The Infinity Gauntlet: Now For Kids!
Let’s say, hypothetically, you awake one morning to find yourself tied to a chair with a burlap sack placed over your head and the distinct sensation of tranquilizers wearing off throughout your bloodstream. The aforementioned sack is removed and you’re surprised to find yourself in a plainly decorated meeting room inside the headquarters of Marvel Comics. Several professionally dressed men sit across a table from you, and they have a request. They’d like you to help them decide which event from Marvel’s long history should next be adapted into an all ages accessible limited series. And if you happen to lead them into choosing one that does not adapt so well, there will be consequences. What are the chances you would choose “The Infinity Gauntlet,” Marvel’s massive, high body count crossover event from the early 90s?
It’s not the most instantly kid-friendly concept, and yet writer Brian Clevinger, penciler Brian Churilla, inker Terry Pallot and colorist Michelle Madsen have been handed just such an assignment with “Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet,” a four-issue series in Marvel’s all-ages line loosely inspired by the Jim Starlin series. Heavy emphasis on the “loosely.” Because showing Thanos killing heroes left and right isn’t exactly the sort of thing that would fly in a book that kids should be able to pick up and read, “Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet” is instead more about bringing together an unorthodox team of heroes and one villain (Doctor Doom) and sending them off to have wacky adventures in space. The creative team embraces this decision to fully deviate from the original story and the result is a book that, while it may cause eye twitches and consternation among purists, is a lot of fun to read.
Issue 2 marks the series’ coming down hard on the side of enjoying itself rather than having a strict adherence to the source material as the team assembled to fight Thanos (Doom, Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine and leader Ms. Marvel) steps aboard the hypertruck of space trucker U.S. Ace. Most of what follows centers more around Ace and his truck than on the team’s mission to find out the reason half the world’s population mysteriously vanished. In between narrowly escaping a battle between a fleet of Kree and Skrull ships, a visit to a space gas station/space diner and an attack by a space zeppelin, there’s little opportunity for any page time for Thanos and the titular glove bedazzled with Infinity Gems.
If you’re the type of reader who insists on only picking up books that exist within the main continuity of one or the other of the two major superhero universes, you’re not going to want to read this. If should you accidentally make contact with this book, or another comic adjacent to it on the shelf or your local comic book store, you should probably rinse the affected area thoroughly with a strong soap. In fact, you should probably avoid even looking at this book if possible, and should the technology to selectively erase human memories become easily affordable within the next few months I would advise you scrub your memory free of the fact that this book ever existed. Now on the other hand if you’re the sort of reader who’s perfectly fine with a comic that doesn’t take itself all that seriously and is out to continually outdo itself with banter and sight gags, go read this book.
In fact, I’m more than a little concerned that this title isn’t going to find its way into the hands of the readers who’ll most appreciate it. There’s the previously noted concern that people looking for a book that exactly follows the story of the Infinity Gauntlet are not going to find that here. But more than that there’s the misleading nature of the cover, which shows Thanos standing triumphant over the defeated team. Aside from the fact that they’re depicted in a more standard superhero book style that’s not at all appropriate to the tone of the rest of the book, there’s the simple fact that at no point in this issue is there any confrontation of any sort between the Avengers and Thanos.
Again, if you like your books to have a generous sense of fun about them, give this a try. Clevinger’s writing, particularly for Spider-Man, Doom and U.S. Ace, is often hilarious. As are the running visual jokes Churilla creates when the Hulk’s assigned to help Ace with the space map. I’ll be honest here, if I were a child and this book were my first introduction to the “Infinity Gauntlet,” I think I’d be disappointed if I later picked up the original and found it to contain no hypertrucks whatsoever.