Infinity Gauntlet #4
Issue(s): Infinity Gauntlet #4
Most of the issue still looks good, but sometimes there is a bit of wonkiness, like with Namor on the opening page.
Also: "Earth's" mightiest heroes? I get the need for brevity, but that's not an accurate way to describe Firelord. Starfox, who is narrating, should know better.
Anyway, this is the issue where "Earth's" heroes crash into Thanos and, for the most part, die.
It really shouldn't have been a battle at all, and nearly wasn't. As soon as the heroes arrive, Thanos freezes them in time. But Thanos is mad, and Mephisto is crafty. So instead of Thanos just wiping everyone out, including Adam Warlock and the Silver Surfer, who are waiting in the distance, Mephisto convinces him to stay his hand.
Mephisto convinces Thanos to limit his power, and put on a fight with the heroes in order to impress Death.
Starfox realizes that Mephisto is subtly playing on the confusion that Thanos is experiencing as a mortal who has suddenly been elevated to godhood.
This is one of the themes of the book that has been mentioned before. We saw Mephisto thinking along these lines in Infinity Gauntlet #1, and this sort of limited thinking was exactly what Mephisto promised Thanos that he would teach him to move beyond in Silver Surfer #45. Looking back at that now, Mephisto was probably actually testing Thanos to see how easy it would be to do exactly what he is doing here. It's also worth noting that in Thanos Quest, Thanos mocked the Elders of the Universe and Adam Warlock for being so limited in their thinking with the use of their Infinity Gems, but what he's doing here is even worse. He should know that Death will be unimpressed by Thanos fighting a bunch of mortal super-heroes. At best, she's only impressed by things that further her own goals. At worst, Thanos will come across looking like a child not worthy of the omnipotent power that he's acquired. Which is, again, the point.
So Thanos unfreezes the heroes and lets them fight him. Watch the narration panels as the fight goes on, with references to Thanos' befuddled reason and reeling mind.
Thanos hasn't actually reduced his power, per se, so much as he closes his mind off to the omniscience that the gems also grant him. So he's still able to shrink the Hulk (leading to the Hulk's next tie-in book) and easily dispatch the other heroes.
Dr. Doom complicates the fight by trying to take the Infinity Gauntlet for himself. Thanos blasts him away. So not only is Doom ineffective, but he probably also puts Thanos on the alert for someone trying to grab his Gauntlet later.
Here comes Wolverine's attack. After Adam Warlock's talk with Wolverine and the Hulk last issue, you might expect a sneak attack, but Wolverine makes a frontal assault, which is obviously laughable to Thanos.
The fight starts to go bad, with heroes actually dying.
Cloak is unable to hold Thanos in the Dark Dimension.
At least Spider-Man gets a good kick in.
While the fight is going on, Starfox observes Nebula. He is dismissive and pitying, but she will turn out to be more important than anyone (consciously) realizes.
Drax and Firelord are thrown back in time. Iron Man is seemingly beheaded.
Thor is crystallized and shattered.
Quasar's hands are amputated.
Thanos doesn't talk like he already met Quasar in Quasar #26, but there's no direct contradiction.
Eventually it is down to just Captain America.
But Cap's fight, and indeed the entire fight, was really just a distraction set up by Adam Warlock, much to the consternation of the Silver Surfer. As mentioned last issue, they are all just canon fodder. Warlock sends the Surfer in to grab Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet while he's fighting Cap. But the Surfer misses.
However, the near misses makes Thanos realize that he "must have been out of my mind", and he restores himself to full power, killing Cap with a backhand slap at the same time, and then clearing the battlefield of his "folly" by making all the heroes disappear.
But now it is time for the big guys to show up.
I suppose with the exception of Cyclops, it's not necessary to assume that the heroes are actually dead. The Vision has taken a lot of abuse and has been rebuilt. We don't actually see Iron Man's head. Thor's death is magical enough that one imagines that he could be put back together (and indeed that's what happens). The others either didn't actually die or are just shown laying lifelessly on the ground, and could just be unconscious. Captain America might even have been mistaken about Cyclops. So i suppose readers could have imagined that the heroes would be able to regroup and return to win the day. But that's not what happens. This issue is basically the big moment for Marvel's super-heroes, and it ends in their failure. A smaller group of heroes will return and stick around through the final part, but they are not key players. So if you are only looking at this series from a "how will the heroes get out of this one?" perspective, you are probably going to be disappointed. As seen through the second-stream commentary by Starfox, this series is really about Thanos; his foibles and his inability to get beyond his mortal mindset. The Marvel heroes get some good moments in this issue, some really memorable scenes, but those characters are not the important part of the plot. If you're only watching things from their perspective, then this series is just a glorified What If?, with all the attendant tropes: cities being destroyed, heroes dying, Captain America's shield shattering. And of course we've seen these kinds of things with previous all-powerful villains before, too, like Korvac and the Beyonder. What i think makes Infinity Gauntlet a different twist on those is that Korvac was a villain who became "enlightened" and was making a greater good argument, and the Beyonder was simply confused. Thanos is straight-up evil. But he's still "human" (or at least mortal), so we're getting a character study of a guy who has been elevated to godhood but can't handle it, in part just because no mortal can handle it, and in part because of his own flaws. It's consistent characterization for Thanos. Starlin has been working on these themes for this character since the 70s. But when Thanos had the cosmic cube, for example, it was Captain Marvel's cosmic awareness that defeated him. In this story, Thanos defeats himself. He nearly does so in this issue, and that's just the beginning.
