Round 1, Battle 5
INHUMANS: ATTLIAN RISING #1
THE INFINITY GAUNTLET #1
One of the major dangers of a GIANT, EPIC, WORLD-ALTERING, CROSSOVER EVENT in the comic world is to lose the humanity amongst all of the SWEET EPIC SHIT. The small, simple moments that make fans fall in love with the characters get lost in the necessitated threads connecting one story to every other story (or at least to the main story) rippling through the multiverse. Another danger is that the story is connected barely at all, a 1-2 page intermission in the issue reminding the reader of all money and time they should be spending on the event if they want to be in the know. *
*Hey Filterinos! To get the full scoop on this critique, check out PopFilter Presents: BattleworldBattleworld articles 1-4. –THE BOARD
Based on the covers alone, I assumed Inhumans: Attilan Rising #1 (Charles Soule, John Timms, Roberto Poggi, Frank D’Armarta) would out pace The Infinity Gauntlet #1 (Gerry Duggan, Dustin Weaver) easily. The art for the Attilan cover is distinct, crisp, and straight up cool. Gauntlet looks like generic space opera comics but for the Disney-set.
Now early on, both issues work incredibly well, for pretty similar reasons. Rather than zooming out and covering numerous characters at once, they both open on small sets of groups wandering in their respective wildernesses that are now strewn throughout #Battleworld. They both play with tropes of other genres: Gauntlet post-apocalypse that’s so popular this century, and Attilan leaning towards a WWI spy drama. They handle their differing group dynamics equally as well. Gauntlet stars a family (a father, two daughters, and a grandfather) sticking together in a post-apocalyptic city trying to escape “Bugs” that may have killed the mother in space. Missing parent tragedy? Check. Small story focused on human emotions and interactions against a backdrop of a deadly world. Check.
But Attilan opens with this:
Fuck. Yeah. That’s a 1920s gangster GhostRider.
A ragtag resistance group trying to de-hulkify Hulkland of Battleworld to grow their resistance group. AND their group consists of Marvel players so small their powers and personalities are new, and there’s no baggage to get through. Just “oh shit, that’s sweet” moments. So if both issues are avoiding the major crossover dangers, and telling more intimate stories, what separates them?
Well, Inhumans: Attilan Rising throws away the promising initial beats it sets up by shifting to Medusa, Dr. Doom, and a bunch of politics it doesn’t need. At least not in the starting issue. Also, let’s not try to parse out if this Medusa is the same as the Medusa who appeared in A-Force, or if they know each other exist, or can be in the same room, or one dies if the other dies. I hope it’s an alternate version, otherwise there’s a sliding timeline in the Battleworld books, and that’s the kind of shenanigans that made this crossover necessary. Not only does the focus shift to a confusing conundrum, but Doom is shoved in ordering Medusa to get a hold on her kingdom. There’s that annoying tie-in from the first paragraph! Not to mention the exposition heavy dialogue strains under the weight of explaining how this specific Manhattan kingdom operates, how Battleworld operates, how these characters operate. While it’s a fun and wide-reaching idea that a reader could pick up any issue as their first issue of Battleworld, covering the same bases in almost every first issue is getting fucking exhausting. But there’s one moment that Attilan really cemented how much it seemingly wanted Gauntlet to move on in the bracket:
We’ve gone too fucking far. When you take a badass silent hero, and turn him into a Humphrey Bogart’s try-hard little brother, we’re done. This is the shark-jumpingest character twist of Battleworld so far. And I pray to Uatu we don’t see worse. Not only does it eviscerate what makes Black Bolt so cool, it boringly maps out how this specific series is going to play out. Close your eyes, and think for half-second, and you’ll be able to map out to 99% accuracy how this story is moving forward. And while it may be a fun journey (and the espionage parts were fun), it’s just not strong enough to continue. There’s an alternate reality where Attilan moved on. Based on the potential promised by the first couple of pages of both books, the caper could have won out over the post-apocalypse given the latter’s saturation. But major sidetracking on Attilan’s part, and some smart decisions in Gauntlet clinched it.
Because The Infinity Gauntlet did something incredibly brave—it introduced brand new characters to the Marvel universe. Gone completely is the baggage of past storylines. Gone completely are fan expectations. The weight on Duggan and Weaver is still heavily present, but it’s a pure weight, a hopeful weight: they just need to show us a compelling story. And they do! The characters may be archetypal right now, but groundwork for developing the personalities and their dynamics are laid out. There’s a complexity in this issue that is effortless in a way Attilan crumbled under trying to get you to be impressed. The creative team behind Gauntlet lays out the immediate danger for the Bakian family clearly– get the hell away from giant space bugs. But the real danger that the Bakians don’t see is the animalistic take on Thanos stalking in the shadows. This isn’t the overlord/general/mastermind we’re used to, but the way Weaver draws him is cat-like, just another beast in the wild. The few panels they show him are more intimidating than anything the MCU has done with him yet.
Lurking in the shadows will never not be scary.
While this book is juggling immediate danger with imminent danger, and family dynamics with survival, it very quietly tells an origin story. Because our narrator, Anwen, who I haven’t had a chance to mention yet, this smart, spunky, outspoken, strong female, is going to be Marvel’s next breakout superhero. I predict the 2010s are remembered for giving us Miles Morales, Kamala Khan, and Anwen Bakian. So not only have Duggan and Weaver started a delightful (SELF-CONTAINED!) adventure within this sprawling saga, they’ve slyly put forth an argument that it’s okay if some of our old favorites die off in this universe blender. There are new heroes out there to fall in love with.-MG
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