Comics
Published April 2, 2024

Meet the Living Tribunal, the Multiversal Arbiter of Cosmic Balance

Who is the Living Tribunal? Discover more about this cosmic entity, who uses his god-like power to maintain cosmic balance across the Multiverse.

The cosmically omnipotent forces steering the Marvel Universe play a major role in G.O.D.S. (2023), where their long-standing rivalries continue to escalate with dire consequences. Among the most formidable of these imposing figures is the Living Tribunal, an omniscient entity who ensures that cosmic balance is maintained—at any cost. 

Whenever the Living Tribunal surfaces, the stakes are at their absolute highest; as the supreme judge and arbiter across time and space, the fates of entire universes are under threat when he presides. Here is everything you need to know about the Living Tribunal, his immense abilities, and his reality-bending history with the iconic heroes and villains of the Marvel Multiverse.

WHO IS THE LIVING TRIBUNAL?

The Living Tribunal is a three-faced entity tasked with supervising the many realities that make up the ever-expanding Marvel Multiverse. As part of these duties, he eliminates or alters any worlds or universes that he deems a threat to the rest of the interconnected cosmos. 

The Living Tribunal serves the all-powerful creator of the Multiverse, One-Above-All, and constantly works to prevent disruptions to the natural balance of reality on a grand scale. This occasionally puts the Living Tribunal on a collision course with heroes and villains when he deems their plans to be opposed to his own Multiversal mission of safeguarding reality and the cosmic balance.

The Living Tribunal's three faces each represent a different motivation behind his Multiversal edict: equity, vengeance, and necessity. These three virtues inform the Living Tribunal's judgments as he observes the Multiverse and decides when to intervene directly rather than supervise the flow of sentient life across reality. Ultimately, the Living Tribunal personifies the cosmic totalities of the Marvel Multiverse as a sort of self-governing entity to ensure its long-term health and survival.

POWERS AND ABILITIES

As the protector of the Marvel Multiverse, the Living Tribunal stands as one of the greatest, most powerful figures in all of reality, with his powers only surpassed by characters on par with One-Above-All and Eternity. The Living Tribunal can completely and instantaneously manipulate matter and energy at his will, making him capable of destroying or creating entire worlds on a whim. The Living Tribunal possesses god-like levels of speed, strength, and endurance; is capable of flight and teleportation; and has a cosmic awareness that exceeds Galactus or the Beyonder.

Despite these awesome power levels, the Living Tribunal is neither infallible nor completely impervious to harm and death. On several occasions throughout his history, the Living Tribunal has been successfully killed by a number of opponents conspiring against him when he stands counter to their own goals. However, the Living Tribunal is always eventually resurrected to resume his vital position supervising and safeguarding the Marvel Multiverse.

THE LIVING TRIBUNAL'S FIRST APPEARANCE

Created by Stan Lee, Marie Severin, and Herb Trimpe, the Living Tribunal made his debut in STRANGE TALES (1951) #157 as an adversary for Doctor Strange. The Living Tribunal believed that Earth's capacity for great evil threw off the balance of the universe, and he vowed to destroy it; only the Sorcerer Supreme stood in his way to prevent Earth's total annihilation. Strange embarked on a series of trials, each more harrowing than the last, to prove to the Living Tribunal that Earth is also capable of great good and thus worth saving.

In a desperate gambit, Strange absorbed the evil energy spread by his nemesis Baron Mordo, channeling the sinister ether into the mystical Staff of Polar Power and away from Earth. The formidable Nebulos, Lord of Planets, attempted to seize the staff for himself, quickly proving himself a surprisingly effective opponent against even the Living Tribunal. Strange helped the Tribunal defeat Nebulos, sparing Earth and earning the Living Tribunal's favor in exchange for the staff, along with the evil aura stored within it.

THE LIVING TRIBUNAL'S HISTORY IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE

After his encounter with Doctor Strange, the Living Tribunal surfaced in a number of different universes and timelines throughout the Marvel Multiverse. The Living Tribunal contained various alternate universes devastated by cosmic threats in WHAT IF? (1977) to prevent them from spreading throughout the Multiverse, a feat he also achieved in DARK AGES (2021) after defeating the Unmaker. When the New Universe merged into the main Marvel Universe, the Living Tribunal personally intervened to control the devastating potential of Star Brand in QUASAR (1989) #57.

Adam Warlock took control of the Infinity Gauntlet following the defeat of Thanos, but the Living Tribunal informed him that the power he wielded was too much for him—which led to the creation of the Infinity Watch in WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH (1992) #1. In this capacity, the Tribunal also presided over all the omnipotent cosmic entities of the Marvel Universe, mediating and judging disputes between them that had escalated too far. When She-Hulk became embroiled in a cosmic court case against Starfox in SHE-HULK (2005) #12, the Living Tribunal supervised the proceedings to ensure universal justice was properly carried out.

The Watcher and Iron Man discovered the Living Tribunal's corpse on the Moon in NEW AVENGERS (2013) #8, later learning that an army of Beyonders overwhelmed and killed him, facilitating the destruction of the Multiverse. After the Multiverse was reformed, Adam Warlock temporarily took the Living Tribunal's position in THANOS: THE INFINITY FINALE (2016) #1 before a new Tribunal took a more permanent position. Though Lord Chaos and Master Order tried to overthrow this Tribunal in ULTIMATES 2 (2016) #2, the Tribunal was resurrected and judged their crimes in ULTIMATES 2 (2016) #100.

THE LIVING TRIBUNAL AND G.O.D.S.

The acclaimed series G.O.D.S. (2023) by Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti blends the magical and cosmic sides of the Marvel Universe, with battles for control raging between various factions in the shadows. At the center of this struggle is Wyn, avatar of The-Powers-That-Be, and his estranged wife Aiko Maki, Centivar of The-Natural-Order-Of-Things. To erase her impact on the mystical wellbeing of her protege Mia, Aiko traveled to the Living Tribunal's domain and asked him to rewrite history to restore Mia's potential.

Unfolding in G.O.D.S. (2023) #6, the Living Tribunal acknowledged Aiko's desire to maintain the natural order of the universe, but he saw changing history as an affront to justice; so, while he didn't punish her for her request, he firmly refused. This left Aiko vulnerable to a desperate exchange with the Tribunal's brother Oblivion, as the high-stakes game between cosmic forces rages on.

Behold the Living Tribunal's judgment in G.O.D.S. #6, now on sale!

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