Infinity Crusade is the third installment of the Infinity series, which means that comic fans of the early ’90s had already had their wallets tried by two similarly themed events in short succession. Though it’s difficult to know how this series would have read if one were returning to the comic shop every week only to see all their favorite titles had been sucked into the event, in omnibus form, we’re allowed to read Infinity Crusade all the way through, uninterrupted, as a 1200-ish page complete story.
As someone who had only read the crossover in bits and pieces beforehand, I found that the story greatly benefits from the collection by saving its reader from having to run quite literally all across the Marvel Universe to find random, loosely-connected issues. What we’re left with is a crossover that delivers on all its promises by giving fans the high-impact moments they want, with no shortage of compelling character beats among its sprawling cast.
Related Reading Order:
WHAT’S SO INFINITE ABOUT THIS CRUSADE, ANYWAY?
The premise behind Infinity Crusade is that our favorite moody space aesthete Adam Warlock vanquished the good and evil parts of himself in order to wield the Infinity Stones without bias. Bias is what ultimately drives all ethics, so we can see from our detached place as readers that this is not going to end up being the best move, but it comes as quite a shock to the rest of the Marvel Universe when it doesn’t work out. Warlock’s evil side, the Magus, is mostly absent from this story, as it focuses on his good side, the Goddess. This central idea is fairly loose from the get-go, but we’re here for vibes, not plot, and the vibes are good.
The Goddess, supposedly a being of pure love and light, immediately flies into a wild abuse of power when she gets the idea that the world would be a heck of a lot more peaceful if all the living things were no longer in it. She does have a point, but naturally, many of the sentient beings of the Universe disagree with this assertion.
The first issue of Infinity Crusade walks us through the Marvel Universe as the Goddess approaches hero after hero in an attempt to convert them to her philosophy without actually telling them what it would entail. Though we don’t know for certain what’s happening, there is no question that she’s manipulating people, as dozens of heroes sign up to her gospel without asking basic questions. Crystal of the Inhumans full-out bows to the Goddess before she even completes her pitch, but even the more discerning heroes are quickly compelled into servitude as she specifically uses their weaknesses against them. She appeals to the Scarlet Witch’s feelings of being misunderstood, U.S. Agent’s anger issues, and Sersi’s abruptness, among others.
This leads to two groups of heroes: one that sides with the Goddess, and one that questions her motives. There is some commentary about how the characters with the most faith in a higher power are the ones that find themselves the most susceptible to the Goddess’s influence, but that can mostly be tossed out the window because it begins a dialogue that it never really sticks to and does not land. The greater arguments that could have been made about “blind faith” are left for readers to connect on their own, but that in itself may have been the point. As it stands, it’s a wobbly foundation that holds up a lot of very fun superhero fights, and I am here for it.
Moondragon becomes the Goddess’ second in lesbian subtext—sorry, must have mistyped that—what I meant to write was Moondragon becomes the Goddess’ second in command. Considering how pedantic and antagonistic Moondragon generally is, it’s pretty fun to watch her yell at the other heroes. Specifically, her shouting “INFIDEL!” at Charles Xavier is a golden moment that will live on forever in my heart.
Naturally, this story wraps up when the heroes begin to realize that the Goddess has some fairly nefarious plans for her many Cosmic Cubes and her one giant wish-granting Space Egg (listen… I have no idea). Mephisto, Warlock, and Thanos team up to put an end to her hijinks, and that’s the end for Marvel’s massive three part mega-crossover.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT INFINITY CRUSADE
There are so many highlights to this crossover that it’s easy to lose count. In Warlock and the Infinity Watch #21, we witness a full-issue fight between Drax and Thor. The hilarity of two equally matched and incredibly prideful fighters duking it out over a misunderstanding and then refusing to quit due to their own hubris makes for a highly entertaining read, though not exactly essential to the greater story arc. The Silver Surfer issues involve Norrin Radd temporarily transforming into an enormous, cartoonish “human bomb” and he spends a big part of an issue simply trying to expel the energy only to walk into an all-out brawl with Storm and Wonder Man. The Alpha Flight issues are almost totally unnecessary to include, as the crossover finds them deep in their own drama with their teammate-gone-evil Witchfire, but they still somehow work within the greater context of the omnibus.
When I say they pulled from every corner of the Marvel Universe, I mean it—characters like Sleepwalker, Darkhawk, and Maxam appear alongside mainstays like Thor and Silver Surfer. The X-Men are in and out of the story and don’t serve a huge role, but seeing Storm and Wolverine both antagonize and comfort one another in their very sparse appearances is enjoyable. Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock, Mephisto, and Thanos have some delightful interactions, and seeing Thanos step into a pseudo-heroic role after his actions during the last two Infinity cross-overs is an amusing turn-around. The character beats land surprisingly well for how little space this crossover has for them. She-Hulk rolling her eyes at Xavier’s appeal for non-violent confrontation is truly something to see.
The many, many artists who worked on these books did a bang-up job, and there were some surprise standouts. Ron Lim’s art is always fun and he carries the main series superbly, but underrated artists of the era like Tom Grindberg and Bruce Zick do incredible work here. The covers are highly entertaining across the board. The flow between issues is quite fluid, and there are no parts of the crossover, even those that are a bit wedged in, that feel out of place to the point of being jarring. It’s hard to say how the individual writers felt about this crossover, but they all manage to link in with the greater story just fine.
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
This story is surprisingly enjoyable, and might shape up to be my personal favorite of the three Infinity stories due to its bizarre, veering arc, its examination of Adam Warlock as three-who-are-one, and its countless endearing character beats. The criticisms of all crossovers apply and are valid here—the story is needlessly sprawling, there are books that barely connect with what’s going on, it can feel like someone threw a few dozen action figures into a single room for a press spot, and, in the end, who really needed a third Infinity story? Yet that doesn’t take away from what makes it great. Watching them try to wedge otherwise unrelated stories into an Infinity context (Cage #17, Marc Spector: Moon Knight #57, etc.) doesn’t do a thing to take away from the greater story.
In the end, Infinity Watch is a fun, goofy romp through the Marvel Universe as it existed in 1993, with all the good and the bad that entails. Its greater points about faith never fully land, but then again, they don’t need to. Watching Adam Warlock’s complicated inner world play out in grand theatrical fashion is always a delight, and the interactions between him and Thanos are, as always, well worth the cover price. All these years removed from the hype, this is a crossover that delivers.