In the Infinity prelude, The Signal, a signal was set off to the Origin Bomb sites which are meant to evolve the Earth. The signal was also received by the oldest civilization in the universe, the Builders. The Builders also built the universe, but were created by Captain Universe.
Meanwhile, Captain Universe took the Avenger Manifold to what she called “the beginning of the end,” where a group of Builders landed on Planet Galador of the Golden Galaxy. She told Manifold to inform the Avengers they need to expand. Therefore, they were forced to recruit Ex Nihilo (the man who originally set the Origin bombs on Earth), Abyss, Nightmask (Ex Nihilo’s creation of a perfect human), and Starbrand (a boy gifted with the powers to protect Earth).
Also a group of alien spaceships were stopped by the Peak (a planetary monitoring system) as they were fleeing to Earth from something. Only one Skrull alien ships landed on Earth.
Our story begins with a moment from New Avengers (Vol. 3) #6, when the Illuminati (a secret assembly of Iron Man, Blackbolt, Black Panther, Reed Richards, Beast, Namor, and Dr. Strange) were forced to obliterate another world which was about to collide with Earth. They all watched as the planet exploded. "It was an Avengers world," the narrator exclaims. "It was the first of many."
On Titan, an Outrider, "a genetically engineered parasite-assassin solely devoted to the whims of its maker," brings the word of success from Ahl-Agullo to a white, demonic creature in a shredded, black cloak. The creature is given a silent gesture by his master, who sits silently on his throne. The white creature, acting as a scribe, states that their master is pleased, but the Outrider’s task remains unfinished.
“One remains. Will you rise and find his favor one last time?” the white creature asks the Outrider. It answers yes and sets off in a squid-like spaceship to find “another world to raze.”
Soon, on the people of Ahl-Agullo, a world that was beaten but has begun to rebuild itself, is alerted that Corvus Glaive, the white creature from the earlier sequence, has returned after originally defeating them. In the makeshift throne room of this world, Corvus asks the king of Ahl-Agullo where Augollux the Brave is. The king reveals he doesn’t know. Therefore, Corvus shows the king Augollux’s sword and the arm that held it. He gained this from when his master’s army killed him, obviously.
The king begins to call his guards, but Corvus Glaive halts him by ramming his spear into the floor. The white creature reminds him how his master burned the world, killing nearly sixty million people. Now that the king has built a city from the ruins, Corvus wants a tribute.
After his trip, Corvus Glaive returns to Titan with a metallic container containing the tribute from Ahl-Agullo. His master is revealed to be Thanos the Mad Titan and he is pleased with the tribute of many dead Ahl-Agullo people.
Meanwhile, the Outrider arrives on Earth to “hunt for what is hidden.” The Outrider infiltrates the Avengers, X-Men, and S.H.I.E.L.D. while the narrator articulates, “It will be found. And the world will pay tribute. Or it will burn.”
Later, sixty thousand galaxies away on Planet Galador of the Golden Galaxy, the Builder forces are destroying the civilization on the planet. In what I assume is the mother ship of the Builder fleet, a Caretaker is informing three Builders and a Gardener that the world’s heroes are resisting their invasion, based off of the Curator’s information. (Have I lost you yet? Gardeners, Curators, and Caretakers are all pretty much minions of the Builders.)
On the terrain of Planet Galador, two Alephs (destructive robot people who serve Builders) are strolling the fiery earth, killing any life around them. When the Alephs are preparing to kill two civilians, the Spaceknights (a hero team consisting of Starshine, Terminator, Ikon, Firefall, and Pulsar) halt them. Just as fast as the heroes arrived, they soar off to help others.
After watching the Spaceknights save them, the two citizens are convinced that they will be victorious in the battle against their invaders. But Captain Universe shows up and reveals to them otherwise, saying, “Everything dies.” The man refuses to accept it, stating they will win because they are “righteous.” Cap U tells him that it doesn’t matter because her children have arrived. Then, a ship rises from the rubbish of Planet Galador and completely obliterates the world, making it seem as if “they never were.”
