One quick comics side-note that I just couldn’t resist making: buried in this week’s issues was something called “Thanos: The Final Threat” – a full-color reprint of the two-part story Jim Starlin did for Marvel back in 1977 (back then, the first part appeared in “Avengers” Annual #7 and the second part in “Marvel Two-in-One” Annual #2 – a title-jumping gimmick that was almost unheard of at the time). The story boils down to an epic tussle between the Avengers and a ‘mutant demi-god’ named Thanos who’s in love with Death and wants to bring about the end of all life – and that little synopsis right there should tell you why Marvel would reprint this thing in such a nice volume: at one point in this summer’s gargantuan $400-million-grossing Hollywood blockbuster movie “The Avengers,” Thanos makes a teaser appearance that sets him up as the villain of the next movie. Comic book fans were overjoyed by the move, since it guarantees the next movie will be a sprawling space-epic of the type such fans have always enjoyed, but all non comics-fans saw was a weird-looking purple guy. It’s in Marvel’s best interests to begin raising Thanos’ profile a bit (they’ve been doing that over in the pages of “Avengers Assemble” as well, and very enjoyably). Hence this reprint.
Not that it matters: I’ll take any reason at all as long as it gives truly classic comics moments more time in the sun. And this story – conceived as one big unit by the freakishly talented Starlin, written by him with a winning combination of cosmic grandiosity and simple human emotion, and drawn by him with almost Hogarthian intricacy – is certainly a classic. In Thanos and his endless army of minions, Starlin gives the Avengers an enemy big enough to fight on even terms, and there are some truly definitive action-sequences throughout these pages. But Starlin also very smartly counter-balances all the cosmic stuff with some refreshingly quotidian grounding – in this case, in the form of Marvel Comics’ two best ‘everyman’ heroes, The Thing from the Fantastic Four, and of course Spider-Man.
Starlin’s pursuing his own agenda here as well, giving a finale to one of his most lovingly-shaped characters, Adam Warlock (weird to see Captain Marvel alive and well in these pages too, knowing that his death will be the centerpiece of Starlin’s other Marvel masterpiece, only a few years later). The climactic moment when Warlock comes back from seeming defeat and death to deal with Thanos is every bit as thrilling now as it was a mind-boggling forty years ago.
Classic comics stories like this one are odd things, sometimes determined only by the slowest of consensus. But some of us were eating this stuff up the weeks it was being published – which makes seeing it presented again now on the shelf at my beloved Comicopia all the more thrilling. Comics fans with even an inkling of interest should take advantage of the luxury and snap this issue up.