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A history of Marvel comics heroes who’ve dared to wield the Infinity Gauntlet

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Feel the rush of the stones, man

avengers: infinity war - thanos and infinity gauntlet
When the Mind Stone hits.
Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame was the biggest movie of 2019, and a sequel to a movie about a villain collecting the Infinity Stones, which itself was all about the heroes trying to collect the Infinity Stones.

In the end, Tony Stark sacrificed himself by wielding the gauntlet to defeat Thanos. He was only human, and when your weapon of choice leaves Smart Hulk aching, one can only imagine the energy rush it sends through a mortal human. The ultimate act defeated the big purple king, and should shape the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the years to come.

In the wake of the Infinity Saga, it seems like a great time to look at the history of the Infinity Gauntlet in the main universe of Marvel Comics, beginning with the original Infinity Gauntlet miniseries. There’s an elite class of characters who have collected all six Infinity Stones and successfully used their power — and not all of them were major players in Avengers: Endgame.

Thanos and other Marvel characters on the Cover of Infinity Gauntlet #1, Marvel Comics, 1991. George Pérez/Marvel Comics

Thanos

Obviously, Thanos created the Infinity Gauntlet, so he’s the first person to ever wield its power and, arguably, the one who wore it best. But hey — it’s easy to pull off something as decadent as a gold glove if you’re naturally a royal purple.

Thanos collected the Infinity Stones for the first time in Marvel Comics history in Jim Starlin, George Pérez, and Ron Lim’s 1991 miniseries Infinity Gauntlet, and used his newfound omnipotence to do the cosmic equivalent of hanging around Mistress Death’s house with a boombox.

He killed half the universe, as she had ordered him to, and transformed her space fortress into a shrine to her worship. He trapped Nebula in a living hell of pain to the point of death, without allowing her to die. He displayed his helpless brother Eros for Death’s amusement, and he fought the Avengers — turning Wolverine’s bones to rubber, suffocating Cyclops in an airtight cube, transporting Drax back in time into the age of dinosaurs, turning Thor to glass and shattering him — to prove his bravery.

But eventually, Thanos’ ego got the better of him, and a momentary lapse in judgement allowed a second person to snatch the Infinity Gauntlet off his hand and take it for her own.

Nebula

Nebula’s short tenure with the glove was as chaotic as Thanos’. She used it to immediately restore her body to health and banish Thanos to the depths of space. Later, in a heated moment, she reset the universe nearly as it was 24 hours previously, returning its decimated population to life and reviving the many beings Thanos had personally killed, as well.

But ultimately, by the end of Infinity Gauntlet, the eponymous glove wasn’t on the hand of Thanos, or Nebua, or any hero of Earth.

Adam Warlock and the Soul Stone Mark Bagley/Marvel Comics

Adam Warlock

At the end of Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock takes possession of the Infinity Stones.

If there’s a big glaring difference between the story of the Infinity Gems in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel Comics Universe, it’s that the character of Adam Warlock has yet to be properly introduced to the MCU. For the purposes of this piece, all you really need to know about Warlock (not to be confused with the X-Man character known as Warlock) is that he’s an artificially created “perfect” human who, following a series of complicated events, became a sort of space messiah.

And, in Marvel Comics, he’s the traditional guardian of the Soul Stone. Warlock didn’t do much with the Infinity Gauntlet, desiring mostly to keep it from being used by someone less scrupulous than him. But the supreme cosmic forces of the Marvel Universe ordered him to give up the Gauntlet and split up the Infinity Stones — which resulted in the creation of the Infinity Stone-guarding team known as Infinity Watch.

But that’s another story.

Mr. Fantastic, the Illuminati, and the Infinity Gauntlet in The New Avengers: Illuminati #2, Marvel Comics (2007). Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Reed, Jim Cheung/Marvel Comics

Mister Fantastic (sort of)

Years later, in 2007’s New Avengers: Illuminati #2, Mister Fantastic sought to collect the Infinity Stones, with the help of a shadowy cabal of Marvel heroes. But all he wanted them for was to try and use their power to wish the Gauntlet and Stones out of existence — it didn’t work.

But, this meant that a group of Earth’s most powerful heroes were now in charge of safeguarding the Infinity Stones, which paved the way for the Gauntlet’s next user:

Iron Man

Tony Stark is the first human being to successfully don the Infinity Gauntlet and use its power, which he did in order to foil the machinations of the supervillain the Hood, who had managed to steal five of the six gems from their guardians. Tony used the gauntlet to return the Hood to prison and make it appear as if he had destroyed the Gauntlet, when he actually returned the Gauntlet and the Stones to his allies.

Captain America

Earth’s heroes used the Gauntlet a final time to defend the Earth from an Incursion — another universe in the Marvel Multiverse that was colliding with the main Marvel one. Captain America used the Gauntlet to push an entire universe away from his own, and when he was done, the Stones shattered.

Which, at least, solved the problem of having to hide all the pieces of the universe’s most dangerous smoking gun on the planet Earth. The Stones remained shattered until the entire Marvel Multiverse was destroyed and remade in 2015’s Secret Wars event.

Following Secret Wars, the stones were significantly different than their previous incarnation — which is to say, they were now much closer in appearance to the movie versions. And, it would seem, the modern Infinity Stones don’t need the Infinity Gauntlet at all.

Gamora in Infinity Wars #3, Marvel Comics (2018). Gerry Duggan, Mike Deodato Jr./Marvel Comics

Gamora

In last summer’s Infinity Wars event, Gamora collected all six Infinity Stones and used them to fold the universe in half, collapsing Marvel heroes in to mashups of themselves like Iron Hammer and Ghost Panther, and she did it all without ever requiring a gauntlet. She embedded the Power Stone in the hilt of a badass sword and the five other stones just orbited around her head.

But another Marvel character managed to trick Gamora into fumbling the Infinity Stones, and assembled a set of his own:

Loki

To be fair, Loki doesn’t do much with the stones. He confronts the mighty Celestials, who show him his future, which he finds disappointing — so he returns the gems to the current Infinity Watch and goes on his merry way.