Andrew Houldcroft ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Writer
Thanos Rising is the brilliant look back at a character that’s going to receive a lot of attention as Marvel Studios moves ahead with Phase Two of their production.
Thanos, the Mad Titan, is a regular in the rogues gallery of the Avengers and all do-gooders alike. His exploits have been far from subtle. Whether it has been his ambition to rearrange the universe with the Infinity Gauntlet or his attempts to court the embodiment of death, he’s always been a serious threat to the entire galaxy. Knowing this, it’s nice to get some further insight on his motivations and even better when the sequel to the blockbuster The Avengers looms on the horizon (a film in which Thanos is presumably the main antagonist).
Dealing with a legacy character such as this demands the balance between the old and the new. Readers don’t want to have one thousand allusions to past titles thrown at them, but at the same time, there needs to be a feeling of familiarity. Thanos is a serious baddie in Marvel’s Universe and it’s clear that Thanos Rising captures this character through a balance of amazing art and fresh writing.
In the first few panels, readers are brought to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Simone Bianchi (Green Lantern and Wolverine) captures this celestial setting perfectly with his brilliant choices in color and design. Thanos holds his place a legacy character with an expected look and certainly a feel that older fans will want to see. Simone, however, tosses this to the wind for his own take on the character’s design and reinvents his look entirely.
As you can see, Bianchi has chosen to restructure his facial features in a way that gives Thanos a more human feeling. Instead of sticking to the massive jawline and sinister expression, he has supplied the character with a solemn expression and less exaggerated or distorted features.
On a further note, the look of Titan from the past and in the present supplies an amazing contrast between the heyday of a utopia and the reality of the dystopia. The darkness of the Thanos we know is empty and discomforting. Yet, in a similar way, the light of Titan in the past has its own unsettling nature. There’s a good vibe of things being a bit too perfect to be considered normal.
The writing is above that of the other Marvel NOW titles currently running. Jason Aaron, known for work on Ghost Rider and Wolverine, does an excellent job of pushing the narrative forward with a few hidden gems here and there. For example, Thanos’s father refers to him as “The child who refused to die.” To have such a line lays the basis for the character’s obsession with death itself.
In addition to this, there are some interesting choices in terms of storytelling. In a story that’s told primarily through flashback, alienating the reader with time jumps is a big no-no. It’s confusing enough that we’re in the past. Any jumps between years, months, days, etc. need to be subtle and clear. A particular jump occurs when Thanos is trapped in a cave-in. One panel shows the accident and the next has seemed to have jumped three days. Though this is explained and a pivotal piece to the story itself, it proves to be a tad disorienting to the reader.
Getting this human perspective of Thanos, his good qualities and his seemingly innocent nature, rounds him out. The issue with vintage comics is the one-dimensional nature of most villains. For every sick and twisted Doctor Doom there’s the unpredictable and inherently evil . Most of the villains introduced way back when stood as types with cool and flashy colors. They weren’t truly alive.
The good news is that Marvel has been reversing this and adding depth where it can. Thanos, given his upcoming film appearance, is ripe for this extension. And from what it seems, Aaron and Bianchi are the men to get it done.
All in all, Thanos Rising is a great reintroduction of a familiar foe and does a fantastic job of rounding this villain out. It’s interesting concept is propelled by some poetic writing that I can’t wait to see more of in further issues. This is a good read for old and new fans and the title guarantees entertainment and fascination.