Hang on, folks. This one is going to get a bit geeky…
Fan of the Marvel Living Universe? Casual geek? Hardcore nerd? C’mon in, everyone is welcome! Let’s talk about the Infinity Stones in the Marvel Studios comic book movies. What are they, which ones have been found, and what’s left?
Precious Gems and Where to Find Them
Keeping with the tradition in my Geek 101 section, let’s start with the origins of the Infinity Stones in the original comics. (If you’d like some easy reading with a quick overview of what these objects are and a great exploration of the character of Thanos, I highly recommend The Thanos Quest, a 1990 two-issue miniseries written by Jim Starlin and drawn by Ron Lim. Dig the cool cosmic vibe of Guardians of the Galaxy? Starlin was one of the defining forces of Marvel’s stories in that genre beginning in the 1970s. He created or shaped the characters of Adam Warlock, Thanos, Captain Marvel, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and others. Good stuff, all.)
In the comics, the very first Infinity Stone to appear is the Soul Gem. In which Marvel Premiere Vol 1, #1, in 1972, the artificial and perfect being known as Warlock (later to become Adam Warlock) is given the Soul Gem. Remember the strange pod-looking thing seen in a tank in the Collector’s lair during the post-credits scene in Thor: The Dark World? Adam Warlock’s cocoon! The cocoon is later shown to be open during Guardians of the Galaxy, leading me to believe that Adam Warlock will eventually make his way into the movies. [cue the nergdasm squeal]
In the comics, the number of stones soon expands to six. They encompass a variety of elements: Soul, Mind, Time, Power, Space, and Reality. Eventually collected and assembled by Thanos, a nihilistic Death-lover (teased in the mid-credits scene of the first Avengers and an architect of the conflict in Guardians of the Galaxy) they form the Infinity Gauntlet. With a single wielder, they effectively make the wearer of the Gauntlet God. (Think about it – is there an aspect of omnipotence that can’t be described with those six attributes?)
Fast forward through the Marvel Living Universe… We’ve seen four of the six stones. We’ve seen the Gauntlet in the Asgardian hall of trophies. How does the MLU reconcile with the comics?
Well, it seems that the six-for-six match-up fits. I expect to have each comic Stone faithfully represented in the MLU. Here’s what we’ve got so far:
- Space is the Tesseract, first seen in Captain America: The First Avenger. (It’s the blue cube that powers all of the Hydra weaponry.)
- Reality is the Aether, first seen in Thor: The Dark World. (It’s the red mist that can reshape all the worlds of existence.)
- Power is the Orb, first seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, (It’s the purple sphere McGuffin which Star-Lord is convinced will make him rich.)
- Mind is the Gem, first seen in the Avengers: Age of Ultron. (It’s the yellow stone embedded within Loki’s scepter which ends up on Vision’s brow.)
OK friends, that leaves two: Soul and Time. Where-o-where could those little stones be? As will come to no surprise to anyone who has ever met me, I’ve got a theory…
Soul will be the Eye of Agamotto which we should become more acquainted with in this fall’s Doctor Strange. I’m not going further into that one. We’ve already seen it in Asgard. (Thor, if you’re keeping track.)
So where will we find that Time stone?
Wakanda. The advanced African nation from which Black Panther, one of the break-out heroes of Captain America: Civil War, hails. Wakanda is a nation of advanced technology and the source of Cap’s amazing Vibranium shield. (This is the origin of the MLU shield. The comic origins differ.)
In the MLU, vibranium has an amazing energy-absorbing property. It defies the laws of physics. And – incredibly rare – it is only found in Wakanda. Which leads me to the stone…
Ti-i-i-ime, Is On Cap’s Side (Yes It Is!)
In the first Avengers, we see Captain America brace himself as Thor does his very best to make Cap a tent peg when Cap dares to insert himself into a battle between the God of Thunder and Shellhead (Iron Man, for those of you just joining us…) By all rights, Cap should be patriot paste. Regardless of how strong the shield is, Thor has produced a small explosion’s worth of force which this mortal man – with no superpowers – is able to withstand. Something doesn’t make sense.
Superhero movies require a certain willing-suspension-of-disbelief. That is when we, as the audience, agree to ignore an event which violates some law of nature with which we are otherwise comfortable. Where does the mass that Banner’s transformation to the Hulk requires come from? Willing suspension of disbelief. How does Iron Man jump-start the Helicarrier’s engine without being crushed by acceleration as he produces 1000s of RPMs on the rotor? Willing suspension of disbelief. How does Cap withstand the full double-handed-smite-of-God force of Thor’s wrath? Willing suspension of disbe… hold on one moment.
[Editorial note: I am now relying on my very rusty – 27 year old – high school physics knowledge. Be gentle. Please.]
It’s Getting Really Nerdy In Here
When Thor swings Mjolnir down at Cap, there is a whole lot of force that needs to be accounted for. That force is what either will turn Cap into Super-Soldier-jam or barely make him swoon. How does the shield – and its vibranium – help things? Maybe with some basic physics formulas.
- Force = Mass x Acceleration.
- Acceleration = change in Velocity / Time.
Combining these formulae gives us:
- Force = Mass x (change in Velocity / Time)
Mass (Thor’s hammer which has been described in the MLU as forged from the heart of a dying star) doesn’t change. The velocity is speed and direction of Mjolnir as it swings down on Cap’s shield. It’s going from some measurable speed, maybe x meters/second (don’t forget vector, meaning down) to zero. (You could look up the speed someone swings a bat but I don’t think it matters here. Stay with me.)
Normally, the mass and acceleration associated with stopping Mjolnir mid-swing should pulp Cap. Mass and velocity don’t change. What else is available? Time.
Because Time acts as a divisor (it is the thing that divides the other number) then as we increase Time we decrease the amount of Force required to stop an object (meaning, reduce its velocity to zero) in a given Time. It’s the reason why we install airbags in cars, wear seatbelts, and expect boxing gloves to prevent boxers from breaking their hands. Increasing the Time available to stop an object means you exert less Force on that object.
What if you could increase an object by an infinite amount of time? What if, instead of taking 0.1 seconds, you could take 100 seconds, or 100,000 seconds, or 100,000,000 seconds to stop that object? Can you see how the force exerted (meaning, what Cap has to withstand) approaches zero? (You Pre-Calc students, you will see this later…)
Here’s where the last Infinity Stone comes into play.
What if, in the same way that the Norse people protected the Tesseract for so long, the Wakandans hosted the Time stone for ages? What if, based on the Time Stone sitting in Wakanda for an immeasurable period of time, vibranium (a metal native only to Wakanda) picked up an amazing time-altering property? What if the absorption was just the metal’s ability to shunt excess energy into the limitless void of Time? If you had a million millennia to stop Thor’s hammer, how much Force would you have to exert upon it? (Hint: calculus says with infinite Time you need no Force! A baby could hold the vibranium shield and feel nothing.)
So Wakanda’s unique export – vibranium – has the ability to exploit the use of Time… which makes it look like it can absorb energy.
Which means we will see the Time stone in Wakanda – in Black Panther – before Infinity War, Part 1. (Yes, I know, Marvel Studios is renaming it.)
Thoughts, good readers?