Thursday, March 29, 2018

Starlin's Thanos, part 6 of 10: They Bite

Need to catch up? Part 1: The Mad Titan and the Cosmic Cube; Part 2: Chaos Meets the True Neutral; Part 3: Laid to Rest; Part 4: The Gloves Are On; Part 5: The Power Glove

The Infinity War was and is a mess.

Joined again with Ron Lim (and inks by Starlin's old mate Al Milgrom), 1992's Infinity War attempted to escalate what Starlin had done in The Infinity Gauntlet. More tie-ins! More heroes! More subplots! It's amazing that The Infinity War reads as well as it does; the best that can be said for it is that it was a very well-coordinated event.

Dipping into his back catalogue, Starlin brought back Adam Warlock's other self the Magus, revealing that Adam had unwittingly driven all good and evil from himself, causing those abstract qualities to take on physical form (as they do in the Marvel Universe). The reborn Magus builds an army of evil duplicates of Earth's heroes (where they came from was buried in a Quasar tie-in) and wields five Cosmic Cubes - but he's willing to settle for more. In fact, the Magus would dearly appreciate it if Adam would give him the Infinity Gems. Fortunately, Thanos is here to save the universe!

The other saving grace of The Infinity War is, thankfully, Thanos. When Thanos begins to sense the Magus' threat he returns to his familiar costume and seeks out Adam's Infinity Watch for assistance. Meanwhile, the Magus' evil duplicates are replacing a few of their counterparts.

The evil duplicates ('doppelgangers') are the most visible problem with The Infinity War: they're not interesting. Tasked with designing 50+ new evil doubles, Ron Lim reduced most of the evil doubles into images that were basically the same as the heroes, only with sharp teeth. Some of the doubles (Spider-Man, Daredevil, Invisible Woman) went on to cause trouble in comics long after the crossover was done. But they're evil; they have no nuance and barely any dialogue. Added to this, many of the tie-ins showed the same dull fight of the heroes at Four Freedoms Plaza battling their doubles. As in The Infinity Gauntlet, characters who weren't Starlin's pets have very little of consequence to do, with only Quasar's tie-ins containing any significant developments.

It's the surprise heroism of Thanos which elevates the event. Thanos begins by simply being intellectually curious about the Magus' plans, but when he realizes the cosmic threat, he takes steps to stop him. This is basically how Thanos will be characterized in every Starlin story to come (and Keith Giffen's).

It's just a shame those evil doubles are so lame.

Still, at the same time Starlin wrote a wonderful Thanos solo story for the 1992 Marvel Holiday Special. In this brief tale (illustrated by Ron Lim & Terry Austin), Thanos is reminded of how he raised Gamora from childhood and recalls how she saved him from an assassin - at the same time, revealing to Thanos she would never be the ruthless assassin he hoped for. This story actually has some credit coming to it for the way Thanos is treated as Gamora's father in the current Marvel films.

Next Tuesday: The Holiest War.

No comments: