2010 Holiday Reading List Day Three The Thanos Imperative

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Marvel’s cosmic heroes have been experiencing a true renaissance since 2006’s Annihilation miniseries. Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, ofter referred as DnA when working together, have been the hands guiding these space adventures that have followed since that series, and The Thanos Imperative is the culmination of much of that work. In issue #1, it’s stated that “the trouble with war out here in the stars, [is] it gets big” and this series is “big” in every way imaginable. After reading nearly every cosmic book that’s shipped in that last few years, I was disappointed when I fell behind on this one, but once I picked it back up it was impossible to put down.

The “big” space war presented in The Thanos Imperative revolves around a struggle between Life and Death and a number the entities that serve those abstract concepts in the Marvel Universe. The story turns a lot of conventions on their ear as we’re introduced to an invading universe where death no longer exists and life runs rampant. Referred to as the Cancerverse, the elder gods of creation have consumed everything and grown to that universe’s capacity and are now looking for a new home to invade and continue to grow. Ironically, Death may save the Marvel Universe, and its champion Thanos may be the hero. Juxtapose this with the Cancerverse’s Captain Marvel as the villain, and prepare for the madness this story brings. Some of the highlights include one more battle between Drax the Destroyer vs. Thanos where the stakes have never been higher, and Cosmo the telepathic cosmonaut dog vs. the Cancerverse Hulk.

The cast is perhaps the biggest element of this series with one or two characters being introduced on nearly every page of issue #1. As I said, I’ve been following these books since Annihilation, but I can’t imagine what this would be like for those unfamiliar with Marvel’s cosmic landscape. Every character has a moment to shine a bit, and there’s some great dialogue even with the use of space/Cthulu jargon. All the “flarks” and “ftaghns” could have made for an unreadable mess, but DnA pull it off. They even manage to pull off an odd reunion of the original New Warriors inside the severed head of Celestial at the edge of the universe. I also really appreciated them bringing the narrative perspective back to Nova and Starlord. DnA have done a great job throughout all of these cosmic events in choosing characters to be our window to the action.

Artist Miguel Sepulveda did a remarkable job with an absolutely huge cast and even managed to work in some sight gags. However, it was the combination of his work with colorist Jay David Ramos that really stood out to me, particularly with the Silver Surfer. I don’t know that I’ve seen him look better. Contrasting the main series with the Devastation one-shot that wrapped the series this week, my only criticism is that Ramos’ colors were a little dark compared to the work of Rain Beredo. The palettes each used certainly fit the mood of their respective stories, but Sepulveda’s art is a little more appealing to me in Devastation with the lighter color scheme.

The Thanos Imperative featured stunning painted cover art by Aleksi Briclot. Great looking painted covers have become a standard for these cosmic events, and while I appreciate that Ain’t It Cool News has high praise for this series, having it printed on the cover of issue #4 was a little much. The IGN.com quotes on the covers to issue #5 and #6 were far less troubling, but that’s got everything to do with their less obtrusive placement and smaller number of words. All this praise is truly deserved, but seeing it printed on the cover is fairly uncommon in comics and it took something away from issue #4’s cover.

Abnett and Lanning have put together an epic over the last three years taking the events of Annihilation and building them through to this story. From issue #1 of their Guardians of their Galaxy series, seeds were planted. By their own admission (in the interview printed in issue #1), the concept of this story evolved over that time, and that evolution served to take the story to an incredibly high level. Annihilation, Conquest, War of Kings and Realm of Kings each changed Marvel’s cosmic landscape dramatically and The Thanos Imperative continues that tradition.

It’s good to see that DnA are not done in the Marvel cosmos yet as their Annihilators mini-series begins in March starring Gladiator, Ronan the Accuser, Beta Ray Bill, Quasar and the Silver Surfer. One of the high points of The Thanos Imperative was seeing Nova bring this group together for the first time in preparation for their counter offensive against Mar-vell and his Cancerverse Revengers. The two-page spread of these assembled characters was epic. The only downside was that Beta Ray Bill joined this series out of nowhere (ironically there was no panel that introduced him when he first appeared on panel), but I’m looking forward to seeing where things go next.

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