Review by Frank Plowright
Jim Starlin’s return to his creation Thanos, and to Warlock a character he so thoroughly revised it might as well have been his creation, was big news in 1991, and despite the disappointment of artist George Pérez bailing halfway through, The Infinity Gauntlet was a commercial success. However, it doesn’t make for great reading now.
Ron Lim’s reward for finishing The Infinity Gauntlet off (in both senses) was to draw The Infinity War, where the concept is viable, but the result is a joyless, predictable affair. This time Thanos is, if not the hero, certainly on the side of the angels, the first to discover there’s something amiss with Eternity, a result of which is feral doppelgangers of Earth’s heroes manifesting. The villain behind everything is revealed early as Magus, an alternate future version of Warlock who ought to be dead, after which Starlin introduces a gathering of Marvel heroes and separately teams Doctor Doom with Kang.
The set up is professional, if lacking inspiration and featuring preening villains, but could have flown higher with a decent artist. Instead every page seems to have been dashed off by Lim with no thought of composition. He tells the story, but in the most basic fashion, his anatomy is woeful, and at times he seems to be swiping Starlin’s artwork, a scene with Drax in the second chapter illustrating all points.
Each main story chapter is a patience-draining forty pages, leading to a dull, bloated affair, and no points to Starlin for sidelining two of the few women involved by allocating them as hospital guards to injured heroes playing no further part, and having others making the coffee. This scene ticks the Bechdel Test box backhandedly.
The Infinity Gauntlet left the infinity stones in the hands of Warlock and five chosen allies, and once the title story finally ends the pages leap back to fill in some detail before the main event, showing how Warlock and friends ended up on Monster Island. Barely credibly, Tom Raney manages to draw a poorer Drax than Lim, although his page compositions are an improvement. Angel Medina is a better artist, but drawing in Raney’s style for continuity. Gamora and her relationship with Thanos is the subplot occupying most space, and this has some nice touches, making for the best of the book, but they’re buried deep in largely ordinary material.
It’s right at the back that the best moments overall arrive as Starlin clarifies Thanos’ revised relationship with Death amid a clever ethical consideration tying into the main event. Joel Zulueta is a promising artist, but the story is competently completed by Shawn McManus.
No matter how much you admire Jim Starlin’s cosmic epics, the 1990s weren’t good years for him, and only disappointment awaits here. If, god forbid, four hundred pages aren’t enough for you, there’s a hardcover, oversized Infinity War Ominibus.