Tag Archives: The Infinity Gauntlet

Secret Wars, by Jonathan Hickman

What would you do with omnipotence? What would you do if the universe had collapsed around you, everyone and everything had died, and you were now the omnipotent being who could put something back together again?

That’s the question in the final collection of issues in Jonathan Hickman’s lengthy story of Avengers, Illuminati, alien doomsdays, and multiversal collapse. (Finally, the end! See all previous posts by searching for Jonathan Hickman or other tags to this post.)

At the end of Time Runs Out, the Illuminati team run out of options and devised a lifeboat that they hoped would save enough people to restart the human race, if that chance ever presented itself because they weren’t equipped to recreate anything. The man who was equipped for the task was the Fantastic Four’s arch-rival Victor von Doom. You could say he was in the right place at the right time.

With the help of Doctor Strange and The Molecule Man (who were with him at the aforementioned right time), he pulled together as many fragments of the multiverse as he could or wanted to into a small, planetary reality lamely called Battleworld. What I read in this Secret Wars collection is the metanarrative that holds many other stories together. I had thought to say the world wasn’t filled with battle and you could hardly call what happens her a secret war, much less wars, but I didn’t read the many other issues tied to this this set. Who knows what madness ran around in its diapers over there?

But here Doom, having reconstructed bits and pieces of Earth and the known universe, reigns as a god. He seems to have gotten everything he’s always wanted–worship, unbridled power, and Susan Richards, his enemy’s wife. But after a few years, scientists discover a lifeboat ship and Thanos and his crew are onboard.

The story works, and I’m glad it’s over. The only unsatisfying part of the conclusion for me is the complete avoidance of the rebirth and reconciliation of Captain America and Iron Man. Since so much time was spent on them in the third act, I thought Hickman was bring them into the fourth act. But the story shifted to the Fantastic Four characters, which was compelling on its own, and the inclusion of two Spidermen added a nice spice.

Infinite Avengers by Hickman and Yu

“I rescue the helpless. I raise up the hopeless.
“I don’t measure people’s lives. . . I save them.”

In this set of issues we reach the pivot point for the whole Infinity-Everything Dies series. The cover intends to remind readers of a scene I didn’t mention in my post New Avengers: Everything Dies, because a guy doesn’t want to give a whole story away. But I guess we have to go there now.

Captain America was one of the Illuminati faced with saving Earth from incursions from alternate Earths in other universes (see first post for more). He suggested using the Infinity Gauntlet, and when that didn’t work, he argued against considering necessarily evil options. “I know you,” he said. “You’ll create a doomsday weapon on the possibility of needing it, and then, one by one, you’ll talk yourselves into using it.”

At the other members’ consent, Dr. Strange wiped his memory and sent him away.

The timeline of these issues falls at the end of the middle of the fourth set of New Avengers issues, A Perfect World. There we see Tony Stark working with bruises and a bandaged nose. He tries to roll it off as wounds from the crisis they have just been through, but the truth is Hawkeye pummeled him for getting the everyone into this cosmic mess. That fight occurred as a result of Cap remembering everything he had been encouraged to forget and accusing Stark of working with Reed Richards and the others to destroy parallel Earths in order to save ours.

And they hash it out with their fists. Boy! These supers can’t resist flexing on each other. “You know I’m right! Look at my muscles!” I guess they know the fans are watching. It isn’t any better than the argument clichés that were used here and in other issues that escalate the tension without following an argument.

But maybe that flows with the sci-fi philosophical reasoning or leaping that abounds in this story. In the midst of Avengers flexing on Iron Man, the Time Gem reappears in Cap’s hand, and in blazing light they jump forward in time to meet new, future Avengers. They start talking about timelines, traveling between space and time, time as an organism not a measurable concept — it can make you ask questions. And everyone else seems to know all about it, but hey, this is just a comic book. You need to be moving on. [Flash!]

Now that I’m writing about it, I remember that I usually dislike stories with narrating characters who calmly explain what that freak of nature actually is and why it happened to you and maybe something about purpose; if they mention a prophecy, I’m out. It’s ugly, unnatural exposition. Am I reading or watching the annotated edition of this story? But with all of the exposition in these issues, I didn’t mind it. I wanted an explanation.

Pretty sure I didn’t get one.

What Cap gets is moral clarity of a sort. He remembers who he is now, and he’s going to take his righteous standard back to that shadowy group who think they can act alone.

New Avengers: Other Worlds and A Perfect World

Jonathan Hickman put a poetic balance in his New Avengers: Illuminati tale of the end of universes. Several times we read Reed Richards saying, “Everything dies. You. Me. Everyone on this planet. . . . eventually the universe itself. This is simply how things are. It’s inevitable. And I accept it, but what I will not tolerate–what I find unacceptable–is the unnatural acceleration of that end.”

