Infinity Gauntlet #4

Issue Date: 
October 1991
Story Title: 
Cosmic Battle on the Edge of the Universe!

Jim Starlin (writer), Ron Lim & George Perez (pencils), Josef Rubinstein with Bruce N. Solotoff (inks), Scheele/ Laughlin (colors), Jack Morelli (letters), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom DeFalco (chief)

Brief Description: 

An assault force of the Earth’s heroes teleports to Thanos’ floating palace at the edge of the universe, in a last-ditch attempt to engage him. Adam Warlock and Silver Surfer observe from a distance. Now wielding the Infinity Gems and adapting slowly into his newfound godhood, Thanos freezes the flow of time with but a thought, essentially winning this battle over before it even commences. The cunning Mephisto, however, advises Thanos to balance the scales and face the heroes on slightly more equal terms, in order to impress Mistress Death and perhaps win her affections. Convinced, Thanos deactivates five of the Gems, resolving to fight only with his Power Gem. After he restores the normal flow of time, the heroes come up against him. In turn and with little effort, Thanos slaughters Hulk, Namor, She-Hulk, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Cyclops, Cloak, Nova, Thor and Quasar, while his newly formed ‘bride,’ Terraxia, slays Iron Man and Spider-Man. Suddenly, Silver Surfer intervenes at Warlock’s behest, hoping to snatch the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos. Unfortunately, he fails, but Thanos suddenly realizes how close he came to losing everything. After he kills the last man standing, Captain America, Thanos reactivates all Gems and prepares for a much harder confrontation, as he now has to face the assembled might of the most significant cosmic beings in the universe.

Full Summary: 

In Thanos’ floating palace in space, the captive Starfox, unable to speak ever since his brother, Thanos, removed his mouth with but a wish, contemplates that his brother is insane. He beholds four of the Earth’s mightiest heroes, Thor, Firelord, Namor and Iron Man, pouncing to the attack, and what does he do? He smiles. However, Starfox deduces that Thanos has good reason to; power is one thing he has in abundance; the power to freeze them in time!

Indeed, as all four heroes simultaneously launch their attack on him, a grinning Thanos simply snaps his fingers and, by use of his Time Gem, freezes everyone in time. Starfox notes that, apparently, this conflict will not live up to expectations. Of course, Thanos has spared his entourage the indignity of being ripped loose from the time flow: Mephisto, Mistress Death, Nebula, Terraxia – even the enigmatic Watcher was spared. Starfox realizes why: what good is godhood if you have no audience to flaunt it before?

Observing the frozen heroes in contempt, Thanos is at loss to believe that these are the best the universe could send against him; such a puny force. With but a thought, he could terminate their annoying existences. Mephisto alerts him there are two others he might wish to include in his thoughts. Silver Surfer… “and my own-time comrade, Adam Warlock, returned to plague me in a new body,” Thanos completes Mephisto’s phrase, watching both Surfer and Warlock through a portal in space. Thanos notes that these two seem to be the only entities in the galaxy intelligent enough not to challenge his omnipotence. Still, he decides they should be dispatched with the rest and makes to teleport them here with his Space Gem.

Mephisto tactfully accosts him. “My Lord Thanos, stay thy hand,” he implores him. He proposes that the heroes’ unseemly interruption may be opportunity disguised. Thanos urges him to speak his mind. Mephisto explains that Thanos has power with no limit. Yet still, he fails to win Mistress Death’s heart. These buffoons may prove useful in changing this situation. “How so?” Thanos wonders. “Courage, my liege,” Mephisto explains. He argues that all female hearts, even one as cold as Death’s, are warmed by the sight of raw courage; courage such as exhibited in battle.

Thanos retorts that such bravery only exists when one faces the prospect of defeat. Meeting that standard would require his balancing the terms of the battle so these fools actually stood a chance of victory. Mephisto retorts that’s not something beyond his ability to arrange. “Yes,” Thanos agrees with a malicious, triumphant smile, looking Mistress Death straight in the eyes. Enthusiastic, he tells Mephisto he can do it! He needs only to cut himself off from all sensory input from time, space, reality, thought and the soul. He would retain limitless power, yet not know his enemies’ next move. That would allow them a 0.5% chance of victory! Mephisto notes it’s not the greatest odds in the universe, but perhaps good enough to impress Mistress Death.

