Thanos, Volume One: Thanos Returns (Review)
Title: Thanos Volume 1 - Thanos Returns
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr
Color Artist: Frank Martin
Lemire. Deodato. The combination implores us to just throw up our hands, and say "Wrap it up! It's good! No need to debate it!". And that is predominantly true for the breadth of content present within the pages of Thanos: Thanos Returns. This is the first trade volume of the latest Thanos ongoing, covering issues #1 - #6. Released this past July, Thanos Returns takes a look at the Alpha Villain in the Marvel Universe with a longer lens. Lemire makes Thanos a more complex character than a simple A-B foil. But what's really complicated is all of the swirl around Thanos. Multiple offspring, some loyal, some homicidally vengeful, uncles, cousins…it's all a very Roman grand opera that surrounds the headliner for the upcoming MCU release of Infinity War. Reading this trade of the ongoing is an excellent primer for that movie, but even without that, this is simply a good comic.
It's difficult to talk about the whole trade when it is clearly Issue #3 of the trade that stands out from all others. That issue features a series of 1-on-1 interviews with denizens of Marvel's cosmic storylines and an unknown interviewer. These vignettes are some of the most telling panels written about the inner workings of Thanos' psyche and his place in the universe. The first reminds us that Thanos was once just an innocent boy, and that he was not born evil. Later interviews remind us that some of what he did while in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet was reversed. No blood, no foul, right? And others remind us of all of the horrible things that he has done, without making excuses for him. All of that is woven in-between the panels of one of the biggest and most nail-biting of fights to ever occur in the Marvel Universe: the stand-off between Thanos the Mad Titan and the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard. All of them.
While Deodato's art is to be lauded across all of the pages, he gets a major chance to shine in Issue #3. In later issues, I have some problems with his fight choreography. In Issue #4 there is one sequence with a jail guard and there appears to be two rifles in the mix when there should have only been one. But there are no such hiccups in Issue #3. Deodato is given quite a large task, to manage all of the Imperial Guard on-screen, make it look like it's barely enough to match a terminally ill Thanos, and still make both sides look equally menacing. Deodato brings it in a masterful demonstration on how to tell the story of an epic battle. It is not to be missed.
There have been a whole lot of efforts made over the last few years to prop villains up in their own ongoing, and, as it has been throughout comic book history, this is an incredibly challenging task. While some of us hold onto and outwardly project the notion that we're bad boys, the truth is most people are not into reading extensively about the antagonist. Taking that person and making the story about them is a lens too difficult for some of us to get behind. When Marvel came up with his concept, they went after the right partners to pull this together. This is great stuff, and well worth coming off of your pull-list for a day or two to read it all the way through.