This collection features six stories, starting with Thanos’ introduction in Iron Man #55 by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich, moving on to Captain Marvel #33 by Stalin and Steve Englehart, then Silver Surfer #45 by Starlin and Ron Lim, Spider-Man #17 by Ann Nocenti and Rick Leonardi, the Marvel Holiday Special 1993 “Yul Memory” story by Starlin and Lim, and capping things off with Ka-zar #11 by Mark Waid and Andy Kubert.
The identity of this collection resides in Thanos fighting specific heroes. It opens with him fighting Iron Man, then Captain Marvel, Mephisto, Spider-Man, then in the holiday special we see how he is as a parent to Gamora, and finally he fights Ka-zar in the final issue. Each issue shows how evil Thanos can be, but also how strategic and tactful. In the Spider-Man story, for instance, he attempts to bend Peter to his will and accept death, but he’s surprised to learn Peter doesn’t back down even if he’s dead. He must outwit Mephisto in Silver Surfer #45 and while he has the Infinity Gauntlet it takes some work. The six issues combine to show how Thanos has many talents and only when they are combined can you see how dangerous he can be.
It’s also interesting to see how Thanos was written in Iron Man #55 and Captain Marvel #33 compared to the remaining four stories. They were figuring him out and while he was also strong, foreboding, and smart he seemed almost aimless at times. Eventually, he became an all-knowing master of thinking ahead and outwitting others.
This is a good collection for new and old readers. Three of these stories I had never even read and I’m grateful Marvel put them here so readers can discover them again. It’s also nice to see Jim Starlin get the brunt of the stories since he not only co-created Thanos but also carefully crafted him for a modern era of comics. After reading this it is abundantly clear Thanos is a strong and layered character that’ll last for many decades to come.