Thanos Rising #1 (2013)
It’s the adventures of Baby Thanos! Marvel pulls back the veil on one of the most high-profile villains in the universe. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Following his brief teasing appearance during The Avengers film, Thanos has become a household name again. Not since his revival in the 1990s has the character experienced such a renaissance, so with Marvel’s renewed focus on all things cosmic, we get the first of what we imagine will be many tales of the Mad Titan. However, with the mysterious cancellation of the planned Thanos: Son of Titan by Joe Keatinge, Jason Aaron‘s lukewarm opening to Thanos Rising doesn’t quite destroy us.
The book opens with a present day Thanos arriving home to the ruins Titan to reconnect with his roots and visit the grave of his poor mother. A mother that we soon learn tried to kill the genetic abnormality that was her son at birth (“many years ago”) and then went a bit mad. Thanos grows into adolescence, and begins to tick all the right boxes for future evil guy: a physically different outsider to the genetically perfect Titans, intellectual and bookish, shunned by his emotionless father and developing an unhealthy fascination with sketching dead things. Yes, like Adolf Hitler before him, Thanos was an artist!
The only thing that truly surprises about this opening chapter is how ordinary it is. Thanos is basically painted as a good kid who was led astray by some poor choices. Having learned nothing from The Phantom Menace, it’s the earnestness of his yearning to stay on the right path that will make most cringe. “I don’t want it to get easier,” he pleads after a classroom dissection. “I don’t ever want to cut open another living thing”. All the while, a raven-haired classmate is egging him on to greatness, and we can only assume that this will develop into his love affair with Death as the series progresses.
Simone Bianchi, perhaps best known for his run of covers for Detective Comics and interiors on Wolverine and Thor: For Asgard, is at his best during the opening pages, as the sinister figure of Thanos the Destroyer steps heavily amongst his homeland’s rubble. The image of a baby Thanos in his swaddling is a frail and tragic one, especially for those of us who know the horrors that he will unleash in the future. On the other hand, the gangly adolescent depiction of the would-be villain is a bit of a misstep, as far removed from the ultimate version of Thanos as Hayden Christensen was from Darth Vader (to run that analogy into the ground). The almost comical expression on his face at times, coupled with the similarly light takes on his classmates, evokes images of a Saturday morning cartoon that would sound something like “Thanos and Friends in Titan Adventures”!
Indeed, the whole thing smacks of being a watered-down version to introduce new readers to a figure that should need no introduction. There’s even a gaggle of girls who giggle over him and “wanna kiss him”. Seriously. Prior to Annihilation, Thanos starred in the excellent 12-issue titular maxi-series by Jim Starlin (to whom the issue is dedicated). The almost Western-focused leanings of that series, in which Thanos decides to atone for the destruction of Rigel-3 and meets Galactus, gave us insight into the fragility within Thanos before restoring him to his full power and sinister glory. Given the weak opening of this series, it is entirely possible that the Mad Titan will be seen as an emo outsider by its conclusion.
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