Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Infinity Gauntlet 5, originally released November 11th, 2015. This issue is part of Secret Wars. To see more coverage of this week’s Secret Wars issues, check out our Marvel Round-Up.
Spencer: There was one simple reason that I wanted to cover Infinity Gauntlet 5 this week: I just thought it would be a blast, both to read and write about. Spoiler alert: I was right, but considering the previous four issues, I suppose that was always a foregone conclusion. Even when his focus was on the cast’s hopeless task of trying to survive in a savage wasteland, Dustin Weaver imbued the story (and especially the art) with a certain spark of chaotic, creative energy that never failed to draw me in. That spark grew into a full-blown fire as the series progressed; the finale actually revolves around the power of creativity, both in terms of the ideas Weaver and scripter Gerry Duggan fill it with and within the story itself, where Anwen makes creativity her greatest weapon in the battle against Thanos.
That battle takes up the lion’s share of the issue. Star-Lord, Gamora, and Groot provide a distraction while Anwen and her family of Novas recover the Reality Stone and attempt to take down Thanos — and rescue their mother in the process. It’s a brutal, destructive brawl, but in some ways the battle is more about warring philosophies than brute force (though that’s certainly important too). Thanos believes that family is weakness, that he doesn’t need help, and drives that point home by murdering his past (or future — I’m not really sure) self when he tries to interfere. Anwen, meanwhile, is fueled by the strength of her friends and family; the Guardians sacrifice themselves so her family can pursue Thanos, Zigzag the dog actually tracks down the stone, and just to make the “togetherness” metaphor as literal as possible, at one point the Novas even combine to form a Voltron!
A Nova-Voltron with a dog’s head?! It’s absolutely bonkers and I love it. Eventually, though, the robot falls, leaving just Anwen all on her own. Throughout this entire series Thanos has complimented Anwen on her prowess, and once she’s the last Nova standing, her father too reminds her that she’s the “strong one.” This almost seems to be abandoning the themes of teamwork and family, but I think what’s important here is that Anwen never leans simply on her own strength alone, no matter how Thanos or her father talks it up.
Anwen couldn’t have even made it to Thanos without all the help along the way, and she eventually defeats him by embracing, not strength, but creativity. This kind of vision is literally unthinkable to Thanos, who can only recognize his own strength, thereby blinding him to any other avenue of power. That truly is Thanos’ greatest weakness; he turns away powerful allies, underestimates his opponents, and even fails to fully utilize the phenomenal power of his beloved Infinity Stones because he truly believes that he’s unstoppable. He’s a narcissistic, death-worshipping, violence-obsessed monster, so of course he’d be taken down by a little girl wielding the powers of teamwork, creation, and sheer possibility itself. Anwen has become Thanos’ antithesis in every way possible, and it’s glorious.
Weaver appears to be having just as much fun with the unlimited creative freedom the Reality Stone provides as Anwen is. I get the feeling that a lot of this issue’s beats (such as Nova-Voltron) are simply ideas that popped into Weaver’s head that were too good to pass up, but instead of standing out as pet ideas or “darlings” that should have been killed, the Reality Stone allows Weaver and Duggan to weave them into the narrative flawlessly, transforming them into some of the story’s most memorable moments. Nova-Voltron is going to be permanently seared into my memory, as is that scene where the Novas attempt to literally disassemble Thanos on an atomic level.
I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped into my lap when I got to this point on my initial read.
Even the technical detail of Weaver’s art seems indicative of the fun he’s having and the passion he pours into each page.
There’s a real energy to Weaver’s layouts, and especially to the way characters just break out of the panels, not for any real thematic or narrative reason, but just because Weaver’s figures are too powerful to be restrained by frames and gutters. I want to focus in on Thanos’ attack in that second panel, though, because that is exactly the way I imagine energy blasts in my head. Besides the force of the beam itself, Weaver surrounds it with rings of power and what appears to be a sonic boom, details that could maybe be seen as overboard in a less bombastic story, but which in Infinity Gauntlet work perfectly to establish Thanos’ sheer brute strength in the most engaging, visually interesting way possible.
Unfortunately, I do have to acknowledge that this isn’t a perfect issue. The Guardians steal every scene they’re in through their dialogue alone, but after a certain point they just disappear, never to be mentioned again, and before then they pop up throughout the issue just sporadically enough to be jarring — the last time we see them is for one panel after a three or four page absence, and that’s just plain distracting. Still, that’s a small complaint, and one easily overlooked by the goodwill Weaver and Duggan build throughout the issue. They clearly had a blast with this book, and while I can’t speak for any other reader, I at least can feel the love coming through on each and every page. How about you, Drew? Did the action, creativity, and sheer spectacle of this issue capture your heart as it did mine?
Drew: There were certainly some memorable spectacles. Anwen’s final trick, altering reality to create a Death Stone, is a brilliant turn that reveals the true power of the Reality Stone. Perhaps more importantly, it gives Thanos a big, dramatic death scene.
That’s a hell of a hell of a page, but it’s a necessary send-off to the villain of this series, emphasizing just how important Anwen’s victory here is.
Unfortunately, not every death gets quite as much space to make an impact. Spencer, I believe the reason the Guardians disappear is because they’re killed in battle, but it happens so quickly and unceremoniously, it sure doesn’t feel like it. This series has always had bizarre mid-page scene transitions, but the one from the Guardian’s final scene back to the battle against Thanos is so abrupt, it’s hard to believe there’s a key plot point there.
As you can see, there’s no confirmation that the Guardians have been killed (no moment of silence where we see the Milano has disappeared from the sky, for example), so it could be that they’re not, but that ambiguity speaks to how unclear this sequence is. They don’t appear again in the issue, which leads me to believe that they are vaporized here, but then again, they’d already survived one of these blasts, so it seems odd that the second one would obliterate them completely.
I had similar confusion at that sequence Spencer included of Thanos killing his future self. This was by no means the first time one of them had blasted the other with their gauntlets, so that final blast didn’t stand out in my first reading. As with the Guardians’ death, we don’t linger on the moment to confirm that anyone has died — Thanos simply offers an explanation of what he’s going to do next (a piece of dialogue that I think makes more sense if you believe he’s saying it to his opponent). Just a little more space, both here and in the Guardians’ death, could have clarified and added impact to these moments.
But again, Weaver and Duggan do it so well elsewhere. I already mentioned Thanos’ death, but they also take some time to give Anwen a quiet reunion with her mother.
The shot structure here is much more straightforward, and features a textbook use of bleed, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most emotionally satisfying sequence in the whole issue. Weaver and Duggan are amazing storytellers — I just wish this issue gave them more space to show it off.
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