Best Shots Advance Review: THANOS RISING #1

 

 

Thanos Rising #1

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Simone Bianchi and Simone Peruzzi

Lettering by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10

Thanos. Scourge of the universe. The destroyer of worlds. Wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet. The suitor of Death herself. And now, with the Avengers sequel and Marvel's "Infinity" event ahead of us, you have the chance to see Thanos as you've never seen him before...

As a nebbish, dweeby nerd.

 

Yep. Childhood clearly has its pitfalls, but the thing Thanos Rising trips over is its protagonist's goody-two-shoes characterization clashing harshly with its brooding, atmospheric art. Even with the reader knowing what kinds of mass horror Thanos might unleash - in fact, maybe because of it - the Mad Titan-to-be's milquetoast portrayal winds up coming off unintentionally funny rather than tragic or suspenseful.

 

After reading this issue, I couldn't decide who young Thanos reminded me most of: Milhouse of the Simpsons, Bad Luck Brian, or prequel-era Anakin Skywalker. Sounds like a recipe for a compelling lead, am I right? In certain ways, it feels like writer Jason Aaron is trying to replicate the success Rick Remender did with Kid Apocalypse over in Uncanny X-Force (and that Aaron himself continues to rock over in Wolverine and the X-Men).

The difference is, Kid Apocalypse is ultimately meant to endear through humor. The jump from the original Apocalypse's over-the-top Darwinian monologues to a wholesome, aw-shucks Kansas kid has an irony to it that makes Evan relatable. But with Thanos, it's all flat. There's no twist, there's nothing to make him stand out. He's just... too wholesome, too bland, too avoidant of conflict. So Thanos winds up not even being in on the joke of his own life, that his mother once tried to kill him, because he's too busy studying or thinking about asking a girl out or - gasp - drawing by himself in his notebook. To be honest, he's kind of a wuss for a future space conqueror, but even worse... he's kind of a boring wuss. Maybe you should stop being so accommodating and apologizing for being purple all the time, Thanos!

 

Sigh. Thanos winds up being so passive and eager-to-please that I now feel that I might have just bullied a fictional character. I swear I have a sense of empathy. I really do.

What gets me is that despite Thanos' portrayal and low stakes - when our hero is caught in a cave-in, we know he's not going to die, and his friends weren't built up enough for us to care - the art is totally playing this story straight. This might be the best fit for Simone Bianchi that I've seen at Marvel yet, with his gnarled faces being perfect for Thanos' ugly mug. Additionally, because Aaron's script is primarily dialogue-based, Bianchi's static imagery comes off as really striking, particularly when Thanos interacts with his parents.

 

Yet some big moments wind up getting muddled because Bianchi's artwork comes off muddy and unfocused, which robs this first issue of its first big emotional wallop. Additionally, certain expressions come off as indiscernible, such as the look on Thanos' mother's face when she sees her purple infant for the first time. Is it supposed to be shock? Horror? Happiness? It's hard to tell. Additionally, the colorwork by Simone Peruzzi looks decent for a space book, but the overuse of cool greens winds up making the book look listless.

In a lot of ways, Thanos Rising #1 feels like we're looking at Saddam Hussein's high school yearbook and seeing a doofy kid wearing headgear on the chess team. It feels more funny than frightening, and it still lacks that human connection to invest us. I still believe Thanos is primed to become the A-list villain of the Marvel Universe... but anecdotes like these certainly don't help.

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