Marvel Comics recently reprinted Jim Starlin’s twelve issue Thanos series which was originally published in 2004. Having never read it then, picking up the trade paperback seemed like a no-brainer. Jim Starlin has written and drawn many great stories over the years, stories that were exciting and thrilling and epic in scale. Reading this book, one can only wonder what went so wrong that this was put on paper and how is anyone supposed to move forward after reading it with the same level of expectation for his work.
The book started out fine with some great moments between Thanos and everyone else, including the Rigellians and Adam Warlock. Galactus has some interesting interplay as well as his history is delved into and we learn some more about him and his motivations. And as we go further into the story enjoying another solid cosmic effort on Starlin’s part, that is when the book goes off the rails and he takes us out of the story. Throughout the tale, there were little hints of what was to come, but when the Hunger makes his full appearance as a big, black cartoony blob with jack-o’-lantern features, it literally breaks the narrative of the book. It is so contrived and childish and literally had no place being in the story. It felt as if this was the point where Starlin ran out of ideas and decided to mine children’s books for a villain to throw up against Thanos and Galactus. That was the moment where all respect for Starlin almost went out the window. It literally created anger when reading this and a desire to throw the book out without finishing it. Not only was the creature and its design absolutely terrible, but it broke the fourth wall and talked to the reader! Not only was it horrible, but now it was over-the-top horrible. But taking in Starlin’s entire body of work, and putting the book down for a good amount of time, the anger and the utter frustration felt when reading this monstrosity was put aside and because of that respect for Starlin, continued on with the tale. Moving on to the second arc of the book, Samaritan, it increased in quality exponentially.
Samaritan took Thanos to the prison Kyln where he meets Star-Lord and Gladiator, has a run-in with the Beyonder and continues his quest to find something other than a total subservience to the total annihilation of all that there is. Here we see a classic, well told tale of the titan as only Giffen can deliver and totally redeeming the character from the previous arc. It was also great to see some more seeds planted by the master that would be used in future storylines such as the Annihilation series of books. For this arc, Ron Lim was brought onboard to handle the art duties while Keith Giffen focused upon the writing side of things. The one thing that has always been great about Giffen is his writing, always consistent and always good. So it was nice to see that on Samaritan, Thanos got his mojo back and reclaimed what had always made him so good.
Aside from one little blip of a story, albeit a terrible one, Jim Starlin shows us why he is a master of the craft and has lasted for so many years in the business. It was a shame that the series was cancelled as it held so much potential with literally unlimited possibilities, and also a shame that things between him and Marvel soured until recently. Next summer, Starlin has a new series coming out from Marvel and more likely than not it will involve some sort of cosmic storyline. Hopefully it will be as excellent as most of his works and lead to further tales from him down the road.
3 out of 5