Andy’s Read Pile: Thanos Wins!

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IMG_4981Howdy, Gang of Four! GhostAndy back with another edition of “I prove to the masses my reading comprehension is above that of a 2nd grader” aka your Read Pile entry for this week.

And with all the buzz around the upcoming Avengers: End Game movie coming out this Friday, I wanted to capitalize on that wave of excitement by delivering meaningful Marvel related comic book reviews all this week here at GotS! Yes, yes, I know! You can all thank me later in the form of tax deductible charitable contributions to my “Help semi attractive middle aged men by more comic books” fund.

So with some teeth pulling and whip cracking, I managed to get all of the rest of my fellow Ghosts to write some Avengers style stuff this week in hopes of adding some welcome clickbait content to our website. So make sure you visit back all week for more articles on the likes of the Hulk, Iron Man, MCU movie rankings and more (Avengers cosplay included)!

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But, seeing that I’m in someways the de facto leader of the GotS crew, I guess I’ll have to kick things off on this Monday with a review of a comic book based on the bad guy that everyone loved to hate from last years huge Avengers film, Infinity War. Yes, I’m talking about the big purple headed fist fetishist himself, Thanos!


Synopsis:

After a brief squash session on the “unstoppable” Chitauri empire (just to remind you what a monster he is), Thanos is weylaid by a threat he didn’t see coming. Kidnapped by a mysterious Cosmic level Ghost Rider, Thanos is brought to the far future, a burnt out cinder of the former Earth, in a universe devoid of many of its super human beings. It turns out that the reason why the universe is in its current state is same reason he has brought to this future: Old Man Thanos wished it.

Yes, taking a page out of other books featuring alternate future versions of popular characters, we get to meet a ungodly ancient version of Thanos who has pretty much killed nearly all the characters in the Marvel universe, including all the Marvel Super heroes, Galactus, the Celestials, Adam Warlock, all for the sake of impressing his first and only love: Lady Death herself.

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The only characters he hasn’t killed are beings that are extremely hard to kill, like the Hulk (although he keeps him chained like a dog), and the aforementioned CGR (who works as his gopher). Which brings us to the reason he transported his past self to this future in that he needs double the Thanos power to take down “The Fallen One”, a mystical super bad ass former herald who could be the first real credible threat he has seen in decades.

Turns out this Fallen One is actually just a super pissed off Silver Surfer, tarnished black through years of…rage…grief…maybe…that’s not really explained. But in any case, he wields Mjoiner and for a short while gives Thanos a decent fight. That is until he has to fight two Thanoses with the combined power of Surtur’s Twilight Sword. Let’s just say it doesn’t end well for the cosmic wave rider.

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The series ends with Thanos attempting to commit suicide of sorts after even Silver Surfer’s demise fails to impress his mistress, Death. However, young Thanos pronounces Old Man Thanos a punk ass not worthy of becoming and returns to the past with the knowledge he will do everything in his power to ensure this future never comes to pass.

With that, like all What If….? stories I’ve read at Marvel over the years, we fade to black wondering what parts of this we should even take seriously as continuity and what was just a “Hey…you know what would be cool…?!?” type idea.


Things I Liked:

Alright. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I’m just gonna come out and say it. I LOVED Cosmic Ghost Rider!

Yep, if there’s nothing else I took from this book, it was the fact that CGR (as he will be called from now on), he is the breakout character of this story and the real reason I kept on reading page after page. I just wanted to see what happened next with him and what he was going to do or say.

Now, I’ll be honest.  Before I read the book, I was already in the know about who the character really was. I mean I do have a comic book podcast, so although I wasn’t reading the book in single issues when it was first coming out, I was aware of the bit of mystery surrounding who this surly, wise cracking, death dealing, spirit of vengeance was really was before it was revealed that he was in fact a future version of Frank Castle aka the Punisher.

