by Chad Nevett
Thanos Rising #5 (Marvel)
by Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi, Riccardo Pieruccini, Ive Svorcina
1. Growing up, I would go to family gatherings, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, and be faced with the fact that I would have to eat the stuffing. Because I was known as the 'One Who Loves Stuffing'. And I did – I do. Well mixed and prepared stuffing is one of my favorite foods and one that I only get to eat once or twice a year. Except, my love for well mixed and prepared stuffing meant that I abhorred poorly mixed and prepared stuffing, which is what I got more often than not. I would choke it down and playact that, yes, I am the 'One Who Loves Stuffing' including the dry, wretched pap that I was struggling to force down my throat.
2. Recently, my friend and former boss-of-sorts, Brian Cronin posted another entry in a series of blog posts titled “The Abandoned An’ Forsaked” focusing on Thanos. In it, he spotlights a scene from the 'Infinity Abyss' mini-series where Jim Starlin, creator of Thanos, dismisses the stories featuring Thanos not penned by him as featuring imperfect clones of the Mad Titan. Other creators have done similar things (John Byrne and Walt Simonson with Dr. Doom, Alan Davis with the cast of ClanDestine) and I always seem to dig it. I like the arrogance of dismissing the work of others, especially when it comes to a character like Thanos and a man like Jim Starlin. It doesn't hurt that no one can fucking write Thanos well except for Jim Starlin...
3. My dad bought comics by groups of titles. He bought all of the X-books, all of the Wildstorm books, all of the Jim Starlin cosmic books... No matter what, the same slate of books, sometimes adding new groups of titles, very rarely subtracting some. That was comics in the Nevett house.
4. When 'Thanos Rising' was announced, I wrote: “I will buy it. Partly because I’m curious, partly because I like Jason Aaron’s writing, partly because it seems like the sort of thing that would break my internet silence after less than three months. But, let’s not kid ourselves: this is clearly the broken memories of one of the defective clones of Thanos. Sorry. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good. It just means that if you’re not Starlin, you’re writing about a clone.” I stand by that today.
5. I wonder what Joe Keatinge and Richard Elson's Thanos origin comic would have been like. It couldn't have been worse than this piece of shit series.
7. Probably the biggest clue that Marvel does not understand Thanos is that, post-Infinity Gauntlet, every non-Starlin use of the character portrayed him as a villain, while every Starlin use of the character did not. From that point on, he was... not a hero, nor an anti-hero, but he wasn't a villain. He was someone who had made some mistakes in the pursuit of love and was on his way to finding a place in the universe that doesn't revolve around gaining enough power to kill enough people to make the object of his affection speak to him. When Jim Starlin wrote Thanos, the character grew and changed. Of course Marvel did not notice or understand.
8. Death pursues and seduces Thanos in 'Thanos Rising'. She begs him to love her. She begs him to love her. This is now the biggest clue that Marvel doesn't understand Thanos.
9. Death was the object of Thanos’s affections and he never considered himself worthy. That was the tragedy of Thanos. He pined after Death like it was a woman to be wooed and courted while never believing that he was actually good enough to succeed. He failed three times trying to gain enough power to please Death and put himself on her level. The most notable was an odd double-whammy of a failure: he obtains the Infinity Gauntlet in the hopes that, now, Death will speak to him directly and, instead, he is told through an intermediary that, now, he is as above Death as she previously was above him and it would be improper to address him directly. Then, he loses the Infinity Gauntlet, because he doesn't truly believe he deserves that level of power. He had already failed at his true goal; he was unworthy.
10. In 'Thanos Rising' #5, it’s also put forth as a theory that “Death” is simply all in Thanos’s head. There is no personification that appears before Thanos, commanding him to kill and to give her his love. I genuinely don’t know if that’s better or worse than Death existing and appearing before Thanos and speaking to him, seducing him, and begging for his love. Either way, it’s a complete contradiction of every Jim Starlin Thanos comic I have ever read.
11. Just because it takes place in space doesn't make it cosmic.
12. Read this series and tell me that Jim Starlin is wrong to dismiss Thanos stories not written by him.
13. From something I wrote about 'Marvel Universe: The End' five years back: “And then Death shows up with Adam telling Thanos something Thanos should have heard years ago: ‘Sometimes trying too hard is the problem. / Sometimes surrendering is the only path to victory.’ Death removes her cloak and actually speaks to Thanos, thanking him, kisses him and then leaves. Thanos realises his ultimate goal, the one thing he’s been pursuing since his first appearance, really. Of course, he seemingly stopped pursuing Death for a while, but this shows he never really got over her. Having gotten the one thing he’s always wanted, Thanos rebuilds the universe, but, in the process, makes it impossible for anyone to return from the dead, including himself who is seemingly dead. No one (save Warlock) remembers what happened and how Thanos saved the universe.” Few moments in comics do as much for me as the moment when Death thanks Thanos.
14. Something that I have never been able to move past was an interview Matt Fraction did about 'Fear Itself' where someone questioned a piece of dialogue he wrote for Thor, arguing that it’s not something Thor would say. Fraction’s response was that it is something Thor would say, because Marvel published a comic where Thor said it. He was right, of course. Doesn't mean it wasn't a dumb-as-fuck thing to say and any grown man should know better. Anyone with something invested in stupid little cartoon characters (like he obviously is) should know better. It was a cheap answer to a question that warrants a lot of thought and something better than a glib remark that dismisses the entire idea that these characters are more than what the current editorial board says they are.
15. I don’t go to many family gatherings anymore. There are a lot of reasons for that, but having to choke down stuffing that made me want to literally choke didn't help.