This month, I’m on a journey to learn more about the comics version of Thanos as a celebration of his triumphant debut in Avengers: Infinity War. We’ve covered the 1992 comic book crossover from which the movie took its name, 2013’s cosmic Infinity event, took a break to see what Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were up to with Uncanny Avengers #1 – and now we’re at the end of our journey. Most of the stories that we’ve covered involving Thanos have been surprisingly removed from the Mad Titan. While Thanos is arguably the main character of Avengers: Infinity War, he seems to inspire comic book storylines that cover a lot of ground. Huge, sprawling casts with a huge, sprawling setting. That makes it easy to miss the core of who Thanos is, since we’re just reading one starter issue per storyline.
So, for our final installment of May’s The Mad Titan series, what better way to complete our journey than with Thanos’s very own series?
Thanos #13 kicks off Donny Cates’ run. Donny is one of the fastest rising indie stars turned Marvel architects I’ve seen come to prominence in my time as a writer, with a career comparable in trajectory maybe only to Charles Soule’s. The issue, which is the first chapter of the Thanos Wins storyline, is written by Cates, drawn by Geoff Shaw, colored by Antonio Fabela, and lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowels.
Now… let’s start by taking a look at the transition from the first page to the title page.
I am instantly here for this.
This is far and away the best issue I’ve read this month, and the most instantly compelling depiction of Thanos I’ve seen in the comics. Instantly, with every sparing line of dialogue, he makes it very clear who he is. From the way he stands over others, to his gaze, even down to the way he kills, Thanos #13 paints a picture of an arrogant, brutal, bored, pensive villain who knows he’s feared and thrives off of it, and yet still wants more.
Geoff Shaw’s Thanos is physically terrifying, but every bit as nuanced as what I’ve been looking for with this character. I feel as if the nuance is sometimes missed in Thanos because he’s so intimidating, but to me, it’s the slivers of humanity and desire in him that make him all the more horrifying. Shaw captures that beautifully.
So – this issue fires on all cylinders. Art, awesome. Colors, great. Even the lettering, while it of course captures the Marvel house style, tries some interesting things that makes a reveal at the end work like a charm. Donny Cates is the standout talent of this issue, though. His story, punched up by a compelling and conversational third-person narration, makes this cosmic tale of time-travel feel intimate, urgent – but never rushed. It’s easy to see why Marvel is eager to hand the keys over to Cates, whose storytelling is a perfect marriage of high concept and character-driven. I come away from this issue feeling like I know more about Thanos, what makes him tick, and what he wants more than any single issue I’ve read before, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.