Written by: Jim Starlin
Drawn by: George Perez
Published by Marvel Comics
As a rule, I really don’t like crossovers. They’re messy, over-crowded affairs where heroes act out of character to fit the story, and their endings tend to be unsatisfying piles of continuity. Event full of sound and fury where “everything changes” but at the end of the story, everything is pretty much back where they were. Oh, she might be in a different costume and he might have been replaced with his sidekick, who looks the same except for the cybernetic arm. The status quo remains king.
And then there’s “The Infinity Gauntlet.” This is the one that got it right. It’s a threat that is based off of years of continuity, but clear enough that one doesn’t need to invest a college savings in back issues to know who’s who. It’s a threat that is credible, active, and present, not only for the heroes, but for the entire fictional universe. A threat that is credible enough to not only bring the Marvel Universe together, but also put their backs against the wall.
It also manages to balance character study and knock-down, drag-out, cosmic-level fighting. In the first issue, Thanos, elevated to genuine omnipotence thanks to the eponymous gauntlet, snuffs out half the life in the universe. He does this because it turns out that he’d like to hook up with the Universe’s personification of Death. Death is, naturally, a hot lady, because Comics. Unfortunately, all of his god-like power fails to catch her eye. Having gained unmatched power, and being unable to effectively use it is the core of Thanos’s character, and it is an interesting contrast to the surviving heroes and villains, who are left with the task of fighting a hopeless battle against the Mad Titan.
The climax of the series is a fight where he faces of and wins against first every hero in the Marvel Universe, and then the super powerful Cosmic Forces. It gets a bit metaphysical, but the thread of the story never gets lost, and Perez’s expressionistic art captures it all perfectly.
The Infinity Gauntlet isn’t just a cheap cash in. It is the basis for twenty years of comics storytelling, and possibly the endgame Marvel’s cinematic universe is heading towards. Even if you have no interest in those things, it is the Platonic Ideal of a Marvel comic. A story of superhuman power filtered by the lens of the most human emotions.
The Infinity Gauntlet is available from Comixology, Amazon, or Your Local Comics Shop.