ROUND 3, BATTLE 7
THE INFINITY GAUNTLET #1-4
Family. It’s not just a buzzword for the Olive Garden or the Fast and the Furious. It’s what holds so many things together in this world, whether you’re all blood related, or brought together by some otherworldly, overpowering experience like writing about all of the Secret Wars spin off titles over a long fucking summer.
Today’s contenders both focus heavily on the concept of family. In the Infinity Gauntlet, Weaver+Duggan+Co bring us the story of a family estranged by an intergalactic war, now dealing with being thrown together unexpectedly because of the same war. Meanwhile over in A-Force, Bennet+Wilson+Friends explore surrogate families, and the extreme circumstances that create bonds tighter than friendship, despite no blood relations. The similarities between the two books don’t stop on the surface level of family, but delve into dangers surrounding a family unit and the panic that can set in and remove empathy for anyone not included in what members think of as “family.” Is it weak to bring in to ally oneself to newcomers, whatever the circumstances, if it may possibly endanger those you love? Or is it callous to turn your back on strangers in need, on the off chance a member of your clan could be harmed? It’s a conundrum something like the Walking Dead has struggled to highlight over 5 seasons, while both of these books do so more succinctly, and more powerfully, in 4 issues each. The downside of this situation is both books wrap up in one final issue, and we won’t get to see how long-term struggles impact the family of Novas or the A-Force.
If only your own family could wrap up in just a few months.
While young Anwen is the narrator, and therefore obvious protagonist, of The Infinity Gauntlet, the book does a solid job at dodging a story viewed through 13-year old angsty eyes. In fact, other than the journal entries, the focus is shared across the whole Bakian clan as the struggle with being reunited with their long lost wife/mother and on the fact that they are all (including the dog, ZigZag) now super space police. Even though Anwen is a strong-willed, fairly mature character, having the whole story zoomed in on her could get emotionally exhausting. Have you spent much time with teenagers? The worst. Even the good ones. Now imagine they have severe Mommy issues and superpowers. The characters that come off the worse here are mamma and papa Bakian. The book sets up their roles of warrior wife/pacifist husband, but they really just scream those roles at each other and at anyone who will listen, instead of delving into the hows and whys that motivate each. It’s if Lois and Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle” never got a sweet moment to share to show the audience why these two work so fucking well together. Instead we get a marital bicker match while giant deadly alien bugs almost kill their daughters in front of their eyes. What’s supposed to come off as an eye-roll inducing, “we all know that couple”, instead it seems like the girls would be better of if it was just the two of them (and ZigZag, of course). And if we’re focusing on the nature of family, then this hits the nose on its head. Parents choose inopportune times to dig at each other when their life philosophies and parenting styles clash. Especially when years of resentment have been built up for like, let’s say, one of them ditched her family to be a superhero, leaving the rest to fend for themselves in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But to really sell us on this family, and therefore on this book and all of the drama it brings, is to make us care.
Great! After years of abandonment, a joke!
And honestly, only Anwen is intriguing enough to care about. Even the now fan favorites, StarLord and Gamora are just noise here. The juice is between Anwen and the Mad Titan Thanos as he slowly takes her under his wing. He plants the seed in her impressionable brain that family makes you weak, which she of course agrees with until a climactic battle… but the turn around is too swift. What’s more interesting is to have a hero who believes not only that acting solo is for the best, but then acts in the best interest of society as a whole rather than that of her family. But Anwen is only 13, so siding with her family in the end makes the most sense. Who knows maybe, she’ll bail on them and do what’s right in the final issue. Unfortunately, we won’t be there with them to find out. A-Force is moving on and as such I thought it fitting to give The Infinity Gauntlet a proper send off, because it’s still a damn good book. Just not good enough.-MG