Thanos Legacy #1
Written by Donny Cates and Gerry Duggan
Art by Brian Level, Jordan Boyd, Cory Smith
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Oftentimes, cleaning up superhero continuity is a thankless, maybe even fruitless task - when you’re dealing with the various cogs and gears of multiple titles, not every story mechanism is always going to line up, and drawing attention often makes the problem stand out far more than just ignoring it and moving full speed ahead. But Donny Cates and Brian Level manage to tie things together nicely in Thanos Legacy, neatly stringing together the various appearances of the Mad Titan in a way that can’t help but feel satisfying.
2018 has been a good year for all things Thanos, with Josh Brolin’s star turn in Avengers: Infinity War dovetailing Cates’ insane work on the Mad Titan’s self-titled comic book series. But with great power comes great popularity, as we’ve seen Thanos also pop up in Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato Jr.’s Infinity Wars event, in Jason Aaron’s run on Thor, as well as playing a pivotal role in Cates and Geoff Shaw's Cosmic Ghost Rider series. For most readers, trying to link these stories together might feel self-indulgent - we’re often able to connect the dots unconsciously, seeing a character appear at Point A in one book and Point B in another. But it’s to Cates’ credit that he’s able to dive into this continuity slog with purpose, tying all of Thanos’ recent appearances together with a neat bow - namely, his battle against the future.
And in so doing, Cates does something that’s pretty impressive - he’s able to give Thanos a reason for being that isn’t just his nihilist obsession with Death. With both his run on Thanos and his current work on Cosmic Ghost Rider, Cates is preoccupied with this concept of destiny, of fate - in particular, figuring out what forces might shape the Mad Titan, and the type of figure he will eventually become. For Thanos, self-determination might trump his flirtations with genocide - it even trumps his own sense of self-preservation. But it’s that throughline that pushes Thanos forward through this story, whether it’s paying Mephisto a bloody visit in an attempt to undo the Cosmic Ghost Rider, or allowing Gamora to kill him in the pages of Infinity Wars. Even a quick nod to Jason Aaron’s run on Thor suddenly feels deliberate rather than coincidental, a way for Thanos to tie up loose threads before his demise. But while Infinity Wars felt like the end of Thanos (at least for now), Cates also mines some fun new wrinkles even in the wake of the Mad Titan’s death, giving the uber-villain a new lease on life thanks to two side characters who might have known him best.
Brian Level’s artwork, meanwhile, feels like a strong fit for this script, with his shadowy rendering of Thanos giving the character a sense of strength and menace. Similar to Dylan Burnett’s work on Cosmic Ghost Rider, Level’s layouts - particularly the pages that he lines together with looming vertical panels - give these pages a sense of scale that makes these events feel particularly foreboding. It’s also a great touch from Level and Cates that we often never see Gamora - instead, every so often we see the edge of her Power Stone-infused broadsword drifting across the page, almost like the blade of the guillotine hanging ominously over someone’s head. But Level also does great work with the smaller moments, too - the gleeful look on Thanos’s face as he sees the end has come is deeply unsettling, while Cosmic Ghost Rider’s reaction to the Mad Titan’s death is both hilarious and kind of badass. Jordan Boyd’s colorwork leans into the craziness of the Marvel cosmic universe, with fluorescent greens and striking purples that really lean into the sinister nature of this story.
Oftentimes, trying to suss out comic book continuity can cause more headaches than it solves - it can feel pedantic trying to correct every inconsistency in a fictional universe, which by its very nature doesn’t have to adhere to our human laws of physics and time. But every so often, these holes in continuity offer writers a chance to tell a really fun story, and that’s exactly what Donny Cates and Brian Level do here. (And that’s not even counting Gerry Duggan and Cory Smith’s fun backup story, a silent tale from Gamora and Thanos’s past that still manages to highlight the former’s humanity and the latter’s utter cruelty.) Jumping from setting to setting with a flourish that never feels false, The Thanos Legacy is a must for any fans of the Marvel cosmic universe.