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 (#14) and Ron Lim (#46). 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...
Infinity Gauntlet spawned an ongoing series, Infinity Watch, and two more miniseries that ultimately created a trilogy, and another miniseries with the same name that tied into 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.
It also received an adaptation for Marvel's all-ages line, written by Brian Clevinger.
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.
Infinity Gauntlet 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.
- Notably, Thanos' motive in killing off half the universe is not to impress Death, despite that being the popular conception. He did it because she specifically ordered him to, because she felt the universe was overpopulated and headed for mass extinction. Further, she doesn't give him the cold shoulder because she's uninterested, but because he betrayed her trust in going after the gems rather than using the gifts she gave him to accomplish his task. All of this can only be found by reading Silver Surfer and Thanos Quest, with the Infinity Gauntlet limited series only covering the fallout of his betrayal.
- 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: While Thanos on his own is nothing to sneer at, the Infinity Gauntlet makes him one of the most powerful being in the entire universe (possibly on par with the Living Tribunal, but still weaker than the One Above All). He handily defeats Earth's defenders using only the Power Gem. When all manner of cosmic beings come up against him, he effortlessly wipes the floor with them using the full power of the Gauntlet.
- As Long as There is One Man: Captain America defiantly tells Thanos that as long as one person stands against him, he hasn't truly won.
- 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 while the Surfer is treated as Thanos' personal lapdog.
- Badass Boast: Thanos, in issue 3, when he realises people are coming for him.Thanos: Let there be cosmic warfare! Let the blood and entrails of my opponents scrub away my pain and sorrow.
- Badass Finger Snap: Thanos, at the very peak of his godlike powers, kills off half the Universe's population by snapping his fingers. In some of the supplement comics, snapping his fingers is the most common way that he uses the Infinity Gauntlet.
- He reprises doing this in Infinity War, though its a bit different there as that was his end goal.
- 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 Thor nearly suffocates when his reversion to Eric Masterson 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 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's 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.
- Bring It: The cover of issue #4 of Gauntlet is simply Thanos standing amidst the cosmos saying:Come and get me!
- 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 does this for of all people, Thanos, who is left content on a farm. 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.
- Combat Commentator: Eros, Thanos's brother, narrates the onset and the development of the Mad Titan's battle with the assembled Earth heroes. When the Cosmic Entities take their turn, Uatu the Watcher takes over this role, but with brief commentary from Eros every so often.
- Continuity Snarl: Wolverine is shown operating on Earth while Cyclops is still a member of X-Factor during the brief period of time that X-Factor was wearing blue and gold uniforms. However, they didn't have this outfit switch until after the X-Men, Wolverine included, were whisked off into outer space to rescue Professor Xavier, and by the time they returned to Earth they were immediately swept up in an event that saw the X-Factor members rejoining the X-Men by the story's end. As a result, the two's appearances here completely contradict one another.
- Crisis Crossover: While The Infinity Gauntlet had few crossovers, The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade have many more.
- Defiant to the End: Captain America, one of the last heroes left standing, squares off against Thanos and tells him he's still going to fight.Captain America: As long as one man stands against you, Thanos, you'll never be able to claim victory.
Thanos: Noble sentiments from one who is about to die.
Captain America: I've lived my life by those sentiments. They're well worth dying for.
- Deus ex Machina: In order to defeat Nebula's control of the Gauntlet, Warlock pulls himself (and the Surfer) BACK inside Soul World, and claims the previously unheard of ability to "reach out to the six" from within the Soul Gem, which somehow produces an energy backlash that rips the Gauntlet from Nebula's hand and leads to a free for all for possession of it. Once Warlock finally has the Gauntlet, his sole argument for keeping it is explained as "[his] right of possession", which no one bothers to challenge.
- 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 (nonInfinity 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 Thanos 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.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In the second half of the conflagration, the Celestials manipulate a whole parade of planets, inhabited and not, to try to smash Thanos with them. He easily blasts them into nothingness, sending the Celestials flying.
