One of my great worries -- one shared by many Marvel fans, I think -- ahead of the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War was the characterization of Thanos (Josh Brolin). Would this looming specter of evil, who'd stuck largely to the background until now, actually prove to be a compelling villain? The trailers seemed to say so, but we've been burned by trailers before. More importantly, we've been let down by Marvel Cinematic Universe villains before. Would Thanos be different?
It turns out Infinity War's version of The Mad Titan was pretty compelling after all, thanks to solid writing for the character and a surprisingly humanizing performance by Josh Brolin. I actually ended up liking him quite a lot. He wasn't my favorite character in the movie by any means (Hi, Thor!), but he worked for me. If there's one thing I could change, though, I'd go back to 1991's The Infinity Gauntlet and take one particular queue from that landmark series that the film softened quite a bit.
No, I don't mean Mistress Death. Yes, I know a lot of fans still find the absence of Mistress Death from the MCU to be rather regrettable for a number of reasons, but Thanos' motivations on his own proved to hold enough weight in Infinity War to make them work. No, I'm talking about that moment when Thanos got so bombastic, so certain of his superiority and might, that he used the Infinity Gauntlet to make a monument to himself...out of planets.
Yeah, you read that right. You think it's kinda egotistical for a human billionaire to stamp their name all over a skyscraper? Thanos stamped his across the sky itself, and he did it with whole planets. Here it is, from the title page of Infinity Gauntlet #3.
Yes, that is a clever thing artist George Perez drew, but it's not just there as an abstract concept to introduce the next chapter of the miniseries. As confirmed on the next page, Thanos is standing in front of his space palace, using the Gauntlet to yank nearly six dozen planets around until they spell his name just right.
There's boss, and then there's BOSS.
If you saw Infinity War, think of all the cool things Thanos does in that movie. Think of how big he's thinking. Then think of this, just a dude who's standing bored on a floating skull castle trying to think of ways to make the universe more fun for himself. And to make the scene ever better, this still doesn't impress Mistress Death, and he's already obliterated half of all life for her by this point. That happens in issue #1. This is issue #3, and he's just goofing off with planets as his toys. We're only halfway through the story at this point! The Avengers and their friends haven't even gotten to him yet! That is bonkers.
And yeah, this probably (definitely) wouldn't have worked on the big screen. It would have seemed silly and we would have all been left with the question of how each and every planet was affected by being yanked off its axis and out of its orbit, and that would have taken time and just plain been distracted. Plus, it would've been a bit nuts, even for Marvel Studios, to have presented this at the midpoint when they still have a sequel to consider. Where do you go from here?
Infinity Gauntlet, with its endless bombast and cast of characters that makes even Infinity War look like a cozy little get together, has no such concerns. Would it work as a movie if you just adapted it, beat-for-beat? Probably not, but as a comic, it remains an essential because of stuff like this.