Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Long Box

Words: Jim Starlin
Pictures: Ron Lim
April 1993
Collects SILVER SURFER, Volume 2 #'s 24-38

With all the excitement around the Mad Titian's return in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #24 and the upcoming Thanos-centric event I have gotten more than a little interested in reading older Thanos material.

This volume collects the return of Thanos after having been dead sine 1977's MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #2. It starts with the Surfer falling into a dream state and ending up in what he thinks is a dream in the realm of Mistress Death.
Here we learn that Death is still unhappy with a recent run in with the being known as the In-Betweener and now feels there are more living beings in the universe than have ever died. She seeks to correct this and, we hope, get out of her bad mood, but she realizes that there are rules even she must follow. She simply cannot kill for the sake of killing so she picks an avatar of sorts.

This is where Thanos comes in. In life the Titan was obsessed with Death both as a concept and as a partner. The only way he was stopped was by killing him, an event which cost the life of Adam Warlock but didn't prevent Warlock's spirit from turning Thanos into a stone statue.
So Thanos returns to comics for the first time in over a decade.
The beginning of this story serves as a great tease for what's to come. Starlin does a great job of re-introducing the character to a new generation of readers who may have never heard of him. The Surfer serves as the vehicle for this as he's never heard of Thanos (which some may find odd but you have to remember until the Surfer and Galactus came to Earth for the first time (FANTASTIC FOUR #'s 48-50), he was completely under the control of Galactus. Then, after being freed he was trapped on Earth for a very long time and I'm sure Thanos wasn't a very popular topic of discussion) and is, at first, confused by him. Thanos tries, in his way, to explain his purpose: killing half the sentient beings in the universe, as something not entirely bad.
Naturally the Surfer takes issue with it but allows Thanos to explain himself. At first, the Surfer isn't sure what to think but obviously doesn't trust Thanos, and he travels to Earth to get more information from the only group he knows who has had dealings with Thanos in the past: The Avengers.

Sidenote: It was really neat to re-read this and get to the pages where the Silver Surfer and Captain America were talking. There is just something about it, I don't know...

While all this is going on, Chronos, the Titan God, finds Thanos is returned and resurrects his creation: Drax The Destroyer. Drax is another character from the 1970's who was tasked with the killing of Thanos. The Original Drax was an interesting character but not fully fleshed out, this one was worse. His last life ended in brain death which caused this incarnation to be...well..stupid. Though this re-introduction doesn't give much indications of it other than Mentor referring to brain death.
After learning about Thanos' past exploits involving the Cosmic Cube, the Soul Gems and his demise, the Surfer then travels to Titan, the artificial moon of Jupiter which serves as home to the Titans, and the father of Thanos: Mentor. But before he can get very far he has a run in with the Impossible Man who tries to get the Surfer to 'lighten up' in order to better fight Thanos. Impossible Man was a bit of a curve here and didn't seem to really fit in until he explains he's actually scared that he may end up dead when Thanos kills half of the sentient beings in the universe. This was a fun chapter in a story that was very light on humor.
On Titian, the Surfer learns that Thanos has a long history of loving Death. Including the murder of his own mother.
While gathering information Drax shows up and gives the Surfer a hard time. Drax wants Thanos. Thanos was near the Surfer and Drax wants the Surfer to lead him to Thanos. Sounds simple but the Surfer wants nothing to do with Drax and takes him to Earth in hopes of 'ditching' him at the Four Freedoms Plaza, home of the Fantastic Four. It's kind of rude, especially for the Surfer, but entertaining in how he does it.

Now, the Silver Surfer knows fully what he faces and knows Thanos must be stopped. He begins the search.

Meanwhile... Thanos seeks out and finds his former army of killers and thugs. They are now under the command of Nebula who claims to be the granddaughter of Thanos. When Thanos shows up on his flagship he quickly takes command, kills Nebula's lover and bodyguard Geatar and puts Nebula in her place...and in a fireball. He gives his crew specific orders to fulfill while he takes in a meeting with Mistress Death who wonders why he hasn't carried out his task yet. He explains to her he needs certain tools to complete the task and that things must be done carefully else the defenders of the universe unite to stop him.
The first obstacle to go is the Silver Surfer. Thanos calls him out and in a short but telling confrontation, telling in that obviously the Surfer doesn't have enough power to stop Thanos, the Surfer destroys Thanos' chair craft and thinks he kills the Titan.
After the Surfer takes the body away to Titan for burial, Thanos reappears to explain that he had his medics alter Geatar's appearance to match his own and that the Surfer killed the wrong being, but it get the Surfer out of his way for a while.

After re-reading this I was surprised as to how well it stands up. Also, it serves as the prelude to the THANOS QUEST which I've already reviewed. It does a great job of reintroducing a character that had been dead for over a decade and sets him up to be a major baddie for a long time to come. For fans of Thanos, this is a book that comes very recommended. The version I have is the long out of print original but Marvel is reissuing the volume and I believe the reprint will also contain the legendary THANOS QUEST as well. With Thanos coming back and taking the spotlight again, fans old and new would do well to learn more about him and why he is one of Marvel's finest characters. Also, one of Marvel's more complex characters.

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