Avengers #23: Infinity Nears Its End
Avengers #23 is the last issue of the Infinity tie-in arc, and Jonathan Hickman treats it as such. The final big fight will happen in Infinity #6, so Avengers #23 is the set up, the pre-game show. Captain America and what’s left of his group of rebels have made it back to Earth in an attempt to aid in the fight against Thanos. What they discover is not pleasant, but the tide has now officially turned. Having stopped The Builders, the final stage of this Infinity battle is Thanos. The giant purple villain is about to drop a planet bomb on Earth, and the Avengers look to stop it.
The crux of issue #23 is a military take down. Thanos has a fleet surrounding Earth, and Cap needs to break through before his team can assist in the battle. Part of Cap’s rebel force takes the task of eliminating the fleet, and thus the military coup is on. Standing between Cap’s group and the destruction of Thanos’ fleet is the Black Dwarf. After we've seen the Dwarf get his ass handed to him by the Black Panther, it seemed this would be an easy shake down. Think again, the Black Dwarf is pissed, and he’s looking to avenge his embarrassment.
Hickman keeps the action fast and furious. This is the easiest script he’s written since the Infinity series began. It’s not to say Hickman got lazy, but more that he’s easing up on the subtext, ratcheting up the action, and letting us all breathe before unleashing the final battle. The tide of issue #23 swings back and forth, with both sides seeming victorious. Finally, in what is one of the most gruesome deaths in Hickman’s run, our heroes prevail. Thanos' protective fleet falls, and Cap and the team rush towards Earth. Whatever happens next, Thanos is going to feel the Avengers wrath for sure.
As always, Hickman’s writing is wonderful to read. Even relaxing on the layered ideas, he still weaves an immaculate web of plot, dialogue and emotion. When a battered member of Cap’s forces, a hero who can’t possibly win against the Black Dwarf, stands up to go toe to toe with him, you actually want to cheer for him. Same when the Black Dwarf falls – it’s a real moment in the whole timeline of events. The end of the issue isn’t as breathless as #22, but it is a brilliant set up for the last issue of Infinity.
Leinil Francis Yu continues to be an unstoppable force on this series. I’ve heard whines that his pencils are too dark, his line work too detailed, but to me those are the keys to what makes his art work. Hickman’s text is so rich, so densely packed, that light-hearted art would tear it down. Yu matches Hickman’s intensity with every tightly packed panel. It’s a perfect marriage of images and words.
(4 Story, 4.5 Art)