In the meantime we get a cool fight. Hopefully Starfox's narration sets expectations for fans wanting more of the same for the next two issues, because that's not what we're going to be getting.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The results of the Hulk being shrunk are shown in Hulk #384. Dr. Strange will be collecting some of the heroes that get tossed away from this fight in Doctor Strange #34-35. The moments directly after the Silver Surfer's attempt to grab the Infinity Gauntlet are shown in Silver Surfer #57-58. And i should also mention again that Doctor Strange #33 and Silver Surfer #55-56 take place during the first few moments of this issue, but i've placed them before this entry.
Crossover: Infinity Gauntlet
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAdam Warlock, Captain America, Cloak, Cyclops, Death, Dr. Doom, Drax the Destroyer, Eternity, Firelord, Galactus, Hulk, Iron Man, Kronos, Lord Chaos, Master Hate, Master Order, Mephisto, Mistress Love, Nebula, Nova (Rich Rider), One Above All, Quasar, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Silver Surfer, Soul Gem, Spider-Man, Starfox, Stranger, Sub-Mariner, Thanos, Thunderstrike, Uatu the Watcher, Vision, Wolverine, Ziran
Almost everyone gets a moment to shine but I was surprised Thunderstrike was such a powerhouse. The five that surive or get rescued are pretty interesting choices but that comes back later. I like the brief She-Hulk and Namor team up for some reason.
Quasar and Nova were the two out of all these heroes that felt like supreme cannon fodder. Oh yeah and Hulk and Destroyer team up was great too. If only Ben Grimm was here too or any single one of the FF really.
Posted by: david banes | October 11, 2015 4:32 PM
That first scan looks quite a lot like Perez, at least when it comes to the composition.
As for the fight... I still don't understand why, even with his omniscience turned off, doesn't just destroy the heroes with one mental attack of something. He should be able to do that...
Posted by: Piotr W | October 11, 2015 5:00 PM
Even if Thor's "death" is maybe magical, it looks pretty conclusive to me. He's turned to glass and shatters to million pieces. But when the heroes return later in the story to fight Nebula, Thor is there with no explanation. All the other heroes who "die" in this issue stay dead until the reset button is pushed, so it feels like Thor's reappearance is a mistake, and either Starlin or Lim forgot he died here.
It's worth noting that without Mephisto's manipulation, Warlock's plan would've failed right from the start. So either Warlock is stupid, or he was somehow able to predict exactly what Mephisto would do, which seems unlikely.
Posted by: Tuomas | October 11, 2015 5:13 PM
Starlin sure loved to kill other people's characters. Notice his creation Drax is one of the few who doesn't get a brutal execution.
Posted by: Bob | October 11, 2015 5:17 PM
Yeah Thor coming back is hard to believe.
Posted by: david banes | October 11, 2015 5:21 PM
Even though there used as cannon fodder, you'd think the heroes would have at least had some kind of strategy, rather than just everyone attacking Thanos in ones or twos.
After one of Hulk or Thor's hits, they could have had Strange attempt to conjure a portal behind Thanos into a universe where the gems don't work...or something.
And, other than Doom, no one actually tries to snatch the Gauntlet.
It just seems very un-Cap to charge blindly into slaughter.
Also, Mephisto seems to be all over the map. On the one hand, he helps the heroes by persuading Thanos. On the other, he makes it a point to turn Thanos' attention to Warlock and Surfer.
In any case, it's a pretty unforgettable issue, and the minor gripes don't take away from the mother of all slugfests.
Posted by: Bob | October 11, 2015 5:38 PM
Having played the Infinity Gauntlet-inspired Marvel Super Heroes games before reading the issues, I was kind of expecting a big cool fight between the heroes and Thanos. Seeing them get slaughtered like this made me feel an intense sense of revulsion. Not that that's a criticism of the story; it's one of the elements that makes it more memorable than its sequels.
Speaking of, Dr. Doom's relative impotence here has been mentioned, but I think he makes up for it in Infinity War.
Posted by: Mortificator | October 11, 2015 6:21 PM
Regarding Warlock, I would argue that he was stupid because if he knew what Mephisto would be doing then as soon as Thanos "depowered" he would have ordered the big guys to go in but instead he told them rudely to hold back.