Listening to their conversation, Starfox wonders what game Mephisto is playing here. It was mostly subtly done, but that devil just saved the lives of the Earth’s heroes – and engineered the possibility of Thanos’ defeat! The master of deceit is playing upon the confusion Thanos is experiencing adjusting to his newly elevated state of being. Starfox sarcastically notes that the forces of life have a most unlikely comrade. Realizing that someone is standing above him, Starfox looks up, only to see Nebula.

Thanos warns Death to prepare herself to witness cosmic warfare never before seen under these stars. His diminished capacity now turns this conflict into a true test of nerves and battle skills. Mephisto zealously congratulates him on his masterful move; he does believe he saw a gleam in Mistress Death’s eyes! Thanos suggests they let this gleam be fanned to a roaring flame! “Let the battle begin!” he howls as he snaps his fingers and unfreezes time.

Time resumes its normal flow with bone-jarring results, as Thor’s hammer, Firelord’s blasts, Iron Man’s energy beams and Namor himself all converge and crash against each other on a wall of Thanos’ palace, at the exact point where Thanos stood before freezing time. At the sight of this, Thanos cackles with glee, unaware that he is about to be taken aback. Drax the Destroyer and the Hulk take Thanos by surprise and strike him from behind, sending him flying. Starfox realizes that Thanos has truly dampened his cosmic senses. He is actually playing by the rules – how out of character, Starfox mockingly notes. Love and godhood have truly befuddled his reason! Yet, he doubts that even Drax and Hulk stand a chance against Thanos’ vast powers; they are but bothersome fleas to him.

Drax and Hulk proceed to relentlessly pummel Thanos, only for the Titan to effortlessly blast Drax off of him. Hulk holds his ground and continuously wallops Thanos. In mocking fashion, Hulk wonders if this is the hotshot who wants to destroy the universe; he doesn’t look much to him! He notes that Thanos doesn’t even try to defend himself! It’s the easiest battle he’s ever… he’s ever…

Suddenly, in terror, Hulk finds himself shrunk in size, facing a giant Thanos. At loss, Bruce wonders how it happened and runs away, before Thanos swats him like an insect with his fist. Starfox notes that, even though their cause is hopeless, he must admit that the battle strategy of the Earth’s defenders is first rate and flawlessly executed – a lesser foe would surely fall before their assault… but not Thanos.

With Thanos distracted, Vision grasps the opportunity and releases his beams of fire all around the Titan, effectively confusing him and blocking his vision. Impressed, Thanos admits he would never have expected such an avenue of attack. Captain America realizes that it looks like they’ve got Thanos confused. He directs the rest of the heroes to pour on the power and follow the plan… and hopefully a few of us might survive! he ponders in desperation.

She-Hulk and Namor are the first to attack, after Cap gives the signal. Starfox realizes their hopes are vain. He can already sense Thanos adjusting to the situation, taking control of the battle. Watching from afar, Warlock asks Silver Surfer about the battle. Surfer replies it goes as expected, only to re-state that he should be with his friends, fighting by their side. Warlock retorts that would be an utter folly. Surfer fails to see why that is. Warlock explains that Surfer has a major role to play in this little game. “Which is?” Silver Surfer again wonders. “All in due time, Surfer…” Warlock assures him. What he doesn’t know, Thanos won’t stumble upon.

Surfer is at loss: doesn’t that same risk exist with Thanos reading Warlock’s mind? Smiling deviously, Warlock replies negatively. Thanos knows him; he will not risk such a distraction while in the midst of battle. He is aware that Thanos has narrowed his scope of awareness just as he was beginning to adjust to it. His mind must be reeling from the changes. Of course, Adam admits, that makes him no less dangerous.

“Away from me, you clowns!” Thanos hisses at that very moment, pushing both Namor and She-Hulk off of him. In horror, She-Hulk realizes there is something growing where Thanos touched them! In panic, Namor urges her to remove it quickly! Watching them, Starfox is well aware his brother would never lay a trap so easily evaded. The virus emitted from Thanos’ hands spreads rapidly across the bodies of the two heroes. They both whither and crumble into dust in the matter of seconds.

Starfox realizes that the old campaigner in Thanos begins to return. This type of battle has always been his forte. Any hope Eros foolishly held of Earth’s heroes triumphing quickly fades.

