The Small Lebowski:
Infinity Gauntlet #6
Issue(s): Infinity Gauntlet #6
So missing heroes are back to where they were. People missing mouths and hands are whole again.
And it seems that the degree to which people remember the events of the last 24 hours is variable, which should ease any continuity concerns. There still must have been events from the past 24 hours that do occur again anyway, possibly with some variation. For example, Clumsy Foulup remains assassinated, with Ael-dan and Dar-benn taking charge of the Kree empire (perhaps without the pretext of the disappearance of half the Kree). Epoch was still born. The Abomination must have still let Nadia go. On the other hand, the Rhino probably never did let any animals out of the zoo.
It's worth realizing that when Thanos had the Infinity Gauntlet, he was able to do whatever he wanted without much care. But Nebula treats this use of the Gauntlet as carefully as the phrasing of a genie wish, being careful to stipulate that she still gets to retain the Gauntlet despite everything else reverting. And as is usually the case with genie wishes, that isn't enough, because 24 hours ago she was a zombie.
But she was able to fix that the first time, so why not again?
It's also worth pointing out what Nebula observes, that Thanos wasted time gloating when he could have been grabbing the Gauntlet. Another sign that Thanos doesn't really want the Gauntlet.
What happens next is a little unclear to me. It looks like Adam Warlock (still invisible to Nebula) tries to grab the Gauntlet but fails, and Nebula reflexively emits a blast, hitting the Silver Surfer. Nebula doesn't seem to wonder what just happened and instead focuses on why Dr. Strange and the Surfer didn't revert back to their status of 24 hours ago. She attributes it (the lack of reversion, not the attempt to steal her Gauntlet) to Dr. Strange (and maybe that is what he was doing in the beginning).
Before that can be explored further, the cosmic entities return and attack Nebula.
In a change of tactics from when they fought Thanos, the entities hit Nebula all at once instead of attacking her in small groups.
Another interpretation of what happened in that sequence with Warlock above is that Warlock actually reached out to the Soul gem in the Gauntlet to bring both his and the Surfer's spirits back into the Soul World, because that's where they wind up.
Warlock opens himself up to the Surfer, showing him a psyche that is detached from morality and feeling. Which doesn't exactly make the Surfer feel warm and fuzzy.
But the Surfer still helps him. From inside the Soul Gem, with the Surfer as an anchor, Warlock expands and reaches out to the other five Infinity Gems.
At this point Nebula has defeated the cosmic entities, but Warlock causes her Gauntlet to jolt and fall off.
Thanos gets free of the construct Nebula was holding him in, and he goes for the Gauntlet. But Dr. Strange calls back a contingent of heroes, and it's a mad dash for the gems. Drax grabbing the Hulk is really funny.
In the end, it's Warlock who gets the Gauntlet.
Failing to get the Gauntlet back, Thanos avoids capture by claiming to have a nuclear device strapped to his person. So Thor uses his hammer to knock Thanos far away. Nebula is turned over to Starfox to be imprisoned and judged on Titan. And the Hulk and Drax are sent home (or "away". I'm not sure what Drax calls home.). For some reason Warlock keeps Thor around, along with Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer. But after telling them to tell the world that "Adam Warlock is a god who can be trusted", despite his plans to rule with a sense of "order", he sends them away too, replacing them with his old friends Gamora and Pip.
Despite the fact that in Infinity Gauntlet #3, Master Order and Lord Chaos said that Warlock was "outside the loop of destiny", he seems to be precisely in such a loop.
And with this, we get to the crux of the story, at least for Thanos. Warlock promised Thanos last issue that he would tell him the truth about his nature. But Thanos seems to have found it on his own. He's become a simple farmer.
The story of what Warlock has done to himself in order to take the Infinity Gauntlet without becoming the next Thanos (and the question of whether or not he's even succeeded in doing that) will be explored in future issues, starting with Doctor Strange #36 (written by the Thomases but in consultation with Starlin) and then in future issues by Starlin. Indeed, this series leads to a sub-franchise within the Marvel universe, spawning two sequels (Infinity War and Infinity Crusade) as well as an ongoing series (Warlock and the Infinity Watch) and another mini-series (Warlock Chronicles). Thanks to these books, the profile of "cosmic" comics is increased, resulting in additional series as well, including, eventually, a title literally called Cosmic Powers. So as to Adam Warlock, that story is really just beginning, with the changes here being more set-up than conclusion.
As for Thanos, though, even though he also returns for those other books, this is a turning point for him (at least as long as Starlin writes him). What we have in Infinity Gauntlet is the story of a stockbroker or a politician or someone in a high powered profession that continues to amass wealth and influence, thinking it will make them happy, but always failing to find that happiness. As an observer looking in, it's obvious. But the person seeking the power is blind to it. However, subconsciously they make "mistakes" that will cause them to lose their power, and they eventually do. When the power is gone, they find that they are happier with a simple non-materialistic life. It's actually a pretty basic story, but that's what it is at the core.