Posted by: Grom | October 11, 2015 6:32 PM
When I read the issue, I assumed that the deaths and mutillations were all legit, yet reset later on.
As noted by David above, Nova at the very least had a very definitive death.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 11, 2015 10:32 PM
Thor was restored by Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange #35.
Posted by: Steven | October 11, 2015 11:51 PM
And while i can see that people that didn't read the Dr. Strange issues feel like Thor's reappearance was a mistake, i don't think it was. Considering how clunky the handoffs were between the main book and the tie-ins, the fact that the Dr. Strange issues address the return of Thor, Drax, Firelord, and others makes it clear that it was planned in advance. And the same with the Hulk's shrinking in Hulk #383. The story here takes care to put each of those characters in a status quo that the tie-in books can address, so it must have been coordinated. I can see that maybe a little more exposition (or, god forbid, a footnote!) should have been included in IG #5 so that it was clearer to readers not following the tie-ins.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 12, 2015 7:52 AM
Am I the only person that didn't get the Hulk was shrunk when he read this issue? I thought Thanos was growing larger because the art didn't make it clear and didn't realize he was shrunk.
Posted by: Michael | October 12, 2015 4:35 PM
When I read this independent from tie-ins, I never saw Hulk as being shrunk and instead it was Thanos growing bigger (somewhat supported by Vision flying behind Thanos and being smaller than Thanos too).
I thought the Peter David Hulk tie-in was a incredible misreading of the scene. And another excuse for PAD to do something "wacky" and "offbeat" again with the Hulk (and probably blame it on crossovers).
I don't know, though, it's certainly not made clear in the issue and the perspective on that panel isn't particularly enlightening.
Posted by: Scott | December 4, 2015 1:21 PM
Look at how big the floor tiles suddenly became compared to Hulk. He definitely was shrunk.
Posted by: Mortificator | December 4, 2015 2:11 PM
I also thought Thanos made himself giant sized on the first read since that's something he easily could do. So I wondered why Hulk just disappeared like that.
Posted by: david banes | December 11, 2015 11:33 PM
Oddly, all the panels with Starfox look like Perez to me, especially the first one. Everything else looks like Lim.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 9, 2016 8:45 AM
That's because they ARE Perez. Lim took over with page of Thanos hovering over the Hulk. I believe that the page with Hulk and Drax punching Thanos was the last page that Perez contributed to IG....but I don't have the issue in front of me to verify. Fnord12 has his image posts in the proper order with respect to artist...everything on this page is Perez up until the Lim page I mentioned above, and then the rest is Lim.
For shorthand, Perez drew Thanos with more of a trapezoid head (wider jaw than the top of his head), whereas Lim drew his face with more normal proportions.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | January 9, 2016 1:54 PM
Slight correction - the first 2 panels of Starfox looking up at Nebula is Perez also. The other Nebula panels (including the profile shot of Starfox) is Lim. So those 2 Perez panels are posted out of order by Fnord12 after all (understandably so, since he was focusing on Nebula, who appeared during beginning Perez section, then later in Lim's section.
And to be clear, Lim was the sole penciller for his pages, no breakdowns from Perez from what I can see. Perez did continue to ink Lim's remaining covers, though.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | January 9, 2016 2:44 PM
George Perez on why he left...
So Tom DeFalco did what was absolutely his right and duty to do as editor and called Ron Lim in to fill in on the last half of issue #4. He told me at a convention, and I said "I think you should have Ron finish the series." I know that with the way I was feeling, I'd just go back and cause the same problem all over again. I always felt that Ron Lim should have been the one to draw Infinity Gauntlet anyway; he drew all the Silver SUrfer issues that led up to it. But to show that I respected Tom DeFalco's decision and had no animosity towards Tom or Marvel, I offered to ink the covers over Ron. I didn't think it was right for me to insist on still penciling the covers. Also by inking Ron's covers it showed the readers that I was cooperating and showing my support after leaving the book; if I had penciled the covers, they might have assumed they'd already been done ahead of time.[...]
Posted by: AF | February 28, 2018 4:47 AM
[...] "In hindsight, when I saw the royalties that came in on the first issues, it wasn't exactly the smartest move. My petulant behaviour probably cost me tens of thousands of dollars. But I knew that I couldn't stay on it. All I had were characters in outer space, which meant no getting my jollies by putting in extra characters. And it seemed that Thanos was just talking to the heroes, knocking them back, talking, they come back, he knows them back, he talks some more - it seemed really, really padded."
Posted by: AF | February 28, 2018 4:47 AM
Apparently Doom holds so little importance in this issue that his demise is not even shown. He last appears in the background of one of the panels and his further fate is up to imagination.
Posted by: LCVS | May 4, 2018 11:08 PM
Or his demise isn't shown because, like Hulk, Starlin intended to use him next issue.
Posted by: AF | May 5, 2018 3:16 AM
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