Marvel has been publishing a lot of great comics throughout the years but by far the best comic book stories they have produced aren’t at comic book shops. That’s because Marvel’s best comic books are coming from the Infinity Comics line exclusively first available on their Marvel Unlimited online subscription service. These stories haven’t just been saved for Spider-Man and X-Men, we’ve gotten tons of stories for everyone from Ms. Marvel to Jeff the Shark.
WHAT IS MARVEL INFINITY COMICS?
For those still not aware Marvel’s Infinity Comics line is the company’s take on the ultra-popular Webtoons vertical style webcomics. Unlike what DC Comics did in partnering directly with the WEBTOON brand to create Webtoons using their characters Marvel went a different route. While definitely inspired by what you would see on WEBTOON with the vertical style reading format Marvel is still using their own creative talent and adapting their Marvel comic book style for the new vertical format. As Marvel stated when it first launched the Infinity Comics line:
“Infinity Comics are brand-new, weekly stories from Marvel’s top creators told in visionary vertical format. These exclusive Infinity Comics can only be found on Marvel Unlimited, in-universe stories designed for phones and tablets starring the X-Men, Captain America, Shang-Chi, Black Widow, Venom, Carnage, Deadpool, and more.
This is a Marvel first in the digital comics landscape, a dramatic departure from anything we’ve done before, and a continuation of our history of innovation! Writers and artists like Jonathan Hickman, Declan Shalvey, Skottie Young, Alyssa Wong, Nathan Stockman, Kelly Thompson, Gerry Duggan, and Lucas Werneck offer a breadth of content for long-time readers and newcomers alike—something for everyone is on the horizon with the Infinity Comics lineup.” – Marvel.com
Marvel has kept to that promise of using the continuity from 2021 forward to set many of the series in the Infinity Comics line around. That is not the case for all of them as we’ve gotten series such as Spider-Verse Unlimited across the Marvel Multiverse. And there are some other Infinity Comics such as Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane that repurpose the comic book series by the same name and make it available to be read in the vertical format the Infinity Comics line utilizes.
HOW IS MARVEL’S INFINITY COMICS LINE DOING?
Marvel’s Infinity Comics line has been around for a little over a year now. The question is how has it been doing for Marvel? That is tough to tell since there are no available numbers for how many subscribers the Marvel Unlimited service has. But that doesn’t mean there are no numbers available because while discussing Marvel Unlimited with Polygon back in October 2022 Marvel revealed their subscription service has grown 30% from what it was in 2021. Along with that of the over 300 issues in Infinity Comics, the line has garnered over 2 million reads.
What does all that mean? We don’t really know because just as the comic book industry has moved towards not sharing any sales data beyond comic book single issue rankings we don’t have Marvel Unlimited or DC Universe Infinite subscriber count. Even though we see their parent companies in Disney and Warner Bros like to promote their streaming services subscriber numbers the comic book industry has become more secretive. To be sure a 30% jump in subscribers for 2022 is a good sign for Marvel’s subscription service but it’s hard to say how good if no concrete numbers have ever been shared.
That said, it does appear that the Infinity Comics have helped Marvel Unlimited as in that same discussion with Polygon Jessica Malloy, the Vice President of Marketing for Marvel, revealed more plans are in place for the line. Specifically, when it comes to telling stories that coincide with the crossover events for Spider-Man, Avengers, and X-Men. So, fans of the Infinity Comics line can expect it to continue with its connections with the main line Marvel Universe still being there for those all about continuity.
WHY MARVEL’S INFINITY COMICS IS MUST READ?
Now with all of the business talk out of the way how really have Marvel’s Infinity Comics line done story-wise? The answer is a definitive yes. Even as many of the Infinity Comics are within the current continuity the creative teams have done a good job not making the physical comic books required reading. That led to a reading experience that is just focused on telling fun stories with Marvel’s universe of characters.
