One of the revolutionary things about the early Marvel Universe was the interconnectedness of it all. I mean sure, it’s not like Superman had never met Batman before, but the Fantastic Four were headlining guest stars on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #1, trying to help that creepy bug guy get a leg up in a tough market.
As time went on and comics became more auteur-driven, though, writers began to rely less on previous creations, being more content to spread their own original characters around their separate books, but not often returning the favor to others. The rise of cinematic comics also heralded the death of the editor’s box (DON’T see Thor #566, because this issue doesn’t reference it at all!).
Cullen Bunn might be considered a comics auteur, making his bones on Oni’s Sixth Gun and Dark Horse’s Harrow County, but now that he’s firmly entrenched in the mighty world outside your window, his Asgardians of the Galaxy is hearkening back to those halcyon days. The first volume, The Infinity Armada, pulls from recent stories like Gerry Duggan’s Infinity Wars and Jeff Lemire’s Thanos, but also Kieron Gillen’s fan-favorite Journey into Mystery and Marguerite Bennett’s seminal Angela series.
Oh, and his own Fearless Defenders, of course. Armada opens with Anabelle Riggs, the human magically fused with Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, in a satisfying nod to Thor’s old human host, Donald Blake. Riggs is sucked into interstellar adventure by Angela, the leader of the ersatz team, and Kid Loki (the magnificent Gillen creation) piloting a one-armed Destroyer armor (I don’t even know when that happened). They team up with Throg (yes, the Frog of Thunder), and the son of the original Thunderstrike. Deep cuts, verily.
Infinity Armada doesn’t lack for star power, though, as Skurge the Executioner is there, and they’re all antagonized by Nebula, in full-on MCU cybernetic regalia. There’s tons of widescreen action, but interesting world-building and story beats, too, like the development of a race of child-like gods, or the repeated psychological fakeouts at the the end.
All the characters are distinct (wait, Nova corpsman Scott Adsit is here, too?!), and Kid Loki’s scheming is as intriguing and delightful as ever, manipulating others into cleaning up a mess he himself made. Angela is the clear lead and her story will continue, Throg is somehow comic relief and high culture at the same time, and Thunderstrike … well, he’s a work in progress.
The bulk of the art is handled by Matteo Lolli, who draws realistic enough figures, but the dynamism through the action scenes is where he excels. Even the more static, grandiose scenes have depth and contour to them. Federico Blee adds his standard trippy colors to complete the aesthetic. André Lima Araújo, Jill Thompson, Mike del Mundo, Natacha Bustos, Luca Maresca and Stephanie Hans also contribute pages in each of their signature styles — these aren’t fill-ins, they genuinely fit the story.
Asgardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: The Infinity Armada isn’t really ground-breaking — instead, it’s a throwback of sorts to the highly interwoven Marvel Universe of the 1960s, and the psychedelic world-building that accompanied it. It doesn’t feel dated, though, thanks largely to the fine lineup of artists that continue to move the medium forward. It’s a book for anyone who likes a good story, whether anyone else picks up on it or not.