This inspiration for the Avengers Infinity War movie brings together the heroes of the Marvel Universe to defeat a cosmic threat from someone who doesn’t just have the powers of a god…he is a god in every sense of the word. How can they hope to defeat a being whose every wish becomes reality with the snap of his fingers?
INFINITY GAUNTLET #1-6
Released: July 1991 – December 1991
Authors: Jim Starlin
Artists: George Perez & Ron Lim
Inkers: Josef Rubinstein & Tom Christopher
Colors: Max Scheele & Ian Laughlin
Letters: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
Thanos was dead, but Mistress Death, one of the cosmic forces of the Marvel Universe, has resurrected him to kill half of the universe. To do so, Thanos has sought out the Infinity Gems. There are six of them: Soul, Mind, Reality, Space, Power, and Time. Obtaining all six, he placed them in a gauntlet which grants him the power of a god.
What You’ll Find Out:
INFINITY GAUNTLET #1:
In space, Thanos surveys his universe, powerful beyond all imagining. The sycophant Mephisto is by his side. Thanos muses what it means to have the power of a god, to be omnipotent.
On Earth, Dr. Strange is reading when there is a crash upstairs. He rushes up to find his overhead window shattered and the Silver Surfer lying on the floor, near death. Strange orders his assistant, Wong, to help move Surfer to the sofa. Once comfortable, the Surfer cries out that Thanos is coming and it may mean the end of the universe. Surfer then proceeds to explain to Strange how Death has resurrected the mad Titan. He explains Thanos’ acquisition of the Infinity Gems. He and Drax the Destroyer attempted to confront Thanos, but the Titan toyed with them, eventually trapping them into the Soul Gem. Inside the Soul Gem, they encountered Adam Warlock who cast a spell to expel both of them from the gem. That’s when Surfer made his way to Earth.
On Earth, two men and a woman, all drunk, get into a car. They manage to drive themselves off a cliff. Their lives are ended by the sudden stop at the bottom. Soon after, three particles of light fall from the sky to the crash site. The three bodies are animated, back to life. They make their way back up to the road. At a motel, they steal a car. The woman notices something strange though. Her skin has turned green.
Thanos continues to plead with Death, but she refuses to respond. Her lackey does the talking instead, which only enrages Thanos. He wants to worship Death. She deserves to be revered. And so in a blinding flash, he turns her ordinary throne room into a temple, complete with carvings in Death’s image and two chairs at the top. He sits in one, hoping for Death to sit in the other.
But still she spurns his advances. And so in an effort to show Death the depths of his “depravity”, Thaos brings to his side his grand-daughter, Nebula. But she’s not “right”. She is decayed and clearly not in her head. Not quite dead, but not really alive either. Thanos views this as a fantastic gift to Death, but Death turns away from him. Her lackey once again speaks for her, explaining that she finds Thanos’ boasts empty. Thanos responds by exploding the lackey. He is furious now, but Mephisto points out that maybe Death is upset because Thanos hasn’t carried through with his promise. Thanos stands at the edge of the palace and snaps his fingers.
Spider-Man notices it first. As he is swinging over New York City, his spider-sense blares. Stopping to take a rest, he looks below and watches as half of the people below vanish. Captain America is taking a report from Sersi when both her and Hawkeye vanish. The billions upon billions of lives, across the entire universe, is noticed by the Silver Surfer. And as Dr. Strange tends to him, Wong, too, vanishes. On the moon of Saturn, Titan, Firelord is hosted by Drax, Eros, and Eros’ father, Mentor, when Mentor, too, vanishes.
In a motel, the three resurrected travelers are enjoying a nice hot shower. The woman suddenly vanishes off the bed. The short, balding man sees it and rushes to get help from the third. But in the bedroom, he only finds a cocoon.
INFINITY GAUNTLET #2:
Things are going from bad to worse. All around, there is panic and disaster. The Avengers are on scene to rescue people from an airplane that crashed when its pilots disappeared. Quasar is called to answer the cosmic threat. The Kree and Skrull empires each blame the other and prepare to go to war. Meanwhile, Dr. Pym has stopped by to help Dr. Strange with the Surfer when Dr. Strange’s soul is suddenly pulled from his body. He is confronted by a glowing, featureless figure. The mysterious being asks for Strange’s help and requests that Strange get the heroes of Earth to trust him. Strange is hesitant until the two merge their souls. Dr. Strange finally agrees, having seen the enormity of the request, and is returned to his body.
