Some weapons become more iconic than the fictional characters that use them. Others are a vital aspect of a character’s personality. In this column, we take a look at some of the greatest fictional weapons of all time.
It’s one of the most iconic weapons in comic book history. It’s destroyed billions and resurrected millions. It’s saved planets and empowered crazed galactic titans. And it’s coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nothing will be the same.
It’s the Infinity Gauntlet. A weapon so powerful that its power is split between six Infinity Gems, each with control over an aspect of reality. Combined, their wielder can reshape the universe with his or her mind. With so much power literally in the hand of one person, it’s a weapon that no one should control. Of course, this awe-inspiring armament is synonymous with the Mad Titan, Thanos. His obsession with death and his all-consuming desire to rule the universe has set him on a collision course with The Infinity Gauntlet, the one thing that can help him achieve his dreams of conquest.
While this multi-colored weapon has been known and loved to comic readers for decades, it is only now that The Infinity Gauntlet is coming into the mainstream consciousness. While not divulged by producers, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be on a collision course with Thanos and The Infinity Gauntlet storyline written by Jim Starlin and published in 1991. With the seeds of this universe-shattering story set to come to life on the big screen in the near future, now is a better time than ever to dive into what The Infinity Gauntlet means for Marvel Comics’ heroes and villains alike.
The Power of the Infinity Gems
The Infinity Gauntlet’s power is based in the gems embedded within it. Also known as the “Soul Gems” and “Infinity Stones,” these six small items wield enormous power. These six gems are all that remain of an ancient omnipotent being known as Nemesis, who committed suicide out of being forced to endure eternity alone forever. A fraction of Nemesis remains in the Infinity Gems, which contain elements of her power.
Anyone who possesses a Soul Gem is empowered by what that specific gem harnesses. Over the centuries, these gems were used by the Elders of the Universe to keep order and battle the most dangerous beings to ever exist.
Time (Orange) – Control over all aspects of time. This includes time travel, stopping time, slowing and speeding up time, and accelerating or slowing down aging. When used to its full potential, the user gains omniscience.
Space (Purple) – Manipulation of space. Users can teleport, manipulate dimension, create wormholes, and more. At its greatest potential, the user is given omnipresence, allowing him or her to exist in any or all locations.
Mind (Blue) – The user is able to tap into the universal consciousness giving access to others’ thoughts and dreams. This results in unlimited psychic powers, including telekinesis and telepathy. When combined with the power gem, the user can access all existing minds simultaneously.
Soul (Green) – Manipulation and control of both living and dead souls. This can also be used to evolve and devolve the physical and mental forms of beings. Users can also steal the powers of others and open a gateway to a heaven-like pocket universe. This gem is sentient and has a hunger for souls.
Reality (Yellow) – Users can alter the natural laws of the universe on both a local and universal basis. Most often, this is used to grant wishes, but its power can surge out of control when not kept in check by the other gems.
Power (Red) – Provides the sum total of all power in the universe. This power can be used to increase or inhibit any force, boosting the effects of the other gems and allowing for duplication of any physical superhuman ability. At max capacity, the wielder is omnipotent.
With so much power housed in a single gem, a person who wields even one can be extremely dangerous. As such, these gems have been protected and hidden during the decades of comics since they were first put to use.
The Insatiable Hunger of Thanos
While Thanos has been featured in Marvel Comics since 1973, it was The Infinity Gauntlet that made the greatest impact in the character’s existence. In his search for universal power, Thanos came upon the existence of the Infinity Gems. Gathering all six, Thanos powered a giant gem capable of destroying a star. While he was eventually turned to stone, his spirit and body were eventually resurrected.
This time, in the 1991 series The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos collected all six gems and embedded them into his glove, creating The Infinity Gauntlet. Immediately upon forging his weapon, The Mad Titan used its power to kill half of the universe’s population in order to prove his love for the living embodiment of death. While confronted with a huge array of heroes and the Elders of the Universe, Thanos was able to kill all who opposed him, leading to the shocking deaths of many superheroes, including Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. However, it was Adam Warlock and Nebula who used their wits to beat Thanos in the end. Thanks to the power of the gauntlet, the heroes and the cosmos were restored, reversing the indescribable damage inflicted by Thanos.
