|Avengers vs Thanos|
With the release of all the new Marvel Superhero movies we also get the re-release of many wonderful old comic book stories about characters that these films are based on. Characters that are now finding new life and a new audience on the big screen. Some of these characters are not widely known and even a bit of a mystery to comic book readers who might be relatively new to the hobby. In order to get this new generation of readers up to speed on the complex and often frayed tapestry that is Marvel Comics continuity, Marvel has been releasing various collections of stories that give us the origins of these heroes who have been appearing on the big screen as well as some of their earliest adventures.
This is nothing but good news to fans of comics and comic book movies alike. Especially since the adventures of some of these characters are often not contained to a single comic book series but are part of story arcs that weave in and out of many other titles. This can make it difficult for new readers to learn about a characters history(although not as difficult as it used to be before the internet). Now and then, comic book companies will make it easy on us and find all the comics that are connected by a single story or character and collect them into one volume. There is one particular compilation of tales being released by Marvel early in March 2013 that I wanted to talk about here. It’s a collection of stories that shows us the origins of Thanos, his first encounters with the Avengers and certain characters that would go on to be members of The Guardians of the Galaxy.
|Thanos meets the Golden Avenger in Iron Man #55|
In Iron Man 55 we get the first appearance of Thanos as well as that of Drax The Destroyer, father of Moondragon (who makes her debut prior to this story in Iron Man 54 which is not included in the collection). With the introduction of Thanos in Iron Man 55 the “Thanos War” effectively begins. The tale continues in the stories collected in Captain Marvel issues 25 thru 33 and Avengers #125. In these now historic and epic 9 issues we see Thanos using Skrulls to attack Captain Marvel and Rick Jones. It seems in the aftermath of the Kree Skrull War, the Supreme Intelligence hid the location of the Cosmic Cube in Rick Jones sub-consciousness and Thanos wants it. We also get the origin of Thanos of Titan as well as that of his father Mentor and Thanos brother Eros. We also see Captain Marvel given the Power Cosmic by Eon. Thanos faces off against his godlike Grandfather Kronos and the Avengers and Marvel pull out all the stops to keep Thanos from using the Cosmic Cube. These issues also contain some terrific art by Jim Starlin.
The Thanos War concludes in the now epic, historic finale in Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2. Here we see the Avengers gathered along with Captain Marvel and Moondragon as Adam Warlock tells them all what Thanos is up to. Seems Thanos has fallen in love with the personification of Death and wants to give her something special to prove his love. His gift? Destroying all life in the solar system. The Avengers take off after Thanos and it’s a battle royal. Unfortunately they’re no match for Thanos who captures all the Avengers, Moondragon and Captain Marvel. Meanwhile, back on earth, Spider-Man dreams about the Avengers epic battle with Thanos thanks to a telekinetic distress call from Moondragon. He turns to the Fantastic Four but the only one home is Ben Grimm aka The Thing. The Thing is skeptical upon hearing Spider-Man’s story but that doesn’t stop them from flying up and checking it out.
They find Thanos Space Ark and try to fight their way to the Avengers but they’re out of their league and quickly captured by Thanos. Realizing that he’s completely out of his depth, Spider-Man runs away, leaving the Thing and the Avengers behind. But he regains his nerve and becomes an integral part in turning the tide against Thanos. Finally, there is Logan’s Run #6. This is a bit of an oddball. It came out the same year as the two Annuals above but its place in the timeline of events isn’t clear to me. It seems to take place sometime before events in the Avengers and Two-In-One annuals (and was released the same year) but it could also fit nicely just before the stories in Iron Man and Captain Marvel. It’s a short story that isn’t’ integral to the Thanos wars, revolving around a minor skirmish between Thanos and Drax the Destroyer. It’s drawn by Mike Zeck.
I can’t express enough how much fun these stories are. The stories collected in Avengers vs. Thanos are representative of the most creative period of the Bronze Age of comics when a new breed of talent who grew up as comic book fans. People like Jim Starlin, Jim Steranko, Neal Adams and others who injected some new blood into an industry that seemed to have run out of new ideas and which had become creatively stifled by the limitations of the comics code. The Avengers vs. Thanos collection is nearly 500 pages and contains two wildly entertaining and historic story arcs that are connected to form an epic cosmic tale of adventure. Of course there are other Thanos stories that are very entertaining, but none of them really come close to the magic of these stories. Starlin’s run on Warlock and Captain Marvel is talked about in hushed reverence to this day. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning brought back some of these characters in the mid 2000’s when they revived these Cosmic characters for the epic sagas Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest. Characters like Warlock, Gamora and Drax the Destroyer were brought back along with the mothballed Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Mantis and Starlord. Eventually they banded together to form the Guardians of the Galaxy, characters who will be as big as life on your local theater screen in less than two years.
|From Warlock #9|
I read these stories when they were originally released in the mid to late 70s. Now, over three decades later, they’re gearing up to make a movie about the Guardians and I couldn’t be more thrilled. But before the movie comes out, treat yourself to some of the most exciting, fun and colorful cosmic tales ever seen in comics and buy Avengers vs. Thanos in March. If you’re wondering who that big purple guy at the end of Avengers was, or if you know who he is but aren’t familiar with his earliest stories or his origin, this collection of exciting cosmic tales are definitely for you. I should add that all of the Warlock stories as well as the Avengers Annual and the Two-In-One annual can be found in Marvel Masterworks: Warlock vol-2. Similarly, all of the Captain Marvel stories and Iron Man 55 can be found in Marvel Masterworks: Captain Marvel vol-3. If you have both of those volumes then there really isn’t much need to get Avengers vs. Thanos. But if you only have one or the other or neither, then Avengers vs. Thanos comes highly recommended.