Ever since their introduction back in 1972, it was clear that the Infinity Stones (known back then as Infinity Gems, or Soul Gems) were among the most powerful items in the Marvel Universe. And in a shared cosmic landscape that houses Celestial Beings, the abstract embodiment of Eternity, and a giant purple dude that eats planets, that’s saying a lot. It wasn’t until 1990, however, that Thanos the Mad Titan combined their already significant powers into a golden gauntlet, one that gifted him with all the powers of a god, and comic book history was made.
The Infinity Gauntlet has been most closely associated with Thanos over the years, thanks to the epic event in 1991 named after the powerful sparkly glove. With a click of his fingers, Thanos committed the biggest possible mass execution in the universe, and he was just getting started. Over the years, the gauntlet and the stones embedded within have been used by heroes and villains alike to carry out OP acts in the name of good or evil. For every universal clearing, there’s a last minute Deus Ex Machina from an unsuspecting hero. CBR takes a dive through Infinity to bring you the worst and best things ever done with the Infinity Gauntlet!
16 WORST: THANOS ELIMINATING HALF THE UNIVERSE
Let’s just get this one out of the way first, shall we? One of the most iconic moments in one of the biggest and best Marvel Events of all time, the moment Thanos donned the titular Infinity Gauntlet, he went out of his way to please Mistress Death (aka the love of his life) by wiping out half of all life in the universe, with merely a snap of his fingers.
That moment set the scale for the event right out of the gate, and let the readers know just how big of a threat Thanos was. With many heroes included in that mass genocide, those left behind rallied for the biggest cosmic battle they’d faced so far. The Infinity Gauntlet Saga stands the test of time, and became so influential that it inspired this year’s Avengers: Infinity War.
15 BEST: CAPTAIN AMERICA PREVENTS AN INCURSION
It’s thankfully rare that the Infinity Gauntlet is formed, firstly because that amount of power in anyone’s hands can sort of overwhelm any story it appears in, and secondly if it appeared every five minutes it would sort of diminish just how important this artifact is.
This fact isn’t lost on the heroes of the Marvel Universe either, which is why, when the Infinity Stones were collected and hidden away by the Illuminati (a cabal of Earth’s heroes), their decision to only use them for multiverse-shattering events was a wise one. When all of the alternate Earths were slowly colliding with one another, Captain America donned the gauntlet to avert imminent incursion with another universe. This act was so immense that it caused the stones to instantly shatter or disappear, rendering any further uses impossible.
14 WORST: THE HOOD GAINS UNLIMITED POWER
When you’re talking about cosmic objects that can give the bearer unlimited, omnipotent powers, it seems strange to think that they fell into the hands of a petty C-List villain like The Hood, but that’s exactly what happened during the later issues of Brian Bendis’s Avengers run.
Parker Robbins was a fairly low-level criminal that rose to prominence thanks to a cloak and boots stolen from a demon, which gave him limited mystical powers. While in prison, he befriended an Inhuman who told him the location of an Infinity stone. He broke out of jail, broke into the human city of Attilan and stole the Reality Stone. He then carved an improbable path through the Avengers as he assembled the Gauntlet, until he was defeated by the very power he sought to possess.
13 BEST: COUNCIL OF REEDS “SOLVE EVERYTHING”
Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run is a modern epic, one that runs through multiple books over four years. While it’s a fairly complete story in itself, there are plot threads that go all the way back to his earlier, similarly well-received run on Fantastic Four.
In that run we were introduced to the Council of Reeds, a multiversal gathering of all the various versions of Reed Richards from alternate worlds who came together to “Solve Everything.” The big, cosmic problems that required more than one super-genius called these Misters Fantastic together, and it was shown early on that they use multiple Infinity Gauntlets to help them carry out their grand, cosmic relief efforts. It was here that Hickman played with the idea that an Infinity Gauntlet from another universe is significantly less powerful in our own, and vice versa.
12 WORST: THANOS KEEPING NEBULA IN UNDYING AGONY
There are many evil things that Thanos has done when given the slightest bit of power, but this is perhaps one of his more twisted acts. As is always the case with the Mad Titan, everything he does is to try and please the (somewhat unrequited) love of Mistress Death, and this is no exception.
