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. Last time, I dove into the comic from which the movie took its name and found that it was actually the centerpiece of a Thanos-focused trilogy rather than the original source of inspiration of the film. It was still, though, an interesting look at Thanos’s role in the Marvel universe in a story that felt more like body horror than a cosmic superhero epic. Now, we’re jumping ahead to 2013 for Marvel’s Infinity event which spun out of Jonathan Hickman’s universe-altering Avengers run.
So… how does Thanos fare in this book?
The first issue is written by Jonathan Hickman; penciled by Jim Cheung; inked by Mark Morales, John Livesay, David Meikis, and Jim Cheung (holy crap); colored by Justin Ponsor; and lettered by Chris Eliopoulos and Joe Carmagna. Now, first thing I noticed after the veritable football team of dudes that inked this issue is the art. This might be a controversial take especially on this site, but I can’t help but feel that this issue is a perfect example of why I think the art in superhero comics now is better than ever. I love looking back to see the classics and examine where modern artists have pulled inspiration from, but looking at Cheung’s beautiful linework and Ponsor’s brilliant colors is nothing short of amazing. Infinity #1 spans the entire universe and it feels like it. Marvel Comics events have always had their best artists working at the very top of their game, and I found this issue, from panel to panel, visually stunning on every level.
The story, now, that’s another thing entirely. Hickman is a writer who I admire, in that he excels at everything I don’t. As both a writer and a reader, I thrive off of character-driven stories. I’ve always seen Hickman as the ultimate plot driven writer, in that his stories feel more like architecture than dynamic narrative. They’re beautiful structurally, and watching Hickman build on his foundation reveals him as a master of his craft – but I do find myself missing the humanity that I feel is necessary to bring both the Avengers and their enemies to life. Hickman’s characters feel like bricks in his structure rather than their unique selves at times – which, while not for me, I can still admire his storytelling for the sheer craftsmanship. I marvel at the plot-building in Infinity, from its expansive cast to its sprawling (literally fathomless) setting to its methodical structure, the way I look at a beautiful sculpture. It’s almost impossible to see, even as a writer, the shape of Hickman’s craft until you take a step back and see the full story.
That said, we don’t get much Thanos here. I wouldn’t send any fans looking to find out more about the Mad Titan toward this book as a first issue. As an entire event, perhaps, but there is precious little Thanos here. When we do see him, though, in two chilling moments, he’s scarier than he was in The Infinity War comic. He’s larger-than-life, looming both physically and metaphorically, with a smile that could rip you from your sanity. Jim Cheung’s Thanos is a force of nature captured on the page, so while we don’t learn much about what the iconic villain is up to in 2013, I’d say this terrifying depiction alone is more than worth the price of admission.
NEXT UP: We take break from the Mad Titan’s reign with Uncanny Avengers #1.