It's arguably too simple, compared to the more complex and symbolic Starlin books of the 70s. And the middle chapters of this story are arguably too stretched out, with a focus on the heroes and their struggle against Thanos, which is destined to be inconsequential and thus disappointing to some readers. But at least in terms of Thanos' character arc, the simplicity allows Starlin clarity that wasn't necessarily there in the earlier stories, and, anyway, this story builds off of those. The previous stories implied that Thanos was sowing the seeds of his own defeat, but did not explore that. This one sees it through to conclusion.
To be clear, this isn't some great Vertigo style literary event. If you don't love Infinity Gauntlet, it's not because You Aren't Getting It. But in my opinion, focusing on Thanos' character makes this more than "just" an epic slugfest full of awesome fight scenes and other cool moments.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: Hulk #385 seems to take place during this issue. Hulk is on Earth when Nebula restores the missing half of humanity. There is a lag, though. The Hulk seems to return to Earth in the 24 hour reset as shown in one of the scans below. But in Hulk #385, he has time to deal with a crisis on Earth before the rest of humanity is restored. It's possible Hulk got sent back to Earth after his preliminary suicide mission attack on Nebula at the end of last issue. In any event, he returns to the Death monument towards the end of this issue for the final confrontation with Nebula. Doctor Strange #36 is an official epilogue to this issue. Silver Surfer #60 also begins in the aftermath. And i'll be placing Sleepwalker #7, which spans the entire event (or at least up until Nebula restores everyone), after this issue.
Crossover: Infinity Gauntlet
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (16): show
I generally loathe cosmic stories but as is the case with most people this story was certainly an exception.
I think that's in no small part to Lim and Perez's clean and ubiquitous style. It allows for the more esoteric parts of the story to still be approachable by the common fan.
I also think Issue 4 is almost certainly the one most everyone thinks back to and why the series is remembered so fondly. At the end of the day people just like to see superheroes beat the shit out of each other (see Civil War being the highest selling comic of the Quesada era). That the heroes lose and presumably die evoking a sense of futility evokes the Empire Strikes Back feel.
I wonder what Starlin thinks of Jason Aaron's Thanos Rising... You'd have to think he's pissed someone else wrote his pet character's origin story.
Posted by: JC | October 12, 2015 2:20 PM
Whatever Starlin means to say about Warlock here is far less than clear.
I realize that he had to leave something to be explored in the next few years of Warlock stories, but this talk about Warlock purposefully making himself amoral comes entirely out of the left field. Is Warlock quite so immature or self-fearing as to see a point to that?
Similarly, it is just not conceivable that he would expect Thor, Surfer and Strange to trust him to be worth of unlimited power. And then that talk about a "benign, random, unfocused reign of tyranny before Thanos"... that just makes no sense at all, except perhaps as an attempt at establishing that a Creator God exists in the Marvel Universe and is trustworthy just because.
Maybe Infinity Gauntlet was to some degree a cathartic effort from Starlin? A testimonial of faith in God's wisdom? It is said that the Death of Captain Marvel Graphic Novel was something of a personal work for him, helping to deal with the loss of his father. Maybe this is in some sense a follow-up?
I honestly don't think the series works in that sense, although I assume Starlin meant it to be the main point.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 12, 2015 3:12 PM
I think this ending is as good as Thanos ever got, at least until the "Avengers" movies. Just look at "JLA/Avengers" where Darkseid is wearing the gauntlet, and Hawkeye practically sh*ts himself in fright. That's villainy. Thanos, not so much.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 12, 2015 3:13 PM
@Luis, i took the "benign, random, unfocused reign" to be a reference to Eternity, who it was shown was supplanted by Thanos when he fully ascended due to the Infinity Gauntlet. But more generally i believe that he meant the random natural order of the universe, which is what Eternity by necessity represents. If it's the word "benign" that makes you think Starlin is referring to a benevolent God, i believe that he means benign like a tumor can be. Not cancerous, but not necessarily good. Just... there.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 12, 2015 3:27 PM
One thing never made sense to me about this issue- how was Warlock able to make himself invisible to the omniscient Nebula? The only explanation we get is Surfer and Strange thinking "he stands outside the realms of Chaos and Order." Is that supposed to be a reference to the Magus mess? Starlin stands outside the realms of a comprehensible scripter.
Posted by: Michael | October 12, 2015 4:59 PM
@Michael: In reference to Eric/Thor, they mentioned in an INFINITY WATCH lettercol they would be addressing that. Not sure if they ever did.
The whole "having the Infinity Gauntlet makes you aware of all future events and traps you into going along with them" thing really annoys me. Starlin does this again many years later in THANOS ANNUAL #1 and it bugs me there too. What's the point of being God, then?
Posted by: Thanos6 | October 12, 2015 5:36 PM
fnord, I just realized something. Nebula makes the wish to restore things as they were 24 hours ago, but in Quasar 26-27, you say the events took place over a three day period, after the original halving the population wish was made. Hmm.
