Story by NICK SPENCER & CHRISTIAN WARD
Script by NICK SPENCER
Art by CHRISTIAN WARD
Photography by KENDALL BURNS
Letters by JEFF POWELL
If you could switch lives with another you, would you? What if there was a version of you out there that had everything you always wanted but could somehow never achieve, would it be worth giving up the life you lead to live theirs? This is at the core of Infinite Vacation, a comic from Nick Spencer that presents us with the possibility of infinite possibilities. Mark, our everyman hero, has been jumping from one universe to another seeing how the other Marks live and occasionally, through the Infinite Vacation app on his phone, buy into a new version of his life looking for better possibilities. Unfortunately for him, it seems someone out there has been tracking down all the Marks in existence and murdering them. How do you stop someone from killing you when they’ve already managed to do it a million times?
Infinite Vacation #4 begins with a bizarre public service announcement from the Infinite Vacation company and it’s presented in these strange, real life photography panels we’ve seen used before. They’re weird, oddly disturbing and I really wish they’d stop using them. Real life represented in comic book panels was a neat trick the first time but since then it’s only resulted in ugly pages. They’re meant to provide a kind of world context for Mark’s continuing adventure but they’re often boring, pull the reader out of the story and go on for too long. The real crime is these pages take away space that could be used for more of Christian Ward’s incredible artwork, which is the highlight of the series.
The concepts behind Infinite Vacation are fascinating but confusing, and since Mark isn’t an altogether interesting character it’s difficult to feel invested in his journey and therefore you won’t give a damn if you don’t get it. Usually, if I really care about where a book is going but I’m being bogged down by some very cerebral concepts I’ll take the time to figure things out. Not so with Infinite Vacation. I understand the jist of things, and that’s enough to passively enjoy the story.
It’s not until this fourth issue that Mark starts being proactive and becomes the hero of his own story. And only after quite a few have sacrificed themselves to keep him alive. In the end, Mark is supposed to be an everyman but when he’s presented as a slacker with no aspirations of bettering himself it can be tough to root for the guy. Mark lacks the characterization you might come to expect from the guy behind the fantastic ensemble seen in the equally weird, Morning Glories.
If you’re looking for a reason to check out Infinite Vacation simply open the book. The interiors, like the covers, are a wild, psychedelic journey from one universe to another and the page layouts should come with a M.C. Escher seal of approval. There’s an excellently illustrated chase sequence in this issue that draws heavily on Escher’s representation of the infinite. In it Mark and Claire, the cute girl he’s managed to meet multiple times in multiple worlds but never hit it off with, are being chased by the creepy as hell, cannibalistic, sodomizing-Mark who’s trying to kill them. This über-creepy Mark earns the comic its Mature rating, that’s for sure. The whole design is clever and, funnily enough, while you’d think it’d be confusing it makes total sense and never loses the reader, unlike the story.
On top of crazy page layouts the colors are a whole ‘nother trip. The palette for Infinite Vacation is bursting with color, all shades and all variations. I think it’s one of the reason I find the pages portrayed with real life photography so unnatural, they just can’t compare to Ward’s art. What might be even more striking than the colors is the use of white space for dramatic emphasis. It’s used particularly well, again, in that chase scene I mentioned earlier. The scene doesn’t require any backgrounds so behind our figures the page is left blank and all our attention is on the action.
If you love weird, confusing head trips Infinite Vacation will deliver, even with a hero lacking development. It suffers a little from including some almost incomprehensible concepts but maybe therein lies the title’s allure. After this penultimate issue I hope we’re moving into an explosive finale. One where Spencer will deliver an ending that gives good closure. And please, no more live-action panels, they freak me out. Just allow Ward more opportunities to shine.