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Some fans had him pegged as a future version of Deadpool given his somewhat zany irrelevancy mixed with homicidal tenancies. However, I for one think, The Punisher fits better. There’s a very “New York” style in the way CGR goes about his business. Like a high class bouncer or a witty street tough from the 1930s, CGR does have a certain level of charm to his banter, in that it’s not off the wall nor is overly threatening. In fact, in most situations, he’d just rather talk things out, avoiding conflict with a practical matter of factness that is supposed to disarm his opponents and get them to trust/like him more than fight him.

However like those street toughs of old, there’s also a deliberate undertone, which some more zany characters like Deadpool lack. CGR knows exactly what he’s doing, long before even his enemies do. He knows how to read them and he has planned ahead. He knows exactly what level of force will be necessary and he executes it pretty dispassionately like any good hitman would.

Yeah, overall, the Puinsher was a pretty damn good pick for the base level characterization of CGR and in turn elevates this character to a very high degree. I wouldn’t be surprises if we don’t see CGR start turning up in all kinds of Marvel related media in the next couple of years, especially since Marvel owns the rights to Punisher and Ghost Rider again. So for those of you that have a copy of Thanos #13, I’d put that away somewhere. Chances are it’s gonna be worth something a couple years from now.

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Oh and his origin issue is one of the best I’ve read in recent memory! It’s tremendous!

I can’t really describe how happy it made me watching Frank’s rise into becoming one of the most power creatures in the universe. It’s really like a rags to riches gangster story, as he makes deals to move up in the ranks to be the enforcer for progressively more powers cosmic level “bosses”. Yeah, even if you don’t read this trade, pick up Thanos #16. That’s by far the best issue in this collection!


Things I Didn’t Like:

Is it weird that in a book about Thanos, that my least favorite character was Thanos?

Well, the young one that is.

Yes,  one of the biggest bads in the Marvel Universe, star of stage and screen and all that, he’s pretty much a non factor in his own book. I mean, most of time he just stands around looking confused or pissed off, while Old Man Thanos relates stories of his past glories to him. It’s like visiting a nursing home for him or something, and you can tell Thanos has no business or interest in sticking around for one more second than he needs too.

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But I will also take this section to point out that I really don’t like Thanos in general. He’s never been that interesting of a character to me. Some Übermensch style unstoppable mega baddie that never seems to lose and squashes pretty much all threats like they were the 98 pound weaklings. And that includes some of the most powerful characters in all of Marvel.

In this series alone, you see Thanos kill all the Marvel Superheroes, but not just the ones we know today, but the super incredible powerful versions of some of them.  This includes a Silver Surfer from millions of years in the future, King Thor (that’s the older super badass Odin type Thor), and Maestro level Hulk. These are supposed to be “THE” Superheroes, more akin to Gods than heroes actually. And he squashes them Bill Goldberg style without breaking a sweat.

Then there’s the killing Galactus and the Celestials and all those other cosmic gods in case you didn’t get the point that he’s the baddest of baddies and the toughest of the toughies.

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But if it was to prove a point that nothing can kill Thanos, and that he does all the killing, I think Cates made that point and then some. In fact, I definitely think this was all …well…“overkill”.

Ha! You get that…’cause he overkills…the notion…of killing…ahem…right…moving on…

The issue is all this does is establish a Thanos story in which there are no stakes. There is no chance of defeat so why should we care if Thanos wins or not? Plus the fact that he’s not exactly a hero so why would we care of Thanos won in the first place…but whatever.

Yup, it’s the same reason I hate most Superman stories. Too God Damn Powerful. No real drama. No reliability. And I think this is even worse, because at least it’s uplifting when Superman wins.

Nobody wants to see a some swelled jerkoff jock type punch nerds in the face for all eternity. But yeah, that’s what Thanos is…just substitute “punch” for “stab”.

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Fun Facts:

Although the story has been told many times about how Thanos is in fact a veiled ripoff of the DC Comics’ Fourth World mega villain, Darkseid, I feel like it bares repeating in my blog as well (mainly ’cause I’ve got nothing else to do in this section, but also because it’s a good story).

As the story goes, Jim Starlin, creator of Thanos, was filling on an issue of Iron Man and wanted to debut characters that basically symbolized Sex and Death, two absolutes from classic literature. So he created Eros (aka the super powered rape maniac Star Fox) and Thanos.

