Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Thanos Quest - 1990

I remember when I started exploring more off beat comics. I'd really started getting into Chris Claremont's Uncanny X-Men and was at Dragon's Lair enough that they were okay with me browsing through the racks a bit, picking up books, reading a few pages and then putting stuff back or deciding to pick it up. Comics were, at that time, about a buck fifty, if memory serves me right. It was 1990, so my memory isn't perfect, considering that's 24 years ago. But I tended to start sniffing around for other things, because while I loved X-Men, I was interested in finding new titles, new characters, more things to be reading. In just a short year or so, I'd be reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman, on the back of another short mini-series I'll talk about in a different post, but I remember this cover for a book called "The Thanos Quest" catching my eye.

I asked Bob about the book, and he said "Oh, Thanos is a Silver Surfer villain. It's only going to be a two-issue mini-series, but they're big issues, thus the higher cover price." I glanced at the cover of the book - it was significantly higher than your standard book. But there were also a lot more pages. And I read the first few pages, and decided, what the hell - it was only two issues, so if I didn't like it, I hadn't lost much.

Thank god that I took the risk.

So, here's the thing about Thanos Quest - Thanos is the protagonist, and yes, he's certainly more than a little crazy, but he's also, well, Shakespearean. The main thrust of the story is that Thanos has fallen in love with Death. No, not death with a lower case d, but Death, the personification of the higher power of dying in the universe. She's cold, aloof and not easily impressed, but Thanos wants to win her heart (if she even has one). To do so, he sets about to commit an act so grandiose, so impressive, that he's certain it will win her over, and to consider him worthy of her love. What could be so impressive, you ask? Well, she wants him to wipe out half the population of the universe in a single go. No small feat, obviously, except Thanos, smart lunatic that he is, has found something of a shortcut.

Thanos has discovered six gems, called the Infinity Gems, each with a special property over a feature of the universe - time, space, power, reality, the mind and the soul. With these six gems, he will able to wipe out half of the universe with the snap of his fingers.
Of course, he's got to pry the gems from the hands of their current owners, and none of them are want to part with their gems easily. But Thanos has a plan, and is more than clever enough to pose a threat to the gem's handlers, because he knows what the gems are capable of, and they don't. Also, Thanos, for whatever else he is, is incredibly smart. He plans to out think his opponents, and while some of his foes aren't too bright, there are a couple that are more than enough to be a challenge to the mad Titan called Thanos.

I was just starting to understand the idea of the crossover, where a bunch of characters appear in other titles to get exposure from one audience to another, but I wasn't really part of any of the audiences at the time. Thanos Quest was a book I picked up almost entirely at random, but it set the stage for the Infinity Gauntlet crossover that happened a few months later, and I picked up all six issues of that. The Infinity Gauntlet spun out of the events of Thanos Quest, and set the stage for Adam Warlock and the Infinity Watch to follow, although that series wasn't great.

Over the years, Thanos has worn a lot of hats in the Marvel universe - villain, god, reluctant hero, hermit... and with all of that comes one of the more interesting characters they have. Thanos Quest was collected in a one-shot in 2000, and can be found as part of the Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos trade paperback, or picked up digitally. Also, Thanos is the villain you see in the teaser at the end of the Avengers movie, so we're going to see him in the Marvel cinematic universe sooner or later. This is the place to start.

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