Welcome to the first entry into a new feature I'm calling, Cosmic Cognizance, where I will focus on some of my favorite of Marvel's Cosmic Superheroes and Super Villains. For my first entry I decided to cover The Infinity Gems. You may ask, "But The Goog, how can gems be a character?!" Go ahead, I'll wait... "Ok!" I'd say "Let me tell you!" The gems are in fact sentient. So there. Ok, now, where to begin?
Let me tell you what each gem is:
Green: The Soul Gem, gives the wielder the mastery of the Soul. It is potentially the most powerful of the gems and over time actually steals the soul of the person using it. It is often referred to as vampiric. Any souls stolen by the gem are not actually consumed but end up in a pocket dimension inside the gem where the soul lives in peace, so not too bad of a trade off for having your soul ripped out of your living body.
Red: The Power Gem, gives the user access to all the power and energy that has ever and will ever exist.
Purple: The Space Gem, provides mastery over space. This allows the user to exist in any an all locations and to warp or rearrange space.
Blue: The Mind Gem, boosts psy powers and allows access to any mind and or dream.
Yellow: The Time Gem, allows control over Time itself. A user could change all time or only local time, for example ageing or de-ageing an individual.
Orange: The Reality Gem, with this gem the user can fulfill any wish even if it contradicts the laws of science, in effect you can bend reality. This gem can not be used on it's own and must be used in conjunction with the other gems.
(a side note, I keep seeing on Wiki that they have the yellow and orange gems reversed. I'm not sure why that is, the comics are pretty clear on which is which, but there you have it)
Ok, when the gems first appeared in the comics, the only one we knew of was the Soul Gem which was given to Adam Warlock by The High Evolutionary. In fact once the other gems started to appear they were just called The Soul Gems.
Thanos later gathered all the gems and siphoned off their power to create a weapon capable of destroying a star. He is stopped by Captain Marvel and Iron Man with the help of a now dead Adam Warlock. Adam manifests in the final moments, using the last of the stolen energy of the Soul gem to turn Thanos into stone.
Eventually the Elders of the Universe gather all of the gems in an attempt to kill Galactus and gain true immortality. They are thwarted by the Silver Surfer and Death herself curses the Elders with immortality. This leaves some of them in eternal torment or robbed of the very thing that gave them their long lives and titles of Elder. A few of the lucky Elders get away and take the gems with them.
Once again, Thanos is resurrected by Mistress Death as her champion and now a bit more wiser, realizes the true potential of the gems. He then sets out on a quest to once again reclaim them and by either besting or tricking the remaining Elders he manages to gather the gems once more and mounts them to his glove, he re-christens them the Infinity Gems and creates the Infinity Gauntlet.
The gauntlet allows Thanos to essentially become a god (his second time holding god-hood actually). He then proceeds to erase half the population of the universe to balance life and death. He captures the living embodiments of all reality (Eternity, Infinity, Death, Galactus, the Celestials, Chaos and Order to name a few) and keeps them prisoner. Eventually he is stopped by Earth's heroes and is thought dead.
As a result of this, a resurrected Adam Warlock claims the Infinity Gauntlet and is allowed audience with the Cosmic heavyweights (since he is now at or above their own level). The Living Tribunal declares that from now on the gems will never be able to be used in unison. Adam agrees and offers to form a Watch to safeguard the gems. He keeps the Soul gem but gives the others to four of his friends, leaving the keeper of the Reality gem a secret. It is eventually revealed that he has entrusted the gem to Thanos himself! Warlock knew Thanos was not dead and entrusted the gem to him also knowing that Thanos would not be stupid enough to try using the gem without the others present. Since the gems also no longer work together and no one would ever attempt to fight Thanos for it, the gem is actually as safe as it could be.
The gems are indeed kept safe for a while until the cancellation of The Infinity Watch where Marvel dumps all the gems AND Adam into the Ultraverse. I won't bother getting into that, no one ever talks about it and I think it's barely cannon. But the gems and Adam all eventually return to the Marvel Universe.
Some time later Galactus decides to collect the gems himself to try to solve his never ending hunger. The gems are not able to fulfill this role and only end up releasing an evil force into the universe which Thanos has to stop (this all happening in Thanos' short lived but excellent title book).
The Gems in their Gauntlet form make an appearance in the JLA/Avengers crossover where Darkseid tries to put them to use only to discover the gems do not function outside of their home universe.
Recently all the gems have come into possession of the Illuminati of the Marvel U. Each member (Iron Man, Professor X, Namor, Dr. Strange, Blackbolt and Reed Richards) keep a gem in secret and have sworn not to use them. Reed had attempted to wish them out of existence but the gems are actually needed for cosmic balance, so his attempt failed. They apparently made an appearance in the limited Pet Avengers series, so I'll have to track those books down!
I believe Reed now keeps the gems in a safe place, where they no doubt wait for the next cosmic crossover!
I think that's about it! There's a bit more I did not mention, but I can leave the details for other posts, I think this one is long enough and this is about as detailed as I can make it with out being TOO dull. At least I hope so!
(Edit: hoo, I should have triple checked this, lots of typos have been now fixed)