Posted by: Thanos6 | October 12, 2015 5:40 PM
@Fnord: I'm not sure Eternity has ever shown enough volition of its own to qualify as a "tyrant", or even as a potential tyrant.
Nebula's failure to perceive Warlock's presence really comes out of the left field. Warlock has a physical body (he got it in IG #1) and has been shown to interact with Wolverine, Hulk and Her, at the very least. Claims that he "is outside the realms of Chaos and Order" are no explanation at all.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 12, 2015 5:45 PM
I was okay with Warlock being invisible. He lived in the Soul Gem for a long time, and all these cosmic guys say he's special, plus Nebula is very new to godhood...I'm fine with an explanation that, if he wants to be imperceptible, she could only have seen him if she was looking for him.
Posted by: Andrew F | October 12, 2015 7:01 PM
It helps if one assumes (and keeps reminding oneself) that it takes time to adapt to the infinite ways one can utilise the gauntlet. As well as learning time, the gauntlet is limited by the intellect of the bearer. The smarter the bearer the better in terms of using each gems powers (noting the reality gem is the most challenging to use - Infinity War reference).
Posted by: Grom | October 12, 2015 8:25 PM
Speaking of things cumming around on themselves, it's funny to think that had he really wanted to Doc Strange could've possessed the Gauntlet and attained godhood.
And nao hear we are 24 years later and again we have a major Marvel event book out and yet again Strange surrenders godhood, to a villain no less.
Posted by: JC | October 13, 2015 2:12 AM
I loved this event. It represents the peak of my early comic book collecting. I think Marvel went downhill from here. The mutants took over the company and all non-mutant properties except Spider-Man were left to neglect.
Posted by: Steven | October 13, 2015 9:39 AM
Ignoring Starlin's favoritism of his own characters and ones he just has a shining to in the first place (the Hulk for one), this really does feel like a coda of the "classic era" of Marvel. It's placement with the rise of the "random books for any character" thanks to the speculator boom and prior to X-Men #1 and X-Force #1 (let alone the messes that the F4 and Avengers become, not to mention Spider-Man) show this as a bit of a last hurrah for this universe and many of the elemnts that will be neglected or ignored prior to the messes that occur. We've got a long, hard road from here to at least Onslaught. (I say there cause once we get to Heroes Reborn, at least that means the Thunderbolts are going to emerge...even with the things in the Franklinverse occurring)
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 13, 2015 9:51 AM
Ataru that 90's era of speculator booms, artists taking the story reigns, and event comics with no real point other than to sell comics can be attributed in no small part to soon to be EIC Bob Harris.
Firing writers like Claremont and Simonson, devolving characters so they're less nuanced and moar toy friendly, edicting numerous variant covers. That's all on Harris.
Posted by: JC | October 14, 2015 1:24 AM
Bob Harras was following directives from the owners higher up the chain. The owners were not comics people. They just wanted sales and pushed for more titles to be released and for the Image crew to be happy.
Posted by: Grom | October 14, 2015 5:20 AM
Eh, I mostly just make jokes about the status of the comic world in general at times. I'm just commenting that with the crazy things that were about to come, this feels a bit like a last hurrah...but it was already falling apart at this point and only getting worse with the further pushing of proto-Image and things like DeFalco's FF run coming up.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 14, 2015 8:33 AM
"The mutants took over the company and all non-mutant properties except Spider-Man were left to neglect."
And I'm not so sure about Spider-Man; if anything he got something worse than neglect...
"They just wanted sales and pushed for more titles to be released and for the Image crew to be happy."
And considering why you call them "the Image crew", they did not really succeed at all on the last point... though that assumes they ever really had a chance to.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 15, 2015 3:28 PM
Retrospectively hilarious pair of panels there where we are told to "Behold the new day dawning" in the first one and the next one has Spidey returning to Mary Jane.
Posted by: Teemu | October 21, 2015 10:09 AM
I haven't read a whole lot of 90's at Marvel, but I must say this - I was never much interested in cosmic comics before IG and I loved X-Men and Avengers and liked FF and Spider-Man. But over the next several years, it is the cosmic comics that are done at a much higher standard than those main four and that's the tragedy of 90's Marvel.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 13, 2016 7:19 AM
As a long time fan of Thanos and Marvel's space characters, i congratulate with you for doing this website. But i have to say that the articles on Thanos would have been better if you explained the major differences between Darkseid and Thanos(anyone who dismiss Thanos as a Darkseid wannabe has clearly never read a Jim Starlin story). The reason why i think nobody at Marvel understands the character of Thanos except for his creator Starlin(although Ron Marz, Keith Giffen and Dan Abnett had a pretty good voice for the character) its because Thanos was supposed to have stopped being a genocidal villain with the ending of Infinity Gauntlet, but many other Writers regressed him back into that type of villain, while also making him less smart and more brutish.
Posted by: CaptainMar-Vell92 | July 12, 2017 9:19 AM
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