The road to Avengers: Infinity War begins with Dennis’s review of The Infinity Gauntlet #1.
This article contains plot details for The Infinity Gauntlet #1.
The Infinity Gauntlet #1
Writer: Jim Starlin | Pencils: George Perez | Inkers: Josef Rubinstein & Tom Christopher | Letters: Jack Morelli | Colorists: Max Scheele and Ian Laughlin | Editor: Craig Anderson | Chief: Tom DeFalco
In 1991, Marvel produced The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, a summer crossover event featuring many of the heroes of the Marvel universe. Over the course of the six issue series, the heroes and villains across the galaxy teamed up to fight Thanos, the Mad Titan, who made a play to seize control of the galaxy and reality. In a desperate attempt to court the affections of Death, Thanos collected the Infinity gems and mounted them on a glove, which became the Infinity Gauntlet. With the Infinity Gauntlet at his command, Thanos had the power of a god and the cosmos at his disposal and could control and mold space and time as he saw fit. This summer, the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) culminate with Avengers: Infinity War. Infinity War was inspired, at least in part, by The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries. In anticipation of this event, this article begins a review of Marvel’s The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries beginning with The Infinity Gauntlet #1.
The Counsel to the New God
The Infinity Gauntlet #1 begins with Mephisto counseling Thanos. The Mad Titan has already collected all the Infinity gems (which, by the way, are referred to as Infinity Stones in the MCU). Thanos was deceased, but Mistress Death resurrected him and magnified his already immense power for a purpose: the galaxy was teeming with too much life. In fact, the galaxy now had more living beings than the cumulative total of all beings that had ever died. Death wanted the scales balanced.
Mephisto is an odd choice for a counselor. He is perceived as the devil in the Marvel universe by humanity for good reason. In one of his notable appearances in later comics, Mephisto made a bargain with Spider-Man and his then wife, Mary Jane. When Peter Parker’s aunt was shot and lay dying, Mephisto offered Spider-Man a deal. He would save May from death, and in exchange, he would erase Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane and all memories of it, plus he would erase all public knowledge of Peter’s secret identity (which had been revealed during the Civil War event). Contracting with Mephisto is akin to making a deal with the devil.
Therefore, his counsel shouldn’t be trusted. He doesn’t do anything to discourage that belief. Over the course of the issue, Mephisto serves as a curious choice for narrator for the audience and a counselor for Thanos. The Mad Titan seems incapable of understanding the desires of Death, whose affection he covets above all else. Throughout this issue, Mephisto counsels Thanos on how he might please Death and win her affections. Notably, Mephisto notes that Thanos has a fragile heart where Death is concerned.
The Herald of Thanos
While Thanos plots his next course of action, Dr. Strange meditates and studies at the Sanctum Santorum before Silver Surfer falls through the roof. Normally, Silver Surfer serves as the herald of Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. However, this time he arrived on Earth with a warning: Thanos has assembled the power of the Infinity gems. Each gem held power over some aspect of the universe: the soul, the mind, power, time, reality, and space. In the Silver Surfer’s own words, “Thanos now has the unbridled power of a god!” With the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos controls the power of the universe and can alter all of creation as he sees fit. Silver Surfer allied with the Destroyer in an attempt to stop Thanos, but were soundly defeated and imprisoned in the Soul Gem. There, Silver Surfer learned from Adam Warlock the scope of Thanos’s power and was able to escape.
Thanos’s Offerings to Death
Thanos goes to great lengths to woo Death. But, he also makes several missteps. Death offered Thanos no direction for completing the directive she gave him. Therefore, after considering the matter, Thanos collected the Infinity gems. However, the power he assembled made him even more powerful than Death, which displeased her. Thanos then pleaded with her for understanding. She offered him none in response despite his protestations that his love is worship for her. In fact, Death never says a thing, and leaves it to her subordinates to communicate her desires.
Next, Thanos builds shrines to Death to appease her. This too fails. He offers her domain over all the universe. Despite this, Death shuns him once again. Mephisto then offers Thanos dubious counsel. He suggests that Thanos prove he has a dark spirit, as ebon in its ways as Death’s. Mephisto’s motivations are not entirely clear, but it seems likely he is manipulating Thanos. Why Thanos allows this or encourages it is also something of a mystery.
The gift Thanos next offers Death is his own granddaughter: Nebula. He transformed her into some horrible thing on the precipice of death, but not capable of dying. Thanos keeps her on a “precarious perch.” She serves as Thanos’s “living tribute to the blasphemy of life and the glorious promise of death.” Still, this too does not please Death.
Thanos Meets the Challenge
Mephisto finally gets around to suggesting to Thanos that perhaps the offerings aren’t the issue. Instead, Thanos failed to complete the task assigned to him: exterminate half the life of the universe. The realizaton is a smack to the face of Thanos. He comes to his senses, quits brooding, apologizes to Death, and gets to work. With a snap of his gauntleted hand, Thanos extinguishes the existence of half the beings in the galaxy. Mephisto, playing the role of a Loki like trickster, stands by in awe and mutters, “He’s really going to do it.” Was that his purpose? To goad Thanos into going through with the plan? Did Thanos really need that type of encouragement? It seems unlikely, but one must wonder what Mephisto’s aims truly are.
Once Thanos goes through with it, life begins disappearing in the galaxy. In New York, Spider-Man watches as half the people disappear off a busy street and his spider-sense warns him that Mary Jane Watson, his wife, has disappeared as well. Elsewhere, Captain America conducts Avenger’s business and arrives at the Avenger’s headquarters just in time to witness the erasure of Hawkeye and Sersi. Aboard a helicarrier, Nick Fury advises the President that he has no idea what happened to half the people on Earth. On Earth, a very lucid Hulk begins his own investigation. Across the galaxy, the Skrull suspect the Kree of a insidious plot that eliminated half their citizens and prepare for war.
The Side Characters
Infinity Gauntlet #1 doesn’t solely focus on Thanos and the heroes. Three seemingly average people, Jake Miller, Ralph Bunker, and Bambi Long, emerged drunk from a bar after celebrating robbing a liquor store earlier in the day. Their celebration was short lived, and later they drove off a cliff. Although they should have been dead, other beings claimed their bodies. In their new bodies, these beings recover, but Bambi disappears when Thanos begins extinguishing life. Another of these beings ends up in a cocoon as the issue concludes. Their identities remain a mystery, but there is enough foreshadowing that it is obvious they will have a role to play in the unfolding drama.
The Epic Scale of Infinity Gauntlet
The Infinity Gauntlet #1 establishes an epic scale for this miniseries. Thanos and Mistress Death are portrayed as godlike characters. With Mephisto in the advisory role, this series takes on qualities of a Greek or Roman epic myth. Thanos, and possibly Death, represent the Titans. The heroes of the galaxy, for the moment, take on the role of Zeus and the other heroes of Olympus. When looked at from this perspective, Thanos’s forgetfulness makes a little more sense. Plus, Death’s silence also echoes her persona from other mythic tales.
Marvel’s events have been hit or miss affairs over the years. Secret War and later events, such as Civil War, were huge successes. However, other events, such as Age of Ultron (the comic series, not the movie), weren’t as highly regarded. The Infinity Gauntlet is usually regarded as an epic series and a success. The Infinity Gauntlet #1 does well in establishing the setting and stakes for an epic story.
Make sure to check back soon for a discussion of The Infinity Gauntlet #2.