Emblazoned across the cover of this bumper issue of Marvel’s latest summer event is none other than Thanos, mutant Eternal, gem hunter and overall threat to humanity. His inclusion as the “big bad” in this series has not been something that has been hidden or left for a big reveal, instead Marvel have made sure everyone knows he is there due to his imposing nature. His reveal after the credits of The Avengers film will almost certainly precipitated this.
With such a large build up pre-release, I was expecting to see a lot more of the Mad Titan in the first issue, rather than only appearing on the cover image and a page at the end. Then again, as issue #1 of six, this was a lot more about scene setting. To the casual reader, this is actually a big help as there are a lot of players and parties in this issue, including: the Illuminati, the Inhumans, a plethora of Avengers, Spaceknights, the Builders, Skrulls, Thanos and Abigail Brand. Lions and Tigers and Bears – oh my!
The opening shows the Illuminati using a device of huge explosive power for an unknown reason but it is intimated it is for the best and nothing more. Following this the issue breaks into a number of different chapters which - although they do not directly reference the groups - are specific to each individual party and how they fit into the bigger picture. This all serves as compelling exposition; for example you weren’t familiar with who Black Bolt was, you get an idea of him and witness a rare display of his voice as well.
Interestingly this gives two different scenarios to deal with - one open and one hidden – and the Avengers have left their homeworld to deal with the potential threat of the Builders. Meanwhile an agent of Thanos - the Outrider - has invaded Black Bolt’s mind and found what Thanos has been searching for; the bearers of the Infinity Gems. Each of the main members of the Illuminati hold one. Due to the current danger in space as well, Thanos has a prime opportunity to attack Earth as the planet is now largely bereft of the Avengers.
From a writing point of view, Hickman smoothly delivers a huge amount of information to the reader. Of all the miniseries and events I have read, this one comes across as the most reader-friendly in a long time. even if you’ve not come across the characters before. The narrative helps to move the story along through each chapter - even with this wealth of back story and action you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Jim Cheung has provided the artwork for the issue which is full of detail and portrays pretty much everyone in every frame - a lot of time and effort has been put into these pencils. There are a few moments where the fine work gets lost for me, but overall it looks great. There was also another feature that stuck out for me. The first issue of Hickman's rebooted FF had the same sectioning style and feel to the interconnected pages. Very clean and crisp - almost sterile in some cases though.
As a first issue it is BIG, packed with a lot for any reader to get stuck in with. Having rising comic auteur Jonathan Hickman as the writer helps give it further credence as well. For fans of the Avengers or Thanos I think this should be a definite draw for them, but also for anyone who is even interested. What Thanos will do next?
Matt Puddy is glad things are largely back on track.