Marvel fandom collectively freaked out when Pillboi from The Good Place (apparently now working at the Time Variance Authority) opened up a drawer in his desk and showed Loki his collection of powerless Infinity Stones. Marvel’s God of Mischief took this to mean that the TVA is one of the most powerful forces in existence (more powerful than Thanos or the stones he collected). But that might a total misunderstanding of how the Infinity Stones work in the first place.
A closer look at the comics reveals exactly why the most powerful objects in the MCU have suddenly been reduced to shiny paperweights, and it has nothing to do with the TVA at all.
How the Infinity Stones work in Marvel comics
For one thing, they’re gems (not stones) in the comics, though the Infinity Gauntlet is still very much a thing. But the most important detail you need to know is that the Infinity Stones only work in the universe they came from. That hasn’t mattered so far in the one-universe MCU, but as Marvel prepares to explore the Multiverse, it’s going to matter a lot.
This detail was perhaps best explained in the DC-Marvel crossover event JLA/Avengers. Published in 2003-2004, the comics arc featured a plotline in which Justice League villain Darkseid got his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet — only to learn that the stones were powerless in any reality besides their own. In response, he pulls off the gauntlet like you would a used plastic medical glove.
Something similar happened in New Avengers (2013) #3 when Reed Richards tried to solve a multi-dimensional problem with the Infinity Gauntlet. He’s informed by Black Swan (an interdimensional princess) that the Infinity Stones/Gems don’t work “outside their native universe.”
However, she adds that they will “buy you some time.” So it’s not like they’re totally useless.
Loki and the Infinity Stones
Why does any of this matter? Well, if the rules from the comics carry over (a huge if, to be fair) that would explain why the Infinity Stones have no power in Loki. It’s not because the TVA is able to nullify them, it’s simply that the TVA exists outside of the reality where the MCU has so far taken place.
It’s even possible that the TVA’s reality has its own versions of the Infinity Stones. Maybe that’s how the Time Keepers gained the power to control the timeline in the first place — assuming the Time Keepers even exist at all.
Loki is streaming now on Disney+.