The Infinity Stones have a long history in Marvel Comics, but their darkest secret was accidentally hidden when Thanos changed their original name.
The Infinity Stones have long been Marvel Comics’ most compelling cosmic artifacts, due to both their mysterious nature and boundless power, and they’ve certainly always had mad titanic appeal. Thanos. However, when he set out to assemble the Stones, they were known by a different name – a name that held a clue to their secret dark purpose.
The very first appearance of an Infinity Stone was in 1972 in Marvel Premiere #1. It was originally a lone soul gem, used to power Adam Warlock’s cosmic abilities, and later revealed to be one of six. Thanos’ journey for the Stones begins in Thanos Quest #1 with him looking into the Infinity Well and telling Death that he needs all six Soul Gems to complete the task of killing half the universe. Part 1 of the issue ends with Thanos in possession of the Power Gem, Soul Gem, and Time Gem, with him plotting for the others.
In Thanos Quest, Jim Starlin and Ron Lim set a precedent for Thanos’ strength and cunning by demonstrating his power levels without the Stones, while introducing important insights that are still used today. Thanos ruminates that the name “Soul Gems” is misleading because the stones possess unique individual powers, with only one commanding the power of the soul. Thanos completes his retcon into a set of six by changing his name to reflect his nature, choosing “Infinity Gems”. However, this change hides the fact that the Soul Stone is different in nature from the rest – something that has become incredibly important in Marvel’s sequel. Infinity Wars an event.
In the comics, the Soul Stone is shown to have a conscience and wants to be reunited with the others, suggested as the most powerful of the Infinity Stones. It also absorbs a copy of the soul of anyone who uses it, and secretly contains alternate dimensions and the soul-devouring creature known as Devondra. These facts ultimately changed the nature of Marvel reality in Gerry Duggan, Mike Deodato, and Frank Martin’s 2018 Infinity Warswith a whole new dimension created to address an imbalance within the Soul Stone.
If the Soul Gems had kept their original name, it’s possible Marvel’s heroes would have been more cautious with the Soul Stone itself, feeling that it posed a greater threat than the other Stones. Thanos did a lot of harm on purpose, but changing the name of these cosmic artifacts on a whim accidentally served to hide the fact that a Infinity Stone was bigger and more dangerous than the others.
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