The Snap Heard ‘Round The World

Avengers: Infinity War goes to great pains to set up the moment where Thanos conducts genocide with a mere snap of his fingers. We are reminded of it at least twice before it happens so that the audience will realize how the power of the gauntlet is being used at that instant.

In The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series, this moment came near the end of the first issue and was in many ways the catalyst that set the whole plot in motion. Loki might have made a good surrogate for the Silver Surfer villain Mephisto, who serves as an obsequious advisor to Thanos throughout the mini-series right up until the moment he betrays him and attempts to grab the gauntlet for himself. Mephisto is the one who stands by watching and remarks, “He’s really going to do it” in the otherwise silent series of comic panels leading up to the finger-snapping moment.

As it is, Loki’s obsequiousness-turned-betrayal is accelerated early on and he is long dead in the movie by the time the snap serves as its stunning climax.

Half The Universe’s Population Ceases To Exist

Though it has mostly enjoyed a positive response, a common criticism of Avengers: Infinity War, is that the movie feels open-ended, like it dishes out a big cliffhanger. Part of the reason for that is because we movie news nerds are bringing in outside knowledge of the release slate for upcoming Marvel movies. If you take the story at face value, however, it does have a pretty conclusive ending.

The heroes lose. Thanos wins. He does what he set out to do and extinguishes half of all life in the universe. Characters disintegrate, their bodies crumbling into dust, and in the movie, as in the comics, Steve Rogers is the first to witness heroes being willed out of existence by the Mad Titan.

The funny thing is, in The Infinity Gauntlet #1, Hawkeye is one of the two heroes Cap sees fade into nothingness. But even before Infinity War hit theaters, Hawkeye had already pulled a disappearing act in the marketing, leading fans to speculate that he might not be in the movie at all (which he isn’t, save for a reference in the dialogue to him and Ant-Man being under house arrest).

On the comics page, the other hero Cap sees vanish is Sersi, a character who hasn’t been introduced into the MCU yet (but who is an Eternal and could very well have a part to play in the studio’s rumored Eternals movie should that indeed come to fruition). In the absence of Hawkeye and Sersi, therefore, the hero we first see disintegrate through Steve Rogers’ perspective is Bucky Barnes, a character with whom he shares a close personal connection.

Thanos’s Happy Ending

At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos sits smiling on his front porch, watching the sun rise on a new, depopulated Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s an ending that clearly echoes the last few pages of The Infinity Gauntlet #6, the final issue of the comic book mini-series. Those pages show a Thanos who seems somewhat content in his failure at godhood, having retired to a quiet farm to “digest and incorporate the lessons the past has forced upon [him].”

Writer Jim Starlin, who created the character of Thanos and is thanked in the closing credits “for his significant contribution” to Avengers: Infinity War, often treated Thanos as both a villain and as something of an anti-hero. Likewise, producer Kevin Feige has said, “you could almost go so far as to say [Thanos] is the main character” of Infinity War. Screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus came right out and said it: “It’s Thanos’ movie.”

Without a doubt, the force of his resolve, the strength of his will — and just pure strength — coupled with a degree of emotional complexity establishes Thanos as something of a mighty antidote to Marvel’s villain problem (though I would argue that the Winter Soldier made for a terrifying villain, one who could literally stop traffic, and there have been other visually effective villains in the MCU like Red Skull and Loki). In lieu of the traditional hero’s name, we even get that fun little capper in the credits telling us, “Thanos Will Return.”

If the world ends tomorrow and we never see another Marvel movie, there will have been a fairly definitive end to this 10-year story Marvel Studios has been telling. It’s an ending that beggars belief in a lot of ways (“Wait, that can’t happen! The villain can’t sit triumphant! The heroes can’t die!”), but it’s an ending nonetheless.

Warning: Potential SPOILERS for Avengers 4 on the next page. Continue reading at your own risk!

Continue Reading 12 Iconic Marvel Comics Moments That Avengers: Infinity War Brings to Life >>

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