Marvel’s recent initiative of taking classic stories and redoing them in short, all ages books is one that makes sense in theory. A lot of those stories were done in styles that aren’t appealing to a contemporary audience or are bogged down in continuity, so updating them in a fresher style and setting them apart from heavy continuity concerns makes sense. For fans of the originals, the updated versions are a chance to experience that loved story again from a different perspective and see what choices the creators make in reimagining it. When “Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet” was announced, co-writer Brian Clevinger said that he wanted to avoid rereading the original “Infinity Gauntlet” story, so his version can stand on its own.
In that respect, the first issue succeeds as the bare bones of the original “Infinity Gauntlet” plot are there: Thanos has the Gauntlet, half the population of Earth has disappeared, and the remaining superheroes need to figure out what happened and find a way to bring everyone back. The cast is streamlined down with the more iconic and well-known heroes taking center stage, while key figures in the original story like Adam Warlock, Mephisto, Dr. Strange, and the Silver Surfer are absent. Even the heroes that remain are a different cast with memorable “Gauntlet” heroes like Captain America and Thor absent (so, no recreation of Cap standing up to Thanos, I suppose, but that’s probably for the best).
The tone of the book is wildly different, too, with writing that’s much lighter and comedic. The superheroes are more sarcastic than normal, particularly when it comes to Spider-Man, since he gets dumped on quite a bit in this issue. In that way, he’s set up as a lovable loser type compared to the gruff, grouchy Wolverine, or the level-headed Invisible Woman. The choice of the heroes to go into space to track the energy that washed over Earth at the same time as the disappearances is unexpected in some respects, because only four are chosen and the four that are chosen (Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Hulk, and Wolverine) aren’t necessarily the four that spring to mind when thinking of a team that can take on Thanos. But, the introduction of Dr. Doom into the story adds some interesting possibilities and funny interactions.
If you’ve seen Brian Churilla’s work on “The Anchor” or elsewhere, the idea of him drawing Thanos should make you smile. His cartoony, bold style and ability at drawing large, bulky characters make him the perfect choice for this series. His Thanos is imposing and larger than life, while his superheroes are full of energy. I particularly like his rendition of Wolverine as a thick, hunched over, scowling grump; it makes for a nice contrast to the thin, bounding Spider-Man. Churilla’s storytelling is clear and he handles the visual gags quite well. The panel of Speedball running around on fire is one that I could look at all day and still find funny.
Fans of the original “Infinity Gauntlet” may miss the cosmic characters or the stronger focus on Thanos, but “Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet” #1 sets up the premise well with a focus on the Marvel heroes that a wider range of readers would be familiar with. Some of the choices Clevinger and Black make may raise some eyebrows, but it’s clear that they’re telling their version of the story and have a plan. Plus, Churilla drawing Thanos! I cannot stress that last point enough.