Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Superstar team Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato Jr. tackle Marvel’s most notorious monolith with Thanos #1, a doom-filled introductory issue that doesn’t mess with the brutish simplicity of its title character but builds up a rich supporting cast around the beast to offer up a fresh new take on the Marvel cosmos, Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader style.
Thanos has left the Black Order to its own machinations. Corvus Glaive has risen to fill the vacuum and stands as the Order's new leader, rewarding loyal followers and reaping the rewards. Lemire takes great care in depicting the Black Order as a flowering empire without the iron fist of Thanos brute-forcing his way through his own people. Glaive’s approach of reward and reclaim is depicted as hugely effective and successful, even though it crumbles in a second once Thanos returns. This goes a long way to establish Thanos’ simple approach to power; he has no need for bureaucratic manipulation or treating people fairly; he is the hammer, and the universe is his nail. Lemire lends a serious sense of gravitas to Thanos’ presence. He positively rocks each page he appears in, shaking the panel to its core with world-ending disruption. Although Lemire well establishes his world, he uses Death’s omnipotent narration to do the expository heavy lifting, loading important information in neat little captions whilst artist Mike Deodato Jr. adds atmosphere with his heavily-detailed crumbling landscapes.
Away from the main man, Thanos’ son Thane enlists the help of the Champion of the Universe: Tryco Slatterus and Thanos’ hedonist brother Starfox to carry out his and Death’s plan to defeat Thanos once and for all. Death is an understated figure here, likable enough to subtly influence Thane and instill him with all the confidence needed to carry out her will. Artist Mike Deodato Jr. flexes his storytelling muscles with abandon here, especially when illustrating Death’s calming influence, clearly communicated through deep understanding of expression.
Deodato follows Lemire’s apocalyptic lead with his approach to penciling, serving up a detailed and dark spacescape that takes as much from Warhammer 40,000 and 2000AD as it does the traditional space opera feel of the Marvel Cosmic. Lemire’s script balances these two competing tones to great effect, flip-flopping between the darkest reaches of the galaxy and a more civilized world to further underline the god-like despot’s awful influence. Deodato works vertically, leading the readers' eye straight down through Glaive's descent and mirroring Thanos' own health. Almost every panel is framed rectangularly, although Deodato has no problem shifting his layouts around from page to page, controlling the pace of the story with attractive modular page design. To finish, Frank Martin’s vibrant palette of orange, purple and green dominates Deodato’s bleak landscapes of metal and rock, shading to achieve a glowing effect and cementing the other-worldliness of the issue.
Thanos #1 is a strong start for what is already shaping up to be another in Marvel’s burgeoning line of successful villain-led ongoing series'. Jeff Lemire wisely steers away from giving us much insight into Thanos’ single-minded motivation, instead focusing on the tidal wave of destruction that comes in his wake. It’s a great opportunity to cast the spotlight on some of the lesser used members of the Marvel Cosmic, executed with confidence and style by Jeff Lemire. Mike Deodato Jr. holds up his end of the bargain too, combining the bombast of Marvel space opera with the twisted black metal landscapes of a more nihilistic brand of sci-fi to illuminate this new darker side of Marvel’s vast universe.