Warning! Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 ahead!
Marvel’s latest crossover event Infinite Destinies sees a new generation of Infinity Stone-bearers put themselves to the test similar to the sacrifice characters make on Vormir in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU immortalized the legacy of the Infinity Stones, and audiences saw the cost of acquiring them in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame when Thanos and Hawkeye are forced to give up someone they love in exchange for the Soul Stone. Unfolding across a series of comic book annuals, Infinite Destinies has been shining the spotlight on a very different cast of characters — Star, Prince of Power, Overtime and Quantum among them — and what happens when the greatest forces in the universe end up in the hands of the unlikeliest of heroes.
As hinted as far back as 2004’s She-Hulk series, from the superb duo of Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo, coming into contact with an Infinity Stone is not merely the byproduct of pure happenstance. Infinity Stones are not regular objects, but instead appear attracted to bearers based on a psychic connection formed by an unseen, natural force both powerful and mysterious. While not quite sentient, Infinity Stones appear to possess situational awareness and seem to arrive at pivotal moments guided by fate alone. Accordingly, each Infinity Stone ends up in the hands of those whose innermost desires closely align with the aspect of existence it controls.
The idea of an Infinity Stone-bearer proving their need — and paying a sacrifice — plays out in the most recent chapter of the Infinite Destinies saga, Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 by the excellent team-up of Al Ewing, Flaviano Armentaro and Rachelle Rosenberg. The issue recounts the misadventures of Prince Otherone aka the Prince of Power as he comes into possession of an Infinity Stone. The Prince of Power starts out as a prince who feels powerless, having to toil as a menial worker until gifted with the awesome new force bestowed to him by the Power Stone. But much like the MCU’s Black Widow and Gamora, who both died for the Soul Stone on Vormir, the energy given to the Prince of Power requires a similar sacrifice. While the Prince of Power becomes imbued with brawn, he is equally sapped of all his intelligence and destroys his homeworld by accident.
Other characters who would seek to wield the awesome might of the Infinity Stones must pay comparable prices in Infinite Destinies. Star finds herself powered by Reality Stone, but is robbed of her inhibitions. Quantum gains the power to teleport via the Space Stone, but finds his own molecular stability is being steadily compromised. And while Hercules is not an Infinity Stone-bearer, Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 sees him endure a test of his own as great as any of his Twelve Labors. Namely, he is subjected to Prince Otherone’s torturous, self-indulgent version of how he gained his power, a tale relayed in a hilarious parody of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and well worth the reading.
It is these very relationships between the Infinity Stones, destiny and their new stone-bearers that are explored in Infinite Destinies. Consequently, the Infinity Stones of Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Time and Soul are no longer simply forces to be wielded, as in the MCU, but possess a level of internal actualization in their own right. Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Infinity Stone bearers must pass a test to harness them, albeit one at great price. It is a cost that Star, Prince of Power, Overtime, Quantum and others more than pay in full in Infinite Destinies.