The Avengers are in space having a massive, impossible battle against a recently revealed force of nature whose motives are unclear beyond malevolence. Thanos is assaulting Earth and confronting Black Bolt in a collision that destroyed the Inhuman city of Attilan. Otherdimensional incursions threaten to destroy the planet no matter what happens with Thanos. It’s called Infinity, and it’s space madness writ large engulfing the Marvel Universe.
Well, chunks of it, anyway. Superior Spider-Man, Daredevil, Young Avengers – plenty of books are just chugging along with their own stories and ignoring it, which is cool that they have the luxury. The tie-ins are not overwhelming, and are mostly confined to Avengers and New Avengers, but this week, it also includes Robert Rodi & Michael Del Mundo’s Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #3 and Frank Tieri & Al Barrionuevo’s The Heist #1 alongside Jonathan Hickman & Leilil Francis Yu’s Avengers #20. The latter book moves the main story along, while the other two focus on the fringe elements.
In A-20, the story of The Builders is, well, built upon with a different perspective on the cosmic events of Infinity #3. The Avengers free their teammates after driving off the main Builder fleet and crippling them. However, Ex Nihila of the Bad Builders notes that Abyss of the Good Builders exists, and that’s apparently a huge deal for them. Apparently, Builders come in sets of seven – Creators, Engineers, Curators, Caretakers, Alephs, Gardeners and Abyssi. But it seems the Abyssi have all gone extinct, save for the one among the Avenger Builders. The Bad Gardeners hate being Bad Builders, and the existence of an Abyss seems to invigorate them into rising up against the rest of the Bad Builders. Meanwhile, Captain America has a plan that involves having the resistance movement surrender to the Bad Builders, who seem to be soulless, detached conquerors. It may also involve unleashing a massive swarm of Brood drones and a Second Great Annihilation Wave as well, which is a pretty disturbing concept, given how close the first one came to ending everything.
Now, I’ve been enjoying Infinity as a big event that actually feels like a story, but I must admit that The Builders are not very compelling characters. The Good Builders were initially Bad Builders but then the sudden appearance of a Captain Universe turned them into Neutral Builders, and then months later, the Avengers decide to make them Good Builders, and they decide to be Good Builders, but then other Bad Builders attack everything else and Good Builders don’t understand even though they were just Bad Builders trying to raze and re-terraform the Earth just a few months ago (although they were also trying to give Earth a sentient brain, which is a neat idea). They are all a part of what feels like the umpteenth Marvel Universe Origin Story, and there doesn’t really feel like there’s anything cool about them beyond the fact that they’ve dropped a few seed bombs on Earth and created pockets of weird new Savage Land-esque cultures scattered around the world. They are interesting concepts, and I’m sure Hickman is gearing them towards something big and important, but a lot of times, it just feels like all these weirdos just sprung up from nowhere and started making every other Avengers issue a turgid affair. Hickman has earned trust, though, and Yu’s artwork is impressive in its detail, although it does feel very static – as you might expect in an issue that’s pretty much all talk.
What’s certainly not turgid at all is Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #3, which is kind of a tie-in to a tie-in, taking place during the events of Mighty Avengers, when Luke Cage and the pseudo-Heroes For Hire have to fight off Thanos goons in NYC. This issue gives us Supey Spidey indulging in his own, much-more-dickish-than-usual sense of humor, mocking Cage a lot, before cutting to a stuffy girl named Sylvia Prell, content to ignore the chaos outside while holing up in the Cloisers Museum, reading books and resenting all of modern technology. Suddenly, some weird green gas cloud sneaks in and transforms her into living lightning – well, no, not Living Lightning, but basically an electricity being. When she goes out of control zipping around town in freak mode, it draws Spider-Man’s attention, and he uses some of his Electro experience to coach her on how to adjust to her power – even encouraging her to give herself a new name so she can have a braver persona to inhabit to face the challenge. She chooses Fulmina, Latin for lightning, which is “admirably pedantic,’ according to the snooty Otto. But his pep talk about how she may use her great power to take on some great responsibility gives her ideas, and when she inhabits the power grid of the city, she decides to destroy all electrical devices in Times Square as a part of her plan to eliminate technology and roll back the centuries.
It’s a very fun issue, as is almost any appearance of Superior Spider-Man these days – his dialogue is just relentlessly entertaining. Calling a Thanos goon an “interstellar troglodyte,” insulting Cage, referring to “the Rambeau woman” – putting a supervillain who actually talks Big Talk into the situation of being an everyday superhero is just a greatly refreshing change. Fulmina is interesting – a being of electricity who hates even the concept of electronics. Del Mundo’s art is very fluid and kinetic and it suits Spider-Man well. I really can’t see myself getting tired of Superior Spider-Man. If everyone around him can just kind of accept that he’s becoming more of an ass to people, maybe he can keep rolling on for a lot longer than expected. Then again, some would say he’s already done that. We’ll get back to you eventually, Peter Parker, but take the rest you’ve earned. Let Ock do his thing.
Then there’s The Heist, which is right along the lines of Superior Foes of Spider-Man in that it’s focusing on the day to day of a couple of actual supervillains, Whirlwind and Blizzard, as they get recruited by Spymaster for a big job that involves ripping off Tony Stark why he’s all distracted with the space nonsense. We open with the duo mocking the fact that being an Avenger doesn’t mean anything anymore since they let guys like Cannonball in, then they try to rob the Wakandan Embassy only to find Spymaster beat them to the punch, then they go hang out in a supervillain nightclub called The Black Market, trade barbs with Constrictor, settle some personal issues between Whirly and Firebrand, and go meet up with the rest of the crew for the job, which includes a new Whiplash who looks like a blond Mickey Rourke, and Unicorn, a nutty guy with an actual horn in his head that he has named Spot. Once the job’s muscle shows up in the form of Titanium Man, something goes wrong with Blizzard and he passes out.
I don’t know much about these characters, so Frank Tieri has free reign to screw around with them, which is good, because it’s Frank Tieri and he screws around with things. This is the man who gifted us with Space Punisher, after all. It’s kind of fun, fairly weird, and we’ve got no idea where it’s going. Barrionuevo draws Constrictor to look like the Absorbing Man, so one has to wonder if there was some miscommunication there, or if no one really cares about maintaining Frank Schlichting’s look. Then again, there’s one panel featuring a guy in a white and black striped suit who could be Ol’ Crusher Creel, too. Tieri does pay enough attention to amusingly reference Whirlwind’s obsession with the Wasp, and he does have fun dialogue. Comics focusing on supervillains trying to pull off jobs are usually pretty entertaining. Broken people doing broken things for fun and profit always makes for a good setting. This issue isn’t a laugh-riot or anything, but it should be a nice diversion.
Then again, it’s Frank Tieri. It could get batshit insane in short order.