This book isn't about the THE INFINITY WAR, however -- this Omnibus collects the previous, first series in Starlin's "Infinity" series -- hence, THE INFINITY GAUNTLET OMNIBUS. And while I view WAR as a superior installment, both nostalgically and storywise, THE INFINTY GAUNTLET is nothing to sneeze at -- nor is this book which collects the full epic.
The Omnibus begins with most of Starlin's run on SILVER SURFER, issues 34 - 38, 40, and 44 - 50, all of which cover the Titan Thanos's return from the dead following his defeat more than a decade prior in AVENGERS ANNUAL #7. In these tales, Death restores Thanos to the land of the living and charges him with performing a task impressive enough to win her hand. The Silver Surfer runs afoul of Thanos and battles him several times, occasionally with the aid of Firelord and/or Drax the Destroyer.
Issue 39 of SILVER SURFER was a fill-in and completely unnecessary to the saga; however I do lament the lack of issues 41 through 43. Though not directly related to the ongoing Thanos storyline, they're an unexpectedly humorous tale involving the Surfer's struggle to escape from Dynamo City, essentially a prison state to which Thanos has banished him. But in lieu of those issues, the Omnibus contains THANOS QUEST issues 1 and 2, a far more integral storyline covering Thanos's adventures while the Surfer is trapped on Dynamo City, and depicting the villain's acquisition of the six Infinity Gems, which he unites to form the book's eponymous glove. Nonetheless, I would've loved to have seen the missing SURFER issues included as well, since issues 34 - 50 are basically one extremely long prelude to the INFINITY GAUNTLET mini-series, and I'm not sure where else we might see them collected someday.
Following the SILVER SURFER issues and THANOS QUEST, THE INFINITY GAUNTLET itself begins. The six-issue limited series, written by Starlin with artwork by George Perez and Ron Lim, features the Surfer fetching help from Earth's superheroes to battle Thanos, while the Mad Titan uses his gauntlet to exterminate half of all life in the universe. Starlin's other pet character, Adam Warlock, returns from the grave with his friends, Pip and Gamora, to aid the heroes against their foe. The result is a spectacular "everybody dies" epic before the concept had been done to death.
Perez was originally slated to draw the entire series, but from what I've seen, he dropped out a few pages into issue 4 due to creative differences with Starlin. So Lim, who had penciled the full run of SILVER SURFER issues leading up to GAUNTLET, as well as THANOS QUEST, takes over for the remainder of the series. And while I'm a fan of Lim, I have to admit that he is a step down from Perez's ultra-detailed work. However he handles the cosmic scale of the action quite capably and his storytelling skills are fine. Plus Lim, like Perez, has always been great at drawing all characters perfectly on-model (especially Thanos and Warlock), and in a story like this, with a cast of dozens, that skill is essential. So while a bit of Perez's lushness is lost in the transition, overall Lim acquits himself admirably on INFINITY GAUNTLET.
After the mini-series, the remainder of the Omnibus contains crossover issues from various series: SILVER SURFER 51 - 60 (the series went biweekly during INFINITY GAUNTLET), CLOAK & DAGGER 18, SPIDER-MAN 17, INCREDIBLE HULK 383 - 385, DR. STRANGE 31 - 36, QUASAR 26 - 27, and SLEEPWALKER 7. I've seen some frothing anger hurled Marvel's way for the decision to lay the book out this way, but all I can say is: get over it, folks. The important stuff here is SURFER 34 - 50, THANOS QUEST, and INFINITY GAUNTLET. Those are all I want to read, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I've read barely any of the crossover issues, despite owning SILVER SURFER 51 - 60 for well over a decade now (I think the Hulk and Spider-Man installments are the only ones I've ever so much as opened). All anyone needs for the full story is the Starlin material, and that's all presented here in the correct order. The remaining stuff, the issues of other series, are merely "companion" items. This book is laid out in the best possible way, especially when one considers that some of these crossovers take place between the panels of INFINITY GAUNTLET.
In all honesty, I would've been happy to see these crossover issues excluded from the Omnibus -- especially if we could've gotten SILVER SURFER 41 - 43 in exchange -- and the book published with a lower price tag. But I understand that's not the definition of an Omnibus, so I'm happy with what we've received, and certainly happier with this layout than if the crossover chapters had been inserted between the main INFINITY GAUNTLET issues, which would have utterly destroyed the flow of the story.
So the contents are about the best we could've expected. What about the book itself? Well, a cursory examination indicates that it lives up to the standard set by other Marvel Omnibus volumes. It follows the trend of its more recent brethren in featuring the dustjacket art, unadorned by trade dress, on the book's physical cover. I love this practice. And Marvel even included Jim Starlin's variant dustjacket art on the book's back cover, which I wasn't expecting. From the outside, this is one handsome book.
Within, we find that the binding is sewn rather than glued, allowing the book to lay wonderfully flat at all times. The pages are nice and slick, but not overly glossy. They also seem ever so slightly thicker than some of the more recent Omnibus volumes, which is nice. The artwork restoration is beautiful, and the full-bleed art by Perez and Lim is especially gorgeous in the oversize format.
The book is packed with extras as well, some placed between issues to balance double-page spreads, and several in the back as well. These range from reproductions of original artwork to house ads, articles, trading cards, and other supplementary materials from the time. As is standard practice, the volume also includes the covers of previous collected editions which featured portions of this material.
However I have one criticism with the book's production, a flaw shared with my edition of the recent SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS -- the cover spine is not attached to the inner spine. I understand this can be fixed pretty easily with bookbinder's glue, and I intend to pick some up for that purpose, but really, an expensive, high-end book like this simply should not suffer from such a defect. Ordinarily I might think I just got a bum copy, but the fact that I personally have wound up with two different Omnibuses in a row that share this flaw would seem to indicate it's probably a widespread issue. I hope Marvel takes note and speaks with their printers about their quality control practices.
UPDATE (8/20/14): It turns out the detached outer spine is not a defect as I had believed, so please disregard my above harping on that. See the comments below for further information on the subject.
Available now at Amazon.com.
Looking to see what happens after this book ends? Recommended companion volumes (in trade paperback format) include:
- THE INFINITY GAUNTLET AFTERMATH
- THE INFINITY WAR
- INFINITY WAR AFTERMATH
- THE INFINITY CRUSADE, volume 1
- THE INFINITY CRUSADE, volume 2