** Part 1 of this article will focus on the Infinity Gems as they appear in the Marvel Comics Universe. Part 2 will focus on the Marvel Cinematic Universe; speculations and what is known about the Infinity Gems and upcoming MCU releases. Warning, yes, this may contain spoilers. You have been warned.
A long, long time ago, in a Galaxy very close to home, there once existed a cosmic entity which was all there was in the Universe. In some versions of the Marvel Universe this entity is referred to as Nemesis, but for the sake of this article we will just refer to it as an entity. At some point, for some reason – loneliness, boredom, lack of cable TV – the entity shattered itself, creating both the Multi-verse (think Big Bang) and leaving behind parts of itself in 6 objects of immense power which would come to be known as the Infinity Gems.
By themselves, the Infinity Gems each possess a mastery over a certain aspect of existence.
The first such gem to be discovered was the Soul Gem. By using the Soul Gem, the user is able to manipulate, alter, steal and even control souls of other beings, living or dead. The Soul Gem can also be used to transport a soul from this realm to a small pocket dimension known as Soul World, where those within live out an ideal existence in a communal paradise. The Soul Gem is also known to be sentient and will generally attempt to take over its host body in order to feed its hunger for souls.
Next is the Time Gem, which as can be expect by the name, gives the user mastery over time. The user can travel to and from any time; past, present or future, can change the age of any living thing from birth to old age and back again or can be used to trap someone in a repeating loop of time (think Groundhog Day). If a wielder is able to access the Gem’s full potential, it also offers them Omniscience – the ability to know everything there is to know.
The Space Gem allows its bearer to be in, move itself or an object to or simultaneously occupy any place within reality. It can also be used to warp reality around another entity or area of space. At its full potential, the Space Gem grants the user Omnipresence – the ability to be everywhere at once.
The Mind Gem is the personification of the subconscious of the Universe. Its powers work best when wielded by a being who already possess mind powers of some sort; telepathy, psionics or extreme intelligence and significantly enhances those abilities. It can allow the user to access the thoughts and dreams of others. When used in conjunction with several other Infinity Gems, it can allow the wielder to be in the minds of all living things at once (there does not appear to be an Omni- name for this ability).
The Reality Gem controls, well, Reality. This Gem allows the user to fulfil whatever wish he/she/it desires the laws of physics and science be damned. The Reality Gem can turn the world upside down with a thought and can be extremely difficult to control without the other Infinity Gems to keep its power in check.
Last but not least is the Power Gem. The Power Gem taps in to all energy and power that has and will ever exist, allowing the user to duplicate almost any known superhuman ability. When used with any other Infinity Gem it is able to boost that Gem’s powers as well. At its full potential, the Power Gem grants the user Omnipotence – ultimate power.
In Marvel Comics, the Titan known as Thanos, using knowledge discovered from the Infinity Well – a pool of knowledge in the realm of Death – learns of the existence of all 6 Infinity Gems and their powers and sets about to collect them all for himself.
Once he has succeeded in his quest, Thanos mounts the 6 Gems on to his left glove, dubbing it the Infinity Gauntlet allowing him to access the full powers of the combined Gems and making him, for all intent and purpose, God. (see the Infinity Gauntlet series for full details)
Using his new-found Godhood, Thanos wipes out half the life in the Universe as a gift to the personification of Death, whom he loves. The remaining heroes, some villains and cosmic entities unite to dethrone Thanos and he is eventually defeated.
The Infinity Gauntlet is claimed briefly by Adam Warlock before the Powers that Be (aka the Living Tribunal) force him to give up Ultimate Power and the Gems are divided among multiple protectors to keep them from falling in to the wrong hands (see back issues of Warlock and the Infinity Watch).
The Gems change hands over the years, eventually being held by a group of Earth heroes known as the Illuminati (Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, Black Bolt of the Inhumans, Charles Xavier, Tony Stark and Namor of Atlantis). Reed Richards had been gathering the Infinity Gems in an effort to use their combined power to will them all out of existence. Failing that, the Gems were distributed amongst the members of the Illuminati for safe keeping, until they were needed to prevent another Universe from colliding with our own. During the use of the Infinity Gauntlet by Steve Rogers (aka Captain America), five of the six Infinity Gems were destroyed, with only the Time Gem surviving, before it disappeared.
Coming up in Part 2 - The Infinity Gems in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe; where they are and what they plan to do with them.