Once he had acquired all of the Infinity Stones and formed the all-powerful gauntlet, he set about gaining Death’s affection in any way he could. Before he would come upon the inspiration of wiping out half of all life in the universe, he first trapped Nebula -- whose relationship to Thanos isn’t as clear cut as it is in the movies -- in a perpetual state of agony, on the verge of death but never quite there, believing this to be a beautiful piece of art.
11 BEST: PET AVENGERS DEFEAT THANOS
If you’re reading this far and haven’t realized it yet, allow us to enlighten you: comics are crazy. While there are countless examples of why this is true, one of the more adorable is a little thing called the Pet Avengers. Over the years, the various superheroes of Marvel have owned their fair share of fluffy, furry or feathery friends; friends who occasionally join forces as the Pet Avengers!
When Mr Fantastic comes to Attilan seeking the Infinity Gems, the giant Inhuman dog Lockjaw takes it upon himself to help him out, gathering a team to help him accomplish it. This team includes Falcon’s bird Redwing, Kitty Pryde’s dragon Lockheed, Aunt May’s puppy Ms. Lion and Throg, the frog version of Thor (don’t ask). Together they not only acquire all of the Infinity Gems but defeat Thanos in the process.
10 WORST: SANTA CLAUS GOES INSANE WITH POWER
Yes, Santa Claus is a real guy in the Marvel Universe (like he is in ours, right kids?) and yes, at one time he acquired the Infinity Gauntlet. If you ever wondered what a dude who must already be fairly omnipotent would do with absolute power then yeah, it absolutely corrupts him. His little round belly shook like a bowl of omnipotent destruction, nearly obliterating the 616 universe.
When he realized that his reindeer were actually Skrulls, Santa sought the help of the Illuminati (Mr Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Panther and more) to borrow the Infinity Gauntlet, in order to make his deliveries on time. Unfortunately for us, this rush of godhood sent Santa crazy, forcing the Marvel heroes to face off against him. In the end, the heroes prevailed, and Santa settled for some robotic reindeer made by Tony Stark.
9 BEST: BLACK PANTHER USES THE BATTLEWORLD GAUNTLET
When faced with the power of the God Emperor Doom, is an Infinity Gauntlet even enough? That was the problem facing Black Panther during the 2015 event Secret Wars, in which the universe as we knew it ceased to exist and was remade by a Doctor Doom granted with the omnipotence of the cosmic Beyonders.
Doom’s pathwork Battleworld had succumb to chaos, and Doom was fighting against the might of what heroes remained. After murdering Thanos (by ripping his spine out), Doom found himself confronted with Black Panther wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. It wasn’t at full strength, being from a previous universe, but that didn’t matter. It was enough to put up a decent fight, one that was only ever meant to be a distraction anyway, keeping Doom from the real plan, which was Mr Fantastic using the Molecule Man to rewrite the universe.
8 WORST: THANOS BECOMES ETERNITY
Some of the grand, cosmic storylines of the Marvel Universe are only possible because of the physical embodiment of such abstract constants as Eternity, Death, Love and Entropy. In canon, these concepts adopt a physical form in order for the human minds of the Marvel heroes to comprehend them.
One such being is Eternity, the embodiment of all of creation. It’s depicted as a vaguely humanoid silhouette filled with stars and galaxies, and was first discovered by Dr. Strange in 1965. When Thanos acquired the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, he became so overwhelmingly powerful that he actually replaced Eternity as the embodiment of all creation. A fact which, if you haven’t figured out by now, is Really Bad News. It was never meant to last, however, as Thanos is far too flawed to maintain such unlimited power.
7 BEST: NEBULA RESURRECTS EARTH’S HEROES
Anyone who wields the Infinity Gauntlet is limited only by their own inherent weaknesses, as Thanos soon discovered at the end of the Infinity Gauntlet Saga. The Mad Titan’s greatest enemy will always be himself and, as such, never thought of himself as worthy. When he left his physical body and became Eternity, his “granddaughter” Nebula took the opportunity to claim the gauntlet for her own, but soon found herself victim to her own weaknesses too.
Enraged by Thanos and mad with power, she was easily manipulated, despite her unlimited cosmic potential. Tricked into undoing all the chaos Thanos had previously wrought, Nebula unwittingly returned all the Marvel heroes to life, as well as freeing the Cosmic Entities that Thanos had trapped. This simple act was enough to oppose and eventually defeat her.
