Event Fatigue: The Thanos Imperative



The Thanos Imperative: Ignition
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker

The Thanos Imperative #1,2
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda

The year I really got into reading comics seriously (1991) was the same year Marvel released the epic mini-series The Infinity Gauntlet. At the time, it was just a really cool cosmic story with all the big Marvel superheroes (Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, etc.) battling a cosmic despot named Thanos who had gathered the Infinity Gems, jewels imbued with great power and sought to sacrifice existence to Death, his lover. He actually succeeded, destroying reality, with a few heroes saved inside a pocket with him. Captain America eventually got his hands on the Gauntlet and brought back all of creation and Thanos was exiled. For years since, Thanos has returned, seeking the sweet relief of Death, which is what he believes is perfection. About five years ago he was finally killed off, but it seems someone doesn’t want him to have the rest he craves.
For the last six years, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been redefining the cosmic elements of the Marvel Universe. Starting with a mini-event called Annhilation, they brought together The Silver Surfer, Thanos, Nova (think Marvel’s Green Lantern), and many more to tell a story that created a status quo for the space faring characters. Since then there have been two more Annhilation mini-series, a War of Kings storyline, and then a Realm of Kings storyline. It sounds like a lot, but instead of doing monthly series its all been pretty much contained to 3 to 6 issue minis. Along the way Nova has gotten his own ongoing, and some of the characters have assembled into a team known as The Guardians of the Galaxy, but its the sort of epic crossover event that isn’t taking up a billion titles and becoming too complex to follow. Abnett and Lanning really cut their teeth on handling a huge cast with DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes in the 90s, a futuristic science fiction series featuring over two dozen adolescent metahumans and aliens. What they’re doing at Marvel is taking all these disparate elements that made up the cosmos and finding logical connections that make the whole thing much more cohesive.

Storywise things kicked off when the Inhumans, an earthbound race of people genetically modified by aliens decided to track down their creators and usurp them. Their creators were the Kree Empire, a militaristic society devastated during the aforementioned Annihilation storylines. The Inhuman leader Black Bolt took the throne of the Kree Empire and went to war with neighboring Sh’iar Empire. If you are familiar with your X-Men comics, you’ll know the Shi’ar are partially responsible for poor Jean Grey becoming the Phoenix. At this point in time, the Sh’iar were ruled by Vulcan aka Gabriel Summers, brother of Cyclops. Vulcan was a cruel leader and he and Black Bolt clashed in a epic battle that ended with them both dying and a tear forming in space. Over the next few months, both the Kree and Shi’ar dispatched vessels to probe this growing tear in space time and what they found was parallel universe where death no longer existed. Sounds good, right? Well, the way death was nullified appears to be through some sort of arcane pact with Lovecraftian elder gods. Now the forces of this parallel reality are swarming into the Marvel Universe attempting to “bless” them with undeath. When you have a character like Thanos who has a bizarre romantic relationship with the embodiment of Death there’s bound to be some conflict.

The first thing that stands out about the three pieces of these mini-series so far is the stellar artwork. There’s a two page spread in Thanos Imperative #2 that involves joined fleets of Kree, Shi’ar, other species, Galactus, The monolithic Celestials, and other cosmic beings battling the enemy fleet emerging from the tear in space. Its one of those moments where a still image is anything but static. Despite the lack of sound in real space, you can hear the unloading of thousands of laser cannons, energy blast explosions, and all out cosmic war. The Silver Surfer is drawn in a very interesting way as well by Sepulveda. He is almost featureless, his face simply a blank silver head and it really works. The effort has always been to humanize the Surfer but I like the idea of really making him alien and distant. The level of power he possess should eventually make him feel that he has little in common with mortals.

The series has shown great pacing and made its shocking reveals perfect. Every issue so far has ended on a well earned cliffhanger that’s making me chomp at the bit for the next issue. It was also a brilliant idea for the ongoing series of Nova and The Guardians of the Galaxy to go on hiatus till the end of this mini series. It helps avoid the glut of cross overs that fill space until we can get back to the core of the story. Because these are not core Marvel characters the stakes actually feel high. Reading an earthbound Marvel title, you know that Iron Man isn’t going die and that Spider-Man will make it out alive. With these characters you know its not beyond the possibility that they could die, that the heroes could lose. Because of the quality of work of Abnett and Lanning with the Marvel cosmic line so far I have huge confidence in this story to deliver. It’s definitely worth your time and puts a lot of summer blockbuster films to shame.

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