Comic Book / The Infinity Gauntlet

The Infinity Gauntlet is a six-issue limited series published by Marvel Comics in 1991; it was written by Jim Starlin and pencilled by George Pérez (#1-4) and Ron Lim (#4-6). Its success, both critical and financial, cemented the reputations of everyone who worked on it.

Before the story begins, Thanos, the mad Titan, has collected the Infinity Gems—six cosmic MacGuffins that grant their wielder great power over a different part of the universe (Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Power, and Reality). When Thanos puts them all on his glove, they create the Infinity Gauntlet, which gives him power over basically everything. Thanos had long been in love with the incarnation of Death after having been resurrected; The Infinity Gauntlet is literally about Thanos trying to use his godly power to court Death. When Death refuses to even acknowledge Thanos's newfound power, the Titan steps up his game by erasing half the population of the entire universe with a mere thought. Entire worlds and civilizations are torn asunder by Thanos's power—including Earth, which faces assumed annihilation as a result of power unleashed by the Infinity Gems.

Earth's remaining heroes (and a few villains) soon come together to plan an attack against Thanos, hoping to catch him off-guard and stop him before he destroys all existence. Aiding Earth's attack force is Adam Warlock, who had been trapped inside one of the Gems and knows Thanos better than anyone save Thanos himself. (Warlock's plan is more of a distraction than an actual attempt to stop Thanos; he knows the heroes are doomed to fail.) Across the universe, other cosmic beings—including Galactus—prepare their own coordinated attack on the mad Titan.

When Earth's assault begins, Thanos uses all the powers of the Gems to lay waste to his attackers. In the midst of battle, he is convinced to turn off most of the gems just to prove he can still do a lot of damage with just one. After he defeats the last of Earth's forces, the cosmic entities try to have their way with him—but Thanos outpowers them all and soon takes the place of Eternity. That proves to be Thanos's undoing: His daughter, Nebula, takes the Gauntlet off his now-lifeless body and resets everything back to the way it had been one day before the fight. After another brief fight, Adam Warlock manages to gain control of the Gauntlet, and all is set right in the universe again.

Infinity Gauntlet spawned an ongoing series, two more miniseries that ultimately created a trilogy, and another miniseries with the same name that tied into Secret Wars (2015):

Infinity War

In the sequel to the Infinity Gauntlet saga, Adam Warlock subconsciously expelled both good and evil from himself so he could wield the Gauntlet's power using logic alone. His evil side became a new incarnation of Warlock's evil persona, the Magus. The Magus creates evil doppelgangers of Earth's superheroes and, like Thanos before him, tries to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet. While Infinity Gauntlet began with Thanos having assembled the Gauntlet, this series is about the Magus's quest to assemble it.

Infinity Crusade

The antagonist of this miniseries is the Goddess, the good part of Warlock who was created at the same time as the Magus. She tries to use the power of Cosmic Cubes and Cultlike More Than Mind Control to subvert Earth's more idealistic heroes into serving her so she can establish a Utopia by any means necessary. Defeating her required the help of Mephisto.

Infinity Gauntlet (2015)

During the events of Secret Wars (2015), a young girl named Anwen Bakian discovers one of the Infinity Gems on Battleworld. She soon ends up embroiled in a conflict involving Thanos and Star-Lord, and becomes a member of the defunct Nova Corps.

Infinity Gauntlet was loosely adapted into two video games by Capcom. The first, Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems, is a Beat 'em Up/Platform Game for the SNES. The second, Marvel Super Heroes, is an arcade Fighting Game; it followed X-Men: Children of the Atom and paved the way for the Capcom vs. Whatever series.

The Infinity Gauntlet storyline — along with others similar to it — will serve as the underlying basis for Marvel's 2018 movie Avengers: Infinity War and its 2019 sequel.

Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade provide examples of:

  • Abstract Apotheosis: Thanos was defeated when he abandoned his body and became/replaced Eternity at the head of the Cosmic Beings... and failed to realize that the Gauntlet itself, which sustained his new existence, was still on his lifeless body's hand and within easy reach of vengeful relatives.
  • Achilles' Heel: Gauntlet established that Thanos's weakness is chronic self-defeatism.
  • All There in the Manual: The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries begins with Thanos already having acquired all the Infinity Gems. If you want to know how he got them, you need to read the Thanos Quest two-part comic. Also, Thanos' resurrection and the motivation for his deeds in The Infinity Gauntlet were first explored in issues of Silver Surfer that preceded this series. The Infinity Gauntlet Omnibus thankfully includes all of these comics, but the regular trade paperback only collects the miniseries.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The Reality Gem is almost useless on its own, because it is almost impossible to control by a mortal mind. However, if someone possesses both it and another gem it greatly amplifies their power, and the Mind Gem and possibly others make it easier to use.
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: The Infinity Gauntlet.
  • Bad Future: Part of the Silver Surfer tie-in with The Infinity Gauntlet sees him viewing the possible results of Thanos winning. In this future, even the few who survived the battle with Thanos such as the Hulk, Doctor Doom, and Drax end up getting killed before Adam Warlock ends up falling in battle.
  • Badass Finger Snap: Thanos, at the very peak of his godlike powers, kills off half the Universe's population in Gauntlet by snapping his fingers. In some of the supplement comics, snapping his fingers is the most common way that he uses the Infinity Gauntlet also.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Dr. Strange uses a spell to allow the remaining heroes to breathe in space for sixty minutes. Unfortunately, it didn't work for mystical transformations as Eric Masterson nearly suffocates when his transformation into Thor cancels out the spell and he barely makes it back to his hammer in time to restore it.
  • Batman Gambit: The mother of all Gambits happens in the first series, where Adam Warlock manipulates most of Earth's most powerful heroes, a whole host of universal entities, and sacrifices nearly all of them just to get Thanos to raise his hand at a specific moment. It doesn't work, forcing Warlock to employ a second gambit against the Gauntlet's new owner, Nebula.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Thanos' battle with the heroes of Earth is one of the few times Captain America's shield has been broken, something normally impossible. The ending sets it right again.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The heroes who serve under the control of the Goddess in Crusade.
  • Breakout Character: Out of all of the evil hero clones created during Infinity War, Spider-Man's Doppelganger went on to become part of Carnage's gang. He's still around as of 2012.
  • Bring It: The cover of issue #4 of Gauntlet is simply Thanos standing amidst the cosmos saying:
    Come and get me!
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: At the end of Infinity War, Adam Warlock is put in a coma after succeeding in stopping Magus.
  • Call-Back: In the initial Silver Surfer arc that set the stage for The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos showed the Surfer a crowded subway station in Tokyo, using this as an example of how grossly overpopulated the universe had become. In Infinity Gauntlet, we find out Thanos sank the entire country of Japan.
  • Call to Agriculture: The ending of Gauntlet does this for of all people, Thanos. It eventually comes to an end, but not before several instances where he was called back into action briefly, then followed by a Return To Agriculture.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: Power is Red, Time is Orange, Reality is Yellow, Soul is Green, Mind is Blue, and Space is Purple.
  • Conflict Ball:
    • The second issue of War has Wolverine show up at the Baxter Building to say Iron Man and Reed Richards are impostors. As everything starts getting tense, Colossus grabs Professor Hulk, who gets annoyed at Captain America standing on his foot, and hurls Piotr across the room, which somehow causes the room to descend into an all-out brawl, even though by that point the duplicates' secrets are out.
    • The second issue of Crusade has Maxam and Pip teleport into Avengers Mansion with Reed Richards. Ben Grimm, thinking these people have kidnapped Reed even though he's standing right there, attacks them, and a brawl starts while Reed tries to get everyone to stop.
  • Covers Always Spoil: A large plot point of Infinity War is that the heroes fighting the Magus have no idea what his end goal actually is. Both the heroes and the reader are meant to be surprised by the revelation. But if you glance at the back cover of the trade paperback, you'll find out instantly.
  • Crisis Crossover: While The Infinity Gauntlet had few crossovers, The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade have many more.
