Avengers: Infinity War arrives in U.S. theaters this week, and it is safe to say that if you have been following Marvel’s movies for the last decade or so, then it all adds up to this!
With interest in the Avengers and their arch-villain Thanos at an all-time fever pitch, this seemed a good time to reprint a suitably-updated version of my review of The Infinity Gauntlet, first published as Longbox Graveyard #53!
Like many of the geeks reading this blog I fairly came out of my seat when I saw Thanos in the Avengers end credits. He’s one of my favorite Marvel bad guys (celebrated in a recent Panel Gallery) and the backbone of fondly-remembered Captain Marvel and Warlock runs that were among the first books I reviewed here at Longbox Graveyard.
For the last several years, Thanos has been teased in a host of Marvel movies, and with Infinity War it seems we will finally get Thanos himself front-and-center, taking on the Avengers and seemingly every other hero in the Marvel Universe. Now, Thanos is a tough dude, but even he couldn’t take on those kinds of numbers by himself. Fortunately for those of us who love bad guy, Thanos isn’t alone … it looks like he has the Infinity Gauntlet. And if that is the case, then the odds are actually on Thanos’ side!
Fan speculation about the Infinity Gauntlet began even before Avengers debuted. Sharp-eyed viewers spotted the Gauntlet in Odin’s treasure room during 2011’s Thor, and Marvel took an Infinity Gauntlet prop on the road with them to various cons and trade shows.
Put Thanos, the Avengers, and the Infinity Gauntlet together, and it’s small wonder the Infinity Gauntlet graphic novel was “flying off the shelves” as long ago as 2012 when I bought a copy at the cosmically awesome House of Secrets comic shop in Burbank, California. It appears a least a few fans of Marvel’s billion-dollar franchise were eager to get ahead of the curve and soak up all the Thanos and Infinity Gauntlet lore that they could.
I recommend the terrific “Thanos For Beginners” primer that Mars Will Send No More put together if you want to know everything about this classic Avengers villain, but for now it’s enough to note that Thanos is a Death God from Titan, a superpowered alien obsessed with Death personified in female form, whom he courts as a lover. Unfortunately for Thanos (and everyone else), Death doesn’t much care for Thanos, driving the Titan to greater and still greater acts of murder as he tries to win her favor.
Back in those Captain Marvel and Warlock runs, Thanos threatened to destroy our solar system, leaning heavily on the Cosmic Cube (or “Tesseract,” as they call it in the movies). But for the Infinity Gauntlet limited series, Thanos took his game to the next level, using the Gauntlet to annihilate half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. (For starters).
How did Thanos come by such awesome power?
Following one of his many resurrections, Thanos collected the “Infinity Gems,” cosmic MacGuffins affording all sorts of nifty magic powers. Binding them together in a gauntlet, Thanos became a god with power over time, space, and dimension — kind of like Sauron, Darth Vader, and Dick Cheney all rolled into one.
With that kind of power in Thanos’ grasp, the only solution was to create a big, sprawling mini-series, authored by Jim Starlin, and illustrated (for awhile, at least), by George Perez, who has made a career out of drawing these every-superhero-in-the-universe team-up books. The six issue series uses the entire universe as the setting for the ultimate battle between good and evil.
It’s not just the Marvel heroes that get into the act — Starlin puts out a casting call for every cosmic god in the Marvel Universe, too. Odin and the Sky Fathers are stuck in Asgard, thanks to a shattered Rainbow Bridge, but more space gods than you can shake a stick at respond to the call, including Galactus, Eternity, a couple Celestials, and less well-known gods like the Living Tribunal.
It’s this very scope of the book that most undermines the drama. When half the Marvel Universe is wiped out in your first issue, it’s not a matter of “if” — but “when” and “how” — the carnage will be undone. It’s fun, in a disaster-movie sort of way, to watch California slide into the ocean and see Manhattan in ruins — but because we know it must all be set right somehow, it’s hard to take the story seriously.
(Though I will admit to some retroactive cathartic glee in seeing Trump Tower among the wreckage)
What we really have here is an apocalyptic wrapper for a bigass superhero beat down, and in this Infinity Gauntlet delivers. The defense of creation is led by Adam Warlock, who rounds up the requisite Avengers and other Marvel heroes to keep Thanos distracted by beating on his head. Warlock maneuvers to checkmate his old foe by playing on Thanos’ weaknesses, such as the hubris that leads the Titan to create a pretty damn groovy outer space floating palace of death.
But even after awarding her with the next cover feature of Tomb & Garden Magazine, Death still won’t give Thanos the time of day. Finally getting wise to Death’s ways, Thanos throws her under the bus for a woman of his own creation — Terraxia The Terrible — who looks like Oprah Winfry cosplaying Thanos.
Thanos and Oprah
Infinity Gauntlet might span all of time and space, but when the chips are down, it’s still about comic book characters throwing haymakers at each other. And that’s fine with me. It’s genre-appropriate — and even kind of comforting — to debate the nature of good and evil with a smack in the mouth.
It’s not all fist city. Even with such a vast cast of characters beating each other up, Starlin finds time for some nice spotlight scenes, such as a little Hulk/Wolverine bromance over being the toughest guys in the room.
(With the X-Men still beyond the grasp of Marvel Studios, the above scene is on hold, pending completion of the Disney/Fox deal!)
