After the success of Ant-Man this weekend, we can all rest assured that the Marvel train is still rolling toward the Infinity War. But what about the original comic battle? How did those super-dudes fare?
Spoilers ahead! But if you haven’t read the Infinity Gauntlet saga by now, that’s pretty much your fault, dude.
Hi, I’m Paul. I write about football and baseball for various websites using advanced statistics and tape review. But there’s no reason standard game grading needs to be restricted to sports. It can be used in any contest, so I figured we should take a more in-depth look at the players in the battle between Earth’s heroes — Adam Warlock and Captain America — against Thanos, Terraxia, and Mephisto.
Few dispute the brilliance of the Infinity Gauntlet saga as a work of art, but how exactly does it stack up in regards to strategy, tactics, and execution? I will take a look at three participants each week (or so) and grade them (where applicable) on a five-point scale. By doing so, we will see why certain strategies succeeded, while others failed. We’ll judge process, not results. After all, it’s not really She-Hulk’s fault that an omnipotent asshole had a carnivorous fungus eat her almost immediately.
It’s difficult to strategize against an omnipotent opponent, but Warlock’s plan was rather brilliant. Many leaders would have simply attempted to blow Thanos to smithereens, which has proven to be a poor strategy. Perhaps no person has scouted Thanos with a keener eye than Warlock, and he realized the single best path to victory was to remove the Gauntlet from his hand. The battle force itself served as a distraction in service to this key idea.
That said, he also gave his team several other chances for victory. Thor came close to striking a potentially fatal blow, if the testimony of Eros is to be believed (which it probably should not). Wolverine, Vision, and Cloak all did serious damage to the Mad Titan too. While it’s true that Thanos has since taken harder shots from Thor (and the actual Thor, not just the Eric Masterson variety), it’s possible that Thanos’ intentional weakening of himself for this battle — combined with Death cutting him off from some of his normal power enhancements — may have made him more vulnerable to damage. While it’s entirely possible to survive a gut shot from Wolverine, Drax would disembowel Thanos in similar fashion later on. Every attack in this battle was a long shot, but there were some good long shots.
While Warlock’s strategy was sound, even brilliant, his selection of the Silver Surfer to carry out his plan were suspect. Sometimes leaders fail to see the forest for the trees. In this case, it looks like Warlock may have only seen the forest.
This isn’t actually a bad score. When grading a football game, players will frequently wind up in the negatives. But it’s not a good score either, and the biggest reason is that Warlock failed to employ some of his knowledge of Thanos’ weaknesses in the battle itself. With an entire plan revolving around getting the glove off of Thanos, it’s odd that no one in the battle itself seemed to come up with this idea.
There is a counter-argument of course: if Thanos were tipped off, he might have bonded the Gauntlet to himself more permanently, thwarting the Surfer’s attempt entirely. Still, it’s hard to see The Vision getting the drop on Thanos using his phasing powers but not taking the opportunity to remove the Gauntlet. And it’s difficult to see Wolverine get a surprise free shot without attempting to cut it off. They certainly could have made better use of Cloak as well, sneaking someone close to Thanos instead of simply having Cloak attempt to trap him.
I also mentioned the choice of the Surfer to grab the Gauntlet. This is fine on the surface, but it was still a risky decision by Warlock. Thanos sees Warlock and the Surfer off in the distance, but instead of becoming suspicious, he praises their intelligent restraint in not joining the battle? This is uncharacteristically stupid of Thanos. That the Surfer actually failed is beside the point, and will be reflected in his own grade. I would have gone with someone like Nova, who possesses elite speed but lacks elite power.
Battle Execution: 2.0
Warlock’s plan ultimately failed, but some quick thinking on the actual battlefield when Nebula took the Gauntlet led to an eventual victory. We can only speculate if he could have jumped onto the Soul Gem earlier. Given Thanos’ superior control, it stands to reason that this action was only viable with a new Gauntlet user, which is why I’m not grading it higher. It was a good idea given the circumstances, but it was only pure chance that arose in the first place.
Not a bad score, though when facing Thanos, you really want to see a 5.0 plan. Warlock certainly did a better job than the Cosmic Beings, who gave themselves no shot whatsoever. I had the Earth Heroes as high as a .2 WP, which is outstanding, given the fact that they entered with a .05. Occasionally, an NFL head coach will screw up in-game management (things like clock management, instant replay challenges, and situational awareness) because they are occupied by play-calling. In future all-encompassing cosmic battles, I think Warlock could use a second hero to manage the small things.
It’s telling that Scott Summers, frequent leader of the X-Men, is used exclusively as a foot soldier here. There is a habit among baseball analysts to treat players with substandard offensive talent as defensive wizards, regardless of their true defensive ability, and I suspect some of the same thinking goes on within the X-Men. This how someone like Summers, whose power is essentially a gun strapped to his head, gets a reputation as a solid leader. He has to be on the team for some reason, right? The fact is, Summers has never stood out as anything special strategically or tactically, and with the entire universe on the line, Warlock chose the Avengers’ leader to run the ground assault — not Summers.
That said, we should offer praise where it is due. Cyclops takes nothing but criticism for his depressing, melodramatic whining and substandard mutant power, but he was downright effective in this battle. In fact, had Vision been a little bit more on-the-ball, Cyclops may have ended up as big of a martyr as Captain America. He hits a solid 1.0 for faithfully executing the strategy (unlike an upcoming big green idiot).
Battle Execution: 3.0
Cyclops had almost no chance of actually injuring Thanos, and I suspect he was well aware of this — but he was able to annoy him. This is no small feat, and Cyclops showed immense bravery and commitment to the plan, even knowing he had basically no chance of doing actual damage. His teamwork with Scarlet Witch had Thanos occupied enough that faster or more powerful heroes could have taken the Gauntlet. Vision’s attack on Thanos while Cyclops was suffocating was praised by the big baddie himself, but the moment to strike was probably several seconds before.
You can’t ask much more from Cyclops. His ceiling was “distraction,” and he did an admirable job. A true leader could have shown more creativity in his attacks, but as a foot soldier basically serving as an archer, he did what he was called to do, giving the Vision not one, but two opportunities to steal the Gauntlet. That Vision instead chose to simply phase-attack Thanos will eventually be reflected in his score.
The Hulk should have brought some much-needed raw power to the battle. Instead, his brashness, straightforward approach, and lack of subtlety brought immediate focus onto not only himself, but also to Drax the Destroyer, resulting in both brutes being eliminated from the fight. Big power guys often lack nuance, but someone should have conveyed the immense scope of the threat to the Hulk. He and Thor should have been dishing out the real damage to Thanos, while everyone else served as a distraction.
The only reason the Hulk doesn’t get a full -5 grade is that we need to save room for Quasar; Hulk as least got in a good shot before Thanos shrunk him. But that’s just not good enough. Thor’s assault was comparatively relentless, as his goal was to keep Thanos off balance by never letting up. Hulk and Drax started off well enough, pouncing on Thanos and pounding him mercilessly. If Hulk had kept punching and not talking, maybe Thanos would have been distracted for a bit longer. Instead his words drew Thanos’ ire boosted the villain’s morale.
Few if any individual Earth heroes (except Squirrel Girl) are much of a match for Thanos on their own, and empowered with the Infinity Gauntlet, teamwork was essential. While Drax was a bigger disaster in the grand scheme of things, Hulk’s effort was simply a disaster, failing to serve as a distraction or to inflict any real harm.
Next time: Thanos, Nova, Quasar!
Article by contributor Paul Noonan.