Infinity Countdown spins out of events featured in Gerry Duggan’s 2017 Guardians of the Galaxy series. The Guardians are among the relative few who know the universe has been realigned, but that it’s not exactly the same as it was before the initial change. Among the differences is the six infinity stones not being as they were, and their locations unknown. That is apart from the one located by the Guardians in Infinity Quest and now guarded by Drax. Duggan moved several unimaginably powerful beings into play before finishing his Guardians run, including Thanos frequently mentioned, but never seen, and his opening chapter concentrates on Warlock and Kang the Conqueror.

Duggan reveals several other infinity stones as being in the hands of familiar people, while supplying answers to mysteries that have puzzled the Guardians. Loki, meanwhile, is claiming that unless he takes possession disaster could befall the universe. Do you believe him?

The set-up is all very polished and intriguing, drawn in the vastly different styles of Mike Deodato and Michael Allred. At first it’s unnerving to see Warlock in Allred’s cartoon form, but just as Allred’s Silver Surfer proved ideal, this Warlock has stature. The main story, though is drawn by Aaron Kuder and Mike Hawthorne, the former precise and decorative, the latter looser and equally detailed, although more prone to faces grimacing in exaggeration, while a jagged Silver Surfer’s not a good idea.

Massive superhero events are what they are, and creative success is determined by how good they look, which Kuder nails, and the small conceptual touches building a bigger picture, so let’s concentrate on some of those. Kang the Conqueror has never previously been involved with the infinity stones, yet given his complex history of tinkering with time he’s a logical inclusion. Variations of Groot are seen as if variations of the similarly vegetative Swamp Thing with the terrifying capabilities that entails, one of the Nova Corps is heavily pregnant, adding extra suspense, and about a third of the way through there’s a really surprising inclusion in a cosmic saga. Plenty of other novel ideas follow, and credit to Duggan for not overplaying the possibilities of the infinity stones, and explaining why not doing so is wise.

Because there’s so much going on, some characters seem neglected for too long at a time, and there seems no way Duggan is going to be able to wrap this up in the allocated pages, and he doesn’t. This has been the opening skirmishes of Infinity Wars, but it’s far more satisfying than a placeholder. Always bearing in mind the time stone can alter everything, there appears to have been definite change, and those nostalgic for a cosmic saga in the Jim Starlin tradition ought to be very pleased with Infinity Countdown.

Prefer the entire saga in one volume? Well, just for you there’s Infinity Wars: The Complete Collection.