Sep 15, 2008

[Comics] The Infinity War

The Infinity WarWhen I first learned of The Infinity Gauntlet, the first three issues were already sold out and the chances of a reprint were pretty much nil. I was left with needing to wait for the eventual trade paperback collection to be released in order to catch up on the events prior. That was pretty frustrating given my desires as a young comic book collector and of course the fact that I was a Spider-Man fan who had purchased Infinity Gauntlet #4 only to see Spider-Man killed by a rock hitting his head.

How disappointing.

when it was announced that a second Infinity crossover was planned, this time I was determined to ensure that I collected all six issues without fail so I could enjoy the story to the fullest and of course have a complete set for my then growing collection.

Thanks to the internet, I've been able to revisit this childhood tale and gained new appreciation for what Jim Starlin put together.

The Infinity War started out with a bang - several of Earth's heroes were being challenged by evil doppelgangers of themselves in life-or-death struggles. Some of the heroes won while others were defeated and absorbed by the clones of sorts. This was a concept far beyond what is currently going on in the Secret Invasion storyline - the doppelgangers were charged with the mission of trying to fully replace their Earth counterparts.

And this was just the first move in a larger plan by a being known as the Magus, formed when Adam Strange expunged all good and evil from his person while he was bearer of the Infinity Gauntlet. The Magus was his "evil" half and was determined to conquer the Marvel Universe with the aid of five cosmic containment units which provided him significant power. Such was his power that he could predict the moves of almost all the "players" involved, including the world-eater, Galactus, who sought to determine the source of the energies affecting the universe.

Infinity WatchImage via Wikipedia Ironically enough, one of the main threats to his plan comes in the form of Thanos, the last villain to try and subjugate the Marvel Universe with the Infinity Gauntlet. He seeks the aid of Adam Warlock and his Infinity Watch to find and thwart the Magus in his plans.

Now that I've had a chance to re-read this epic tale and compare it to the other Infinity sagas, I have to admit that this one in particular remains my favorite. Perhaps it's more because of the childhood nostalgia associated with it or the fact that I was previously able to collect all six issues during this particular storyline (although they are lost to me now). Still, I think there's a pretty good reason to me favoring this particular tale.

First, the return of the Magus to the Marvel Universe as much more than he was before. In this story he's an amazingly cunning and calculating villain, able to foresee the moves of all the major forces that could possibly threaten his plans. He was even able to factor in the actions of cosmic players like Eternity and the Living Tribunal and for the most part managed to stay several steps ahead of all the heroes.

Second, I have to admit I have a soft spot for side-stories involving Doctor Doom. He's one of the few Marvel villains out there who can focus still on gaining ultimate power for himself even when all creation is going to Hell in a hand basket. Paired up with the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror, they duo present an interesting angle on the entire adventure.

Third, the way they opted to present Thanos as an unusual "hero" of sorts. It would probably be an injustice to call him an anti-hero at this point since he's not even that - he's still as selfish and devious as ever and the only reason he seeks to destroy the Magus is because he's a thorn in his own eventual plans for the universe. The heroes are right not to trust him but then given the circumstances, they have no choice. He plays a unique role in this entire struggle and in the later Infinity sagas given his unique perspective on the cosmos.

Fourth would have to be the art of the period, a style of Marvel comics that I was most drawn-to in my younger days and in many respects the image of Marvel comics that I keep in my head. It was a period when the heroes were very defined and there was no pressure to dabble overly in computer enhancements or trying to make things more artistic in response to the stunning creations of Alex Ross.

Overall it's really the plot that enamored me to this particular story. Evey element was amazingly well-planned whether on the side of the heroes or the villains. Each was trying to outmaneuver the other and many lesser beings were ultimately utilized as pawns in the cosmic struggle. If in the Infinity Gauntlet Adam Warlock's plans were very obscure and Thanos' plans were painfully simplistic, here the entire struggle felt like one intricate stratagem after another, constantly keeping the readers guessing.

I'm sure some of you geeks out there probably disagree with my assessment of the story, but I think I've more than established some more personal reasons why I love this story. The Infinity War will always remain to be the height of the Infinity Sagas for me since beyond this story arc, the succeeding tales were rather lacking in substance, in my opinion. But that's something best left for another review.

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