This is D.C. back to throw down on a classic.
Marvel’s 1991 event, Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin and artists George Perez and Ron Lim chronicles the desperate attempt by Marvel’s last heroes to combat a newly-resurrected and omnipotent Thanos after he wipes out half of the universe’s inhabitants.
We see how Thanos’ desperation and ego take sadistic turns after he is brought back to life by Death (yes, the embodiment of Death) to establish her idea of balance between life and death.
Or, was it Thanos’ interpretation of what Death defined as balance?
However the case, true to Thanos’ nature, he uses his resurrection as a means to achieve godhood through the Infinity Gems.
Lesson of the day: The six Infinity Gems are imbued with overwhelming power that grants any one who holds a gem complete dominion of one fundamental aspect: space, reality, mind, soul, power, and time. Each infinity gem instinctively calls to one another, and each successive accumulation grants the user greater power. Having all six gems together in the Infinity Gauntlet gives the user unlimited power.
In Thanos’ case, path to omnipotence is assisted by the trickster Mephisto, whose own motivations were nebulous at best. On the opposition are the remaining heroes (and Dr. Doom), lead by a likewise-newly resurrected Adam Warlock. What happens is an epic battle of ants against an atomic bomb.
Infinity Gauntlet addresses some very basic questions: what would you do for love, for acknowledgement? How far would you take your efforts to be accepted by the one love of your life? The saddest part of Infinity Gauntlet is a recurring theme often seen among egomaniacs who obtain unlimited power: they defeat themselves with their own inadequacies. Thanos is no different. Untold power, and the best he could do is act like a lonely boy who is desperate for the love of an aloof woman.
I was particularly shocked when the primal cosmic abstracts convened to judge Thanos’ actions, and the Living Tribunal itself saw the Titan’s actions as just natural selection: that the strong overcome the weak. There is a sense of dread when you realize that the proverbial judge of the multiverse rules in favor of Thanos’ ascension.
When you’re fighting a murderous, insane, all-powerful god whose every will is reality, expect to lose. And expect to die badly. Marvel’s heroes do that in glorious and brutal fashion, if for no other reason than for Thanos to try to please the silent and cryptic Death once more.
And yet every attempt on Thanos’ part to appeal to Mistress Death fails. Why?
The one thing I was confused by was Mephisto’s role in this event. Why did the trickster manipulate Thanos so much to annihilate the universe? Why did he betray him later? Why was Thanos even listening to Mephisto in the first place? None of these were particularly clear, but with Mephisto…well, he’s a devil. His reasons could’ve been just for enjoyment and chaos.
Adam Warlock, for all his siding with the righteous, is more disturbing than Thanos himself. Warlock’s actions are manipulative and barely altruistic, yet he is also humble to those he willingly opens his soul to. As the reader, we never get to see the depths of Warlock’s soul like the Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange do–both of whom readily support Warlock’s efforts–but even that doesn’t quite erase the unease I feel about Adam. Nonetheless, it makes me feel unjustly judgmental.
As a classic, it is easy to read the dramatic writing and use of literary devices in a book like this. One particular note I found pleasing was that many characters that appeared shared their own thoughts of the apocalyptic events that occurred, including Thanos. We get a peek into the minds and feelings of many characters.
The ending to Infinity Crisis is just as dramatic and perhaps one of the most humbling endings in comics I’ve read. You get a look at just how does a God, an insane God, fall from grace, how Adam Warlock steals godhood from him, and most importantly, how the heroes view Warlock having the same level of power Thanos held. Is he was worthy as Thanos was unworthy? The follow-up series, Warlock and the Infinity Watch, covers just that.
I believe Infinity Gauntlet isn’t simply a battle against a mad Titan. It’s simply Thanos’ story. Even when others’ thoughts are highlighted, Thanos’ stands out with a varied, layered personality. He shows aspirations, insanity, rage, narcissism…stereotypical trademarks in villains. But Thanos also shows love, desperation, pain from neglect, apathy, and disgust, and an unusual amount of introspection and humility by the end of Infinity Gauntlet. To me, Thanos is both protagonist and antagonist.
Infinity Gauntlet is a must-read classic for any fan. The story captures not only the plight of heroes, but the plight of the villain. Thanos is the man you understand and see that he is not only a murderous Titan with an obsession with death and Death, but that he has very human flaws and very human emotions. It is satisfying to see that even a monster of Thanos’ caliber can quickly go from narcissistic nihilist to humbled man.