Sixty thousand light-years away from the terminating planet, above earth on the Peak, Abigail Brand is readying her strike team and S.H.I.E.L.D. containment team to invade a building in Palermo. When she gives her word, Captain America and Hawkeye enter the apartment complex with a fleet of S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers trailing them. Hawkeye calms the nearby civilians while Cap confirms that Thor and Hyperion are standing by for backup.
When they kick an apartment door open, the Avengers and soldiers find four men and a cat sitting at a table eating pizza. One man is asking if they want a piece when a device is activated, revealing that they are shape-shifting Skrulls. As the strike team engages the Skrulls, Abigail Brand is told that this is the seventh incident they have had in two weeks. To figure out what’s happening, she orders an agent to hack the Shi’ar and Kree feeds. Then, a flash of white blazes up in the ship.
Minutes later, Captain America punches the last Skrull. He tells Abigail over his speaker that they have defeated the Skrulls. Hawkeye notes that not a single warrior was among the Skrulls and something’s “not right.” Abigail confirms this and asks that they meet her as soon as possible. Behind her on the Peak, a group of agents have gathered around Captain Universe, who is lying unconscious on the floor.
Later on Attilan, home of the Inhumans which is currently floating above Manhattan, two guards, Kirren and Tolos, are gossiping about how Black Bolt is arguing with his wives. While carelessly ranting, the Outrider crawls along the wall behind them, invisible. In the hallway, Karnak and Gorgon discuss how they think the situation divides and weakens the house as the Outrider slithers along the wall beside them.
Finally, the Outrider locates what it has been searching for: the chamber in which Black Bolt sleeps. It readies itself to look into Black Bolt’s memories and find the information its master seeks. When it does so, it watches Black Bolt as he first gained his powers from undergoing terrigenesis, became a king, married five wives (sheesh!), and recalling his brother, Maximus the Mad, who is responsible for driving a wedge between him and the others in the royal family. Sadly, the Outrider doesn’t find what he wants so he digs deeper. Meanwhile, on the Peak, Ex Nihilo, Captain America, and Iron Man watch Captain Universe, who is “recovering” from the incident on Planet Galador. While looking at her, Iron Man mentions how she was rambling about impending doom. Ex Nihilo calls her rambling “holy words” that should be heeded.
Abigail interrupts their discussion by gathering the three Avengers with the rest to view a tape from a Kree omnicast from one of their deep space outposts. On the tape, the Kree soldiers are being attacked by a group of Gardeners and Alephs. Ex Nihilo, who happens to be a direct creation of the Builders, is appalled by what he is watching. Abigail tells the Avengers that, judging from the Builder’s trail, they are heading directly to Earth.
Back at Attilan, the Outrider is still pillaging Black Bolt’s mind. It finds that he is involved in the Illuminati, all of whom lost the sacred Infinity Gems. (Except for the time gem, which is now lost in time.) Finally, it discovers what it has been investigating for. It is a very vague memory that occurred many years ago, which is, as the narrator describes, “hidden kings and lost queens.”
Suddenly, Black Bolt finds that the Outrider had been examining his memories. He wakes and rips off one of the Outrider’s four arms. Rapidly, the Outrider flees into the hallway like a wounded animal, sloppily flying past Karnak and Gorgon. Gorgon stomps one of his hooves against the floor, hurtling the Outrider to Kirren and Tolos. While flying past the two guards, the Outrider slices them with two of his available arms.
Quickly, Black Bolt dons his costume to assist his fellow Inhumans. As the Outrider is jumping off the terrace, Black Bolt and his massive dog, Lockjaw, arrive to help. Black Bolt, who has such a booming voice that the slightest whisper will cause a sonic boom, murmurs the word “stop.” The force is so great that it forces the Outrider to plummet to the city below mid-jump. Sadly, it had its ship waiting for invisibly below. The Outrider enters the squid-like vehicle and, to Black Bolt’s anguish, flies away.
Later, at the Peak, Captain America has assembled a team of nineteen Avengers (not including Spider-Man, frustratingly) and begins one of his classic pep talks. Captain Marvel reveals that S.W.O.R.D. has “picked up increasing military chatter” from the entirety of the Galactic Council. Smasher, a member from the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, states that all Supergaurdians have been recalled by their commander and he has been preparing for heavy loss.
