrull war and in the destruction of the Kree home world; have all created a fear of the powerful creatures from Earth. Now the Avengers are seen as heroes and liberators to the many worlds of the universe, and, in the penultimate issue of Infinity, the Avengers and their allies arrive en masse to confront Thanos and liberate Earth. Allies like the Skrulls who have more than once tried to conquer Earth are now side by side with its greatest heroes to free the planet.
The Avengers are now not only a world power, but a galactic one as well. The mandate of the Avengers has changed, their reputation has changed; the scale of their foes and allies now seems unlimited for good or ill. In the wake of Thanos’ confrontation with Black Bolt the Inhumans are now homeless and scattered with new Inhumans appearing all over the Earth. Considering the issues mutants have had with a public that fears and hates them, what will the reception be for this new super powered race? Not a warm one I’d guess, but it will be an interesting change to the status quo of the marvel universe as marvels mutants just got a new lease on life after the events of AvsX.
Ambitious and presenting complex ideas and big screen battles in a war for the universe, Infinity has been a game changer for the Marvel Universe and the Avengers. The ramifications of which will no doubt present the readers with new conflicts, heroes and threats in the coming years. The Avengers have filled their ranks with a cross-section of heroes that have something for everyone, increasing their appeal and bringing b-list heroes to the big leagues successfully. With one issue left in the miniseries Infinity focuses on Thanos’, his quest to kill his son, as well as the Avengers and their allies battle to free the Earth. The Avengers journey to the galactic corners of the Marvel Universe has come full circle and everything just got ‘BIGGER”.