On Titan, Eros is attempting to figure out what happened while Firelord and Drax look on. But in mid-sentence, he vanishes. This isn’t quite the same as the other disappearances, however. He appears immediately chained to a chair with his brother, Thanos, standing over him…grinning. Thanos begins to talk, almost oddly cheerfully so. And when Eros responds, he begins to grin, hoping his abilities to manipulate emotions might have an influence on the mad Titan. But Thanos is having none of it. He instead removes Eros’ mouth.
On Earth, Captain America and what’s left of the Avengers are trying to compile a list of the missing heroes. It’s a surprisingly large list. So large, I’m not going to list it here… but ultimately, if your favorite character doesn’t appear in this book, it’s probably because they’re missing. Meanwhile, on Asgard, Odin is rallying the gods of mythology to assist in this catastrophe which has spared no one in the universe.
Back on Earth, in the motel from part 1, the short balding man has changed even further. He now resembles more of a troll… Pip the Troll, in fact. He’s watching ALF and guzzling beer, waiting for his boss to show up. Suddenly the wall explodes and the cocoon in the other room is ripped open. A voice off panel declares they are going after Thanos.
The Silver Surfer awakens to find Dr. Doom standing over him and robotic guards holding a weakened Dr. Strange. Surfer attempts to act but in his weakened condition, Doom strikes him down easily. He threatens Strange in an attempt to compel the Surfer to reveal who is behind the disappearances, but suddenly the robot guards explode. Adam Warlock and Pip are standing in the window.
Thanos desperately tries to win Death’s affections by torturing Eros and Nebula. But still she spurns his advances. The rejection causes him to cry out in anger, sending a force wave through the galaxy. It destroys a nearby planet Galactus was preparing to harvest. But more importantly, it strikes Earth, causing planet-wide earthquakes. California falls into the ocean, the Japan isles sink, the rainbow bridge (which connects Earth to Asgard) is shattered. The devastation is everywhere.
INFINITY GAUNTLET #3:
Thanos continues to try and win Death’s heart, but neither his promises, nor his tributes (the torturing of Eros and Nebula), nor his anger seem to help. So finally, he turns to jealousy, creating Terraxia, a woman resembling Thanos’ species and totally devoted to him. Death still seems to turn from him.
Even as the devastation is revealed to be worse than originally thought (turns out the Earth has been shaken loose from its orbit and is drifting away from the sun), Adam Warlock, Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, and Dr. Doom prepare to enlist the help of Earth’s heroes…at least what remain of them. Initially, they’re met with skepticism, but Dr. Strange and Surfer are well known by the Avengers. And so, with Dr. Strange’s help, they pull in most of the remaining heroes on Earth: Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Cyclops, just to name a few. Adam Warlock then hitches a ride on Silver Surfer’s board and they fly off across the galaxy to enlist the help of cosmic entities.
On the other side of the galaxy, Warlock is met with hostility again, mostly from Galactus. Eternity and the Living Tribunal opt to sit this battle out (as do the Watchers, but that’s to be expected), but the others, including Lords Order and Chaos, the Stranger, and Kronos, agree to help Warlock in his fight against Thanos.
And so, with all the pieces set, Warlock and Surfer take their positions in the darkness of space, far from Thanos’ throne but with a direct line of sight to it. Strange opens a portal and the heroes rush through it, landing on Thanos’ shrine to Death, prepared to do everything they can to defeat the monster.
INFINITY GAUNTLET #4:
Even as the heroes attack, Thanos simply grins and freezes every single one of them with a snap of his fingers. He is also keenly aware of Adam Warlock and the Silver Surfer. But before he can cause his adversaries to vanish into nothingness with a second snap, Mephisto offers an opportunity. If he were to actually do battle, do perhaps willingly dull down his senses, even if it’s just slightly, then maybe Mistress Death would finally return the love he so desperately craved.
Thanos agrees, dampening down his awareness ever so slightly, and with another snap of his fingers, time resumes. The battle ensues and it is fierce. Blows are traded while Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock watch from far away, the Surfer held back deliberately by Warlock (much to Surfer’s irritation). Finally, Namor and She-Hulk are the first to die against Thanos…and once that happens, the rest fall like dominoes.
