Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver
Color Artist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Before discussing the individual merits of this issue, I want to take a moment to comment on just how skilled Marvel has become at executing big summer event titles. Everything about the way this series is constructed is informed by lessons learned from past events.
Marvel's choice to ship Infinity biweekly keeps the excitement ratcheted up, holds the attention of the fickle comics news cycle, and cuts down on the chances of readers suffering from event fatigue. Having multiple artists draw the book ensures that it will ship on time without having to rely on last minute fill-in artists. The core tie-ins in Avengers and New Avengers add plenty of substance to the main story but can be ignored for readers who just want to read Infinity itself, (though a lot of the character beats are lost if you're just reading the miniseries). On the other hand, regular readers of those two titles aren't seeing their books hijacked for the summer, because Infinity is a natural extension of the plots Hickman was crafting in those books to begin with.
Infinity #3 picks up with the Avengers and the Intergalactic Coalition suffering yet another defeat in their war against the Builders, the race of ancient aliens who claim to have shaped the Marvel cosmos from its very inception. While Captain America hatches a desperate plan to pull out a much needed victory to boost the coalition's morale, Thanos continues his opportunistic attack of the (relatively) unprotected Earth. Last issue Black Bolt revealed that Thanos had to come to earth to find and kill his son. This issue sees Black Bolt face down Thanos alone, and Hickman reminds his readers why the midnight king should never be discounted from the ranks of Marvel's baddest badasses.
In this first two issues of this series, Hickman excelled at creating an atmosphere of hopelessness, as the combined might of all the galaxies heaviest hitters suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the builders. In Infinity #3, Hickman spends more time with the Builders themselves, establishing them with a unique identity of detached disdain, and elevating them from the faceless, generic wave of destruction they were earlier in the series. These two elements serve to make the victories the heroes achieve in Infinity #3 all the more cathartic, even if the plan that won them the day was a bit simplistic. The other edge of that sword is that such a peak in the Avengers' fortunes this early in the story spells bad things on the horizon in the coming three issues. With a cast so large, many characters are relegated to non-speaking roles, but this is an easy flaw to forgive, when the core scenes involving the hard won respect with which the intergalactic counsel views Captain America, and the incredible tension of Black Bolt taking on Thanos are so well crafted.
Jerome Opena handles the pages involving the war in space, while Dustin Weaver draws the scenes that focus on the defense of Earth. Their styles are similar enough, and their different sections are motivated by the story which makes for a nearly seamless transition. However, while Dustin Weaver is an accomplished artist in his own right, Opena is proving to be in a league of his own with each new project he tackles. His small figure work allows him to pack panels full of characters populating surroundings lush with detail, that its easy to overlook the fact that he's using a rather standard grid layout. Weaver's pages, while not lacking in detail, employ some unconventional panel layouts that don't always work and make the pages feel a bit cluttered in comparison. His layouts I almost feel that Weaver would have been better paired with third series artist Jim Cheung, as their styles seem more comparable.
Jonathan Hickman's greatest strength as a writer has always been the intricate plotting and epic scope with which he approaches each new project. These talents make him well suited to an event book, as often times these series tend to lag in the middle chapters, or disappoint readers with lackluster or cliffhanger endings. Having reached the midpoint of Infinity, my confidence in Hickman's ability to deliver the goods is unwavering. Infinity isn't a perfect book, but it's pretty much everything I want out of a big summer event and shows just how practiced Marvel has become at telling these kinds of stories since launching House of M in the summer of 2005.