If you’ve never previously read a story of Thanos and his forces sweeping through the universe destroying everything as they go, then Infinity could be the biggest superhero thrill ever. Those who’ve consumed several earlier and considerably shorter versions might be more wary. At first it seems as if Jonathan Hickman’s taken one of those earlier variations and decided to fill in gaps, concluding what’s needed is twenty new panels added between every panel of an old condensed version. Instead of Thanos manifesting in Earth’s orbit right away, Hickman begins with several chapters of his minions destroying other planets, collecting objects and attempting to ferret out secrets. The Avengers gradually learn what’s happening, although not who’s responsible, and decide they must leave Earth to stand with alien forces, which then leaves Earth open for attack.

Scale is determined by the sheer volume of spaceships the unfortunate artists have to draw, and on Earth by the brief involvement of other heroes not connected with the Avengers, although these days most are. Considering Infinity features the Avengers throughout, we actually see very little of them, Captains America and Marvel allocated a few lines here and there, but Black Bolt given considerably more time than either of them. More dialogue than most other Avengers also, this despite his not being able to speak for fear of shattering mountains.

The list of contributing artists guarantees everything looks spectacular, with the sample art combining pages by Jim Cheung and Jerome Opeña. However, it disguises that for all the danger this is supposed to present, Infinity’s very dull in places, and Hickman attempting to flesh out and apply some logic on a massive scale only serves to raise more questions he doesn’t address. One would be how dfoes Thanos manage to recruit millions and millions of people to his cause when that’s ostensibly wiping out most of the universe? Fear alone doesn’t supply a satisfactory answer. In this case Thanos has a couple of other matters on his mind, though. He’s pleased to discover an Infinity gem still exists, and he’s also learned that somewhere on Earth he has a son. The method of that is noted in passing, but the idea of Thanos and an Inhuman woman performing the beast with two backs is preposterous given his past. It does, however, lead to the best chapter here, with assorted compromised heroes keeping their secrets close ostensibly attempting to find the son of Thanos.

Toward the end there is a shocking moment, but the result of that awaits in Volume 2. So does the outcome of a natural pause in the invasion. It’s perhaps down to Hickman’s distanced storytelling technique, but this opening half of Infinity probably isn’t going to be as thrilling as you want it to be. Too many locations stretch the plot too thin, and it also ensures there’s no great focus for the audience sympathy because everything comes across as so abstract. Perhaps Hickman will transcend ordinary for the conclusion, but it’s not looking that way here.

Infinity is also available in a combined edition adding a few more prelude chapters, and there’s a What If? tie-in offering alternative versions playing out from assorted plot elements.