Of course, in drawing sketches of Thanos, Starlin admitted that he made the character look like one of Jack Kirby’s New God characters in Metron. World famous Marvel editor, Roy Thomas, looked at those sketches, saw through what Starlin was doing, and told up to beef Thanos up so that he at least looked closer to Darkseid than Metron. As Starlin put it:

“Beef him up! If you’re going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip off Darkseid, the really good one!”

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Actually, some of these earliest appearances of Thanos are my favorite. Some may decry them as being simple, one dimensional, bronze age tales with everyone speaking in super melodramatic ways, but at least Thanos is somewhat of more interesting villain.

And when I mean interesting, I mean like he’s not ungodly powerful. He’s written as a credible threat but ultimately, a beatable one. And as you’ll see later in my Final Thoughts section that’s a welcome breath for fresh air. It’s nice having a galactic threat like Thanos that can be fought by the combined efforts of Iron Man and the Thing, or by the Avengers and Captain Marvel, or best yet, the original Drax the Destroyer.

Although I do love Dave Bautista’s interpretation of Drax, I really do love the old skool Drax with that cape and skull belt. He was supposed to be a being created solely to be able to destroy Thanos. That’s kick ass! Why don’t we highlight that more often?!? Drax had the power to kill Thanos! He was a true antagonist of him in those early days. It balanced Thanos out to a great degree, something sorely missing as I’ll mention shortly.

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Final Thoughts:

As with some of my read piles, I have conflicting thoughts on this book as well.

First off, I’m not going to say this book is poor quality. It’s a highly entertaining yarn that Cates and Shaw spin, with good pacing, decent dialogue, and very very nice looking art. It really does remind me a lot of their work on another book of theirs I read last year around this same time in God Country (check out the section below the grade if you want to read up on that).

But at the same time, as you can tell by the sections above on the things I didn’t like, again, I really don’t like Thanos, and I’m marveled by those that think he’s an interesting character. He’s a big ugly purple meat head who runs around the galaxy being way overpowered by writers just for the sake unusually of telling some tale where he ultimately squashes his opponents in rather unflattering ways.

And the worst of it is, in squashing these opponents to make him look better, he ultimately makes them look terrible. It’s like his whole goal is to nerf anyone other than himself into submission. I mean, look how badly they handled Galactus in this story?!?

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It’s God Damn Galactus! The character created by  Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to be God! The architects of the Marvel Universe, that was their head honcho. Top of the food chain! And Thanos squashes him in like two panels like he’s Doctor Druid.

I’m sorry. That’s like Brock Lesner squashing Andre the Giant. That’s like spitting on legacy just to spit.

I’m not one for sacred cows in comics, but really, what purpose did that serve? To paint the picture that Thanos is an unstoppable juggernaut of destruction?

I did read Infinity Gauntlet…I am ALREADY aware of this. No need to bash me over the head with it.

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However, I’m not really blaming Cates for this, because it’s pretty much a “thing” anytime Thanos appears in a series. Whether it’s written by Starlin, Ron Lim, the Russo Brothers, or Cates, they all make Thanos tremendously powerful to the point that it really does suck the life out of any narrative you are reading. I get it that you are supposed to feel pathos for the guy. He’s messed up. He’s broken. He’s off his rocker a bit with all the death and angst.

But it’s hard to feel any sympathy for a bully. We as human being are hardwired to root against bullies, to instead empathize with the underdogs.

Thanos is a bully in this book, plain and simple. And if you write him like that, Mr. Cates, like everyone has for decades, you’ll always have the same result. He’ll just come off as a colossal d*ckbag regardless of what story you are trying to tell underneath.

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But in the end, I really did love Cosmic Ghost Rider.

That’s a “A++++” idea right there. That’s R&D for Marvel Media done right.

Kudos for that. I’ll slurp that up all day! And as a result, brings what should have been like a “C-” book all the way up a grade.

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Andy’s Read Pile Grade: B-


Click here to read Andy’s review of God Country by Cates & Shaw

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