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Posted on 25 April, 2022

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1991

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6 issues

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What if God was evil? This was the question Jim Starlin asked himself when writing the ambitious crossover event. In The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos plays a godlike role, acting like a mad Titan bent on rewriting reality to his own liking. To stop him, the Avengers will team up with unlikely allies to fight fate itself, in a confrontation of cosmic powers as well as psychology.

Infinity Gauntlet Thanos - The Snap
 Marvel © 1991
Courtesy of Marvel © 1991

In The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos is a Freudian villain

In 1991, Starlin created the mad Titan using his Catholic upbringing and the psychology studies he attended. The writer reversed the idea of a benevolent God and introduced an evil counterpart. Like Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Thanos embodies Freudian concepts of Life and Death Drives. Starlin puts Thanos in a rivalry with his brother Eros.

In fact, Thanos is in love with Death, who, in the Marvel universe, is an actual woman, beautiful and yet terrible. Life and Death are constantly at odds within Thanos. He sexually craves Death and her rejection frustrates him. At the same time, Thanos knows he’s unworthy of the power he holds and unconsciously tries to relinquish it. The Death Drive is a major part of Thanos’ character. For him, death means losing godhood. This urge to metaphorically die, to give up the Infinity Gauntlet, will give the heroes an opportunity to defeat him.

A Titan’s Fall

Following Luigi Pareyson‘s analysis of Dostoevskji, Thanos unites the concepts of God and freedom through evil. Thanos, through villainy, elevates himself to a higher level, embracing absolute freedom and becoming a literal God. As Thanos becomes master of the universe, he becomes fate itself. Thus, the heroes tasked with defeating him must fight against reality itself. Called The Nihilist, he becomes blind to the universe’s plight.

He tries to rewrite reality in his own bleak and pessimistic ideal, fighting Cosmic Entities like Galactus or Eternity. Ultimately, his defeat is a harsh wake-up call. Like Ozymandias in Percy Shelley‘s sonnet, his work becomes dust, his arrogance beaten by life, fighting to keep ongoing. Thanos’ defeat is proof that even the mightiest can fall. He finally understands that ultimate power isn’t a worthy goal. The Titan eventually returns to simple ways, leaving the universe’s fate in the hands of others.

Courtesy of Marvel © 1991

United we stand

Under Adam Warlock, heroes like Captain America must coexist with villains like Doctor Doom. It’s a challenge in trust, as the Avengers hardly know anything about the mysterious Warlock and barely tolerate old rivals’ antiques. Like in Mass Effect, each member of this alliance brings something unique. It’s only by employing the talents of everyone that the heroes have a chance of winning. Similar to the protagonist of Cyberpunk 2077, the Avengers reject death and fight to keep on living in a reality turning hostile on them.

An infinite success

The Infinity Gauntlet saga was an instant hit in 1991. Two new sequels, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade, were released in 1992 and 1993 respectively. The story became a worldwide phenomenon when it was adapted into a movie series and implemented into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Numerous reprints and special editions have made the original saga popular to this day.

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