Tripwire’s contributing writer Laurence Boyce casts his eye over Marvel Selection: Infinity Gauntlet…
Marvel Select Edition: Infinity Gauntlet
Writer: Jim Starlin
Pencilers: George Pérez and Ron Lim
Inks: Josef Rubenstein
Published by Marvel
Thanks to its adaptation into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Infinity Gauntlet is now perhaps the most well-known Marvel storylines of all time. One of the earliest ‘Massive Crossover’ events that have now become de rigueur for the comic book industry, it’s unsurprising why it became ripe for adaptation on the big screen. There’s a sense of the epic, the grandiose – sometimes to the point of the absurd – all taking in a large cast of Marvel characters. But for all its bombast, there is also room for reflection and subtlety as the end of all creation as we know it is tempered by the foibles of love and self-loathing.
After crashing into Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Santorum, The Silver Surfer warns of the oncoming onslaught of Thanos. The mad titan – resurrected from his previous demise by Mistress Death – has gathered the Infinity Stones and placed them in the titular Gauntet, giving him the power of time, space and all creation. Adam Warlock – also thought to be previously dead – returns and with Strange, Surfer and others sets about planning on how to defeat Thanos.
But the unthinkable happens – he wipes out half of the sentient life in the Universe with a click of his finger while other acts threaten to destroy the universe. With a team of superheroes left in existence – alongside a phalanx of elder gods and celestials – Warlock heads into a battle that seems impossible to win.
Those used to the Marvel films will recognise some of what if on offer here with a few moments being copied verbatim for the big screen. But they’ll also notice how many of the beats differ in Starlin’s story with a constant juxtaposition between the sheer breathless scale of the stakes on offer and the small, personal moments which turn out to have massive import. These include the actual reasons for Thanos’ reign of terror. Alongside a thirst for dominance and respect, he is in love with Mistress Death and is angered that she is spurning his affection. Basically, the destruction of half the universe occurs because Thanos want to impress someone he fancies. In lesser hands, this sheer absurdity would probably too ridiculous to take seriously. But Starlin manages to utilise these moments of character weakness to their hilt. They point at the hubris at the centre of despots such as Thanos, the pettiness and fear that lies at the heart of the bluff and bluster. For all his abominable actions, Thanos remains an oddly sympathetic character and it is his emotional journey – and an exploration of the limits of power, responsibility and morality – that becomes key to much of the story.
Certainly the very nature of the story means that very few characters get much of a chance to shine as Starlin throws everyone (at least the half that survive) into the mix. Spider-Men, Wolverine, Thor, Captain America, Doctor Doom, Quasar are just a few of our heroes who form the army to battle Thanos. Much of the middle of the story is dedicated to an all-out war between various characters which provide not only some visceral thrills but also a sense of the insurmountable odds that are faced by our reliable heroes. Indeed, there’s a certain amount of glee in being able to stage such an epic battle and George Pérez and Ron Lim indulge in a some bold artwork as various characters are offed in a variety of reality-altering ways.
A narrative shift near the final of the third of the story is well handled, with allegiances and motivations changing. Once again, this juxtaposes the usual histrionics of comic book motivations and narrative with more down to earth musings. While the final conclusion is never in much doubt the way in which we get there does feel giddily satisfying and the final coda is wonderfully low key.
This ‘Marvel Select Edition’ (a collection of pivotal Marvel stories) is a bare bones collection with Issues 1-6 of the mini-series collected and not much else. Those wanting some insight into the creation of the story or more material (such as some of the stories that led up to the series) then this might be lacking. But for those who have yet to add it to their collection and are not worried about ancillary material, then this is a must-have buy.
Infinity Gauntlet is published by Marvel and is priced at £24.99