There is no easy way to review Avengers: Infinity War, because there has never been a movie quite like Avengers: Infinity War. Here we have a film that plays out narrative threads from 18 movies and 10 cinema franchises. It’s not a sequel, hell, it’s not even a season finale. It’s the culmination of a decade of disparate storytelling. It’s something new that we don’t have a word for yet. And how do you review a work of art without another comparable work of art to measure it against? That’s the conundrum.
But review we must, because we are results-driven as a culture and simply looking at Infinity War’s record-breaking domestic box office in its first weekend is unsatisfying. Money is one thing, vital for sustaining blockbusters of this magnitude, but it doesn’t answer a key question: is this movie actually good?
It’s certainly groundbreaking and unprecedented. There’s simply no denying that. You have to look to comic books to find something of comparable scale, and even then it’s a shoddy comparison because no comic book event has ever sprung from a continuity as clean and straightforward as this one.
This first panel comes from What to Get From the Man Who Takes Everything by Chris Hastings, Flaviano, & Federico Blee. This is the story of a regular guy who Thanos comes back to harass annually on his birthday. It's a funny panel, and I also like the imagery of Thanos in an office, where you know he would without question be that one co-worker who drums on his desk.
It’s also a risky film (HERE COME SPOILERS!). The bad guy wins. He has to give up a cherished loved one—his only cherished loved one—but when the film ends he has everything he said he wanted. He heaves a sigh of contentment, and there’s nothing around to suggest it’s not a sincere one. Oh yeah, and half the heroes fade away and die. Now, if we’re being real, we know none that died in the fade out are going to stay dead. We have the advantages of knowing the source material and that the film was originally part one of two (more on that in a sec).
But the sheer volume of viewers who watch these movies certainly means there are thousands of fans who don’t know any of that, who simply know that many of their favorite characters faded away to ash. That’s risky, that’s bold, that’s downright innovative for a blockbuster film. So, with all that in mind, let’s get to my verdict…
Overall: Avengers: Infinity War is a new type of film I’m calling the uber blockbuster, the culmination of an expertly-played long game that has done so much right it’s easy to forgive anything done wrong. It’s a risky, bold, unprecedented, and groundbreaking film. For those of us along for the ride (and box office records for many of these films would suggest we are legion) it is indeed a very good film, one destined to influence both studio choices and fledgling filmmakers alike. 9.5/10
For more thoughts on the movie, you can hear me on the WMQ&A Podcast here!
Thanos Keeps Winning
This is, of course, a comics site first and foremost, so let’s cleanse our pallets after all that film talk with some good ol’ fashioned comics. Folks, I now present to you my favorite panels from last week’s Thanos Annual #1. I choose one from each of the six stories inside.
This panel is from My Little Thanks by Katie Cook and Heather Brickle, which is adorable but also one of the more interesting takes on what makes a villain tick. In this story, Thanos is put off by a race of little cuties who ascertain he enjoys maiming and death, so they pull out every stop to supplicate themselves and deliver that to him. The effect is...off putting.
Panel numero tres here today is from That Time Thanos Helped an Old Lady Across the Street by Ryan North, Will Robson, & Rachelle Rosenberg. This story is a meditation on human potential, specifically on the way so much has to transpire for it to be fully released. It's a lesson Thanos teaches in a saccharine way.
Kieron Gillen, Andre Arujo, & Chris O'Halloran's story Exhibition is basically a series of poems relating to the high concepts of various planets, every one of which ends prematurely when Thanos obliterates said plant. It's this ending panel of every planet exploding at once, however, that really delivers the crux of the story.
The Comfort of the Good by Al Ewing and Frazer Irving is the story I found the most disturbing from this bunch of uniformly disturbing stories. It has to do with religion and morality, and whether people only act decent to each other to reap an eventual reward. There were so many panels to choose from here, some of which showed characters beginning to weep as they realized the blissful afterlife they'd been promised would never come to pass. This silent panel of Thanos cracking a knowing grin, however, is easily the most sinister.
And this last panel reunites the team from Thanos Wins, the best Marvel villain story in ages. It's Titan's Greatest Dad by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, & Antonio Fabela. This panel is from the back half of that story's two bookends, and I choose it because I'm looking forward to Cates forthcoming Cosmic Ghost Rider mini series and I think you should be too.
Zack Quaintance is a career journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.