Wolverine (in a famous scene) has his bones turned to rubber. Scarlet Witch is disintegrated, Cyclops suffocates in a clear cube, and Vision’s wires are ripped out. Iron Man’s head is ripped off by Terraxia. Cloak explodes from within. And Thor? He’s turned to glass and smashed. The deaths range from brutal to imaginative, but it’s all incredibly shocking.
Finally, it’s down to one man: Captain America. The symbol of freedom stands his ground against an obviously superior foe. The first blow misses. The second blow breaks the shield. And finally, Thanos raises his fist to deliver the final blow. Warlock gives the command and the Surfer speeds towards Thanos, as fast as possible. But as he reaches for the gauntlet, hoping to take it from Thanos, he misses and Thanos realizes how close he came to losing it. He knocks Captain America down easily and prepares for a much larger battle: the cosmic beings have revealed themselves.
INFINITY GAUNTLET #5:
The battlefield explodes in a flash as the cosmic beings have engaged the mad Titan. Amazingly, Eros and Nebula are spared by Mistress Death who is also watching the battle unfold. The Celestials hurl planets at Thanos but with a blast from his gauntlet, the Celestials are taken down. Kronos hurls Thanos through time but Thanos easily exerts control over the god. Lord Order and Master Chaos tag team against Thanos but he brushes them back with some effort. Galactus, the Stranger, and Eon through their powers against Thanos but again it seems to do little against him.
Finally, Mephisto makes his play, seeing to take the Gauntlet for himself, but his hellfire does little against Thanos. Before Thanos can kill the “devil”, however, Death intervenes, attacking Thanos herself. The sight of his love betraying him is almost more than Thanos can bear and when the entirety of the cosmic beings lash out, he almost seems to be overwhelmed. But he regains his footing and with a spiral of energy, he gathers them all up and suspends them above his throne (the temple now reflecting his own image rather than Death’s).
Eternity makes his presence known. Thanos leaps at Eternity and they both disappear. The victor isn’t clear…except to Adam Warlock. He knows who has won. And with the loss, he commands Dr. Strange to teleport them both back to Earth. Meanwhile, Thanos’ body is slumped in his chair, but Thanos has now taken the place of Eternity. But even as Thanos enjoys his newfound place in the cosmos, he neglects to pay attention to his granddaughter. Nebula’s decaying body slowly stumbles towards Thanos’ body and suddenly, before anybody can stop her, she yanks the gauntlet off of the Titan, pulling his essence back into his body and transforming her back to the normal blue-skinned woman she is recognized as. The power is now hers.
With that, she immediately teleports Thanos and Terraxia to deep space. Terraxia, unfortunately, could not survive the vacuum of space and dies. Thanos “drops” into a portal and arrives on earth. This is part of Warlock’s plan, but Surfer isn’t willing to listen. He attacks Thanos, leading Strange to summon five individuals to separate the two: Thor, Hulk, Dr. Doom, Firelord, and Drax (all of them having been spared through Dr. Strange’s efforts). Warlock then discusses his plans with Thanos alone, revealing to Thanos just how much he knows about Thanos’ subconscious. Thanos, reluctantly, agrees.
Dr. Strange then teleports the five heroes (and Dr. Doom) back to face Nebula. For all their powers, Nebula easily traps them in stone, preparing to face the real threat: Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, and Thanos.
INFINITY GAUNTLET #6:
Nebula faces off against Thanos (who she promptly traps in a stone hug), Dr. Strange, and Silver Surfer. Oddly enough, she is completely unaware of Adam Warlock’s presence. Nebula is completely aghast at Thanos’ actions of murdering half of the universe. So she reverses time by 24 hours, undoing all of the deaths that occurred during the previous 5 issues. Only Dr. Strange’s machinations prevent him, Warlock, and Silver Surfer returning to where they began. But as she returns her attention to Thanos, Adam Warlock reaches for the gauntlet and the surprise causes Nebula to thrash out, knocking him off the platform into space and shooting a bolt of energy, rendering the Silver Surfer unconscious.
Unfortunately, turning the clock back 24 hours had other ramifications. The cosmic beings are freed and they attack her. Meanwhile, Silver Surfer awakes in the soul world, the world inside the Soul Gem, where he finds Adam Warlock, who brought them there on purpose. In the soul world, Adam Warlock reigns supreme. Outside, Nebula, as Thanos did before her, defeats the cosmic beings, trapping them in a twisted display.
