Turn Back the Pages is a biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.
You may have heard about a little movie called Avengers: Infinity War. Or maybe not. There hasn’t been much advertisement or hype for it. 😉
As we endure the tortuous wait for opening night, let’s talk about the comic it’s based on: The Infinity Gauntlet. (No, not Infinity War, ironically enough. That’s the sequel comic.) Having read bits and pieces of the storyline, I finally got the chance to read the entire graphic novel from start to finish, and it’s fascinating.
It’s also nothing like the movie is going to be.
Okay, so the basic premise is the same. Thanos collects the infinity stones gems, becomes all-powerful, and Earth’s heroes have to stop him before he destroys the universe. Sounds enough like the movie trailer, right? The big difference is the characters.
I love looking at how certain comic book characters rise and fall in popularity over the decades. You’ve got heroes like Spider-Man who are consistently a reader favorite no matter what year it is. Then you’ve got characters like Eric Masterson, who has the mantle of Thor in this book and later starred in his own series as Thunderstrike and who… Well, I don’t think he’s made an appearance in comics for years now. He’s basically become an obscure bit of trivia.
Or take Iron Man, who’s essentially the face of the Marvel Universe these days. You really have to hunt through the pages of The Infinity Gauntlet to find him. He has maybe two pages of dialogue and a few appearances in the main battle. This series came out in 1991, and if you had told a comic book fan then that Iron Man would be one of the biggest superheroes in the world someday, you’d probably get laughed at.
Then there’s Adam Warlock.
Ugh. This guy. I wouldn’t say I “hate” him, but I’m actively disinterested to the extreme. He hasn’t shown up in the movies yet, though he was alluded to in the post credits scene of Guardian of the Galaxy 2. (Remember those gold people?)
He doesn’t have much of a personality. It’s supposed to be impressive that he’s so detached from his emotions that he can make the hard decisions to sacrifice others in the fight against Thanos, but he just comes off as bland and boring to me. And he’s in this book SO MUCH.
He’s probably the main hero, with Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange playing major supporting roles. But this is most definitely an ensemble book, with tons and tons of characters making appearances or at least getting a mention. You’ve got She-Hulk, Cyclops, Namor, Wolverine, Dr. Doom… Noticing a trend here? Yeah, I doubt they’ll be in the movie.
But you’ve got familiar faces like the Hulk, Vision, and the Scarlet Witch. Captain America has a bad-ass moment facing down Thanos alone, and Nebula plays an integral role.
Black Panther doesn’t show up, being one of Thanos’s victims when he kills half the universe with a snap of his fingers, and the same thing happens to Gamora and Wong, though at least they get a few lines first. Judging by the trailer, things should shake down differently in the movie.
The End of the World
The cast is so huge and the stakes so cosmically high (Earth’s orbit starts to deteriorate at one point, and that’s after half the population has been wiped out) that it could be easy to get lost in it all, but the story does a great job of taking pauses for quiet character moments.
There’s a moment when Black Widow, after saving a baby from a burning building, doesn’t make it in time to save the last person inside before it collapses, and the look of despair on her face afterward is heartbreaking. In another scene, Spider-Man reassures some other heroes that they can get through this, only for his thought bubble to reveal that he doubts he has enough power to make a difference. Little moments like these do a lot to humanize the heroes, even when they’re not human.
One of the big reasons to read The Infinity Gauntlet is to get a feel for Thanos, who has pretty much just sat in a chair and said a handful of lines so far in the movies. And friends, I’m here to tell you something about Thanos:
He’s the worst.
So the first thing you have to understanding is that Death is an anthropomorphic being in Marvel Comics. Like, she’s a skeleton in a robe (with boobs for some reason), and sometimes she ditches being a skeleton and looks like a regular pretty lady in robes. And Thanos is in love with her.
Or, at least, he thinks he is and loudly proclaims the fact.
Oh, he claims he tricked her, stole the infinity gems, and became all-powerful so he could become worthy of her, but it’s pretty clear he just did it to feed his ego. He makes these grand gestures like using his infinite power to create a giant space temple with huge statues of her all over as a gift, but he never puts much effort into finding out what she really wants and feels, just expecting her to be impressed by his power.
When she rejects him, he whines about how cruelly and unfairly she’s treating him, and at one point, he uses the gauntlet to create the perfect girlfriend for himself to make her jealous. That goes about as well for him as you’d expect.
You may have run across the human equivalent of Thanos in real life. He’s not exactly a villain I’m dying to see on the big screen, but I’m down to watch him get punched, I guess.
The Movie Versus the Book
The state of Marvel Comics in 1991 is very different from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2018, so we can’t expect the movie to be the same as the book. The Infinity Gauntlet stands well on its own, though. It’s an epic story with huge stakes and some really iconic moments. You can read it to search for clues to the plot of the upcoming movie, or you can read it to appreciate the history of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Or just read it because it’s a good story.
Grab the book at your local library (if it doesn’t have a month-long wait list) or buy a copy of your own.
What are you most looking forward to in Avengers: Infinity War? Share your thoughts in the comments.