In the time since, the story of Thanos has consistently involved the Infinity Gems. While he has pursued their power at various points, he has also atoned for his sins. At times, Thanos has even teamed with more traditional heroes in efforts to prevent further damage to the universe, going so far as to fight alternate versions of himself in the process. While Thanos will always return to his evil ways, he has been shown to be a far more complex character than a smirking and malicious universal dictator.
Mighty Gauntlet Wielders Across the Cosmos
While Thanos has been by far the character most associated with The Infinity Gauntlet, he is most certainly not the only person to have wielded both its partial and complete power. Both heroes and villains alike have used the gauntlet to assert their power in a wide variety of ways.
The first Infinity Gem to make an appearance in comics was the Soul Gem, embedded in the forehead of the intergalactic hero Adam Warlock, which allowed him to capture the souls of other beings. This eventually led to the concept of many gems being in existence. Over the years, heroes across the universe have been assigned to protect the gems, often sacrificing much to defend the universe.
Loki, Galactus, The Hood, Iron Man, The Collector, Drax the Destroyer, and many more have all come into possession of one or more gems over the years. With each having their own agendas, these characters have either used the gems to empower their quests or hide them to prevent their abuse by evil.
During the Justice League of America/Avengers crossover series, The Infinity Gauntlet made its way into the possession of DC Comics villain Darkseid. However, it was shown that the Gauntlet only has power in its own universe. Various versions of the Gauntlet have appeared in many different alternate realities, exhibiting their own powers concerning their realities.
Most recently, Captain America reformed The Infinity Gauntlet through the combined support of The Illuminati. Through its power and his sheer force of will, he was able to prevent an alternate universe from collapsing into the Marvel Universe. While using the Gauntlet saved both universes by pushing the encroaching reality back, the exertion shattered all but the Time Gem, which vanished.
This larger storyline eventually led to the massive Marvel event series Secret Wars, which saw the Earth destroyed and reformed from fragments of alternate universes by the godlike Dr. Doom. In the war to restore the Earth and overthrow Doom, the hero Black Panther discovered an Infinity Gauntlet with power in the realm where Doom lived. Empowered by the Gauntlet, Black Panther battled the all-powerful Doom in ways that shifted the bonds of reality, time, and space. But Panther and his Gauntlet where still no match for a Dr. Doom empowered by beings beyond understanding. Although Panther was defeated when the Gauntlet was crushed, the battle was in reality a distraction for a larger plan.
The Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Ever since the original Infinity Gauntlet storyline, the all-powerful weapon has popped up now and then in more and more limited roles. After all, how many times can you use a universe-controlling weapon before it gets old? But the biggest impact of The Infinity Gauntlet may be yet to come.
All signs in recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies point to The Infinity Gauntlet being the culmination of every movie created so far. While the pieces weren’t in place at the very start, The Avengers changed everything, even recasting previous movies in a new light. Even the mighty Cosmic Cube, which is a completely separate all-powerful weapon in Marvel Comics, was recast as one of the Infinity Stones in the film series. Doing so has brought every element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe closer together.
While the specifics have not been clarified by either films or producers, The Tesseract (aka Cosmic Cube), The Aether, and the orb from Guardians of the Galaxy account for three of the six stones. The glowing orb inside Loki’s mind-controlling scepter from The Avengers may account for the fourth, leaving only two to be discovered. In the coming years, the final pieces will surely be discovered, making it only a matter of time before Thanos takes control.
With so much power in one man’s grasp, the final fate of many heroes will hang in the balance. Most likely, this shadowy dictator will find himself faced with the combined forced of The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and any heroes who rise on screen in the coming years.
What will be the final fate of The Infinity Gauntlet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Only time will tell. But the overarching story threads and the upcoming two-part Avengers: Infinity War mean that this will be a comic book movie event to end all events.