This incredible six-part miniseries from the second half of 1991 was the inspiration behind the last two Avengers films, Infinity War and Endgame, especially Thanos’s infamous snap (seen in the middle of the first issue of the series rather than the halfway point). Captain America’s role in this story is limited but important—he is not even seen in issue #5 and barely in issue #6—but I wanted to “cover” the entire miniseries for the sake of completeness. (He also makes very minor appearances in several issues of Silver Surfer at the same time, but they mostly mirror scenes from Infinity Gauntlet.) Accordingly, I will hardly be doing justice to the story as a whole; by all means, read it if you haven’t, and then read this behind-the-scenes feature on its creation at Inverse.
I would like to dedicate this post to George Pérez, who pencilled the first three issues and some of the fourth (followed by the excellent Ron Lim), as well as pencilling the first four covers and inking the last two (over Lim’s pencils). This series represented Pérez’s return to Marvel Comics after a stellar decade at DC Comics, and we will enjoy more of his work at this blog when Avengers relaunches in 1998 as part of “Heroes Return.” George Pérez is not only one of the finest artists comics has ever known, he is also one of the finest human beings this world has ever known, and I wish him comfort and peace as he endures the final stages of pancreatic cancer with his characteristic grace, dignity, and that ever-present smile. [UPDATE: Mr. Pérez passed away on May 6, 2022. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and my fellow fans around the world.]
Captain America doesn’t appear in issue #1 until after Thanos’s snap, but I can’t not show this pivotal scene, where the big guy shows he will literally do anything for love.
From this point we see an assortment of heroes witnessing the effects of the snap, starting with Spider-Man and continuing with Cap, starting with a mini-portrait at the top of the page which is reminiscent of Pérez’s brilliant work on DC Comics’ The History of the DC Universe.
Cap passes several pictures of classic line-ups of the Avengers—the second of which Pérez drew during the first spell on the book, as we’ve seen—and then greets Sersi and Hawkeye…
…before they disappear before his shocked and frightened eyes.
Cap’s humanity shines through the beginning of what he realizes will be one of the darkest times the Marvel Universe has experienced, as he acknowledges his fear, his helplessness, and his apprehension of what is to come.
In issue #2, a number of the surviving Avengers gather at their headquarters, where Cap stands in front of a display of missing superheroes (including all of the Fantastic Four, curiously).
Note that Thor has apparently not met with Cap yet, as we saw in Thor #434, to explain that he is not the Odinson but Eric Masterson (in Thor’s body).
Cap tries to be optimistic, in his own way, but She-Hulk objects.
A frustrated Thanos finds Death unimpressed by his gesture, so he unleashes a psychic wave that wreaks destruction throughout the universe; on Earth, Iron Man and the West Coast Avengers see that “their side” of North America has fallen into the ocean, and Thor reports that Japan has suffered the same fate. Below, for some reason Nick Fury calls Thor by Cap’s nickname before checking in on the Avengers, who are reaching out for any help they can find…
…and checking in with their cross-country colleagues before taking in the damage across the globe.
In issue #3, the Avengers are visited by Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer (who, in the beginning of the first issue, fell through the ceiling of the Sanctum Sanctorum, much as Bruce Banner did in the film), Doctor Doom (who is both protective of the Earth and curious about the power that threatens it), and a reincarnated Adam Warlock, who is prepared to take the fight to Thanos.
After more heroes arrive to join the battle, Cap prepares to hand off leadership to Warlock, but Doom is not satisfied with this choice.
Cap stands firm, and Doom wisely relents.
That settled, Warlock and the Surfer leave to gather more allies… and to call them “big guns” is doing them a great disservice. (I’m a sucker for double-page spreads of the cosmic beings of the Marvel Universe.)
Back on Earth, Iron Man and Doctor Doom act out a version of the fable of “The Scorpion and the Frog.”
Say what you want about Doom, but he’s rarely coy about his intentions.
Cap steps in, as much to calm down Iron Man as to tell Doom he may be more trouble than he’s worth.
Warlock wants to have a chat with Wolverine, and when Cap realizes he’s on the roof with the Hulk, he fears the worst—such as more “dissension” in their ranks—but Warlock assures him he’ll handle it, and we can assume Cap is grateful for the help.
What Cap doesn’t know is that Warlock wants to talk with both Hulk and Wolverine to make sure they’re willing to “do what needs to be done” if they have the chance to take Thanos out once and for all.
The issue ends with another stunning double-page spread as the heroes arrive on Thanos’s monument to Death.
By the time we see Cap in issue #4, Ron Lim has taken over on pencils (having had much experience drawing Cap’s own title as well as the build-up to this story in Silver Surfer and The Thanos Quest, the prelude to Infinity Gauntlet). With Adam Warlock and the Silver Surfer elsewhere, Cap assumes command, inspiring his colleagues while keeping his worries to himself.
One by one, the heroes (and Doctor Doom) fall to Thanos, the latest being Cyclops and Vision…
…and Captain America still has the capacity to be shocked by every death, despite Thanos’s mockery.
Even after Cloak tries and falls to capture Thanos in the Darkforce Dimension, Cap compares Thanos to the murderous tyrants he’s fought in the past, predicting his fate will match theirs.
In the end, Captain America is the last hero standing…
…and ever defiant, he stands up to the Mad Titan as an equal.
Cap makes what may be his final speech…
…and fights Thanos, who destroys the mighty shield with a wave of his hand, while Warlock and the Surfer prepare to implement a plan of their own.
As Thanos raises his gloved fist to bring it down on Cap, the Surfer races from across the galaxy in an effort to snatch the gauntlet. In the end he fails; Cap gets one more blow in, but finally falls to Thanos’s power.
That’s mostly it for Cap in this story: He does not appear at all in issue #5 and in only one panel in issue #6, as the dead begin to return after someone (not Iron Man) uses the gauntlet after Thanos’s defeat to restore the universe to as it had been 24 hours earlier, undoing the effects of “the snap” and leaving most everyone ignorant of what had happened.
Infinity Gauntlet was very successful and spawned many sequels, most directly Infinity War and Infinity Crusade, in addition to many “Infinity”-themed stories and events that continue to this day—to say nothing of two of the most successful films ever made. (Not bad for a story that was not planned initially to be a massive crossover event at all!)
Infinity Gauntlet (vol. 1) #1, July 1991: Jim Starlin (writer), George Pérez (pencils), Josef Rubinstein and Tom Christopher (inks), Max Scheele and Ian Laughlin (colors), Jack Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Infinity Gauntlet (vol. 1) #2, August 1991: Jim Starlin (writer), George Pérez (pencils), Josef Rubinstein (inks), Max Scheele (colors), Jack Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Infinity Gauntlet (vol. 1) #3, September 1991: Jim Starlin (writer), George Pérez (pencils), Josef Rubinstein (inks), Max Scheele and Ian Laughlin (colors), Jack Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Infinity Gauntlet (vol. 1) #4, October 1991: Jim Starlin (writer), George Pérez and Ron Lim (pencils), Josef Rubinstein and Bruce N. Solotoff (inks), Max Scheele and Ian Laughlin (colors), Jack Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Infinity Gauntlet (vol. 1) #5, November 1991: Jim Starlin (writer), Ron Lim (pencils), Josef Rubinstein (inks), Max Scheele and Ian Laughlin (colors), Jack Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Infinity Gauntlet (vol. 1) #6, December 1991: Jim Starlin (writer), Ron Lim (pencils), Josef Rubinstein (inks), Max Scheele and Evelyn Stein (colors), Jack Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in The Infinity Gauntlet.
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