Avengers vs Thanos by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich (e-graphic novel review).

Cheapskate confession: I read ‘Avengers vs Thanos’ with a kindle app on my tablet because it’s currently free with Amazon Prime membership. It is also available as a paperback book from other venues. I read all the comics before, years ago, but it’s handy to have the whole story so neatly collected.

Avengers vs Thanos’ collects nineteen comic books and two annuals which recount the adventures of many Earth super-heroes and one Kree fighting Thanos, demi-god and death worshipper. The comics are: Iron Man # 55; Captain Marvel # 25-33; Marvel Feature # 12; Daredevil # 105-107; Avengers # 125; Warlock # 9-11 and 15; Avengers Annual # 7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual # 2. The title is slightly misleading as there is only one issue of ‘The Avengers’ comic and one annual. The bulk of the content is made up of ‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Warlock’ for it was in those books that Thanos creator Jim Starlin had control.

I believe it started with the character. Starlin did some psychology classes with a girlfriend and was intrigued by the notion of the death wish. Thanatos is the Greek god of death but Thanos sounds cooler and is easier to fit in word balloons. Starlin denies being influenced in any way by Kirby’s Darkseid and I believe him. Aided by his then flatmate, Marv Wolfman, he introduced Thanos into Iron Man # 55 along with his henchmen, the Blood Brothers.

I’m not sure if he had the whole backstory built up at that point. At any rate, he developed the villain’s schemes in ‘Captain Marvel’ and concluded the cosmic cube story in Avengers # 125. Like all good villains, Thanos came back with a new scheme and snuck into Jim Starlin’s ‘Warlock’, initially posing as Warlock’s ally against the Magus. The rest is cosmic comicbook history and movie history, too, as the films, derived from this and later adventures, are among Hollywood’s highest grossing of all time and it all started with a pencil! Incidentally, Starlin did get fair compensation from the movie moguls for their use of Thanos and its content. No need to boycott Disney on his behalf.

I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the whole thing. Some callow youth on-line has credited Starlin with bringing cosmic themes to Marvel, rather ignoring the looming presence of one Jack Kirby. He invented the cosmic cube, the Kree, Ronan the Accuser and several other elements of the Marvel Universe. What Starlin and Steve Englehart brought to Marvel was cosmic consciousness, all that California hippy stuff about being aware and one with the universe. Experimenting with big concepts was the new thing, mocked by Steve Gerber admittedly but he just invented a funny duck, but it flopped as a movie.

The best part of ‘Thanos vs Avengers’ is Jim Starlin’s run on ‘Warlock’. These stories came out in 1975, 6 bi-monthly issues as I recall, and it was a long wait between them. At the time, they were the best thing around, both the story and the art. Even then, well-read teenagers recognised that concepts like order and chaos were not wholly original, we knew our Moorcock, but the way Starlin mixed it all up with life vs death was terrific.

The 70s were generally a good era for Marvel Comics. Stan Lee’s 60s revolution of heroes having flaws led a generation of intelligent writers into comicbooks to try new stuff. The next revolution came in the 80s, from Britain mostly, and gave us real life violence, rape and torture, too. It’s not something to evoke cosy nostalgia. This cosmic spectacle on the other hand, gave me a warm glow and might do the same for you. When you’re finished, you can let the kids read it! Imagine that.

Eamonn Murphy

October 2020

(pub: Marvel, 2013. 470 page e-graphic novel. File Size: 667092kB. ASIN: B00FRP6VKQ)

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Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories now and then. Website:

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