I had never read a Donny Cates comic, but, as an avid Wednesday Warrior and a contributor to a comic book website, it’s hard not to escape the Donny Cates mania currently sweeping the industry. With the release of the Thanos Wins trade paperback, I figured there was no better time to finally learn what all the hype was about.
Well, true believers, I’m very pleased to report that the hype is real. This seven-issue collection is a must-read for fans of the mad titan (and even those non-fans who are still angry about that pesky finger snap) and reminds readers of the level of crazy-cool madness only comics can deliver.
While this trade collects Thanos #13-18 and Thanos Annual #1, feel free to jump into this book fresh. I’ve yet to read the two Jeff Lemire Thanos volumes that came before this one, but I was never lost as this is very much a self-contained story. When we join Thanos, he’s conquering Chitauri Prime, the homeworld of none other than those aliens from the first Avengers movie, the Chitauri. And it’s all going great (for Thanos–definitely not the Chitauri), until that cackling maniac the Cosmic Ghost Rider shows up.Yep, even if you haven’t read Thanos Wins, you’ve likely heard of its breakout star Cosmic Ghost Rider, who’ll soon get his own series. But more on him in a bit. This future-version of the spirit of vengeance has traveled through time to bring Thanos back to his master: Thanos! In this bleak future (they’re always bleak futures, aren’t they?), Thanos has eliminated all of his enemies save for one, who stands between him and his beloved Death. So who else does a being as powerful as Thanos turn to for help than himself?
The dark future setting and clever twists on familiar characters will definitely remind you of stories like Old Man Logan, but this one’s just so much more fun. Ironic, considering it’s wall-to-wall carnage, but you know what you’re getting when you pick up a Thanos book.
So, to prove I’m not a maniac, let me lay out a few reasons why Thanos Wins is such a good time. For starters, these issues are loaded with narration boxes that bring me back to a time when Marvel Comics not only had these, but they were full of personality. Take this bit from the first page of Thanos #17, for instance:
“You have never heard the tale of his redemption insider the shattered gates of Asgard. And you never will. Because once his war with the Twin Titans is over… there will be no one left alive to tell it.”
Narration boxes aren’t what readers buy comics for, but there’s no reason why they can’t do more than just set the scene, and Cates understands that.
Next is the star of Thanos Wins himself, who loves what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice. It’s always fascinating to watch an artist at work… even when that artist creates chaos across the galaxy. We all know that in the end, Thanos always succeeds (a point Avengers: Infinity War taught the mainstream)–and it’s a true treat to see the ways in which he takes down his enemies. Getting a captive Black Bolt to scream in pain… toward an army of approaching Celestials? Brilliant!
And yes, of course, Cosmic Ghost Rider steals most scenes he appears in. I won’t spoil this character’s true identity if you’re lucky enough to still not know it. Knowing who he was, at first, I found it a bit hard to believe this was the same guy. But as the story unfolded, I grew to embrace the idea of an already-insane character descending even further into madness and I loved it.
Really, that’s a great way to sum up this story: insanity that only gets more insane–in the best way possible! Galactus carrying a gigantic gun, a hero other than Thor wielding Mjolnir, Thanos punching Thanos–this is the kind of stuff Marvel fans dream up on scratch paper or geek out over with their peers at the comic shop. But it’s not fanfic, it’s all right inside the pages of Thanos Wins!Of course, while Cates’ work here is magnificent, he didn’t do it all alone. Artist Geoff Shaw is responsible for bringing all this craziness to life. But when you look past killer visuals like a revenge-seeking Galactus or a rage-fueled Silver Surfer, you see Shaw’s talent for rendering the characters’ emotions. I’m talking about Cosmic Ghost Rider’s joyful glee, the fear in the captive Hulk’s eyes and Thanos’ insecurity masked with bravado.
Yes, I just called Thanos insecure. And yes, I am terrified he’ll appear behind me and tear me in two (at least let me finish this review–I have deadlines, oh glorious titan!).
While I found the short stories in the Thanos Annual to be a mixed bag (Al Ewing’s was the stand-out), think of them as an after-dinner mint you pop in your month after an amazing meal. And with that, I’m done talking about this book because my words can only do so much. If you haven’t read Thanos Wins, buy yourself a copy right now. And if you already read it all in singles, read it again in trade paperback format so you can check out the sweet AiPT! quote on the back cover (I heard they have great taste, contrary to what you may have heard).