All for Nothing is an almost entirely different kind of Infinity 8. Creator Boulet is writing and illustrating (Lewis Trondheim shares the story credit), which gives the volume its own distinct feel. There are some obvious differences—it’s not about a fetching female agent (something the Lieutenant complains about on the bridge), but rather a tough guy alien sergeant. The assignment isn’t investigating; it’s capturing and interrogating. We also get the backstory on the space graveyard. It’s not what anyone thought.
The volume begins with some children playing on an unspectacular planet in an insignificant solar system. The aliens look vaguely amphibious, but there’s no sign they’re good in water. I mean, they do swim—which figures in beautifully later—but they’re not merpeople. A little boy gets upset at how his footie match turned out, and an alien (different species) stranger gives him a necklace, telling him it’s important. Then the stranger disappears because the boy can ask any questions; the planet has recently made first contact, and things are on the precipice of changing as the species enters the galaxy.
There are a couple more points in the boy’s life where the same alien reappears to give him back the necklace. The boy, Douglas, keeps losing it. The last time is when Douglas is saying goodbye to his female friend, who’s excited to explore the galaxy, while Douglas assumed they’d stay and get married.
Then the action cuts to the Infinity 8 standard—ship stopping for space graveyard, agent brought to the bridge, briefed on the time-warping, sent out to investigate. Only, as mentioned, there are some differences, including the Lieutenant not taking the time to brief the sergeant (who appears to be Douglas grown up and toughened by a life in the stars). When the sergeant organizes his crew to disembark, they discover their target—the unknown alien Douglas met before—is already waiting for them in the shuttle bay. He heard they wanted to interrogate him. Why not make it easy?
Except it then turns out the alien—let’s call him Hal—isn’t there so much for the interrogation but to show Douglas how the necklace will be so important. Both to Douglas and to Infinity 8. After a lot of time-based action beats (Hal’s got a time grenade, for instance), Douglas and Hal end up out in the space graveyard, with Hal giving Douglas the whole story.
Complicating matters is Douglas’s commanding officer, who’s become convinced Douglas is somehow in league with Hal from before. Douglas tries—and fails—to explain the peculiar situation with the necklace.
There’s a lot of action, with the rest of Douglas’s crew coming after him as he and Hal journey to the center of the graveyard to meet up with the mysterious ship from the previous volume. Once they’re on board, Hal fills Douglas in on more of the series backstory, including the motivations, but also revealing there’s a temporal disturbance. It’s unrelated to the graveyard, but being so close to the graveyard, it might be causing time-space ripples.
Including ones Douglas soon comes to care about.
Can the unlikely duo team up to save life, the universe, and everything? Obviously, it’s the penultimate volume, so there’s a cliffhanger, but they make a cute team.
Hal’s got a really bland, really pleasant face, and he’s initially a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Douglas doesn’t react well to a childhood tchotchke getting him in trouble in the future, so he tries to stop Hal. Hal can’t be stopped, but he does hold the attempt against Douglas. Until the second half of the volume, basically when Hal figures out he needs Douglas to save the day—another flip of the norm, as he’s saving his day, not the Infinity 8’s—it’s the bickering stage in the buddy flick. However, Boulet finds the heart sooner than later, making Hal more of the protagonist. The resolution (and cliffhanger) feels almost like an epilogue; Douglas returns to the regular story, already in progress.
Boulet’s art is fun, light, and spry. Lots of great movement, lots of excellent design work. He barely spends any time aboard the Infinity 8, and most of the scenes take place in previously unexplored areas. The script’s really smart too. Much of the comic’s an exposition dump, which Boulet integrates into Hal’s personality; he’s naturally expository.
Douglas is initially annoying for a handful of reasons—changing as he ages, but still annoying—only to become one of the series’s most genuinely sympathetic characters.
It’s an outstanding Infinity 8. It’s different enough it’s a stand-alone, at least in terms of Boulet’s ambitions and accomplishments, while still being integral to the overall story. Boulet mixes Douglas’s species’ relatively recent star-faring in with the ancient graveyard and Hal’s atemporal experience of existence. All for Nothing is exquisite work, much heavier than usual, but also much lighter and joyous when it wants to be.
I can’t wait to see how 8 wraps up.
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