The Infinity Comics line wasn’t an overnight hit. It took time for Marvel to figure out exactly how they wanted to adopt the webtoon format into their own defined art style. That adaption period was particularly tough when Marvel attempted to reformat single issues of older comics like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane into the webtoon vertical format it did not work. That was simply because those comic books were never intended to be read in a format that wasn’t the traditional comic book format.
Once Marvel started to really accept that the vertical comic format isn’t something you can simply take old comics to fit that style is when they found their groove. It was what made X-Men Unlimited the standout of the initial set of comics that Marvel released under the Infinity Comics line. Jonathan Hickman and Declan Shalvey started X-Men Unlimited strong by showcasing how you can merge the Marvel style of writing and drawing comic books with the flow of storytelling in the vertical format. What worked best was how Shalvey in particular showcased how you can still have splash pages in a vertical format.
X-Men Unlimited certainly set the tone for storytelling in Marvel’s version of webtoons but what has been most impressive about Infinity Comics is the accessibility in storytelling. While Marvel’s editorial uses the current continuity the Infinity Comics aren’t handcuffed because of it. The creative teams behind Avengers Unlimited, Spider-Verse Unlimited, Marvel’s Voices, and other Infinity Comics are telling their own stories with these characters. Even if, for example, a story is told in the Hellfire Gala setting the concern isn’t what is going on with the greater event. It’s about the characters the story is about and that’s all you need for fun stories.
That is not to say the Infinity Comic line isn’t adding anything to the current continuity. If anything the line is actually enhancing everything Marvel has going on a monthly basis by giving other angles to stories. The previously mentioned X-Men Unlimited has made great use of the Krakoa Era to tell episodic stories. Meanwhile, there are comics like Spider-Verse Unlimited that are further exploring Spider-Man’s Multiverse. Getting stories with Spider-Ham, Peni Parker, and Mayday Parker has been a refreshing mix to continue the Spider-Verse concept is not just a story vehicle for Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and Gwen Stacy.
Then there is the shining star of the Infinity Comics line It’s Jeff! by Kelly Thompson and Gurihiru. What makes It’s Jeff!, which is its second season, work so well is that it is driven by the storytelling of Gurihiru. There is no forced dialogue to suddenly make Jeff a talking land shark. Instead, Thompson and Gurihiru use the fact Jeff is a land shark to make the storytelling done by the infectious energy of Jeff. Jeff’s facial reaction and the way he interacts with Hawkeye, Gwenpool, and other Marvel heroes is just something that puts a smile on your face.
Most importantly what the Infinity Comic line is doing is giving the opportunity for a lot of creators to tell stories with Marvel’s iconic characters. There are many creators working on the Infinity Comics line that Marvel fans may not know or are familiar with. Thanks to this, fans see it as a benefit to being a Marvel Unlimited subscriber and are much more likely to read it compared to going to a comic shop and paying $4+ per single issue. Personally, I can say reading the Infinity Comics has exposed me to creative teams I wasn’t familiar with. Now that I have read what these creative teams can do with Avengers, Spider-Man, and X-Men stories I am very much looking forward to future stories they tell in the Marvel Universe.
The Infinity Comic line is in a great place to be an even bigger success in its second year. As the world is moving quicker and quicker into a digital future for entertainment Marvel Unlimited is a valuable service. Having the Infinite Comics is an opportunity to tell all types of stories for all of Marvel’s readership as the first year of the line showed. Combine that with bringing in more creative teams to tell stories with Marvel’s iconic characters there is unlimited opportunity for Marvel to explore other ways to tell comic book stories.
Most importantly the Infinity Comic brand is an opportunity to connect Marvel’s comic stories to audiences that are growing up reading webtoons and manga. It’s important for Marvel to tap into what’s made those comic book mediums incredibly popular with generations of readers. By doing so Marvel’s success in the comic book world won’t be tied to one form of storytelling just because it’s been the way for over 60 years. Just as comic book stories have evolved over time so can the way they are told to utilize the different ways comics are presented.