It’s not often that a character gets an annual without the benefit of an active ongoing monthly series, but that’s the case with Marvel’s Mad Titan Thanos, whose popularity has been surging in the zeitgeist since his post-credits reveal in 2012’s Avengers movie.
Thanos Annual #1 draws its style heavily from the character’s comic book glory days of the early ’90s, around the time of his role as chief villain in the hit miniseries The Infinity Gauntlet. The original creative team from that era, writer Jim Starlin and penciler Ron Lim, jump back into the cosmic saddle without missing a beat. The longtime collaborators produce a confident story where the plot and the art equally keep pace.
Lim, a veteran of Marvel’s cosmic territory, renders Thanos Annual #1 with a clean efficiency. Lim had the unenviable task of following George Perez on The Infinity Gauntlet, leading many to discount his work in comparison. However, with long stints on Silver Surfer and the Infinity events, Lim is a master artist in his own right and draws an iconic Thanos. His style may strike modern comics readers as cartoony, but the style is a good fit for the often abstract cosmic subject matter and his Thanos has a hulking menace to him.
No writer is more closely associated with Thanos than Jim Starlin, and his work in the issue has the cool confidence of a master weaving his tale. That said, the script takes its time ramping up to full flight. The first ten pages or so offer a serviceable introduction to the inner dialogue of Thanos, but not a lot of dramatic tension. Things pick up substantially once Starlin opens up a can of space/time worms and introduces Thanos to… Thanos. The end result is both an entertaining compilation of Thanos’ greatest hits interwoven with the setting of intriguing building blocks for a new Thanos series, The Infinity Revelation, set to launch in August.
In many ways this “annual” feels like an over-sized issue zero for the upcoming series. That’s not a bad thing, as the premises set into motion are intriguing and open up new possibilities for the character. More than a few of the issue’s beats hint at a much larger, overarching story coming together that could affect the entire Marvel universe. Without giving away specific details, it’s safe to say that the events Starlin unveils in Thanos Annual #1 combined with other recent solicits from Marvel point at something very Crisis-y bubbling up in the 616.
At a more grounded level, the story hits the perfect stride for a Thanos solo book. Starlin successfully blends elements of Shakespearean pomp, space/time anomalies and villainous scheming against the trippy backdrop of the Marvel cosmic playground. Thanos holds court with Thanos, as multiple versions of the Mad Titan connect through the multiverse (again, Crisis-y) and exploit the time weirdness to set an entirely new set of events into motion. Unlike a lot of time travel stories, what happens here feels like it matters.
The book pulls off an interesting feat by serving as both a solid primer on all things Thanos for new readers and a memory refresher for those already familiar with the Infinity Gauntlet and its numerous spinoffs. If you have a friend looking for the scoop on Thanos, this is a good of a crash course as any single issue could be.
Longtime Marvel readers will enjoy the retro trappings of Thanos Annual #1, and new readers will find an enjoyable if at times bit abstract tale to whet their cosmic appetites. There are few creators who can pull off an issue with ramifications of this scale, and Starlin and Lim deliver.