  • Deal with the Devil: Thanos makes one with Mephisto in order to stop the goddess in Crusade. But see the spoiler below.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?:
    • The Magus' Batman Gambit in Infinity War involves the manipulation of some of the Marvel Universe's most powerful cosmic beings, from Galactus up to Eternity and even the Living Tribunal. The Magus himself is outmaneuvered by Adam Warlock and Thanos.
    • Thanos scams Mephisto at the end of Infinity Crusade. "You wanted a cosmic cube but didn't specify it had to be functioning..." This leads to a Badass Boast from Thanos: "Even devils must be careful when making a deal with Thanos of Titan."
  • Distaff Counterpart: Believe it or not, Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet to create an Amazonian Beauty female version of himself in the form of Terraxia the Terrible in an attempt to goad Death into jealousy. She apparently has all of his (non-Infinity Gauntlet) powers as well, in that she is easily able to slay Iron Man and Spider-Man. Of course, Thanos forgot the Required Secondary Power of breathing in space and she's killed when Nebula sends the two into exile in deep space just a few issues after he created her.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The Gauntlet. Complicating matters is the fact that the Gems want to be together, and possessing two or three makes the others much easier to find.
  • Drunk On Power: A downside to the Infinity Gauntlet is that omniscience can overwhelm the user, making them, to the very least, prone to errors in judgement. This made him easier to manipulate, and fight the Avengers while voluntarily underpowered, allowing Adam Warlock to simply wait for him to raise his hand to buzz by with the Silver Surfer and simply grab the gauntlet off of him. Mephisto was doing essentially the same thing, but biding his time for an opportunity. Neither worked, but after the fight, Thanos recreated his mind as a cosmic entity, but leaving his body where he sat with the gauntlet still on. This allowed Nebula to simply take it off of him and become the new bearer. Omniscience was even harder on her, making her even more prone to lapses in judgment, but more than compensated by being all-powerful. When she first had it, Warlock was fearful that the power would be so overwhelming that she might be Driven to Suicide, possibly ending the universe with herself, but it turns out his fears were unfounded.
  • Enemy Mine: Doctor Doom helps the heroes against Thanos.
    • On a lesser scale, this is when Wolverine and the Hulk pretty much bury the hatchet after a number of messy run-ins.
    • Earth's heroes with Thanos at the end of Gauntlet, War, and Crusade.
  • Enemy Without: Magus in War and Goddess in Crusade (the latter being a rare example of a good-aligned version of the trope).
  • Even More Omnipotent:
    • The eponymous artifact grants the wielder omnipotence when worn. More omnipotence than even, say, the Anthropomorphic Personification of the universe itself or all of the other Cosmic Beings of the setting combined. This becomes a plot point, because Thanos, the wielder of the gauntlet, is tricked into thinking that the only way to effectively dominate the universe is turn himself into the universe. But the second he does, someone else takes the gauntlet from his now-abandoned body and becomes the new big kahuna.
    • An even better example comes at the end of the saga. The sole being not affected by Reality Warping, The Living Tribunal, simply snaps its fingers and resets the entire universe back to normal.
  • Evil Knockoff: The many doppelgangers of Earth's heroes created by Magus in War. Some of them even managed to defeat their good counterparts.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: When the Goddess' "purifying flames" (i.e. wave of universal destruction) spread out in Crusade, it scorches even the person who is reading the comic. Fortunately, it was all an illusion implanted by Adam Warlock.
  • Gambit Pileup: The plot of Infinity War. The Magus' plan to get the Gauntlet sets off alarm bells everywhere. The heroes of Earth and various cosmic entities have their own diverging opinions about how the gems should be used or protected. Doom and Kang form a temporary alliance to beat him to it. It eventually turns out that the Magus' plan is ridiculously complicated, depending on all the above Unwitting Pawns. And yet it would have worked if the Warlock and Thanos hadn't anticipated it and kept one Gem hidden. The middle of Infinity Gauntlet also reaches this point.
  • A God Am I: Controlling all of the Infinity Gems grants the wielder omnipotence. In fact, Infinity Gauntlet begins with Mephisto explaining to Thanos just how this trope applies to him.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The heroes cross it in War when they decide the only way to stop the Magus is to break out the Gauntlet again. This was the Magus's plan all along; force them to cross the threshold, then steal the Gauntlet from them.