Just then, Thor finally succeeds in striking Thanos with his hammer, the mighty Mjolnir, getting him right at his chest. Seeing Thanos lay down, Doctor Doom, still lusting over the Gauntlet, makes to grasp it from him. Thor angrily warns Doom to back off; he’s in the way! Doom argues that the Gauntlet will be his! As he grapples Thanos’ glove, Doom tastes the bitter nectar of his wrath: a searing explosion ensues, sending Doom flying across the palace yard. Fortunately, his armor’s defensive systems save him from suffering total defeat and destruction. Despite almost dying from the explosion, Doom stubbornly muses that he will not be denied these Gems!

Overflowing with energy, a rejuvenated Thanos stands on his feet again. Seeing Thor tossing his hammer against him once more, Thanos flashes a sardonic smile and opens a teleportational portal conjured up by the power supreme. Mjolnir flies through the portal and vanishes. Shocked, Thor realizes that without his hammer, he’ll revert to plain old Eric Masterson in a mere 60 seconds! He realizes he has to make every move count and socks Thanos in the face. Starfox notes that so savage was Thor’s attack that even Thanos was momentarily taken aback! As Thor makes to punch him in the face again, Thanos grabs him by the cape and shunts him off like an insect.

Firelord is the next to attack, unleashing his fire bolts on the Titan. Thanos recalls he’s yet another of Galactus’ heralds. “Whose power shall put an end to this madness!” Firelord defiantly proclaims and presses on with his attack. “Highly unlikely, my boastful friend!” Thanos retorts and sends him crashing against a wall with a mere strike of his hand.

As Thanos towers over the unconscious Firelord and studies him with disdain, Wolverine takes advantage of the momentary distraction and jumps right in front of the distracted Thanos, thrusting his claws deep into the Titan’s chest. Starfox is surprised: of all the combatants, Wolverine would be one of the last he thought capable of delivering the death blow. With Wolverine’s claws still plunged in Thanos’ trunk, Wolverine and Thanos snap at each other, exchanging glances of pure, boiling hatred… and then Thanos’ eyes sparkle and twinkle and a devious smile is born in his face, as he sends his energy flooding into the helpless Logan. Wolverine’s adamantium bones transform into spongy rubber and a lifeless Wolverine flops to the ground, his face fixed in an expression of horror.

As Doom again fires against Thanos, the Titan asks him if he returns for another shot at his Gauntlet. Doom retorts that only death will stay his hand! Thanos gleefully remarks that can be arranged!

Meanwhile, Eternity appears before Warlock and warns him they’re growing restless and wish to join the game. “Not yet,” Warlock deters him. He then orders him to be gone, before Thanos senses his presence! Appalled at his manner, Surfer reminds him that this is mighty Eternity he speaks to! Warlock argues that Eternity is just another piece on the game board as far as he’s concerned. Indignant, Silver Surfer realizes that’s truly all this is to Warlock: a game! Warlock clarifies that if he allowed it to be any more than that, he could not go on.

In the battlefield, Starfox is deeply touched by the valor he witnesses here this day. The might the Scarlet Witch and Cyclops wield is nothing compared to Thanos’ power. They know that, yet they press the attack, he with his optic blasts, she with her hex blasts. Thanos turns his attention first to Scarlet Witch. Her mutant hex power easily falls before his will. As Thanos’ blasts reduce Wanda to nothingness, Starfox averts his eyes. He has no wish to remember such horror.

Wanda!” Cyclops screams as Scarlet Witch ceases to exist. “And now, my bright-eyed foe, we shall…” Thanos begins to gloat, before Cyclops suddenly cuts off his optic beam when least expected. Starfox finds it a masterful move. Thanos pitches forward, off-balance, and Iron Man swoops in for the kill. Unfortunately, his naked power is not equal to his battle powers, as Eros notes, watching Iron Man’s beams competing with Thanos’ raw energy.

Suddenly, Thanos’ newly created perfect woman, Terraxia, joins the fray, jumping in the air and grappling Iron Man, catching him off-guard. Thanos allows her to vent her anger and frustration on Tony and sets his sights on Cyclops. The mutant blasts him but Thanos blocks his beams. At his will, a clear block of force envelops Cyclops’ head, cutting off his force beam in mid-stream and cutting off oxygen to Scott. Captain America immediately rushes to Cyclops’ aid.

Simultaneously, Vision sneaks up on Thanos and is about to try his once successful ploy again, namely ensnaring Thanos in a disorienting circle of fire. Starfox, though, knows that Thanos never falls for the same trick twice. Turning around, Thanos savagely thrusts his arms into Vision’s synthetic torso and viciously eviscerates him, tearing off all the circuits that held him together, thereby unmaking him.

