Thanos #1 Review

by Charles Martin on April 24, 2019

Thanos #1 Review
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Colourist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It's the story of How Thanos Met Gamora, with a heavy side-order (to be delivered in future issues) of Why It Matters. 

Gamora appears only at the very start and end of this first issue. It is still her story in a literal sense: She's dictating this tale to a mysterious listener. 

But after her introduction, we rewind long months prior to the day Thanos came to Zen-Whoberi. We get to see his vast base-ship Zero Sanctuary under construction, packed with pirates and killers like the young Proxima Midnight and the cunning "neophyte" Ebony Maw.

At this point, Thanos has a bad habit of brooding until bloodlust compels him to murder somebody handy and then unleash his surviving minions to slaughter the nearest helpless planetoid.

This is, like so many of the best Thanos tales, an "it's complicated" story about him and Death.

It's also a peek into the Mad Titan's days as a JV omnicidal maniac. And a war story about him fighting the Magus. And, in the final scene, a story about finding Gamora.

The expanded page count in this costly introductory issue allows all of these plot threads to spool out without tangling in any negative way. Or doing much positive crossing so far, either. It's a great big story, like most Thanos stories are, but the scenes are tight and intimate, rattling a little inside the grandiose structure of the script.

Although I can see there's a risk of disappointment if you speed-read through this issue, a closer look at Tini Howard's script fills me with confidence for the future. Thanos's key relationships for this series - with Death, with Gamora, with the Magus - are all touched with productive foreshadowing. They're linked together thematically in a way that's almost certain to satisfy.

And those "tight" scenes are delightful thanks to good dialogue work. "Young Ebony Maw and his squadmates back-sass Thanos" is the sort of scene that could go very wrong very fast, but Ms. Howard makes it oh-so-right.

To establish the settings and carry the action, this story is blessed with the services of Ariel Olivetti, an ideal artist for a cosmic tale with a tint of hard sci-fi. He brings an effortless realism to every scene, investing character anatomy, hi-tech equipment, and spaceship compartments with a formidable "you are there" feeling. He also has a useful knack for expressive faces - not just in closeup, but at every scale down to the sketchy extras in the background.

Antonio Fabela's colour work goes hand in hand with the lines. His palette is realistic and muted for the majority of the spaceship-based scenes. Together with the artist, though, he engineers a remarkable tone shift whenever Thanos and his killers make planetfall: Shadows recede, colours grow brighter, and alien blood flies.

Thanos #1 sets a stage proportional to its star: big, cosmic, and oh-so-menacing. These initial scenes unfold on a smaller scale, but they show every sign of growing into the setting as they evolve and entangle. The visuals are already gloriously cinematic, ensuring this epic story is not mistaken for anything less than the grand, dark space opera that it is.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
As you read this, count the number of times Death appears. Then read again and count again - you missed several wonderfully subtle cameos.