"Avengers: Infinity War" is almost upon us — close enough that we can figure out what Marvel comic books it's lifted from, and to what extent. As most people know by now, none of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been direct adaptations. But reading collections of stories that inspired the film can unearth fascinating information.
"We're inspired by the books, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not the Marvel comic book universe," co-director Joe Russo told the Telegraph of India. "They're different. As a comic book fan, I think it's fun to take elements from the books that I identify with. But if I want a literal interpretation, I'll just read the book. There are great ideas in that book, and we owe a lot of the movie and what's behind the movie to Jim."
The "Jim" Russo is referring to is Jim Starlin, who created Thanos in 1973 and has written most of the character's major stories. And "the book"? Well, there is one book that anyone who loves the movie should read:
Ha ha! Just kidding. "Infinity War" (1992) doesn't have much to do with the movie of the same name, except that it involves Thanos and a lot of Avengers. And Thanos isn't even the bad guy! No, the book you want is:
Ahhh, this is the stuff. Thanos gains all six of the Infinity Stones, which were called Infinity Gems in this 1991 series. He puts them on a single sparkly glove, à la Michael Jackson, and kills half the universe in the first issue. Sound familiar? "The entire time I knew him, he only ever had one goal: to wipe out half the universe," Gamora says in one of the "Infinity War" trailers. "If he gets all the Infinity Stones, he can do it with the snap of his fingers."
In the comics, Thanos does just that. A single snap of his beefy digits, and half the universe's population vanishes. But wiping out half the universe in what amounts to a prologue is just scratching the surface of the sheer comic book lunacy which is "Infinity Gauntlet." It's beautifully bonkers, especially all the stuff that won't make it into the movie.
For example, the reason Thanos executes half the universe is for the most mundane of reasons, to impress the gal he loves. But "she" is the personification of Death, represented visually as a skeleton in a purple robe. Oh, Thanos, you wacky kid. You also won't see the most important heroes of "Infinity Gauntlet." Those would include Adam Warlock, who has only appeared in the MCU so far as a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cocoon. Or Silver Surfer and the X-Men.
Frankly, I'm afraid to recommend this collection. I don't want to be responsible for people's heads exploding. Originally published in 2013, "Infinity" took place in the pages of a variety of Avengers books. The important thing for "Avengers: Infinity War" viewers is that it introduced readers to the Black Order, Thanos' army of bloodthirsty aliens, and their six generals. In the movie, we meet four: Corvus Glaive, Cull Obsidian, Ebony Maw, and Proxima Midnight. Also, one battleground in "Infinity" is Wakanda, just like in the movie. As scary as it sounds, "Infinity" just might be required reading. Just don't sue me if your head explodes.