I feel as if every time something major happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a new franchise begins, a beloved hero or villain from the comics appears, or a movie takes on a specific and well-known storyline – the comics industry has a huge opportunity for growth. Comic book movies are bigger than ever, and reading comics remains a niche habit. Meanwhile, there are countless potential fans looking to explore comics after falling in love with Marvel heroes on the silver screen. My take has always been, especially recently, that the traditional comics publishing industry doesn’t do a great job of creating a path for those fans — and this month, we’re putting that to the test.
Because the truth is… I don’t know that much about Thanos.
I’m good with the very basics. Big and purple. In love with Death. Preferred accessories: bedazzled glove. Beyond a few issues I’ve read here and there, though, and Thanos’s MCU appearances, I’m pretty much a blank slate. I’ve decided to take the path of the curious, would-be comics fan this month. After having seen Avengers: Infinity War, I’m setting out to learn what I can about the comics version of the Mad Titan.
It makes sense to me, then, to start with The Infinity War #1, the comic from which the movie takes its title.
The Infinity War #1 is written by Jim Starlin, penciled by Ron Lim, inked by Al Milgrom, colored by Ian Loughlin and Mac Scheele, and lettered by Jack Morelli. It starts very much in the thick of things hitting us with, in turn, relentless and often nearly silent pages of intense action on Earth, followed by slower, calculating scenes with Thanos that, while gracefully written, are certainly exposition.
The first thing I discovered upon reading this first chapter was that while the movie takes its title from this book, this is actually a sequel to the story the movie is based on: Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet. This follow-up tale, The Infinity War #1, picks up from the end of that story and throws readers right into the thick of things, with Thanos seeking out help from an unlikely source while, back on Earth, the Avengers are all separate and yet dealing with similar attackers. It’s definitely a well-worn trope at this point to see heroes battling screwed up versions of themselves, but this one was visually interesting in a way that felt less sci-fi (which is what I expected from this story) and more horror. Spidey’s doppleganger has dripping fangs and six arms. Faux-Wolverine has Freddy Krueger claws and thick, ropey veins lining his muscles. And Iron Man? Whew. His lookalike has some tentacle action going on – there’s a page where he goes full on Lovecraft mode, which was an interesting surprise. I went in expecting a superhero sci-fi epic, and this ended up playing with body horror a lot more than expected.
Overall, The Infinity War #1 was entertaining but, as someone who doesn’t know that much about Thanos and even less about Adam Warlock, I was left with more questions than answers about who they are. Which is totally fine, as the truth is, I’m already invested in the Avengers – it’s in me to want to know more. For readers who are looking to get their Thanos fix, though, I would for sure recommend starting with The Infinity Gauntlet rather than skipping ahead like me just ‘cause the titles match up.
For the rest of the month, my plan is to skip ahead into more recent Marvel times to explore how modern writers are handling Thanos. Starlin, whose Thanos tales I’ve briefly reviewed before here, seems to be right in the middle of the narration-heavy writing of the past and the more dialogue-driven scripting of the present – but how does Thanos read now? And, thinking ahead, after the popularity of movie Thanos who miiiight be the most well-liked on-screen comic book villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker… what is next in comics for Thanos? We’re exploring it all this month as we dive in deep to the Mad Titan’s lore!
NEXT UP: Infinity #1