Meanwhile, flying in space, Thor struggles to get back onto Thanos’ floating palace, before transforming into his mortal alias. “Just a little farther… almost there…” he agonizes, before he finally makes it and lands on the platform. However, as he transforms into Eric Masterson, he begins to suffocate: the mystic spell Dr. Strange cast so that Thor could breathe in the depth of dark space, doesn’t extend to Eric!

“He’s dead!” Captain America screams with rage, kneeling above the body of Cyclops, who has just asphyxiated to death. “You murdered him, you cold-hearted monster!” Cap raves and rants. Such an emotional outburst, Thanos taunts him – not at all what he expected from the legendary Captain America! Starfox quickly discerns that Cap’s outburst serves to create a clever diversion, as Cloak sneaks up on Thanos and draws him into the ebon folds of his cape, into a dark and fearful dimension. “You did it, Cloak!” Cap enthuses – still, he wonders if Cloak can hold him.

“Don’t know… I think… I…” Cloak stammers in suffering, when suddenly he lets out one last shriek of horror and despair: “No!”…. and then his body explodes in phantasmagorical fashion, courtesy of Thanos’ energy. Thanos argues that supremacy cannot be imprisoned! His divinity is absolute! Cap argues that his is a false godhood – and all false gods eventually fall! “Or are toppled!” Firelord howls as he grasps Thanos from behind with his fiery spear, leaving a clear opening for Drax to zap him. Beside them, Terraxia decapitates Iron Man with her bare hands, before she disrespectfully kicks away his head, contained in his armored helmet.

Thanos laughs at the heroes’ advance. Hearing him, Starfox is chilled to his soul, for he discerns there is unholy truth in that insane howl. He believes Mistress Death knows this. He can see it in her eyes: she has no doubt of this conflict’s outcome. No battle in this; just slaughter to feed an already oversized ego. He notices that the only person not fascinated by this outrage is his grandniece, Nebula. Her shattered body and mind are beyond all caring. She is but another twisted creation of Thanos’ black soul and infinite power. He made her the charred caricature on the brink she now is. Starfox concludes she would be far better off dead.

Nearby, the magical Mjolnir miraculously finds its way back into the present dimension, exiting through Thanos’ portal and landing on the palace yard. A suffocating Eric pulls through a last-ditch attempt and lunges at it with his dying breath, succeeding in grasping it. At once, he metamorphoses into Thor again.

Meanwhile, Thanos opens a time portal, which violently pulls Drax and Firelord inside, both of them falling lost within Earth’s prehistoric past. Cradling Iron Man’s head, a grinning Terraxia announces that she has dispatched the metal-clad nuisance that pestered Thanos. Thanos thanks her. She proves to be exactly what he had hoped for. A woman who shares the same values he does. One he might even come to…

Suddenly, Thanos is startled by Spider-Man’s web shooting right at his face! Kicking him in the face, Spidey tells Thor that Thanos is all his – Peter will take care of the ‘bimbo’, before Terraxia immobilizes him on the floor at an instant. “Now you’re in for it!” Thor howls as he begins attacking Thanos with his hammer, striking him severely on his chest and head. Thanos laid waste to half a universe; a blacker deed Thor can’t imagine! It’s time for Thanos to pay the piper! Seeing Thanos lay face front on the feet of Thor and the Asgardian god about to deliver another blow, Starfox wishes he doesn’t stay his hand; Thanos must die or all is lost!

Too late, though: without even standing up, Thanos turns Thor into glass! A grim, bottomless acceptance of their fate finally claims Eros. He realizes Thanos is inevitable. Grinning with glee, Thanos grabs a rock. Before he can shatter Thor’s glass form with it, Nova intervenes and socks Thanos in the face, telling him to back off; no one’s busting Thor while he’s around! “Not round. Square. Square as in cubes. Like a child’s toy blocks,” Thanos roars and his devilish eyes sparkle again… and then Nova’s molecular structure is dismantled as he transmogrifies into variegated cubes that disperse on the floor. Now unhampered, Thanos shatters the glass statue that Thor used to be with his fist. Beside him, Terraxia finishes off Spider-Man.

Quasar tells Thanos to turn and face him. Thanos mocks that finally the reserves are called in. He recognizes him: he’s Quasar, the late Captain Marvel’s replacement. “And wielder of the Quantum-bands,” Quasar stresses. He asserts they shall prove to be Thanos’ downfall! As he activates them, though, the energy within explodes, leaving Quasar with stumps where his hands once where. “Not again!” Quasar despairs. Thanos notes that Quasar suffers from unwarranted delusions of grandeur. Optic blasts escape his eyes, reducing Quasar into ashes.