- 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.
- Et Tu, Brute?: When Lady Death attacks Thanos in defiance of his will, his spirit is broken to the point he vacillates just long enough for all the Cosmic Entities to unleash their full potential on him at once. But he's still omnipotent, and they're all instantly imprisoned — even Death herself.
- 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.
- Evil Is Petty: Thanos starts using the Gauntlet to reshape reality to his will, including getting rid of not only threats to him, but mild irritants.
- Fate Worse than Death: Thanos turns Nebula into a shambling piece of corpse-meat, with just enough sentience to know what's been done to her. And just enough to steal the Gauntlet while Thanos is distracted.
- First Episode Resurrection: Having died in Avengers Annual Vol. 1, #7, their souls taken into the Soul Gem, Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Pip the Troll leave Soul World and possess the recently deceased victims of a car crash just in time to join the story. Gamora and Pip's new bodies slowly revert to the characters' original appearance, while Warlock, as usual, cocoons himself to regenerate. Unfortunately for Gamora, she's almost immediately killed again when she falls to Thanos's universe-halving genocide, and she skips the whole saga until the final pages.
- Gender Bender: 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.
- A God Am I: Controlling all of the Infinity Gems grants the wielder omnipotence. In fact, the series begins with Mephisto explaining to Thanos just how this trope applies to him.
- Godzilla Threshold: 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, and Eternity. The latter is the personification of the universe itself.
- The Cosmic Entities themselves go to tremendous, never-before-seen lengths to engage Thanos, such as trying to smash him with populated worlds, or discarding their physical form to attack him as beings of Pure Energy.
- HeelFace Turn: Thanos, when he realized that the Gauntlet would not give him what he wanted, sides with the heroes and works to defeat Nebula.
- When the battle Cosmic Entities is well underway, reality itself fracturing at ground zero, Death herself goes out of her way to save Eros and Nebula's lives. The former muses that "[the entity's] hatred for Thanos must reach unfathomable depths" to act so out of character.
- Hell Is Coming With Me: The heroes of Earth are alerted to the threat of Thanos when the Silver Surfer crashes into Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, half-dead and delirious, and utterly terrified at the thought of Thanos and his newfound omnipotence.
- 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.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind: When the freshly-resurrected Warlock introduces himself to Doctor Strange, the latter is rather hesitant to take him for his word upon first greetings, so Warlock invites him to take a trip into his (Warlock's) soul. By the end, Strange knows everything that Warlock is and trusts him unreservedly.
- Kill on Sight: Adam Warlock insists that Thanos is too dangerous to be kept alive, so he instructs Wolverine and Hulk to kill Thanos rather than capture him.
- Literally Shattered Lives: Thor and Nova meet this fate while fighting Thanos.
- 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. And then Avengers: Infinity War seals the adaptation, focusing on Thanos' quest for the stones, and then, right at the end, the fingersnap that erases half the universe.
- 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, and most of the remaining heroes die in the subsequent battle, but they're resurrected by the end of the series.
- Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: When Death continues to reject Thanos, the latter gets very angry and subconsciously releases an omnidirectional blast that destroys most of the Milky Way and literally shakes the Earth to its core. Given that his assigned task was to cull half of all life in the universe and not to cause wanton destruction to it, this was obviously unintentional.
- 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.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Cosmic Higher-Ups all gather to talk about what's to be done with Thanos and the Gauntlet, alternating between "we should do something" and "we shouldn't do something". Eventually, they decide to do something... and promptly get defeated by Thanos using the Gauntlet.
- The Skyfathers, similarly, all gather in Asgard to plan their response to Thanos's new omnipotence, but his very first assault cuts them off from the universe and they're left powerless to intervene.
- Off with His Head!: Iron Man gets his head ripped off by Terraxia during the heroes' ill-fated battle with Thanos.
- Oh, Crap!: Doctor Strange has this moment when he sees Galactus and his group attack Thanos all at once.
