Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nihilists, Dude!

Talk to the hand!
The Infinity Gauntlet: written by Jim Starlin; illustrated by George Perez, Ron Lim, and Josef Rubenstein (1991; collected 2000): The good thing about this epic Marvel miniseries from the early 1990's is George Perez's art on the first 3 1/2 issues, especially those sections depicting Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange. What those pages suggest is that, with the right writer, a Perez-illustrated Dr. Strange series would have been fantastic -- the mystical nature of the few Strange-centric pages herein really seem to free Perez to do things with layout that he doesn't generally do.

Otherwise, though, this almost reads like a parody of a massive superhero crossover event. The Infinity Gauntlet is basically half roll call, half fight scene. And as the fight scenes mostly involve hopeless battle against an omnipotent being, they quickly become distractingly depressing.

The death count is high, meaning that a reset button looms at the end of things, an end that takes forever to get to. But those heroes will suffer and be humiliated and get killed in the meantime. Boy, will they suffer and be humiliated and get killed. Among the sadists of the superhero-writing world of the 1980's and 1990's, only Chris Claremont seemed to revel more than Starlin at doing terrible and grotesque things to Marvel's heroes.

Jim Starlin, the destitute man's Jack Kirby, has been death-obsessed as a writer since his beginnings in the early 1970's. Herein, he has his death-obsessed super-god Thanos ("He's a nihilist!" one character breathlessly informs us) kill off half the non-vegetable, non-bacterial living beings in the universe in the opening pages as a love offering to Death. Literally. In Starlin's version of the Marvel universe, Death is a silent woman in a purple, hooded robe. And Thanos loves her. But she doesn't love Thanos. And he never learns. And she never says anything.

But with the Infinity Gauntlet -- essentially a remote control for the universe -- Thanos can now cause havoc for everybody. Leading the forces of good is dour cosmic crusader Adam Warlock, Starlin's go-to character for cosmic angst along with Marvel's original Captain Marvel. Much fighting and yelling and sophomoric philosophical musing ensues, and once Perez leaves and is replaced by the capable but somewhat bland Ron Lim as penciller, the series thuds and stumbles to its conclusion. Not recommended.

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