The last man standing, Captain America defies Thanos: “It’s not over until the fat lady sings, Thanos”. The Titan scoffs him: surely he jests. Cap admits he’s never been any good at stand-up routines. Or at organizing a cosmic assault, Thanos scoffs. Cap insists they tried. Watching their confrontation, Warlock tells Silver Surfer to ready himself. “Now?” the Surfer asks. “On my call…!” replies Warlock.

Cap defiantly crosses the distance that separates him from Thanos and comes within breathing distance of him. He proudly tells Thanos that as long as a man stands against him, he’ll never be able to claim victory. Thanos finds these are noble sentiments from someone who is about to die. Watching this, Surfer is about to intervene, realizing that Thanos is going to kill Cap! Warlock urges him to wait.

Cap tells Thanos that he’s lived his life by those sentiments; they’re well worth dying for, he clarifies as he leans sideways and manages to avoid one of Thanos’ strikes. Suddenly, though, at Thanos’ will, two manacles form out of the floor of the palace yard, erupt and strap around his ankles, confining him in the same position. “Then die you shall!” Thanos roars. He is always pleased to honor such a foolish request! Cap covers himself under his shield, which Thanos pounds with his terrible fist, cracking it. With but a strike, the shield is reduced to countless fragments. Without his shield or the ability to run, Cap prepares for the end, as Thanos raises his arm to deliver the coup de grace.

Now!” Warlock screams. Dashing forward with unimaginable speed and crossing various light years at a heartbeat, Silver Surfer interposes, his hand extended, hoping to grab the Gems from Thanos’ risen Gauntlet-laced glove, stripping him of his power... but the Surfer misses his mark and Thanos retains his godhood. Starfox realizes that nothing remains of hope.

Captain America seizes the opportunity to throw one last defiant punch at the startled Thanos. Barely paying him attention, the Titan retaliates and kills him with but a punch. In shock, Thanos wonders what he has been doing. He must have been out of his mind. They came so close; he nearly lost it all! He decides to once again be all that he can be. Reactivating the other five Gems, he brings himself back to full power! At once, he wishes this field cleared of all remnants of the folly he nearly allowed – for Thanos senses a far greater struggle about to begin. The various corpses of the heroes vanish accordingly.

Observing everything, Warlock realizes they tried to do this they easy way… and they failed. Now begins the conflict he strove to avoid. It may well prove to be a battle the universe cannot survive! He notifies Eternity that now is his turn!

Despite his best efforts, Starfox cannot shut his eyes to the awesome sight no mortal was ever meant to see. The most powerful cosmic beings in the universe – Eternity, Infinity, Galactus, Master Hate, Mistress Love, Master Order, Lord Chaos, Kronos, Epoch, the Stranger, the Celestials known as One Above All and Ziran – conflagrate, their gigantic forms towering all around the palace, preparing for war. Starfox realizes that Armageddon commences in but seconds, and he has a front row seat for the event. He prays his end comes quickly, for the universe is about to become a place he no longer wishes to be part of.

Characters Involved: 


Adam Warlock

Wolverine (X-Men)

Cyclops (X-Factor)

Nova (New Warriors)

Captain America, Quasar, She-Hulk, Thor, Vision (all Avengers)

Iron Man, Scarlet Witch (all West Coast Avengers)

Hulk, Namor, Starfox (all former Avengers)

Spider-Man (reserve member of the Avengers)

Doctor Doom

Firelord, Silver Surfer (former heralds of Galactus)

Drax the Destroyer


Epoch, Eternity, Galactus, Kronos, Lord Chaos, Master Hate, Master Order, Mistress Love, One Above All, Stranger, Uatu the Watcher, Ziran (all cosmic entities)

Mephisto, Terraxia (Thanos’ followers)

Mistress Death


Story Notes: 

This issue is narrated by Starfox.

All the heroes slain in this issue are resurrected in Infinity Gauntlet #6, when Nebula seizes the Gauntlet and restores everything to how it was twenty-four hours ago.

Thanos erased half the population of the universe from existence in issue #1.

Quasar’s reference to “not again” refers to his previously losing his hands via amputation at the hands of Maelstrom. [Quasar (1st series) #19-25]

Issue Information: 
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