Avengers #21: ‘Infinity’ Continues To Melt Minds

Avengers #21

 

I’m guessing if Jonathan Hickman wrote a coloring book, it would be so complex as to drive preschoolers into long stretches of catatonia. Avengers #21 has come out, and it would be a simple story of the Avengers foiling an insidious plot from some random bad guys, if that plotline was then pushed through a kaleidoscope made up of chips of reality trapped near the inner circle of thought. Get out the crayons kids, cause Uncle Hickman has given us another mind-crushing coloring book.

Avengers #21 has multiple things happening all at the same time. The central idea remains the same. The Builders, an ancient race of world-makers created by Captain Universe eons ago, are attacking. They’ve decided that the only way to save all the universes it to destroy them. Flawed thinking, but The Builders mean it. Captain Universe is in a coma. Watching over her are her second set of children, Ex-Nihilo and his sister Abyss. They seem to think that once Captain Universe wakes up, she can stop The Builders.

Meanwhile, the Supremor, a leader of the planet Hala currently aligned with The Builders who looked to negotiate terms of surrender from the Avengers, is being put back together. Turns out when his Builder friend decided to take a run at Thor, the thunder god smashed a hammer-sized hole through his body. Defeating The Builder freed Hala, except the Supremor decided not to accept the terms of defeat, resulting in a coup.

Keeping up? Good.

Those involved with coup decide to lend their talents for destruction to Captain America and his band of lovely interstellar warriors. This opens up a can of whoop-ass on The Builders, for about an hour. Then they fight back, and our freedom force suffers heavy causalities.  With nothing left to do, Cap and his buddies use their Hail Mary play. Opening up the Negative Zone, they release the Annihilation Wave, the bug army controlled by Annihilus.

The bugs make short work of The Builders, until the head Builder gets the bugs to turn on themselves. Now, the Avengers are out of answers. Cue Captain Universe, who shows up and spanks her early children by eviscerating them. This is good, right? This means we win? Except that the lead Builder has every single Builder across the universe set to self-destruct, which could be the end of everything.

I have this feeling that when this whole Infinity/Builder thing is over, Jonathan Hickman is going to sleep for a year. Anybody putting this together must be on overactive brain detail. Still, as complex, layered and in-depth as it all is, Avengers #21 never gets convoluted. Hickman maintains control of it all. This is a massive story, but Hickman’s untouchable skill never lets it falter into something pretentious or dull. Infinity is one of the only events in Marvel comics to feel like a unique story.

Helping bring this Shakespearean level story to life is Leinil Francis Yu, who pencils with the same eye towards complexity as Hickman writes. Yu’s work is just as massive, straddling the line between comic book fare and fine art. His line work is delicate and he has a real affinity for shading. His creatures are all wonderful, each with their own visual personality. The panel placement is exciting and layered like Hickman’s writing. Only a true master could equal with drawings what Hickman has accomplished here with story.

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(4.5 Art, 4.5 Story)