The Mad Titan cometh. In keeping with Marvel’s new, villain-led, direction that has seen the rise of such titles as Carnage and the upcoming Venom, audiences are now being treated to a standalone series following perhaps the single most evil entity in the entire Marvel Universe, Thanos. The question going into this debut issue though was always going to be how, with such a one-dimensional character, could Jeff Lemire write a compelling narrative?
In the case of Carnage, it was relatively easy to set a series around his exploits as he is, at his very core, a character steeped in complexity. Cletus is the product of a broken home, tormented by an abusive father and cast out by society, due to this a reader can be brought around to feel sympathy for him whilst still maintaining his terrifying aura. When it comes to Thanos however, it is not such a simple task. This is a character that shows no compassion, no relatable traits, and no interest in turning his life around so a book that follows his journey runs the risk of being a one note failure. Lemire manages to avoid such a disastrous step with ease though, which should be no surprise to those familiar with his work.
The focus is not truly on Thanos, despite the book’s title. Instead the lens is turned on The Black Order, Corvus Glaive, and most notably of all Thanos’ own family. The opening deals with The Order and Corvus, showing readers how the absence of the once dominant god has allowed Corvus to seize control of his vast army. The beauty of this prolonged segment is to show the juxtaposition between Thanos and his would-be usurper. The latter rules through rewards and his own form of kindness, if you work for him then you will reap the rewards of your labour and due to this the Order grows exponentially under him. The former bothers not with such diplomacy as he storms in to reclaim what is rightfully his. Lemire and artist Mark Deodato Jr. put across the enormity of the imposing villain by quite literally filling the frame with him as he confronts Corvus. The viciousness and brutality that one would expect from Thanos are present and accounted for as Lemire allows him to revel in his own sadism, a touch that fills readers with hope as the series continues. It would appear that the character is going to be done justice by this talented writer.
As the story progresses you get to see a whole world of deceit and treachery develop as Champion of the Universe: Tryco Slatterus, Starfox and Thane begin to join together in order to kill Thanos once and for all. It appears that they are being given the confidence to embark on such a mission by Death who reveals that Thanos is dying. Therein lies the most important hook as it throws up many questions. What is killing the god-like Thanos? Will he be able to defend himself against such a collective force? And will he find a cure to that which ails him?
As noted before, Mark Deodato Jr. does a wonderful job of bringing this rich story to life with his weighty set pieces and excellent character portrayal. Each face tells its own story and every character feels unique enough to warrant their inclusion. The glaringly obvious size disparity between Thanos and Corvus is handled expertly and it gives a real sense of scale to the enormous conqueror. Whilst the colour pallet is a little limited, this works in the favour of the book as these are characters that exist in the darkest reaches of the Marvel Universe, such a sense of foreboding should be considered mandatory.
All things considered, Thanos #1 is an exceptionally strong opener to what could be a must-read series. The story is set up in a compelling manner and the reader is invited to pick a side in this upcoming war. If Lemire continues to shine here as he has done with his work on Old Man Logan then Thanos could be a real unexpected treat.
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