6 WORST: MAGUS PLANS UNIVERSAL CONQUEST
For the uninitiated, Magus is the evil form of Adam Warlock, aka the Marvel Universe’s Space Jesus. He was first introduced as an older version of Warlock, who came back in time to consolidate his power and ensure his own creation. The second version was shortly after the Infinity Gauntlet Saga, when Warlock used the Infinity Gems to expel the “good” and “evil” parts of his personality in a way to make himself more pure and logical. These aspects of his personality manifested in physical forms and Magus was reborn.
Being an inherently dark and twisted being, Magus went about acquiring as much power as possible, gathering the Infinity Gems to complete the fabled Gauntlet. He was only brought down by Warlock himself, who tricked him by switching out the reality Gem with a fake.
5 BEST: DOCTOR DOOM DEFEATING CELESTIALS
In a universe like the Marvel 616, where seemingly anything is possible, there are times when we’re left to wonder what would have happened if events had unfolded differently. For those times there is What If, standalone issues that explore a different version of important moments.
One such issue concerned Dr Doom, and asked “What If Doom hadn’t lost the power of the Beyonder” (which he acquired during the first Secret Wars event). He used this untold power to conquer all of the universe, as well as Asgard, Hell and everything in between. Doom acquired the Infinity Gems almost as an afterthought and exhausted their power in a cosmic war against the Celestials that lasted over 400 years, a war which nearly destroyed the Earth he fought so hard to remake into his own image.
4 WORST: ULTIMATE HULK DEFEATING THE ULTIMATES
The Ultimate line of comics took the classic characters and concepts from Marvel’s rich history and retooled them -- free of decades of continuity -- for a brand new audience. It was only a matter of time, therefore, that the Infinity Stones would show up in one form or another. In the Ultimate Universe, there are actually eight stones, meaning that there are two Infinity Gauntlets, each housing four stones.
In the Ultimates storyline “Disassembled,” the mysterious villain Kang convinces the Ultimate Hulk to steal these Infinity Gauntlets and battle the Ultimates (that universe’s version of the Avengers). Hulk was manipulated by not only Kang but by the Maker, an evil version of Reed Richards; but when they are eventually defeated, the Infinity Stones shatter, rendering the pair of gauntlets useless.
3 BEST: SPIDER-MAN UNDOING INFINITY GAUNTLET SAGA
In a world in which the Fantastic Four are comprised of Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine and Ghost Rider, can the Marvel Universe survive the Infinity Gauntlet Saga? That was the question posed by the What If issue, “The Newer Fantastic Four.” It turns out that they do pretty well, even if the way they win the day is a little unconventional.
Facing off against the Mad Titan, Wolverine tries his hand at manipulating Thanos’s emotions. Logan convinces him that Mistress Death requires physical affection, and Thanos, taken in by this ruse, reaches out his arm to touch the face of his love. As he does this, Wolverine slices off Thanos’s arm, severing his connection to the Gauntlet. He then gave the glove to Spider-Man, who used the power to restore reality to what it was.
2 WORST: DARK SURFER PUSHES EARTH OUT OF ORBIT
If you’ve never watched the series, Marvel Super Hero Squad is a children’s cartoon based on the Marvel universe and its cast of characters. It’s often self-parodying, with a tongue in cheek humor that plays off knowledge and expectations of the Marvel Universe to place the characters in funny situations.
While the Silver Surfer was his recognizable self in Season One, in Season Two he became corrupted by the Infinity Gauntlet and became the Dark Surfer. With this new power he dispersed the heroes into different dimensions and proceeded to push Earth out of its orbit, driving the planet further from the Sun. It took the combined might of the Super Hero Squad to restore reality to normal, after which the newly restored Silver Surfer apologized for his crimes and was welcomed back as a hero by the team.
1 BEST: ULTRON/SIGMA MERGING MARVEL AND CAPCOM
As the name suggests, Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite relied heavily on the Infinity Gems in order to ensure these two disparate universes collided and battled. This 2017 entry in the popular game series saw Ultron of the Marvel universe team up with Sigma of the Mega Man X universe in order to wipe out all organic life across their worlds.
Now dubbed Ultron Sigma, this merged being uses the Space and Reality Stones to join not only their forms but their two dimensions together. This new world forces heroes from both universes to join forces in order to track down the remaining four Stones and undo the damage that’s been done. They succeed in defeating Ultron Sigma, but in the process the Reality Stone is cracked, meaning that the two universes can never again be separated.