It has been a long time since “Infinite Vacation” #4 came out. Nearly a full year, actually. And yet, one of the great things about the book is that it was so sharp that its story never left us ; picking up “Infinite Vacation” #5 felt as natural as if it had come out when it was “supposed to.” It all comes flowing back, and it all cascades into a power-punch of a fainle.
So here we are – with an over-sized jam-packed issue that turns a five-issue mini into a six-issue epic. If you’re wondering if the last issue was worth the wait, the answer is simple: yes.
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Christian Ward
This is it: the mind-blowing conclusion to the biggest sci-fi epic of 2011! As Mark comes face to face with the makers of The Infinite Vacation and discovers the startling truth behind the multiverse, he’ll be forced to make a decision that will change the very nature of life itself forever!
It’s very rare that a book will so avidly reward those who waited, but everything about “Infinite Vacation” #5 reads as a labor of love. Its like a book that forced itself out of the box, something bigger than just the efforts of a writer and an artist; “Infinite Vacation” #5 is big and bold and exciting and fresh and different and inventive and explosive and twisty and different and all sorts of other positive adjectives. Looking back at the saga that is this book’s real life history, the finale comes down to one simple fact: Spencer and Ward wanted to make sure that everyone who waited patiently for this book would get their moneys worth, and they packed this book so damn full of comic that you can’t help but wonder what other surprises they might have snuck in if they’d taken one more month.
Not that anyone would want to wait any longer to read this, mind you. It’s great, pure and simple. So many comics that are put out on a weekly basis come off as throwaway experiences in the end, but “Infinite Vacation” #5 stays with you, forcing you to mull it over for a while and think abut all of the different things you’ve just seen. It’s not a challenging read, but its a book thats very much unsatisfied by being anything close to normal. Ward and Spencer take so many opportunities within the book to relay ideas across multiple-page sequences that could come off as reasonably trite in other circumstances, but within the context of this book make for an engrossing and sprawling read. This is perhaps as close to an animated comic we may have ever gotten, where the sequential aspect of it all is put in overdrive and the result is fairly astounding.
To go into any further details might ruin the experience of “Infinite Vacation,” though, and ultimately that was the whole point of the book: experiences. That the series takes its central idea and runs with it so wildly is just a testament to the passion Spencer and Ward brought to the book, which gives the book’s impact extra oomph. There are quite a few situations within the book that when consumed in print form (vs. a tablet device, which is funny on a few levels) result in quite an eclectic read, taking standard comic conventions and flipping it all on its heel to aim high and shoot for the stars. The book is designed in such a fashion that it immediately separates itself from you standard, and is the type of book to truly feel like its trying to earn your money. That honestly comes off as one of its biggest strengths, in a weird way: “even if you don’t like the way the story ends, we’re going to make sure you get an awesome experience out of it anyway because you deserve it.”
Of course, this all is really sold because of the talent that is Christian Ward. This isn’t to diminish Spencer’s role (which we’ll get to in a bit), but looking at this book shows that Ward deserves the title of Art Champ. Art Hero, perhaps. Ward takes everything to the limit and pushes past it, with a keen design-based eye and full use of the digital medium to craft the book into something bigger. The transition comic art has seen as more and more artists take up use of the digital medium for effects has been interesting to watch in terms of the impact it has had on art, but Ward shows how deftly you can use digital components to bring out something amazing with traditional pencils and inks to create a piece that shows the best of both worlds; the final 60+ page beast is quite a site to behold. From the pages that flow into one another like a musical crescendo to the way Ward takes the universes apart in front of our very eyes, “Infinite Vacation” is a kickpunch of a book, and it’s Ward’s kickpunch.
Yet even on the smaller scale, Ward manages to hit a home run. Yes, the selling point of the book is arguably just how fucking crazy/cool it all is, but the book can’t operate on a design alone (it’s not Chris Ware, after all). Ward’s characters still feel personal and unique, which is saying something since the book is largely populated by variations of the same person. And you know what? If waiting nearly a year means we get to see an artist bring his A+ Game to the table, then I’ll happily wait a year or more to see another comic by Ward, because seeing him so thoroughly make it rain on every page is worth the price of admission to this book alone.
And yes, Nick Spencer’s script here is quite great. Spencer’s initial burst of work had a recognizable and youthfully optimistic voice to it, like something out of a John Hughes film, and Spencer is able to fit back into those shoes quite easily. The script has that same playful nature that the book had when it began, where your protagonist is just a bit too cocky but is still a lovable rogue and nothing is all that dark even when it’s seemingly horrific. It’s not that this book is that different from Spencer’s other current work, but “Infinite Vacation” definitely feels a bit freer; there are constraints in that it has a set of rules it inherently needs to follow, but the guidelines are looser and allow for more jazzy exploration of its own boundaries. Seeing Spencer really tie together most of the story into a nice and neat package is quite a feat given how “out there” the book is, and when all is said and done the book has a satisfying resolve to the world of the Infinite Vacation.
The only major inherent drawback to”Infinite Vacation” is that, really, its a bit wrapped up itself to make total sense. Not in a a way that seems like the book was too self indulgent, but rather that there are a few moments in “Infinite Vacation” where the logic seems a bit flimsy even by its own standard, with the story stretched a bit thin. It works, and it works quite well, but there seems to have been a jump in how the whole system operates between this issue and what had come before – partially due to the grandiose artistic design of it all from Ward and probably partially due to the delay and Spencer’s growth as a writer. It’s odd to say, but it appears that this ending isn’t necessarily the ending that the book was always headed towards – a version of it sure, and a bombastic and highly entertaining one, but one in which a few things seem glossed over, some final character growth and moments lost in the shuffle, with the end point set and reached by a zig-zag line.
Yet, a few missing details isn’t enough to stop the juggernaut that is “Infinite Vacation” #5. Suffice it to say, if you were a fan of the book before, I find it incredibly hard to believe that the ending will not leave you satisfied. The pages barely hold the comic in, and that’s meant quite literally. With its dial turned up to 11 and everything coming in with an extra kick like a spiked bowl of punch, this is a great way to kick off the year for comics and sets the bar for presentation quite high. For the rest of you, keep your eye open for a trade. It’s going to be quite a beautiful finished package.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – buy