So Infinity Gauntlet really is quite a traditional comic book event, with a universe-devouring threat, and a bunch of heroes solving things with their fists. Kind of like Secret Wars, without all the angst and cross-overs. It does get a little silly at times, but all is redeemed by a solid ending, which sees Thanos defeated in clever fashion (“spolier,” I guess), and the ol’ re-set button punched in a way that I didn’t see coming. I would have preferred that Jim Starlin both draw and write the book (or that George Perez had done the whole series, rather than yield to Ron Lim half way through), but for the most part I’m satisfied with Infinity Gauntlet, for its high stakes action and an overload of Thanos triumphant!
Of course there would be more “Infinity” series to follow, before the property extended into cash grabs and parodies, first as the Infinity Gems sought to bring my beloved Rune and the Ultraverse into the Marvel Universe, and then later as they became fodder for the Pet Avengers.
When I get an Infinity Gauntlet of my own, I’ll wish four decades worth of Marvel comic book continuity into the cornfield.
In the meantime, I’ll wish for Thanos to be handled as well in the next Avengers movie as Loki was handled in the first! Enjoy the show!
… Warlock! (1972)
Since I already picked Captain Marvel earlier in this blog series, there’s really no choice but to book-end things with Jim Starlin’s other cosmic hero — Warlock.
I suppose that Thanos is really Starlin’s most important cosmic character. Warlock and Captain Marvel share Thanos as a nemesis, and Thanos has far eclipsed them both in the popular imagination, and getting built up as the Big Bad of Marvel’s movie franchise. I have my hopes that Warlock will soon pop from that cocoon we saw at the end of the last Guardians movie, but whoever shows up on screen will likely have little to do with the fabulous space hippie that Jim Starlin made his own in this brief 1970s series, picking up where his Captain Marvel run left off, and replacing much of Cap’s action with romance and Hamlet-like dramatics. If Captain Marvel was a superhero book set in space, Warlock was a full-on space opera, and if the series bottomed out with space sharks, it also gave us a great and boundry-pushing run as Warlock took on his own future self in the form of a power-mad cosmic messiah.
Pip the Troll was awesome, too.
There are doubtless better “W” books out there, but Warlock is my favorite. How about you?
- The Walking Dead (2003)
- Werewolf by Night (1972)
- Warlord (1976)
- Wonder Woman (1942)
- Wonder Woman (1987)
- World’s Finest Comics (1941)
- Watchmen (1986)
Read more about Warlock at Longbox Graveyard:
Check out the complete Longbox Graveyard Comics A-To-Z HERE!
This week’s F.O.O.M. Friday rockets ahead to F.O.O.M. #9, with a Jim Starlin cover and a subject focus that blew my twelve-year-old mind back in 1974.
I liked Silver Surfer and (especially) Captain Marvel before receiving this issue of Marvel’s in-house fan magazine, but it was the first time I thought of these characters as belonging to a specific genre.
The mag even coined a term for this new comics genre with a clever bit of wordplay:
I loved thinking of these stories as “cosmics,” rather than “comics” — it made the stories seem so much bigger, and more consequential. This clever bit of branding helped bind me to Marvel’s cosmic heroes for decades to come … and it is an obsession that continues to this day, as one look at this list of the many “cosmic” subjects I’ve tackled here at Longbox Graveyard will attest!
- #2 The Micronauts: They came from inner Space!
- #11 Captain Not-So-Marvelous: Go Cosmic with Jim Starlin’s Captain Marvel!
- #21 Warlock: Jim Starlin’s 1970s outer space superhero epic!
- #25 This Female Fights Back!: Ms. Marvel deserved better!
- #27 Silver Age Gold: How the Silver Surfer is like a Broadway musical.
- #46 Avengers — Kree/Skrull War: Remember your superhero history!
- #53 Thanos & The Infinity Gauntlet: Killing half the universe for grins.
- #59 Killraven’s War of the Worlds: 1973 — A Space Oddity!
- #79 Out Of The Holocaust … A Hero!: Mar-Vell deserves your respect.
- #86 Star-Lord: The black & white original, warts and all!
- #93 Guardians of the Galaxy: Superheroes in Spaaaaace!
- #110 The Power And The Prize! The Silver Surfer confronts … Satan?
The articles in this particular issue of F.O.O.M. weren’t especially memorable, but that cover is as fresh today as when I plucked it from my mailbox almost forty years ago. Yeesh! I’m getting as old as The Watcher!
See you back here next week for another F.O.O.M. Friday!
- When Words Collide – One Last “Gødland” Conversation with Joe Casey (comicbookresources.com)
- Cosmic, Baby, Cosmic: Jim Starlin’s Thanos Saga, Part One (dorkforty.wordpress.com)
- Thanos the mad titan and the greaest marvel super villain of all time (groovyawesome.wordpress.com)
- Marvel Now! – To INFINITY!!!! (and beyond!) A timeline leading up to Marvel’s Infinity (whatchareading.com)
- COMICS: Blue Marvel, Skrulls, Inhumans, Silver Surfer And More Teased For Marvel’s INFINITY (comicbookmovie.com)
- Jim Starlin: The Architect of Marvels Infinite (nothingbutcomics.wordpress.com)
- Heavy, Man, Heavy: Jim Starlin’s Thanos Saga, Part Two (dorkforty.wordpress.com)
- Jim Starlin Teases New Thanos Project (comicbooked.com)
- Adam Warlock. Thanos. Magus. 1970s Jim Starlin. Be there. – Warlock #10 (blogintomystery.com)
- Starlin Teases 100-Page Thanos Project for Summer 2014 (comicbookresources.com)