Friday, May 18, 2012

Blast from the Past: Infinity Gauntlet

Writer: Jim Starlin
Artists: George Perez & Ron Lim
Company: Marvel Comics

I'll be honest, my desire to re-visit this particular story was entirely prompted by The Avengers movie. If you've seen it, then you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, well, you should. It's probably the best superhero movie that we've gotten so far from Hollywood. I remember reading it when it first came out in the early nineties, but the singles have long since ended up in either that mythical graveyard all mothers seem to dismiss comics to or I gave them to a friend when I was done. I imagine that it was the former, but it's really anyone's guess as to where this legendary Cosmic Crossover written by one of the best Cosmic writers ended up in my own personal collection.

The first thing that struck me upon re-reading this story is the sheer difference between this and the current batch of crossover stories that we have been getting. Infinity Gauntlet is dark. I'm talking darker than dark. Like pitch-black, you know, without all the non sun loving aliens. People die here. Heroes die, and in quite awful ways. I mean, come on, Spider-Man gets beaten to death with a rock! Really though, this isn't a typical hero versus hero battle. Yes, there's a bit of that involved and confrontation is the name of the game, but Starlin instead wrote a tale that revolved around one person's attainment of God-Hood and their need to impress a girl.

That's not your typical type of story, but that's what makes it so unique. From page one, Starlin begins the lesson with Thanos giving a lecture to Mephisto, the Marvel Universes avatar of the Devil. It's laid out fairly quickly that Thanos has already laid the smack down on people like Drax and Silver Surfer and with the Infinity Gems in his possession, anything that he wants, he will get. And yet he is partly human and he still desires to impress the personification of Death. To do this, to win her heart, he literally wipes out half of the inhabitants of the Universe.

This type of thing, in comics today, would be handled with a bit of wit or humor involved, but Starlin does it matter-of-factly. He makes Thanos thoroughly frightening all of the way through the book, through the deaths that he causes, the destruction that he creates in the world of men, and the malice and joy that he takes in as he makes his family dance through torture.

Another thing that Starlin does quite well is taking everything that the Marvel Universe has to offer and utilizing it in a way that really adds to the story. There are personal scenes for most of the characters during the course of the book. One of the most notable is probably Doctor Doom. Doom is a bad ass, one who will bow down to no one, and Starlin writes him to the T. By no means though is he the only one. There are some 90's tropes to the characters, but he does a great job of capturing all of their personalities and having them act as they would instead of bending to the whim of the story.

The art for Infinity Gauntlet started with George Perez and ended with Ron Lim. Perez's work is top-notch. His typical DC style, where the panels are packed with so much to the point of an explosion of mind altering color and lines, isn't really an issue. There's a lot going on in his panels, for sure, but it's all approachable and classic. His interpretation of the Cosmic, everything from the vastness of space to the iterations of the Pantheon of all powerful entities, people such as Galactus and The Eternals and Epoch to Odin, move with such smoothness. His lines in general move and feel classic without being stuffy. If only Lim's contribution to the affair was as striking. Lim's lines are less structured and have more of a scratchy feel to them. Perez provided inks for his covers, and there seems to have been an attempt to stay in the same vein as Perez, but it can't match it.

As stories go, Infinity Gauntlet provides copious amounts of entertainment. It's fun while at the same time being a story well told with a resolution that doesn't feel flat or forced. If you are feeling a bit of nostalgia or, like me, feel the need to better understand a certain character, this is a book worth picking up.

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