Friday, March 14, 2008

Infinity Gauntlet

Back in 1991, I was fairly new to comics. I was dabbling in the X-Men, especially the Jim Lee series that began later the same year. I basically just like awesome fights and Rob Liefield's giant boobs were as yet uninteresting to me.

So one day, on the strength of the awesome cover, I bought #3 of 6. I put together the basic story line: The villain Thanos had pieced together all six infinity gems, which granted him unlimited power. Thanos was all but God. The point of all this was for Thanos to win the love of embodied Death. In #2, he snapped his fingers and killed exactly half of the life in the universe as an offering to his love. That was unbearably dramatic for my 11 year old mind.

The real action didn't really begin until #4, though. The most powerful of the heroes - roughly 30 of them - that weren't raptured in #2 descended upon Thanos en masse. What resulted was a vicious slaughter, a level of violence I had never come across in comics before. Because I didn't realize that comics basically cheat concerning death, and so none of the deaths would be permanent, this also was unbearably dramatic.

At the time, the art hit the spot for me. I would have been too young to appreciate any fancy. Everything was crisp, clean and bright. Some characters, such as the Silver Surfer, have been through several artistic iterations; the two most common begin the Greek godlike, perfectly sculpted body, the other being a thinner, slightly more melancholic version. IG wisely used the much flasher Greek god version.

So anyways, the heros and Thanos get down to business. He handily wipes out most of the heroes, but has a little bit of help from his girlfriend that he created ex-nihilo.

Let's look at some of the best images. As I said, I had been reading the X-Men, and Cyclops was my favourite character. I identified with him for whatever nerdy reason. Cyclops was one of the few heroes to get one over on Thanos; Cyclops poured his force beams onto Thanos, then switched them off at an opportune time; Thanos lost his balance and fell flat on his face. Ha!

Thanos's retaliation:

Yeah, that's right, he suffocates Cyclops to death. Christ, that scared me. Seeing my favourite character choke to death like that trigged two of my old phobias - claustrophobia and lack of oxygen. I was really hoping Captain America would succeed in his rescue attempt, but I still felt the terrible inevitability of it all.

There was one other X-Man involved in this attack. Back in the day, when Wolverine wasn't everywhere and thus still had a little mystique, this page was a truly fist pumping affair:

He stabs Thanos right in the chest, and the bastard smiles. Come on, try to imagine seeing this as an 11 year old. Anyways, I was always a little bit disappointed with Wolverine's death: his bones turned to rubber.

So I mentioned Thanos's ex nihilo girlfriend. Meet her hand:

All that red stuff on the end of the rock? That's what's left of Spider-Man's face.

Also, she collected an official Ironman souvenir:
That would be his head. Which she tore off. I'll bet that won't happen to Robert Downey Jr.

So all the heroes fall, save Captain America. I have no great love for this character. I think his costume is stupid. I also think jingoism is stupid. But clearly, this is regular universe Cap's greatest moment:

The silent walk up. The square jaw. The smoking body of Quasar providing some much needed colour to the scene.

Ah, the lost cause. It doesn't get much more romantic than this. Cap is the perfect character to deliver this line.

All through this series, a character named Adam Warlock has been in the background, leading the war against Thanos. Warlock is a brilliant schemer, an old nemesis of Thanos. He's willing the role the dice and play for the whole pot; this entire battle has been nothing other than a lead up to this moment:

The Silver Surfer swoops in and attempts to steal the gauntlet from Thanos. He fails.

See what I said about the Surfer's Greek god body? It's visually pleasing, but these days strikes me as a bit generic. I've actually come to prefer the more streamlined version.

So what happens to Cap? He's the last one left alive. He stands definately in front of a virtual God. What grand martyr's death awaits him?

NO LOOK BITCH SLAP. Presumably this shatter Cap's skull.

Anyways, plot stuff happens and Thanos loses the gauntlet. The scene I'm going to point out here beccomes a pivotal point for Thanos's character. He remains a complete jerk, but he becomes something of an anti-hero. Only in Annihilation does he truly return to his villainous ways, and even then he has a limit.

Hmm... the text is a bit too small. This is Warlock pointing out to Thanos that in the end, he constantly sabotages himself. It's a nice little nod the Thanos's unconscious. With this knowledge in hand, Thanos helps Warlock return all things to the status quo.

Fun stuff. The sequels, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade, weren't quite as cool but I still really enjoyed them.

Up next: The Ultimates!


Jamie A. Grant said...

Ah, this really appealed to the geek in me. And yes, I do own this trade paperback series.

dan said...

Wait, the surfer dies too? Of all the heroes, I always thought he was the most untouchable (even if he was a little lame).

Mike said...

Nah, he lived, but presumably only because he didn't have a direct encounter with Thanos.