This week gave us Avengers #23 by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu. It acts as chapter 14 in the 16 chapter event that is Infinity. Normally, I abhor comic book events (Fear Itself broke me), but Hickman’s been killing it here. It’s a wonderful space epic that mixes two unrelated threats and intertwines their stories. On one hand, you have the Builders, a cosmic threat based on killing to preserve life. On the other hand, you have Thanos, the cosmic threat based on his love for Death.
The whole thing has been filled with a ton of great moments. Speeches and actions come off as incredibly badass and satisfying while seemingly everyone gets their own moment to shine. In this week’s installment, there’s a wonderful moment based on Captain America leading his forces to Earth, which is being conquered by Thanos and his soldiers. Cap is assisted by various alien forces, who intend to help Earth as gratitude for the Avengers being so important in the war against the Builders. Before leaving, he tells Super-Skrull and the other alien warlords in the room, “You didn’t have to… What I mean is… I want to thank all of you for this.”
Super-Skrull responds, “Thank us when we’ve earned it, human. What good is effort if we fail? Do best intentions soak up the blood and bury the fallen? And if beaten, who remembers the conquered? Not I… So save your thanks until we stand over the broken bodies of our enemies. Save it until we’ve won.”
The problem is that Thanos’ forces have taken the Peak, a SWORD space station built to prevent invaders. The team of Manifold, Black Widow and Shang-Chi go off to shut it down and protect the Avengers on their journey to Earth, but it isn’t so easy. Black Dwarf, one of Thanos’ top henchmen, is running things and he’s able to dispose of Widow and Shang-Chi easily. Manifold teleports back to the base and sees that Cap’s already left, leaving only Super-Skrull and the others. The Avengers are doomed. Earth is doomed. What can they do?
Then this happens.
Super-Skrull, Ronan the Accuser, Gladiator and Annihilus vs. Black Dwarf. Black Dwarf talks a tough game, but he stands no chance. He already took a loss when he tried to invade Wakanda, so he isn’t going to do much better here. Lot of sweet smacktalk is said and in the end, he finds himself judged guilty by the Accuser and his hammer. It’s an enjoyable moment in a massive story of enjoyable moments.
What truly makes this great isn’t the galactic curbstomping itself, but why it’s happening. This isn’t like your average superhero team taking down a threat. This a foursome of enemies. Since the 60′s, these guys have been antagonizing everyone from the Fantastic Four to the X-Men on a regular basis. Super-Skrull and Ronan represent two races that have acted like the Hatfields and McCoys of outer space. Annihilus is borderline pure evil and went to war with everyone, including his brothers-in-arms here.
And yet here they are. Fighting. Together. For us. A lot of times these superhero stories, especially in the big events, talk up how pointless and bittersweet these victories are. What good is Batman stopping the Joker when he’s just going to kill another dozen people the week after? Wonder Man even made a big stink about how the Avengers were causing more damage than they were worth with none of the writers ever really finding a good argument against it other than, “He crazy.” This, on the other hand, is kind of a beautiful thing. Former enemies to ourselves and each other are able to put their differences aside to make sure Earth can be protected all because of the ripples of Captain America’s actions.
I seem to recall Peter David’s Hulk: The End saying that the death of the human race would have led to the Kree and Skrulls burying the hatchet for the sake of celebration. Hickman’s storytelling impresses me far more.