Sunday, February 3, 2013

Does it Stand? The Infinity Gauntlet

Recently I reread Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet, a story that if you collected comics in the early 1990s you've probably read at least an issue as well. Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim, this six issue mini was released between July and December 1991 and told the story of the earthly and celestial superheroes and gods teaming up to battle (and then join) a Mephisto-influenced Thanos who's six gem Infinity Gauntlet has given him God-like powers. The legacy of this series was a lot of Infinity themed stories in the early 90s but can also be seen today in series like Marvel NOW!'s New Avengers.

Cover of Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet #1 (TPB - January 2005) Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lin. Originally published July 1991-December 1991
While reading I wondered if it was worth writing about a series that has been out for over twenty years. Comic books are a nostalgia driven hobby and so many of us remember fondly those stories of decades ago. But what of the period when comics were almost everywhere and all those guys in your grade-school class stumbled into the hobby just when you thought it was yours? Remember that moment when you were ticked off that a friend -- let's call him 'Adam' -- had the ‘next big thing’ when you couldn’t afford it? Have those books stood the test of time like Stan and Jack's run on The Fantastic Four or Neil Edward’s Green Lantern? Or do they now just look rushed and silly?
From Marvel's The Infinity Guantlet #4 (October 1991) 
That’s what WGTB's “Does It Stand?” feature is going to be about. We're going to write about those comic stories published in the mid 80s and early 90s boom and let you know if we think they stand the test for today's discerning reader. They won't be called reviews per se, but just short commentaries (with lots of images) on how the medium has changed is that period. 
From Marvel's The Infinity Guantlet #3 (September 1991)
So let's get at it. There's no doubt that sequential art storytelling has changed a lot since the 1990s, but as a modern reader I'll say The Infinity Gauntlet, while not outstanding is somewhat enjoyable. The first three issues were clearly better than the rest, with a couple silly moments throwing the plot off in the latter issues and some obvious deus ex machina to wrap up the series. But on the whole it wasn't bad. The art is certainly very different than what you see today (even from George Perez who is still working) with the colours being much brighter and less realistic. Indeed, even when something terrible happens, it is never as menacing and dark as you'd see today and unfortunately high concept material like the Celestials or Galactus especially suffer in the brighter themes of a decade ago.
From Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet #5 (November 1991)
From Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet #3 (October 1991)
The characterization of Thanos as the maniacal yet (nearly) goofy God-like antagonist is also something that doesn’t really stand up, and I certainly don’t see Jonathan Hickman or Jason Aaron writing that character today like Starlin did then. Likewise, Adam Warlock, the closest thing we have to 'hero', was also unremarkable and someone I couldn't really enjoy seeing successful. But on the whole it does stand up as a piece of nostalgia-driven fun and if you have old copies of it kicking around The Infinity Gauntlet might be worth an hour or so of your time.

From Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet #6 (December 1991)

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