blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Infinity 8: Volume Eight: Until the End (2019)

I8 8Infinity 8 has quite the conclusion. The issue opens with a flashback, an origin story—of sorts—for both the time-hopping captain and his faithful sidekick, Lieutenant Reffo. Reffo’s been the guy creeping on all of the female agents and, occasionally, recapping the mission. We find out in the flashback he’s been trained for just this position and isn’t actually a socially inept jackass; he’s got a computer-enhanced brain, so he’s just really smart and therefore doesn’t have time for social pleasantries.

After the surprising flashback, which answers some questions about the eighty-eight Tonn Shar captains piloting the eighty-eight Infinity ships—questions writer Lewis Trondheim has never explicitly told the reader to ask, but in hindsight, certainly wasn’t discouraging the reader from thinking about. Unlike the introduction of the time-traveling robots (Hal is back this issue, teaming up with Reffo, delightfully), which came without significant foreshadowing, the Tonn Shar backstory has had some narrative shading. But nothing explicit enough for the opening reveal not to come as a surprise. Infinity 8’s resolution involves lots of red herring, but since time reset itself and so on, is it really red herring if it doesn’t spoil and stink?

I read Infinity 8 in the original French volume release cycle, not the split-into-three-issues format. However, given the number of callbacks in the finale, I’m reasonably sure you’re supposed to read Infinity 8 in a sitting or two–all of it. Trondheim brings back multiple characters from throughout the series as Reffo and Hal assemble an Infinity 8 all-star team to save the day. While Trondheim spends more time with some characters than others, he remembers to tie up loose ends for even the most tertiary. And I could not remember what he was tying up for some of them. Especially since the team-up allows the previous agents to chitchat, leading to further references.

Sometimes the former protagonists get action sequences to themselves, where they’re technically interchangeable, but they’ve got enough personality to drive themselves. Other times, Trondheim will give a return character some panels, or even a full page, just to vamp because he clearly likes writing the character. Thanks to Trondheim’s strong storytelling instincts and artist Killoffer’s imaginative renderings, either approach leads to sublime results, especially since Trondheim doesn’t shy away from mixing multiple sci-fi subgenres and Killoffer’s able to bring them all together stylistically.

Killoffer initially seems a little too rough. He uses computer-generated fractals for some space exteriors, particularly the space graveyard. It’s jarring—I’m still not sure about the galactic swirl being CGI—only to quickly become a captivating device. There’s so much intentionality in the objects when the action returns to the space graveyard it’s hard not to get lost in Killoffer’s rendered details.

The actual art seems a little rough at the start too. Killoffer’s got thick, almost reckless lines. They initially appear out of control, though—just like everything else with the art—the control soon becomes apparent. Until the End’s not my favorite art on Infinity, but it’s definitely in the top four. Once Reffo and Hal start their buddy picture, Killoffer’s comic timing hops the book up in line.

Killoffer’s also got the most packed story to contend with. While some of the previous volumes are almost entirely all action, End is all-action with different protagonists, in different (and new) settings, plus exposition. Reffo and Hal are simultaneously on the run, chasing someone else and learning how the series is going to end, though at different paces. While Reffo’s got the computer brain and so on, Hal knows more about what’s been going on in the book, so there’s a catch-up process. Finally, after seven volumes of Reffo being a pest, Trondheim turns him into a worthy protagonist. While still making him a pest.

It helps to have Hal around, even though Hal’s role in the volume isn’t quite what last time promised. He and Reffo have their buddy picture only until Reffo can manage on his own, then he (and Trondheim) almost immediately turn End into the team-up with the previous volumes’ agents. I get the need for narrative brevity, of course—End could be three times as long; there’s so much going on, and all of it’s entertaining—but there are only so many pages.

Trondheim employs a couple more narrative efficiencies in the epilogue, with the epilogue itself being something of an efficiency—only a couple characters really get a resolution to their character arcs. Trondheim’s script is mercilessly efficient.

Though he does allow the series, which has traversed time and space, to end on a one-liner. There’s some grandiosity to it, but it’s background. The joke’s the thing. And it works because, of course, it does. Though I wonder if you were marathoning Infinity 8 how it’d work. Maybe next time I read 8, it’ll be in a long sitting.

Until then, I’m obviously going to be missing this series. Trondheim and his various co-creators outdo themselves, time and again. Infinity 8 has been a damn good, damn fun read.

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