Despite its mediocre critical and commercial reception, 2018’s Infinity Wars led to several later titles, like the better Wolverine: Infinity Watch and the tremendous Secret Warps. Or maybe they just looked better by comparison. 🤷♂️
Another title that followed a little later still, and is more tangentially related, is Thanos: Zero Sanctuary. Not only does this have the benefit of following Infinity Wars (yay!), it also has the the unenviable position of being the first Thanos book since Donny Cates did the best work on the character since Infinity Gauntlet (ugh).
Is it really a Thanos book, though? I guess Gamora titles don’t sell (does anyone even remember Nicole Perlman’s 2017, five-issue series?), but that’s really what Zero Sanctuary is. Specifically, it’s about young Gamora, who’s taken in by Thanos after he cruelly slaughters all her people, including her parents.
Given that fact, and the hatred we know adult Gamora has for Thanos, you’d think the kid would be mortified and constantly trying to ice the big purple thug. And that’s true, at first, but she quickly comes to see Thanos as an ersatz father figure, and defends him from a building insurrection from his crew.
The proto-Black Order is made up of Proxima Midnight, a young and dashing Ebony Maw, the Blood Brothers (hooray!), and some new characters who sadly don’t get much room to grow. It’s an eclectic mix of various motivations, and sadly, that’s emblematic of Zero Sanctuary as a whole. While Thanos has a clear trajectory, the others seem to vacillate in both intention and action.
Both in the plot, and the art. The legendary Ariel Olivetti looks to have phoned this one in, as several times the images don’t really match the script. Fans of his work with the Hulk and other characters may not even recognize him here. The mythic, almost painted art from the past is replaced by some fairly average, uncharacteristic pencils. And what’s the fascination with NPCs getting sliced in half? Antonio Fabela’s colors are kind of uninspired, too, with way more pastels than you’d expect.
Tini Howard, the writer of Thanos: Zero Sanctuary, broke into comics six years ago by winning the annual Top Cow talent contest, and was announced as newly exclusive to Marvel at C2E2 this March. She’s currently writing Excalibur and Strikeforce, and has contributed to Marvel Knights 20th, and yes, even Secret Warps. This volume suffers from a lot of the same idiosyncrasies of those, in that the humor can feel forced, the dialogue is often repetitive, and the plot can be scattershot.
Thanos: Zero Sanctuary leads to a “destined” confrontation that I honestly don’t remember being that big a deal. It feels like this book wants to express something, but the intertwining narratives that don’t always pay off are preventing anything coherent. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s hard to imagine Thanos, Gamora, or even Black Order fans getting much out of this.