The Mad Titan Thanos has been the scourge of the Marvel Comics Universe since Jim Starlin brought him to life back in 1973. His measurables are, well, immeasurable.
He has a thirst for power that rivals Dr. Doom with perhaps an even bigger ego, greater strength than the Incredible Hulk in his base form, and a love for brutality and destruction that only the Red Skull can match. While he has been all over the comic books for years, with legions of fans flocking to whatever book whose pages he dwells within during any particular month, Thanos is the boogeyman of the Marvel Universe.
In Marvel Now’s Thanos #1, written by Jeff Lemire with artwork by Clayton Cowles, Frank Martin and Mike Deodoto, there are no Infinity Stones, no Infinity Gauntlet and Mistress Death is no longer on his side this time. After seemingly meeting his demise at the hands of God Emperor Doom in Secret Wars, Thanos is resurrected by Galactus and comes to Earth where he is defeated by the Avengers with the help of the Inhuman Ulysses.
Thanos #1 sees the Mad TItan return to reclaim the territory he had abandoned in pursuit of universal dominance. In his way stands Glaive, his former second in command. Glaive believes he is doing the proper thing by bringing order to Thanos’ realm, which had fallen into disarray in his absence. But he is not looking to give up his own dreams of ruling and is easily dispatched by Thanos – who then gives Glaive the option of ending his own life or dying slowly via torture. Glaive chose the former, plunging his shattered blade into his own chest.
When speaking of Thanos, his motives are universal domination or universal destruction more often than not. However, in this graphic novel, Thanos is more dangerous than ever. The being that killed his own mother, decimated his own planet and even courted death herself as a lover, is now desperate. He realizes that, despite his mutant Titanian DNA, he is dying.
Much of the first issue finds him bouncing from planet to planet looking for the cure to his unknown ailment that is weakening him. Many peaceful, medically advanced societies come to a brutal end when each tells Thanos that his condition is unknown, thus incurable.
While Thanos searches for a cure, a team is being assembled to take advantage of his’ weakened state and kill him once and for all; Starfox, brother of Thanos, Nebula, who once called herself the Mad Titan’s granddaughter, and Champion are brought together at the behest of Thanos’ son Thane. In his pursuit of a cure, Thanos humbles himself and makes his way to the one person he believes can help him; his estranged father.
Though reluctant to help, the father does so in order to prevent his son from slaughtering the scientists in his employ, as well as their families. It isn’t long for him to advise Thanos of his fate – a “god cancer” that is eating him alive. Thanos is told that the disease would kill him long before a cure is discovered. Of course, this enrages the Mad Titan and he brutally murders his father. As he looks to depart, Thanos is confronted by a superpowered team from the Shi’ar Empire in the final panel of issue #2.
The psyche of Thanos is explored very deeply in this graphic novel. His motivations, his mindset and what makes him tick are on full display. Never have I read a book in which the bringer of death and destruction actually feared his own demise. It’s no attempt at garnering sympathy for the devil by writer Jeff Lemire, but a story that reminds us exactly who Thanos is and why this incarnation of the character is perhaps the most dangerous personification of him ever, even without the Infinity Gauntlet.
The art is detailed, utilizing shadows, unnatural colors and shading perfectly. The anatomy and facial expressions of some of the characters was art unto itself. The covers of both Thanos #1 and #2 are also very apropos in foreshadowing what the reader would find within the pages. Though common place at one time, that methodology is kind of hit or miss these days. The Thanos title is a very good read thus far and will definitely have me coming back for more.