Captain America asks Ex Nihilo and Abyss what chance they have of surviving if the Builders make it to Earth, to which they respond, “The next step in human evolution is extinction.” Using this as evidence, Captain America decides that they need to band with the other worlds. This worries Starbrand, who isn’t sure he should be included because he’s a planetary defense system meant to protect Earth.
Sunspot and Cannonball nonchalantly convince Starbrand to come, saying that it will be “like Star Wars, except with much handsomer protagonists.” Iron Man tells the assembly that everyone in the room represents “the best chance we have of stopping this”, but he will be staying behind to “enact some contingency plans and marshal the world’s defenses” in case they fail. Cap says that they will leave in an hour.
An hour later, the Avengers are in two Quincruisers. Before they leave, Iron Man tells Cap that he is “getting tired of end of the world scenarios.” Then, the Avengers leave Earth.
Later, on Titan, the Outrider crash-lands in his spaceship and has to be carried to his master. He is thrown before the throne and brings one word with him: success. Corvus Glaive stands before him and reveals that the Black Order had assembled. It consists of Proxima Midnight, a lady with a black uniform and strange headdress/helmet, Black Dwarf, a beast-like creature, the Ebony Maw, an elderly, lanky creature, and Supergiant, a blue, hooded lady.
The Outrider reveals that what Thanos seeks is on Earth. Corvus Glaive tells the creature that it had done well and, as its reward, Corvus beheads it. Thanos then speaks, telling his people that he wants to take Earth. His disciplines are all very cautious of the subject, saying, “On Earth, even the best laid plans fail and fade,” and that it is “the last stop for the foolish.”
Corvus Glaive brings a quick end to their concerns, explaining how there has been a schism among the X-Men, there is discord in the house Inhuman and, most favorable, Earth has no Avengers. This brings a gaping smile to the weathered, purple face of Thanos.
When grading this issue, I will briefly push aside the fact that this was a set-up issue. This issue has so much creative energy, it’s ground-breaking. Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung, within the span of one issue, created two different civilizations only to obliterate them entirely, produced two whole new specimens called Outriders and Gardeners, introduced five new villains in Thanos’ Black Order and reintroduced the superhero team Spaceknights. You cannot simply look at this and pass it as a simple set-up issue.
Now to get to the elephant in the room… This issue is a set-up issue. As a reviewer, though, I am not as tough on set-up issues as others may be. Rather, I look at the quality of what it establishes for the future issues. Infinity #1 presents 56 different characters into the series. 56 characters! And not once does the story feel crammed or overcrowded! Also, while doing this, two different battles and plotlines were introduced. Therefore, in my opinion, this is a very stimulating set-up issue.
Although this issue is very innovative and successful as a set-up issue, there are very few character moments. Hickman navigates the story with a very relaxed and somewhat detached tone. The characters in the story mainly only speak to provide essential information towards the plotline and the entire story is practically devoid of sympathy. Obviously, if you pick up this event, you will be looking for an interesting plot, not heart or personality.
I must to admit that, as an avid reader of Avengers (Vol. 5), I have been waiting for this type of story to come. It’s pretty obvious that Hickman’s entire Avengers run has been building up to this story and it’s great to see it all pay off. While the issue is more enjoyable after you have read Hickman’s Avengers, it is also formatted as well as it could be for new readers.
If you read Bendis’ run on Avengers Assemble, and if you were as disgusted by it as me, you probably found Thanos to be written as a complete fool and retard. In fact, he hasn’t really been taken seriously since Infinity Gauntlet. Thankfully, Hickman puts in the time to build Thanos up as a force to be reckoned with the whole beginning and ending sequences. Of course, the question remains of what Thanos’ intentions are. Hopefully, Hickman maintains his good handle with Thanos.
Last but not least, Cheung’s artwork is perfect. It is absolutely flawless and works with Hickman’s script well. I have always been an admirer of Cheung’s art. Sadly, this is the first interior art he has done in seemingly forever. Cheung is such a big name artist that he only has to draw two comic books a year, Personally, I find that ridiculous, but his art is amazing.
A good set-up issue that has me interested for the next issue.