The select men who form the Illuminati fear they must do horrible things to avoid the death of their instance of Earth (explained in an earlier post). So far they’ve only had to destroy planets that were dead or dying. In Other Worlds, the Black Swan tells them of a device she calls a mirror that allows someone to see into realities or universes. Because in this type of sci-fi all you need is to conceive of a thing in order have a working device in the next few days, they build this device and begin scanning for incursion points on other Earths. In this way they see other societies with other heroes being invaded by the horrifically deadly agents they have only heard about: Mapmakers and Black Priests. In the second book, Infinity, they return to Black Swan after defeating Thanos, and she ridicules them. Why worry about a dog when you have a demon charging you? she asks, because what’s coming is irresistable death.

It’s never clear whether she is shooting straight with them, and as the weeks burn up they see potential threats that only make them fear the worst. In A Perfect World the worst comes in the least acceptable form. The next world incursion is not filled with abominations but with heroes who could be their superiors. Are they willing to destroy a good world to save their own this time?

In this other version of Earth, we read Dr. Richards’ dialogue with a different spin from a Superman-like figure called Zoran, the Sun God.

“Everything lives. It lives before it dies and we are judged by what we do during that time. Like a brilliant, life-giving star, we illuminate the universe, chasing away the shadows. We create life and then celebrate that creation.”

After reading Zoran’s hopeful words, I thought they may right every wrong, even if it took turning back the clock. But now I see this is only part of a much longer story. It probably won’t turn hopeful or patch certain holes in character arcs. Maybe the bottom line comes from one of the characters, who said these men were not heroes but kings. Kings have authority from birth and do not reason within normal human morality; they commit necessary evil to defend their people, and even though you may be able to argue that certain acts were not necessary, if the people are safe, then the actions were acceptable.

That’s more like embracing the shadows than chasing them away.

The New Avengers: Illuminati by Bendis, Reed, and Cheung

I put aside my reading of the New Avengers series to look at this collection of five issues called The New Avengers: Illuminati. I thought it was a prequel to the other series and it does begin that way, but somehow I got mixed up on publication dates. My library site has 2019, but these issues start in 2008 and may stretch to 2010-11, putting this book well before my current series.

But it begins as I expected. Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Tony Stark, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Charles Xavier, Stephen Strange, and Black Bolt have pulled together to tackle select work of a specialized nature in light of war between the Kree and Skrulls that spilled onto the Earth. Richards has called the meeting and tells them he has one (no, three) of the infinity gems. Oh, and a gauntlet. Understanding it would be super-dangerous for anyone to have all six gems, Richards suggests they are just the super-dangerous men to collect all six in order to keep them out of everyone else’s hands.

Of course, they collect the other three gems, and The Watcher shows up to say, “My job is to watch and record the universe’s defining events.” (I think he’s contractually obligated to say that.) And, Reed, I am so disappointed in you. He says no one should have all six gems, especially a human, so Reed distributes them to the team.

What could go wrong?

In the next issue, the deal with an entirely overpowered young man who just wants to have fun. Then they handle another young man who’s really, really mad at mankind. Finally they talk over the implications of someone they’ve found and realized their efforts to end a future Skrull invasion have kicked open a remodeled level of Hell.

When I said that reading comic books usually involves hopping into the middle of some kind of story arc, this is book has more open ends than a farmhouse in summertime. While it does set up the Secret Invasion series (which might have been nice to learn from the preface), as a whole this book is like watching five disconnected episodes in an evening marathon, the last of which is barely more than a cliffhanger scene.

Infinity by Hickman, Spencer, Latour, et al

Earlier I said I was missing parts of the story being framed up in Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers series, volume two, called Infinity. That missing part was something like the whole backside of a house. I feel as if I’ve read three Longest-Day-style war stories back to back, and I’m glad I didn’t borrow this collection of issues before reading Everything Dies. While that collection begins with a page telling part of a previously told story, those details introduced the opening scene neatly. Whenever you pick up a comic book that is not issue one, you should assume you’re stepping into the middle of a story at some point.

Infinity by Hickman, Spencer, Latour, and many illustrators begins at issue seven in the series I’ve been reading and issue fourteen in a separate series, so yeah, if I was inclined to be lost by characters I’ve never even heard scant rumor of, then I’d be lost like the shed key I thought I put in the drawer back in October and, I assume, has since been borrowed by the little people of the house.

There’s no way to summarize this book, but I can say its plot is instigated by the loss of the infinity gems I alluded to in the other post. When the gems were used, it appears at least three powerful beings, Thanos among them, noticed immediately. War is raging through the universe, and Thanos looks over Earth and sees an opportunity to accomplish one of his life ambitions–to kill his son.

The battles are legitimately marvelous, and Captain America shines as the man who sees the winning strategy when brute force has been beaten against the wall. But sometimes the more powerful characters appear to be holding back.

