Avengers: Infinity War makes you feel like a 10 year old again
When I was about nine or ten, a comic book shop opened at the end of my road. Brand new comics were expensive, but what I loved were the cheap bins – the racks of worthless back issues that they sold four for £1. With whatever money I had, I'd grab as many random old Marvel comics as I could - Amazing Spider-Man and Wolverine and The Avengers and Daredevil and Guardians of the Galaxy and many, many more.
I’d spend hours pouring through them, and reading them was a very particular experience. Superhero comics are a sprawling, ongoing soap opera, that began decades ago and will probably never end. The comics I got from those bins were many random issues of random titles, often from many years apart. Sometimes I’d piece together small runs, but mostly I’d be diving into a story already half way through, or reaching a cliffhanger that was to be resolved in an issue I’d never be able to get my hands on.
But that was a lot of the fun. This was all pre-Wikipedia. Characters would turn up and I’d have no idea who they were. I just winged it. So this big tiger-dude was fighting Spider-Man - he must be the bad dude. But then he turns back to a human, and he’s mates with Peter Parker. Ok, cool. That’s easy enough to understand, I don’t need a YouTube explainer to get it.
Avengers: Infinity War is barely a film. It doesn’t have any structure. It doesn’t really have a beginning, or an ending, it’s just stuff happening, seemingly all at the same time. The film has been rightly criticised for not even bothering to try and introducing the characters – they just turn up.
The thing it does though, is perfectly recreate that feeling of those long Sunday afternoons spent reading comic book after comic book after book in my bedroom. It gives me that warm feeling inside. Where everything is good, and safe, and all I have to worry about is memorising X-Men continuity.
Characters constantly arrive and the stakes just get higher and higher, and you just have to embrace it. There’s not a hint of irony or knowingness about it. It is completely straight. You have to be completely on board with this world. It is just about giving yourself over to this world of imagination. It’s about the sheer joy of seeing these characters meet and fight and team up. Of seeing the Hulk wear the Hulkbuster armour, or Black Widow fighting alongside the Wakandan warriors, or Groot using his arm to form the handle of Thor’s hammer.
And of course, the film doesn’t have an ending. Thanos wins, and much like when I was reading a random decade of issue of West Coast Avengers or whatever, we don’t find out if the heroes will save the day. But that is part of the experience.
One comic that always stuck with me was Uncanny X-Men #348. In it, Gambit and Rogue have been captured by the psychotic robot named ‘Nanny’, with a device that robs them of their mutant powers. The issue ends with them seemingly having no chance of ever escaping. Of course, I knew they would – I’d read X-Men comics that came after – but I didn’t have the next issue so I would never know. The final full page illustration by Joe Madureria, of the Rogue and Gambit embracing hopelessly in their cell, always stuck with me – much like the brilliant ending of Infinity War, where half the universe disintegrates, it was an incredibly power, haunting image.
We’ll find out what happens next year in Avengers 4 – but that will kind of ruin it in a way. Many years later, I was able to read Uncanny X-Men #349 and #350. They didn’t live up to what was in my head. They never do. The blanks I filled in in my head where always more exciting. Infinity War gave me that feeling again.