Thanos has returned to reclaim his throne, but there is one problem: he’s dying, and his enemies hope to pounce on the chance to kill him in Thanos Volume 1: Thanos Returns, written by Jeff Lemire with art from Mike Deodato Jr. This slim softcover collection includes the first six issues of the series, which kicked off last fall. It’s a fascinating, two-rail story with art that fits the cosmic setting of the story.
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The series kicks off with The Mad Titan returning to his throne, which had been kept warm by Corvus Glaive, but he won’t sit there long because he has a big problem. Thanos, thought be many to be invincible, is dying and he doesn’t know why. He goes on his search for answers, which ultimately leads him to several fights against those who wish to test his remaining strength.
While Thanos goes on his fact-finding mission, his son Thane is putting together a team to kill his father. He enlists his uncle, Starfox, Nebula and Tryco Slatterus, the self-titled “Champion of the Universe.” But there’s a more mysterious figure behind this group, Death, who keeps pushing Thane for her own nefarious purposes.
At first, it can seem a little overwhelming for new readers, especially when the inside cover suggests you read eight books starring Thanos before reading this, but Lemire’s writing makes it easy to jump into Marvel’s cosmic universe. The strength of his script is impressive, with a wry sense of humor running through the narration. It doesn’t badger the reader with exposition and background, but instead comments on the action. The narrator is a character itself, pointing out the futility of attempts to stop Thanos and just how dire his situation is.
The best issue of the six presented here is easily the third, where Thanos battles the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard, while testimony of those who have survived Thanos’ terror gives the perspective of the average cosmic residence. These scenes tell us just how feared Thanos is and why it’s important that someone take advantage of his poor health. Of course, there’s also fear of what could be powerful enough to replace Thanos. The fourth issue is also a fantastic feat in storytelling, as Thanos is nowhere to be seen, but still drives the narrative as we learn what set Thane on this path to kill his father.
Deodato’s art shows how far Thanos and his world is from the earth-bound Marvel heroes. It’s dynamic and original, with detailed lines brought out by Frank Martin’s colors. Each page is really a piece of art, with gutters colored to match the action inside each panel. Thanos’ rage really leaps off the page.
At first, Thanos Returns didn’t really interest me, as I don’t follow the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, but this turned out to be an exceptional reading experience once I got into it.