One young man, maybe fifteen years old, is known by many others as having great, cosmic power, but he doesn’t know it himself. So when he has to be coached into using his strength, there’s a sense to it; when other characters use their fists until they are almost struck down before ka-booom! they let loose their unique power, I’m left wondering why they didn’t do that to begin with.

I assume this book reflects Marvel’s mythological metanarrative accurately, but that narrative may not be neatly defined. There are plenty of cosmic beings, one of whom is a beautiful woman who apparently created everything. The great enemy that brings so many disparate empires and heroes together to oppose it claims to be agents of evolution, destroyers and creators as they deem appropriate. They note they were created by the universal mother and have since rejected her. At another time, as she lay unconscious, the heroes repeat the main refrain of these books, that everything dies–men, worlds, gods, and galaxies. We’re all just dust in the wind, I suppose.

So what’s the point of it all? asks a younger team member, an Australian named Eden. “How do you make sense of it? Fate? Faith?”

Continue reading Infinity by Hickman, Spencer, Latour, et al

New Avengers: Everything Dies and Infinity

I mentioned a few days ago that I was reading a series called New Avengers, and when I began considering what I could say that would be worth reading (a barrier to entry that you might say hasn’t stopped me before) I remembered some gaping plot points. A war is started and then shrugged off. A major cosmic villain appears and is suddenly neutralized behind the scenes. What am I missing?

I am missing another entire series that fills in the story. Why isn’t there a note at the end of one issue that the story continues in another series’, because when you finish issue 6 and pick up issue 7, you tend to expect the story to pick up with you.

Cover of New Avengers: Everything Dies by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting

I’m reading the 2014 New Avengers series by Jonathan Hickman, a four volume set. This is the first cover, showing Steve Epting’s excellent artwork. Each volume has a different lead illustrator; all of them impressive. In Everything Dies, seven heroes who aren’t necessarily Avengers, if that term means something, gather as the secret rulers of the known universe, the Illuminati (which is the only name that can be given to that sort of group, even if no one ever uses it).

They meet because Black Panther witnesses a woman, calling herself a black swan, jump to our planet from another one that hung perilously above. She then detonates the first one, and swoosh, all returns to normal. She claims there’s a natural order to the multiverse (infinite parallel universes, infinite parallel realities), and while everything will eventually die, something happened on an Earth in a universe somewhere that caused it to come to an untimely end. That weakened the walls between universes apparently, because it led to two universes touching each other at their point of Earth. As you’ve likely seen in the news, when two universes reject social distancing guidelines, they eliminate each other.

When universes are eliminated, it bothers people, particularly those who wear the same form-fitting suit to work everyday.

The other Earth that the black swan dropped from was an Earth in its own universe. Soon another one will appear in the sky, and if one of the two planets is not destroyed quickly, both universes will perish. The heroes begin work on an early warning system, hoping to give themselves eight hours to save one or both universes. And then someone remembers he has an old infinity gauntlet in his car trunk, and since they have all the infinity gems already, why not try using it?

Continue reading New Avengers: Everything Dies and Infinity

Source Material: Infinity Guantlet

By the magic of my community library’s digital loaning platform, I was able to borrow a comic book. Crazy wild, I know.

When I discovered I possessed this uncanny power, I sought out the source material for the recent Avengers extravaganza, the original telling of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. I didn’t like the movie’s storyline for its heavy reliance on a single argument and felt certain Hollywood had rejected perfectly good source material for its own twisted narrative. Surely the original was better; I mean, it’s the canon, right?

Not even Death realized what limitless might the mad titan was striving for. Through cunning, sheer strength, and murder, Thanos wrested the infinity gems from those that possessed them and with each acquisition he gained mastery over the soul, the mind, power, time, reality, space.

The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin and artists George Perez and Ron Lim starts on an interesting note. Unlike Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos starts the book with all the infinity gems. The story skips neatly over all the nobodies Thanos had to dispatch in order to obtain the six gems, which is fair. How could they have told engaging stories about unknown aliens guarding unknown powers? The threat to human and all sentient life builds nicely over the first two issues.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Thanos has just about infinite power with these gems and eliminates half of the sentient beings in the universe. The Avengers won’t roll over for that and neither will the Avenger-friends. That much is in the movies. In the comic books, The Silver Surfer rushes to Earth to tell Doctor Strange everything he knows, Strange receives word from a metaphysical being who is also in the know, and other heroes hear from their sources as well. In short, everyone soon knows who they oppose but not how they can oppose him.

Fault one with The Infinity Gauntlet: The Hulk doesn’t say, “There’s trouble brewing!”

Fault two comes in the big fight. Sure, someone must devise a clever plan. Sure, many heroes will be overwhelmed by this nigh omnipotent villain. Sure, many words will be spilled by B-string supers who speak of themselves in the third person and are supposed to be super-duper defenders except this time. All of this can be done well enough, but they tried to take it to the next level by bringing in a menagerie of gods to challenge the one with godlike power. And what do you think happens to them?

Continue reading Source Material: Infinity Guantlet