Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Jeff Dekal
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
You gotta hand it to Marvel — they know how to synergize. Just days before the release of Avengers: Endgame, comic readers are treated to a brand-new series featuring that film’s big bad in Thanos #1. Following an acclaimed run by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, does this new volume measure up to its predecessor?
Written by Tini Howard (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink, among other things), this new Thanos run explores the beginning of his relationship with adoptive daughter Gamora, framed as the latter telling an unknown party their complicated story. Along the way, we meet familiar figures from both Thanos’s history and the wider cosmic Marvel Universe, but those details are just dressing for a poignant exploration of how a strained upbringing can still affect someone years after the fact.
For a limited title intended to wrap up in six issues, Thanos takes a clever approach. Because it’s one character explicitly giving an oral account of another, it has a predetermined end; not every tale requires ongoing status. That’s especially true here, since the stakes aren’t universal or world-shaking — rather, it’s the story of a flawed woman growing up under the specter of a megalomaniacal tyrant.
The fact that Thanos is told from Gamora’s perspective, and not his own, is important. I believe Howard is actually the first woman to write the Mad Titan as a protagonist, and filtering a hyper-masculine character like himself through a feminist lens often leads to fascinating results (see also: Becky Cloonan’s Punisher). Whereas a male writer might be tempted to treat Thanos like an awesome figure to behold, Howard is more reticent to glorify his behavior. That isn’t to say men are incapable of writing a good Thanos story (refer to the Cates/Shaw run mentioned above), but it just proves why off-the-page creator diversity is just as important as diversity you can see on the page itself.
As far as what you can see on the page, Ariel Olivetti’s art is as good as ever here. He’s really the artist you wanna go to for bombastic, intimidating men doing violent things (e.g. his work on Cable, Punisher, Namor), and his rendering of Thanos makes you believe why others would fear him. While I still prefer Olivetti’s art as colored by himself (i.e. his recent work on Venom: Space Knight), Antonio Fabela’s colors aren’t bad, and actually quite beautiful in many spots. Rounding out the creative team is VC’s Joe Caramagna’s, whose lettering does a good job of translating Howard’s dense script into a readable fashion without distracting from the art.