Thanos takes on all challengers as the heroes begin their assault in The Infinity Gauntlet #4.
This article contains plot details for The Infinity Gauntlet #4.
The Infinity Gauntlet #4
Writer: Jim Starlin | Pencils: George Perez | Inkers: Josef Rubinstein | Letters: Jack Morelli | Colorists: Max Scheele | Editor: Craig Anderson | Chief: Tom DeFalco
Thanos wiped out half the life in the galaxy all in an insane attempt to court the favor of Mistress Death in The Infinity Gauntlet #1. However, Mistress Death didn’t bestow her affections on the Mad Titan, and since then Thanos has engaged in a variety of tactics that range from the calculated to the desperate and deranged. The galaxy is on the brink. Intergalactic Empires prepare for war against one another. The Earth has been knocked out of its orbit. Something must be done to stop Thanos, but how does one combat an all-powerful and mentally unstable being? Warlock emerged as the leader of a resistance formed from Earth’s remaining heroes, their allies, and cosmic beings. The army is complete, and the fight begins in The Infinity Gauntlet #4. Do the heroes have a chance against Thanos?
The Need for an Audience
After freezing the heroes, Starfox notes that Thanos spared his entourage, which includes Mephisto, Mistress Death, Nebual, Terraxia, and himself (although he calls himself Eros here). In addition, the Watcher is spared. Of course, Thanos has done everything to impress Mistress Death. Naturally, he wouldn’t freeze her in time. Nebula currently poses no threat since she is essentially a wandering zombie. Thanos created Terraxia just to adore him, and Starfox has been rendered impotent to stop Thanos. That leaves the Watcher. Eros then asks, “What use is godhood if you have no audience to flaunt it before?” Indeed, as much as Thanos’s insanity is about winning the affection of Mistress Death, he has become unhinged. He craves the recognition of his power and his ability to mold all of creation according to his whims. What better way to do that than have an audience to witness the events and spread the tale?
Mephisto’s Strange Counsel
One must question the wisdom in allowing Mephisto to remain by Thanos’s side. Just as Thanos was about to the sensible thing for one in his position and eliminate the heroes, Mephisto begs him to stay his hand. Mephisto notes that the intrusion by the heroes might be an opportunity. After all, Mistress Death remains unimpressed by Thanos’s galactic feats. Mephisto claims “all female hearts, even one as cold as death, are warmed by the sight of raw courage.” Therefore, Thanos should give the heroes a fighting chance to defeat him. If Thanos can defeat the heroes, it might be enough to sway Death.
Thanos is intrigued by this proposal. He puts his plan into action by cutting himself off from all sensory input from time, space, reality, thought and the soul. However, he retains limitless power. The “disadvantage” he imposes upon himself provides the heroes a “.05%” chance of victory. Mephisto is obviously not impressed but notes that it might be enough to impress Mistress Death.
This is a desperate move by Thanos. It is no risk at all. Indeed, it seems more like the behavior of a love sick adolescent that has no idea how to impress the girl of his dreams. In addition, it only emphasizes that Thanos’s creation of Terraxia in The Infinity Gauntlet #3 was solely for the purpose of making Mistress Death jealous. Meanwhile, Terraxia proves she isn’t quite Thanos’s equal. Instead, she is a something of a simpleton in this issue solely concerned with pleasing her creator. When she presents Thanos with the head of one of their enemies, he acknowledges he might one day come to…something, which is cut off by an attack of the heroes.
Most importantly though, Mephisto is playing his own game. Eros sees through his antics and senses some other purpose to Mephisto’s presence. He notes that “the Master of Deceit is playing upon the confusion Thanos is experiencing.” For reasons of his own, Mephisto is an ally to the “forces of life.”
The Heroes Never Stood a Chance
The heroes of Earth never really stood a chance in this fight. They manage to get a few good licks in, but Thanos rebounds from their best shots. He then devises creative means of dispatching most of them. For instance, Namor and She-Hulk are consumed by some sort of rapidly growing fungus. Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton is turned into rubber. The Scarlet Witch’s mutant hex power is turned back upon her, and she is incinerated in the process. Cyclops suffocates when a clear box of force envelopes his head. Before he can even materialize from a sneak attack, Vision perishes when Thanos rips out his inner circuitry. Cloak attempts to contain Thanos within his cloak and fails terminally in the process. Thanos banishes Firelord and Drax to prehistoric times. Terraxia eliminates Iron Man and Spider-Man through brute force. Thor turns to glass and shatters and Nova crumbles into blocks to be smashed under Thanos’s boot. Nobody really had a chance of defeating the Mad Titan.
