Thursday, June 2, 2016

To Infinity...AND BEYOND!!!, Part Four: The Infinity War Aftermath

They come for the war, but they stay for the aftermath....

 At the close of  THE INFINITY WAR, Adam Warlock was left in a comatose state, which is exactly where we find him at the start of THE INFINITY WAR AFTERMATH. The first chunk of the book collects WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH #'s 11-17, written by Jim Starlin. After a nice little recap issue that features The Living Tribunal and Eternity once again debating the suitability of the guardians of The Infinity Gems, Starlin moves on to some interesting character pieces featuring members of The Infinity Watch. First, he explores the weird father/daughter dynamic between the imperious Moondragon and her father, the brain-damaged Drax The Destroyer. This being a comic book, there's plenty of action to balance the heavy psychodrama, courtesy of guest-star The Incredible Hulk, who has a slugfest with Drax on the streets of Reno, Nevada. Starlin brings the action, but balances things out nicely by providing a truly emotional conclusion. Next up, we find The Watch's new headquarters on Monster Island being invaded by U.N. troops, which leads into yet another Starlin specialty: The tortured hero struggling with his own psyche. This time, the comatose Adam Warlock is forced by Eternity to come to grips with the seemingly disparate facets of his personality. This portion of the book ends with Warlock and company being attacked by new baddie Count Abyss, and the introduction of a new frenemy, Maxam.

 The art on these issues is all over the place. The best, in my opinion, is provided by Angel Medina, whose detailed art is like candy for the eye. Tom Raney pencils a few issues, and his work, while suffering from typical early '90's Image Comics ripoff syndrome, is still clear, concise, and appealing. The remainder of the issues are illustrated by Tom Grindberg, who stands out as  one of the most puzzling artistic choices ever made by Marvel Comics. His art is simply grotesque, and not in any kind of good way. It's weird, muddled, blotchy, ugly, offensive to the eye....I hate to bash any artist, since I can barely draw a stick-figure, but Grindberg's issues are just awful to look at. His art is what caused me to drop WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH around issue #17 back in 1993.
 Grindberg's figures are so exaggerated and distorted that I was unable to determine if new character Maxam was able to shift his shape to become larger, of if that was merely an illusion brought about by Grindberg's inability to draw anything to scale. Unfortunately, Grindberg's art sticks around for the majority of the rest of the run of this series. The Infinity Watch portion of this collection ends just as THE INFINITY CRUSADE is about to start.

 Next up are a couple of short stories, one starring Pip the Troll from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #112, which finds Pip attempting to enjoy a nice, relaxing picnic on Monster Island, and another, from MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL #2, which was also collected in THE INFINITY WAR, a Christmas story starring Thanos and a young Gamora. (This story looks MUCH better in this collection than it did in THE INFINITY WAR trade.)

 The highlight of this collection is the four-issue SILVER SURFER/WARLOCK: RESURRECTION, written and illustrated by Jim Starlin, with inks by Terry Austin on issues 2-4. Following the events of the Silver Surfer graphic novel, HOMECOMING (Which was written by Starlin, and really should have been included here...), The Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock, aided by The Infinity Watch, attempt to wrest the soul of the deceased Shalla Bal from the clutches of Mephisto. I'm a HUGE Jim Starlin mark, and seeing him illustrate Adam Warlock, The Silver Surfer, Mistress death, Mephisto.....sigh. Heavenly. All that is missing is some Starlin Thanos. A great, poignant mini-series.

 The collection concludes with a trio of mediocre QUASAR issues (#'s 41-43) that find Quasar, who "died" in THE INFINITY WAR, replaced by Thanos' thrall, Marvel Boy. I stand by my love of Mark Gruenwald's QUASAR, which dearly needs to be omnibused, but these three issues aren't the best representation of the series. The main character is dead, and the supporting cast are all in the middle of a long-running subplot that doesn't make much sense in the context of this book. (The subplot is a perfect summation of what made the late Mark Gruenwald so great: He seized on little bits of forgotten  Marvel history, and devoted his books to wrapping up abandoned plotlines. In this case, he tackles the ill-fated video-game tie-in, QUESTPROBE.)
QUESTPROBE just flat-out stunk, but the story was never finished, so thanks to Mark Gruenwald for caring.

 There's a few pages of original art to round out the collection, along with the framing sequence from MARVEL SWIMSUIT SPECIAL #2, as well as all of the INFINITY WAR-related swimsuit pin-ups. (Yes, this concept IS just as weird and off-putting as it sounds.)
 There's also a bunch of Jim Starlin pin-ups, a Marvel Age article, and a MARK'S REMARKS column from the same magazine where Mark Gruenwald shares some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into making a mega-crossover that's pretty fascinating, and made me really miss those columns, as well as Mark Gruenwald himself, a great writer and editor, and, by all accounts, a nice guy, who was taken far too soon.

 Overall, nothing earth-shattering, but a fun selection of classic Jim Starlin work, which is always a good thing.

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