As Nebula cries out in triumph, Warlock reaches out from the Soul Gem to the other five gems, causing the gauntlet to burn on her hand. She throws it down in pain. With the gauntlet off, Thanos is able to break free from his prison and he once again lunges for it. But Dr. Strange summons, once again, Thor, Drax, Hulk, and this time Eros to protect the gauntlet. As everybody clamors for the glove, Suddenly Adam Warlock appears, the gauntlet fitting snugly on his hand.
Warlock’s first action is to return the cosmic entities to whence they came. He then proclaims that he is the new god of the universe and the gauntlet is his to keep. Hulk and Drax move to take Thanos into custody but the Titan knocks them back and activates a bomb on his belt…one that would destroy them all. Thor knocks Thanos into the cosmos where the would-be god explodes. Thanos, at long last, is dead.
Warlock then asks Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, and Thor to spread the word that he is a god that can be trusted. Before anybody can protest, they vanish and Pip (the troll from before) and Gamorra (the green woman who disappeared in issue 1) appear in their place. Warlock takes them to a distant world, through corn fields, where they find Thanos’ costume used as a scarecrow. And they find the “deceased” Titan, living the live of a farmer. But Warlock is not there to finish their fight. Instead, they part…not as friends…but not enemies either.
What Just Happened?
This was one of my first experiences with the larger Marvel Universe. I knew bits and pieces here and there, but I had only recently started reading X-Men comics and had not even branched into the other Marvel Comics. I knew OF some characters, but didn’t really know much about them. Warlock, Thanos, and all of the cosmic beings were a complete mystery to me.
In fact, I missed the second issue (don’t remember why) but I went on vacation with my family and found the third issue on a newsstand rack (yes, it was that long ago) at a book store in a vacation town. And when I read it, I caught little mentions of the missing heroes. Honestly? My first thought was that it was just Marvel’s way of thinning down their herd. There were too many heroes, they must be using this series to streamline things (give me a break…I was 13). When I got back to my town, my friend showed me number 2 and I realized how wrong I must be.
When I picked up the first issue (which, amazingly, I still have…in fairly good condition) I was amazed at the pace of the story. Not because it went in blazing, but because it seemed to set up the rest of the books like a good movie. The pacing was fantastic. And looking back, my opinion hasn’t changed. Everything that happens is done so with the idea of setting up a later portion of the story.
I don’t say this easily… but Jim Starlin is a friggin’ genius.
I’m an X-Men fan. Always have been. They’re my favorite characters. But this is probably one of the best stories ever written in Marvel, including X-Men books (definitely in my top 5). Yes, it can be a little confusing if you don’t know the characters. This isn’t the first appearance for any of them. They all have a backstory. But the storytelling by Jim Starlin and George Perez (and later Ron Lim) is so masterful that you don’t need to know anything that came before it to get enjoyment out of this story.
This story has it all. It’s not all epic battles of space that make this brilliant. Thanos, himself, is a deep character, doing everything out of love. His love for Mistress Death almost seems out of a textbook for an unhealthy obsession. Her betrayal of him almost makes you feel sorry for the villain (Ron Lim’s pencils definitely help that).
Perez’s art is amazing and I wish he’d drawn it all. If I had one criticism of the story? Ron Lim’s art (as fantastic as it is) is distracting after getting the first three and a half issues of Perez. But the contrast between the emotionful expression of the heroes of Earth (and especially Silver Surfer) and the emotionless mask of Adam Warlock speaks volumes and really gives us as much insight into Warlock as Starlin’s words give us about Thanos.
All of this is why, when they announced a release date for the Infinity War movie, a movie that is largely based off of this instant classic (again, a term I don’t just throw around), I knew I had to write the review. I became a fan of the Infinity Gauntlet right off the bat. And watching it appear in the movies, little at a time, until we finally get the movie, has been a fanboy’s dream come true.
If you haven’t read it? Go out and buy the trade. Or get it on some online service. It is worth it. Even if you’re not a big fan of Marvel’s cosmic beings…you will love this story. If nothing else, the deaths in issue #4 make it worth it. Because holy hell, they are creative and sadistic.
And after reading them, I’m actually a little scared of Jim Starlin.
Final Thoughts: This inspiration for the new Infinity War movie is one of the best stories in Marvel ever. Jim Starlin, George Perez, and Ron Lim delivered an amazing tale. It truly is a page turner. You won’t want to put it down from page one of the first issue to the last page of issue six. It’s thrilling and enough cannot be said about it.
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