The first issue of Infinity Countdown is a strange one. It’s essentially a continuation of Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder’s Guardians of the Galaxy run. Not only does the issue feature the same creative team, but it also picks up halfway through that series’ ongoing plot. That’s a bit odd, too, given Marvel cancelled Guardians of the Galaxy – and a number of other books – to focus in on Infinity Countdown.
Last year, the House of Ideas promised retailers that they didn’t have another event in the works for 12-18 months after Secret Empire. Clearly, plans changed, and instead Marvel has dived back into another event book. This time round, though, the event seems to spring organically from stories they’d been working on in several key series. While that’s sure to delight fans who were actually reading Guardians of the Galaxy, it unfortunately makes the event fairly inaccessible to new readers.
The first issue is divided between two plots. The Power Stone’s location is no longer a secret; now, various alien forces are trying to claim it, and only Drax and the Nova Corps stand in their way. Duggan has recreated the Nova Corp, and in power levels he envisions them as somewhere between the traditional comic book version and the ones from the movies. Any fans of Dan Abnett’s Nova run will likely be a little underwhelmed.
Meanwhile, he’s also reinterpreted Drax to make him more like the character from Guardians of the Galaxy. Suffice to say ,that makes it very hard to take the Destroyer seriously; that’s frankly something of a mistake in the context of an event miniseries, where the threat of the Infinity Gauntlet is looming ever closer. The story also only occasionally gives any sense of tension.
In a curious decision, the second plot isn’t even related to the Infinity Stones. Duggan’s Guardians of the Galaxy run has been dealing with an overarching narrative featuring the Gardener, a rogue Elder of the Universe. The Gardener has been driven mad after being poisoned, and he’s created a whole army of Groots. These have drawn the life-energy from the Groot who’s part of the Guardians team, shrinking him down to the size and form of Baby Groot.
That plot is clearly building to a head in Infinity Countdown, although unfortunately, new readers will frankly be bewildered. This issue resolves the Gardener’s role as a villain, and dramatically alters Groot’s status quo. That scene lends pretty well, and fans will be as shocked as the Guardians themselves. Although this is proving to be a satisfying conclusion to Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s hard to understand why the tale is being told in Infinity Countdown.
Finally, the issue ends with a switch in location, heading to Lowtown in Madripoor. There, Logan decides to leave his Infinity Stone with an old friend. It’s a nice touch, especially since the world currently thinks both Logan and his ally are currently dead. At the same time, this decision strikes something of an off-note; in the issues building up to Infinity Countdown, Logan has repeatedly described the Power Stone as a potential game-changer for mutants. Given that’s the case, it seems more than a little odd for him to now abandon it.
The art in Infinity Countdown is almost exactly what fans have gotten used to in the latest Guardians of the Galaxy run. Kuder’s visual style is simple and evocative, and tonally the book feels as though it channels the films. Colorist Jordie Bellaire, meanwhile, isn’t really a details person, which sometimes works – say, in the battle of the Groots. Unfortunately, it rather makes Nova Commander Bakian look as though she’s wearing a onesie.
That being said, there are some seriously cool moments in the comic; namely the arrival of the Raptors, and the intervention of another alien threat. Both those panels are tremendously effective in visual terms. Meanwhile, the opening sequence and Lowtown interlude are visually stunning, carrying a very different sense of style and tone.
Infinity Countdown #1 is an enjoyable issue. Unfortunately, it’s an enjoyable issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, not an event comic. It’s difficult to understand why Marvel didn’t just continue Duggan’s Guardians run, and finish the plot there. The next issue teaser promises more of the same, too, which makes the decision to run this as an event even more puzzling. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be interesting to see how this all takes shape.
As the next chapter in Duggan and Kuder's Guardians of the Galaxy, this is a strong issue. As the beginning of an event, however, it's less successful.