    • In the original mini, Adam Warlock's recruiting drive includes Galactus... and he's at the low end of the recruits, which grow to include Lord Chaos and Master Order, the embodiments of Love and Hate, a couple Celestials, the Watcher, the Living Tribunal, and Eternity. The latter is the personification of the universe itself.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Thanos gets so much power with the Gauntlet that he takes Eternity's place as the incarnation of the universe, but that also means his physical body becomes an empty husk that can be easily separated from the Gauntlet.
  • Knight Templar: Goddess, who is more than willing to destroy all of existence so that she can remake it without evil.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Much of the action in Crusade was hero-on-hero. In part because, thanks to mind control, many of the world's villains have surrendered to heroes and are awaiting trial peacefully.
  • Light Is Not Good: Despite being decked out in light and wanting to eliminate all evil in existence, the Goddess? Yep. Definitely not good.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: The Stingers to The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World reveals that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is headed towards at least a very loose adaptation, while also revealing that we'd already been introduced to two of the stones. Subsequent films have identified five of the six: the Tesseract, which holds the Space stone; the Aether, which holds the Reality stone; the Orb, which holds the Power stone; the Scepter and The Vision, which take turns holding the Mind stone, and the Eye of Agamotto, which holds the Time Stone. Avengers: Age of Ultron shows the Gauntlet itself for the first time, as well as Thanos getting fed up with so many failed attempts sending others after the stones, vowing to gather them himself.
  • Love Makes You Crazy / Love Makes You Evil: The lengths Thanos is willing to go to win Death's favor are truly mind-boggling. And every time she turns her back on him, it only gets worse.
  • Mass Resurrection: Approximately half of the universe is killed, but they're resurrected by the end of the series.
  • Mr. Seahorse: Adam Warlock goes through a Journey to the Center of the Mind Vision Quest in which he is turned female, culminating with her giving birth.
  • Oh, Crap!: Doctor Strange has this moment when he saw Galactus and his group attack Thanos all at once.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Defied, Adam Warlock ends up the bearer of the gauntlet at the end, and he intends to use it well. In the epilogue, he set his animosity aside and briefly visits Thanos (who, at the end of it all, ended up surviving the events) and asks for advice. When Adam leaves, Thanos, for his part, is relieved to be rid of the gauntlet.
  • Off with His Head!: Iron Man gets his head ripped off by Terraxia during the heroes' ill-fated battle with Thanos in Gauntlet.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In Infinity War, we all knew that Doctor Doom and Kang would betray each other, but since Doom Will Not Tell a Lie, one would expect a Loophole Abuse moment from him. Instead, he just betrays Kang the old way.
  • Red Shirt Army: Pretty much every hero outside of Adam Warlock, Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange gets easily defeated by Thanos in gruesome and creative ways thanks to the titular Infinity Gauntlet. Adam Warlock himself said that the Avengers lost the battle before it even started.
  • Red Skies Crossover: During The Infinity War, some Marvel series included brief appearances of the heroes' doppelgangers, but nothing else related to the main plot.
    • The Fantastic Four were an exception: they fought against the doppelgangers, and then basically retold the whole story from their own point of view. And Galactus' mind scan of the heroes, a mere trivial procedure in the crossover, awakens Malice (Susan Storm's evil side), who takes over her body; a plot point that would last for many months afterwards.
  • Refusal of the Call: Subverted - Adam Warlock calls in the Hulk to help out, but refuses as the Avengers are there and he's still quite sore with him. As this was the point where Green Hulk, Grey Hulk and Banner had become Professor Hulk, Captain America realizes it's time to put aside their differences and decides to clear the air once everything is over. Hulk is fine with this and finally joins.
  • Regional Redecoration: Japan ends up sinking into the ocean.
  • Reset Button: Worked into the plot as the result of Nebula taking the Gauntlet for herself. The resurrection of all those killed was just a side bonus.
  • Set Bonus: The Gauntlet works better when all its gems are present. Justified, as it's mentioned that the Power Gem especially takes the abilities of the others and backs them with its infinite power.
    • This is revealed to be inverted by Infinity War, as a result of the Living Tribunal's declaration in the first issue of Warlock and the Infinity Watch right after the first miniseries: possession of all six gems by a single individual renders all of them inert.
  • Sitting on the Roof: After their long and violent history, Hulk and Wolverine share this touching moment on the roof of Avengers Mansion, while the other heroes work up a battle plan:
    Hulk: You fight someone, you get to know them pretty well.
    Wolverine: And?
    Hulk: And I've come to the conclusion I like you, shorty.
    Wolverine: Why's that?
    Hulk: Because in our own ways, we're both monsters, pal.
  • Spanner in the Works: During Infinity War every single character involved, from Earth's heroes to cosmic entities like Galactus, are observed and flawlessly manipulated by Magus until the absolute last second of his plan. But Doctor Doom and Kang manage not only to figure out what's going on and track down Magus's lair independent of anyone else and without Magus's knowledge, but also to ambush and defeat Magus before his scheme comes to fruition. The only thing that saves Magus and prevents Doom from obtaining the Infinity Gauntlet is Doom's demand that Magus put it down "very slowly"... allowing Eternity time to reverse his restriction of its usage elsewhere and giving Magus Godhood at the very last second.
  • Spoiler Cover: A large plot point of Infinity War is that the heroes fighting the Magus have no idea what his end goal actually is. Both the heroes and the reader are meant to be surprised by the revelation. But if you glance at the back cover of the trade paperback, you'll find out instantly.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: On paper, Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade are Crisis Crossovers, starring the most important heroes of Marvel Comics. Actually, they are stories of Thanos, Adam Warlock (and his good and evil sides) and the Infinity Watch; the other heroes are just either Cannon Fodder in someone else's big plan, or incompetent bufoons that get in the way and can't do any harm or take part in the bad guy's defeat.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: In Crusade, the second issue begins with a large gathering of heroes, all trying to figure out what's going on... except She-Hulk and Firestar, who are... handing out sandwiches.
  • Status Quo Is God: At the end of Infinity Gauntlet, all damage is undone. Even the living beings who were wiped out return. Also done with similar Hand Waves in the other two parts.
  • The Story That Never Was: Thanos managed to get the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful Applied Phlebotinum that can modify everything, so he erased the half of sentient life of the universe to please Ms. Death, among other things like defeating the Cosmic Entities of the Marvel Universe. After the battle against the Mad God, Adam Warlock finally got the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and used it to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by restoring all the lives lost in the event (not just the ones erased by Thanos but the deaths of heroes battling Thanos, too) and also made everyone in the universe think it was All Just a Dream.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Adam Warlock is forced to disperse the six Infinity Gems amongst a team to safeguard each one. He chooses one for himself, four for his friends... and he hands off the Reality Gem to Thanos, although this isn't revealed until Crusade.
  • Throw-Away Country: During the events of Infinity Gauntlet, the entirety of Japan sinks to the ocean. Of course, like most of the disasters during the story, it got a Reset Button at the end. It also seems that the US was supposed to follow in its path, as parts of the West Coast started sinking as well.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Just before seeking out the Infinity Gems, Thanos gives orders to the captain of the Sanctuary to spread word of his return to every criminal, cultist, and space pirate in the galaxy. After acquiring the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos returns and is pleased to find that the captain has recruited and assembled a huge space armada that could take on most powers in the galaxy. Thanos states that the fleet will make a good royal guard now that he is a god. After this issue, neither the fleet nor the Sanctuary are mentioned again. Thanos didn't make use of them during his reign as supreme being, and didn't use them for any other purpose in any issue after the Infinity Gauntlet.
    • In Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos sends Firelord and Drax through time, shrinks and presumably squashes the Hulk, and turns Thor into glass, then shatters him. All of these characters pop up toward the end, summoned by Dr. Strange as the characters wrestle for the gauntlet. One would have to read some of the crossover issues to learn how Strange located those heroes.
      • Even more egregious is the fifth member of the people found by Strange, Dr. Doom. Doom attempts to steal the Gauntlet and is violently repulsed, but still combat capable. He takes another shot at Thanos a few pages later, proclaiming only death will stop him. Thanos promises him that death, then we cut to Adam and the Surfer, and when we cut back Thanos is battling Cyclops and the Scarlet Witch with no sign of Doom. Doom then appears in the background of one panel several pages later (without lines and with his cloak having somehow grown back from being destroyed), and then he vanishes completely until he turns up with Strange, with no idea of what his actual fate was, considering the last man standing is Captain America. Doom's fate is only revealed in tie-in issue Dr Strange #34 and is explained that Thanos fused Doom's armor together and rendered him comatose, requiring Strange to seek out the monks that helped Doom construct his armor so that they can free him.