The first issue of writer Tini Howard and artist Ariel Olivetti’s Thanos mini-series was an introduction to the towering Mad Titan through the eyes of others, this issue is an introduction to Gamora through the same. Poetic, unsettling, hilarious and deeply expressive all the same, it is another success.
Over the course of a simple, but effective issue, Howard introduces questions about Gamora with no immediate answers. She saw Death from an early age, her only saving grace, is she more like her adoptive father than she thinks, born to fight and kill? Witty, cunning, and willing to utilize her charm and agility to hurt and disadvantage others, is she more than an innocent child? Have the ever-present eyes of Death herself intertwined the fates of these two monumental, cosmic figures or does Thanos just think that, willing to do anything to have his way? Most importantly, how narrow is the line between hero and villain, and does intent justify means?
As simple of feats as having Gamora escape from a prison, utilize seeing Death to her own ends, and standing idly by while a member of The Butcher Squadron is murdered in cold blood not only advances the characters and plot significantly, it retroactively strengthens Thanos’s inevitable end, and deepens the moral complexity of the issues at hand splendidly. Funny little through lines like the crew thinking that Thanos is turning into some sort of mad space cannibal, eager for different meals and at different times, keep it all relatable and earnest.
That being said, the Magus storyline is progressing slowly, and confusingly. It’s an, as of now, detracting element that would either serve better as the forefront of the plot, or as completely left by the wayside. The in-between undermining how good everything else is.
The art is similarly in-between. The character’s expressions, design, and coloring from Antonio Fabela are fantastic. Thanos himself, a kind of purple Engineer from Prometheus, swollen, pained, and aggressive is especially great here cloaked in half lights and mystery — as is Proxima Midnight (one panel of only her golden arm lit in otherwise darkness is especially cool). The detail of the scenery and paneling is lacking, though, and makes the overall effect kind of static. Panels with a simple space backdrop feel divorced from reality, and scenes of Thanos and others throwing themselves against plain walls or nothing at all feels kind of absent any weight – a sense of where these characters are, what their day to day life is like, and how this massive, strange ship is growing outward (as mentioned previously) would help a lot.
All said and done, a fantastic issue that does a great deal of character development and contextualization with surprisingly little fanfare. I would’ve told you just weeks ago that a Thanos story on the heels of Endgame would have little to do or say, but these creators make it feel vital and worthwhile. If they can marry the two extremely compelling angles touched on in as many issues with the next, this will stand among the best cosmic character work ever done.