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I’ll read anything Marvel published from the early 1970s up until around 1992, but this remains my absolute favorite superhero comic book story of all time. It came out in the glorious summer of 1991, and I bought every issue and tie-in I could find in the one dime store we had in Swedesboro, New Jersey, and that I could afford with my $5 allowance. Back then standard issues of monthlies were $1 and special double issue dealies like this series were $2.50. I think they’re like $12 a piece now and have ads for Viagra and cars in them.

Anyway, you could see how holding the new issue of INFINITY GAUNTLET and a tie-in issues of SILVER SURFER and DR. STRANGE in one hand ($4.50), and the ever important UNCANNY X-MEN, X-FACTOR, NEW MUTANTS, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and PUNISHER WAR ZONE in the other ($5 even) would have been a daunting choice. Whatever you chose not to get would probably be gone by the next week, and for some reason I was too shy, or it never occurred to me, to ask the grouchy old man who ran the store to actually restock comics. It was just a single rack that bent the issues, there was no Borders, no trades, no Internet. And frankly, I enjoyed it then more than I can really enjoy anything now.

For me, comics should be crazy, pulpy, and just a tiny bit dumb. They’re supposed to be fun, not dour shit like Vertigo. I started reading in a golden age when Marvel was really knocking out amazing stuff, right before its best artists and their inflated egos broke off and formed their own company, the aptly named Image Comics. Image was symbolic of the excesses of the collector bubble. Before Photoshop removed any evidence of an actual human hand working a craft.

In lieu of personally trying to describe the plot, Wikipedia sez:

Thanos mounts the six Infinity Gems, (collected in the The Thanos Quest limited series), on his left glove to form the Infinity Gauntlet, the focus of the title of the series. Each Gem grants its bearer complete mastery over one aspect of the universe, being Time; Space; Mind; Soul; Reality and Power respectively. Desperate to win the affections of Death, Thanos decides to offer the entity a gift of love by erasing half the sentient life in the universe.

The surviving heroes on Earth band together — guided by a newly-resurrected hero Adam Warlock — to battle Thanos.

Don’t worry, the gems don’t feel like a random MacGuffin like in a Final Fantasy game where you have to find THE FOUR ELEMENTAL CRYSTALS™ in order to stop the main boss. The power of the gauntlet and the stakes are shown explicitly and psychedelically. You have to keep in mind, for me, this was utterly crazy stuff. I couldn’t get ahold of cool, “edgy” comics like SIN CITY or GHOST WORLD or whatever. And I’m glad for it, because I think small, personal stories about heartache totally miss the point of comics as a medium. My friend Erin K. Drew put it succinctly:

One criteria I use in distinguishing art I consider “good” involves questioning if the artist used their chosen medium to do things they couldn’t do (better) in another. If they chose animated film, did characters in their narratives turn inside out and walk through walls? (Gumby = good art)

By her criteria, this is one of the greatest comics ever made. Time and reality bend to peoples’ wills, there’s a silver dude on a galactic surfboard. Spider-man is in outer space.

This was written by Jim Starlin, the guy responsible for the call-in poll to decide whether Robin (of Batman fame) would live or die. The people decided. George Perez left as penciller halfway through, due to his stressful workload (he was pencilling DC’s Wonder Woman concurrently). It’s not a jarring transition, as Perez remained as inker and his replacement, Ron Lim, was very similar in style. Lim is a natural fit for Marvel’s cosmic side.

The great thing about THE INFINITY GAUNTLET saga is that you don’t need more than a rudimentary awareness of the characters involved. It never touches deeply or relies on any one character’s backstory, and yet the entire thing is compelling in style and substance. But if you have read it before, I threw in about 35 issues of comics like SILVER SURFER, DR. STRANGE, SLEEPWALKER, QUASAR, and WHAT IF? from the period and earlier that tied into the story. You don’t need to read them to love the story, but if you’re already familiar they do add to it. You can always just stick to the six issue original series.

To read comics in the CBR/CBZ format I use CDisplay, a no-nonsense Windows comic book reader. There’s an OSX supported reader called Comical that is also very good. OR, just open them with whatever you use to open RARs and ZIPs, as it’s just a format for bundling JPGs together.

DOWNLOAD:
THE INFINITY GAUNTLET
THE INFINITY GAUNTLET TIE-IN/CROSSOVER STUFF
CBR/CBZ

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