- Likewise, this is Eros's reaction when Thanos turns Thor into glass when the latter was a fraction of a second from smashing the villain's head and ending the battle.
- Red Herring Shirt: Nebula, who is a half-zombie for most of the story, grabs the Gauntlet for herself, shifting Thanos from being the Big Bad to herself.
- 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. Hell, Adam's plan relies on sacrificing the heroes so Thanos is distracted.
- Refusal of the Call: Subverted — Adam Warlock calls in the Hulk to help out, but he refuses as the Avengers are there and he's still quite sore with them. 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.
- Retcon: While Jim Starlin had already introduced the Infinity Gems in the 1970s during his run on Warlock, they were called Soul Gems back then, and they all looked the same and had similar powers, instead of each Gem controlling a different aspect of existence. This was still the case when they were used in Steve Engelhart's Silver Surfer run, as well as during Starlin's own run on the title that lead to The Infinity Gauntlet. It was only in Thanos Quest that Starlin established the Gems as having different, unique powers and colors.
- 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. Reversing this judgement is what drives the villains' plot in the sequel series, Infinity War.
- In the issue #2, there's an officer of the Kree Starfleet who wonders what happened to half of the Kree population. Said officer is the Captain Dea Sea, whose name sounds like DC. It's likely a reference to the fact that DC has its own Captain Marvel.
- While Pip waits for Warlock emerge from his coccoon, he watches ALF on television.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- The Starscream: Mephisto, to Thanos. Like Warlock, he manipulated Thanos's reactions to make him vulnerable to the theft of the Gauntlet; he was even instrumental in getting Thanos to "power down" from the Gauntlet's omnipotence and give the Earth heroes a fighting chance, much to Eros's astonishment. Unfortunately, he played his hand too early and telegraphed his assault, and was almost destroyed for his betrayal.
- Status Quo Is God: At the end, 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 manages to get the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful Applied Phlebotinum that can modify everything, so he erases the half of sentient life of the universe to please Death, among other things, like defeating the Cosmic Entities of the Marvel Universe. After the battle against the Mad God, Adam Warlock finally gets the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and uses 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 makes everyone in the universe think it was All Just a Dream.
- Token Evil Teammate:
- When Nebula wields the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos becomes this to the heroes (and Warlock) in their attempt to wrest it from her control.
- 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 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 gets 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.
- When the battle escalates to Cosmic Entity proportions, the shockwaves from the assault reach so far out into the Universe that Earth is simultaneously thrown out of orbit and rubbed against dimensional distortions, opening portals into the Negative Zone. With Warlock and the Surfer fighting just to survive, the Cosmics embroiled in much bigger issues, and the Watcher narrating the disaster as a sidenote, it was only Nebula unwittingly undoing this with her universal Reset Button that prevented a dead Earth's conquest by Annihilus from becoming a small footnote in cosmic history.
- Unexplained Recovery: Despite being turned to glass and shattered to pieces, Thor is among the surviving heroes Dr Strange calls back, summoned "from parts unknown". A tiein issue of Doctor Strange shows how the good doctor finds him.
- 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.
- What If?: An issue of What If? is devoted to exploring what would have happened if the Silver Surfer had successfully snatched the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos's hand at that pivotal moment. Instead of surrendering it to Warlock, as Adam had planned all along, the Surfer keeps it, and very quickly jumps off the slippery slope in trying to become a "benevolent God". It ends when Shalla-Bal, his long-lost love, convinces him of the error of his ways, and, together, they destroy the Gauntlet and the Infinity Gems, seemingly killing themselves in the process, but actually disappearing to live simple, mortal lives on an unknown world.
- The Worf Effect: The Silver Surfer is an incredibly powerful cosmic being, one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel universe. Roughly as strong as the Hulk, and also fast and with energy manipulation powers. The series opens with him collapsed in a heap on Dr. Strange's floor after falling through the window, panicked at the thought of Thanos's newfound power.