Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Mike Deodato, Frank Martin, Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: November 16, 2016
With the latest round of Marvel NOW! bringing on the bad guys, it’s only fair that the Mad Titan – Thanos – be given a spotlight. After all, everyone’s favorite purple people pounder has been seen in a few of those blockbuster Marvel movies, and his name is gaining some decent recognition. He’s also a healthy blend of pathos and drama, evil and horrific, and yet, somehow remains strangely compelling. So Thanos #1 makes sense, right?
Writer Jeff Lemire makes no attempt to redeem Thanos, nor does he belabor the fact that no one likes Thanos. Instead the writer presents Thanos through skewed objectivity – detailing the merciless acts of would-be galactic conqueror. Lemire uses third-party narration to set the stage, construct the cast, and cross the galaxy. He also makes Corvus Glaive, Thanos’ former right-hand man, seem like a benevolent ruler who balances the civic budget and issued tax refunds to all of his citizens in comparison. The writer provides just enough information for us all to know, we should cringe a little bit (even if it’s just on the inside) when we turn the page to see the words THANOS RETURNS above the creator credits.
But Thanos #1 isn’t all Thanos. After all, this is a character that has threatened all of existence on multiple occasions. Giving him and him alone the spotlight could make for a very, very short story that might have a few continuity problems for other books along the way. Lemire turns over a few cosmic stones looking for the right cast to add to Thanos’ adventures, and in doing so avoids the more popular, somewhat obvious go-tos of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, or any of the other Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead, he goes back to Thanos’ roots. And he also reaches out to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe to dust off a character or two. He even brings in Thanos’ son, Thane. In doing so, by spreading the story out across three distinct scenes, Lemire helps remind readers of the diversity present in the vastness of space within the Marvel Universe.
Letter artist Clayton Cowles has his work cut early through scads of caption boxes, but by the time Thanos appears, Cowles is able to trade in expository lettering for sound effects, and appears to have a fun time doing so. It’s nine pages into Thanos #1 before the Mad Titan speaks, but Cowles makes it quite clear that we would feel Thanos’ words as much as hear them.
Mike Deodato’s art is well-matched for Thanos, giving Jim Starlin’s creation fearsome bulk and body language to indicate he knows how to use his power to extreme displeasure of others. When the story shifts away from Thanos, however, Deodato’s artwork waffles between extreme over-the-top comic book visual cliché and photo reference. It’s serviceable, in some cases very good, but rarely iconic or even memorable. Part of that might be knocking the dust off the supporting cast, which should find its level in the next issue or two.
Some odd coloring/art choices crop up in Thanos’ unleashing his fury upon Glaive’s forces. One panel in particular is constructed to show Thanos caving in someone’s cranium, but instead, the noggin appears to be exploding in radiant light.
Playing off Deodato’s heavy shadow work, colorist Frank Martin fills the pages of Thanos #1 with saturated, unnatural color. Reds trend towards deep blood red, pages without Thanos on them are abundant in purple and yellow. Gradients are employed to enhance, but not to overwhelm, save for the previously mentioned noggin, which is really more of a lens flare or starburst.
Marvel has done more than its fair share of filling the comic book racks with a wide array of titles, all competing for meager comic book purchasing budgets. When it comes to villain-centric comics, I tend to give those a hard pass, but the talent involve on Thanos #1 had me intrigued. With low expectations, I decided to give this a go, more for review purposes than anything else, but it surpassed anything and everything I expected. For fans of the Mad Titan, this is sure to be a joy. Lemire, Deodato, Martin, and Cowles are deliberate in their choices here, and that’s plenty for me to come back for another issue. Or three.
The Verdict: 8.0/10