Perhaps in the least surprising development in The Infinity Gauntlet #3 is Doctor Doom’s betrayal of the mission. In a rare moment in which the heroes have the upper hand, Thanos lies momentarily helpless at Thor’s feet. However, before Thor can deliver a crippling blow, Doom swoops in an effort to seize the Infinity Gauntlet for himself. Thanos recovers in time to retaliate and strikes Doom with tremendous power. Unlike the heroes, Doom doesn’t perish even though he is much worse for wear. Furthermore, he vows he won’t be denied the Infinity Gems. After Thanos dispatches Wolverine, Doom vows that only death would stay his hand, and although Thanos promises Doom that can be arranged, Doom’s fate is unknown in this issue.
Thor may have had the most success against Thanos. Before turning to glass, Thor successfully hits Thanos with Mjolnir multiple times. After Thor’s first attack, Thanos momentarily dispatches him by teleporting Mjolnir elsewhere and striking Thor hard enough to send him flying away. Without the hammer, Thor reverts to his current mortal form of Eric Masterson. The revelation of Thor’s alter ego is somewhat complicated. In summary, Thor and Eric Masterson were bonded together in the past by Odin in an attempt to save Eric’s life. When Thor broke one of Odin’s laws, he was banished, and Eric became the new Thor and Earth’s protector in his absence. Later, Eric would become the hero Thunderstrike when the original Thor returned. For fans that were wondering about Thor’s identity since The Infinity Gauntlet#1, the reveal in The Infinity Gauntlet #4 offers precious little explanation and backstory.
The Silver Surfer and Warlock watch the carnage from afar. While the Silver Surfer desires to join his comrades in battle, the Warlock holds him back with the promise that his part of the battle is yet to come. Eternity and their other cosmic allies desire to enter the battle, but Warlock holds them in reserve. Silver Surfer is shocked and challenges Warlock’s decision. In response, Warlock says that Eternity is just another piece on the game board. Silver Surfer’s shock turns into disgust, and he challenges Warlock again. This time says, that if Warlock allows this to become any more than a game, he couldn’t go on. Warlock’s motives are now an open issue. Does he really care about the fate of the galaxy? Is this simply another contest between him and Thanos? What is Warlock’s ultimate objective in all of this? One must wonder if Thanos might have been defeated earlier if the cosmic members of Warlock’s army were permitted to attack a somewhat underpowered Thanos.
Warlock’s kept his ultimate strategy from everyone. He kept a careful eye on the battle between the heroes and Thanos, and just when Thanos moved to strike down Captain America, he sent Silver Surfer into the battle. The goal was for the Silver Surfer to race across the galaxy and pull the Infinity Gauntlet off Thanos’s fist as he went for the killing blow. Alas, Silver Surfer missed. Barely, but he missed. Thanos then dispatched Captain America and restored himself to full power. The issue concludes with Warlock summoning the comic champions to fight Thanos.
Concluding Thoughts on The Infinity Gauntlet #4
Unlike previous issues, which set up the conflict, The Infinity Gauntlet #4 is less about the creation of the epic myth and more about the conflict. Eros’s narration of events does contribute to the overall epic narrative of the series, but there are fewer epic elements added – other than the fight itself. Nebula garners a fair amount of attention in this issue. Considering that she is really just a husk of a person that cannot die, her role in this would have seem to have passed. Still, she observes the battle as it rages around her. The Watcher and Eros aren’t the only witnesses to this conflict.
The art, particularly the layout, is very well done in this issue. Close ups and action shots alternate to draw the reader into the action and enhance the drama where appropriate. In addition, many pages are well balanced with the number of panels. Jim Starlin, the writer, and George Perez, craft a number of dramatic sequences of panels where the action progresses slowly and the focus tightens on the subject. For instance, when Hulk attacks Thanos, three successive panels frame Hulks head, then his eyes, and then a single eye before a dramatic pull back revealing Thanos having shrunk the Hulk. A similar sequence occurs later in the book when Eric Masterson reaches for Mjolnir just in time to prevent himself from dying in the void of space.
The Infinity Gauntlet #4 also left behind some storylines. Some of the heroes on Earth didn’t join the team that went to space. Also, Earth was last seen drifting out of its orbit around the sun. In addition, the Kree were last seen preparing for war with the Skrull. There are, however, two issues yet to resolve these stories.
Some of Earth’s mightiest heroes, and their allies, failed to stop Thanos. The Infinity Gauntlet #4 teases the next wave of combat in The Infinity Gauntlet #5. Warlock has adopted a game mentality for this confrontation. The question is: what is his next move?