The cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War will have been familiar to any readers of the comics, although, as much as it may have delighted fans, it's actually very different.
Marvel's hugely popular movies always take inspiration from the comics - but it's a loose sort of inspiration, involving a lot of adaptation. While both films and comics are visual mediums, the reality is that they operate in very different ways. For one thing, comics are essentially "episodic," with each issue serving as a preface to the next. In contrast, while MCU movies may operate as part of a shared universe, they're also expected to stand as complete stories in their own right.
This also leads to changes in the source material, which can be seen clearly with Avengers: Infinity War, which ostensibly adapts Jim Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet miniseries from 1991; it likewise dealt with Earth's Mightiest Heroes trying to stop an Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Thanos. Crucially, it features the Mad Titan wiping out half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. But as similar as that may seem, it's actually a story of two snaps.
Thanos's Motives Have Changed
The core difference between the MCU story and Infinity Gauntlet is actually Thanos's role and motivations. In the comics, Thanos has an obsessive infatuation with Lady Death, a cosmic being who acts as a personification of death. He burns with a desperate desire to prove himself worthy to become her consort. Everything Thanos does is for Lady Death. That was why, in Infinity Gauntlet, he gathered together the Infinity Stones; he believed his mistress would find such unlimited power to be seductive. Goaded on by Mephisto, Thanos snapped his fingers and sacrificed half the life in the universe as an offering of love.
This contrasts sharply with the Thanos of the MCU. No lovesick lunatic, the MCU's Thanos is the ultimate Malthusian. He's a philosopher who actually believes he's fighting for life. In Thanos's twisted philosophy, population growth across the universe is outstripping the cosmos's natural resources. It's a scenario Thanos has seen play out before, on his homeworld of Titan, where explosive growth in population actually led to an extinction-led event. This version of Thanos believes he is the only one who can save life in the universe, and the only way to do it is by sharply cutting population numbers; he calls it "rebalancing the universe". The logic is insane, but it means Thanos truly sees himself as a hero. He doesn't believe he's cursing the universe; rather, he believes he's saving it.
It's crucial to understand this difference because this changed motive leads to a very different story. Infinity Gauntlet was the tale of a madman who had gained cosmic power and of a handful of heroes' desperate attempts to stop him. In a strange, disturbing way, Infinity War posits the villain as a hero in his own right.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019