Now let me start off by saying I have never been a fan of Thanos. No I didn't hate him, or find him boring or unlikable, I just found him okay. He was a serviceable villain who did his job when the comic called for some big galactic enemy for some hero to fight against. I know he has a lot of fans out there and, if any of you are reading this, I am really sorry I feel this way (actually I am not sorry as I don't see why I should be). Still like I said I wasn't a "Fan" but that doesn't mean I didn't sorta like him.
Then this comic happened.
If the next four issues are even half as good as this then you Thanos fans can count me amongst your number because this comic ROCKS. The story and art are simply sublime, both perfectly complementing each other in a way I haven't seen in a long time. One issue in and I can already say that Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi can be classed as one of those rare perfect collaborative teams.
Now if you have looked at other reviews you will see that some of them have a problem with the way this comic presents our young "hero?", that they made him a soft little geek, or, that it implies that he is not in charge of his future actions and is as much an innocent as the countless billions he will one day murder. Now both of these are valid points and I can see where they are coming from, but man don't let that distract you from reading this, because it is exactly those points that make this a 'must read'
Now I must warn you there will be some minor spoilers ahead, but I won't reveal anything big that happens, so if you haven't read it you can rest easy knowing I won't I have spoiled the major parts.
As I said earlier this comic shows Thanos in his youth, actually all the way back to his birth. Well actually it starts with an adult Thanos walking through a ruined city on Titan to visit his mothers grave, something he does now and then to remind himself who he is and where he came from. Already I get a sense that there is something deeper to Thanos then being a crazy powerful guy who is in love with death and the comic hasn't even really started.
Anyway his memories trigger a flashback and we see Thanos being born. Now right away we get the feeling that something is not right, because instead of congratulating the parents that they have a new son one of the doctors says
"I'm I'm sorry A'Lars, but I'm afraid it's...it's going to live."
barely a minute old and the first thing someone says about the still innocent Thanos is that he is sorry that it is going to live. Hell I doubt that doctor looked much better the moment he was born.
The drama is only further heightened when Thanos' mother asks to hold her son. She takes one look into his baby black eyes and...immediately tries to knife him claiming that he is going to kill them all and he is a monster. Amazing foreshadowing or extreme postnatal depression? you choose. Either way she is declared insane and locked up.
We fast forward to a slightly older Thanos. We see him just sitting outside while other kids are playing. What is our soon to be mass murdering genocidal madman doing with his spare time? Why he is drawing, because he likes to draw sometimes. Hell he is a damn good artist as well it seems. Not just that, he is apparently also the smartest kid in the school, at least according to the other children and we later learn that he likes to grow flowers and that he wishes not to harm anyone or anything (he even vomits at the thought of dissecting a dead lizard), in short he is the polar opposite of what he becomes, which only makes his descent into evil all that more tragic.
I have heard (well read) people say that this is sort of like what Lucas did with Anakin in Star Wars and I agree. The only difference is that after just a few pages Thanos Rising is already doing it FAR better.
But I digress.
Speaking of the other children. Now usually you would think it would go like this. A child who is different in some way to the other children is bullied mercilessly at school, he grows up all resentful and becomes a world destroying mad man. Well yes he does grow up to be one of those but if you thought the first part...you are so wrong.
The children of Titan seem actually interested by Thanos and genuinely want to be his friend. Now it may even seem that they are simply pretending and setting him up to be the fall guy in some terrible traumatic prank, but no they just want him to play with them. Even the girls think he is interesting because he looks different. As they say
"This is Titan, Everyone is cute. Cute is boring."
So already this comic is different, it shows the outsider, the person who is different from the norm, being welcomed and accepted by the average instead of being shunned or ostracized, which is what usually happens in these kinds of stories.
Still there are hints of what he will become, the first major one being his mother during his birth. But then there is also a strange girl who, at least to me, looks uncannily like his mother (just much younger) and who says that Thanos has some kind of destiny. Now I doubt I am the only one who thinks that young girl is "Death" and that she chose her appearance for a reason.
Speaking of his mother. As I said earlier she was incarcerated in a mental institute for trying to murder baby Thanos, but apparently nobody told Thanos this is why she is there because he actually visits her and is nice towards her. He tells her that he wishes to ask a young girl named Cythera out on a date and that he will present her with a new flower he created because "girls enjoy flowers".
On a darker note he also reveals that he has been having constant dreams of himself as a newborn, that there is someone with a knife trying to kill him and then years later he has that same knife and...
It is like a child describing a nightmare to their parents, but considering this is Thanos and his mother actually did try to stab him as a baby, this makes it seem more ominous.
His mothers response is to say nothing, she just sits with her head turned away from her son and cries.
And this is where I must leave you because we are already fast approaching the territory that I said I would not delve into, the major plot element of this story that I do not wish to spoil. The first glimpse we see of the killer that lies within Thanos' innocent young heart. But, what brings it out may make some of you think "I may have done the same" which just makes it even more heartbreaking and tragic.
As I said at the start of this review the art and the story compliment each other beautifully. Even the dialog, which I would usually be the first person to say "nobody talks like that" is just perfect for this book. Everyone has this upperclass, proper way of speaking. There is no slang or abbreviations here, but then Titan is supposed to be an Utopia, a perfect society, so this way of speaking just fits spectacularly.
The art of Simone Bianchi is just hauntingly beautiful. There is something magical and otherworldly to the way he draws Titan and its inhabitants, but yet something familiar as well. It really draws you into this world and holds you until the story can sink its teeth into you. Then I can almost guarantee you will be hooked and in for the long haul (well short haul as this is only 5 issues long)
Now the colors. The colors as done by Simone Perruzi are again just perfect. They really capture the innocence of Thanos' youth, especially when he is playing with the other kids. And yet there is also something dark about them. It is something I find hard to put into words and I don't just mean they get "dark" when the story demands it, no there is something about the colors that you can almost feel the darker undertones of the comic. It is bright and yet hiding something very dark, which describes young Thanos so well.
To sum this up
Thanos Rising #1 is a supremely excellent comic and should be on EVERYONE'S must read list even if they are or are not a fan of the Mad Titan. Now if you pick up each issue individually or would like to wait for the trade is entirely up to you, but this is something you have to read.
5 Howling Wolves