Jul 15, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Guarding the Galaxy, Part 21: Thanos!

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Part Twenty-One: Thanos!

Thanos has returned, Adam Warlock is the Magus, and the Guardians of the Galaxy series has been cancelled. Things couldn’t be worse for the hapless heroes of the cosmic Marvel universe.

The events of WAR OF KINGS left a rip in space and time, called “the fault.” On the other side of the fault, a whole other universe, called the Cancerverse, where life has won, and death does not exist.

The stakes are high. The fate of the entire universe is in the hands of Nova, Star-Lord, and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Let’s braid this ponytail.

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Brad Walker; Inker: Andrew Hennessy; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Recap, on the events in the life of Thanos. His death at the hands of Drax in the Annihilation Wave. Adam Warlock finding his drifting corpse and placing it in a cocoon, which was later found by the Universal Church of Truth. Even further back, his quest for the Cosmic Cube, and the subsequent battles against the Avengers and Captain Mar-Vell. The Infinity Gauntlet.

After all those struggles, he had finally accomplished his ultimate goal, he was at peace with his beloved Death. Until something had brought him back.

On Knowhere, the telepaths of the Guardians (Moondragon, Mantis, and Cosmo) probe the mind of the still feral Thanos. Moondragon leaves to confer with Star-Lord and Rocket. Moondragon wants Thanos dead, but Rocket counters that you can’t just kill the avatar of death without considering the consequences.

Elsewhere, Nova pursues a dark version of the Wendell Vaughn Quasar through space. He's contacted by the real Quasar, who has just arrived with Gladiator in a Shi’ar flagship at the mouth of the fault.

The galactic council has recognized the seriousness of the fault, and the call went out for everyone to respond. Quasar flies off to assist Nova against dark Quasar. Queen Medusa and the Kree arrive, along with Blastaar and his forces. Nova and Dark Quasar go crashing into a Universal Church of Truth templeship, when they are both interrupted by the Magus.

Worldmind recognizes the Magus’ power limits as off the charts, and orders Nova to retreat. The real Quasar comes barreling in, and takes on the Magus himself.

As they fight, entire worlds begin to appear in the expanse of space right in front of the fault. The Magus didn’t just bring templeships to the fault, he brought entire converted worlds. No longer concerned with Quasar, Magus tosses him aside and turns his attention to the planets.

“I just can’t wait any longer. One spark.
From darkness, light. Ignition.”

And with that, all the planets explode.

The release of all that energy rips open the fault. As the Kree and Shi’ar try to determine what’s happening, Nova and Quasar disappear in the burst of light.

On Knowhere, the telepaths are startled by a massive telepathic disturbance (resulting from the planets exploding). As they move to respond, Thanos comes crashing through the wall, having broken free from his chains.

Dark Quasar (Vaughn) and the Magus look out upon the fault. An unseen individual arrives, and they kneel down to welcome him. The individual asks Magus if he eliminated the avatar of death like he was supposed to, to which Magus admits that he has not.

The mysterious man is less than pleased with this response, and incinerates Magus as a result. He comments about how a universe where death still exists will take some getting used to, and then turns to Vaughn and tells him to assemble the Revengers.

Finally, the big bad stands revealed as Lord Mar-Vell, a twisted version of the original Captain Mar-Vell.

My brain thoughts: I can’t properly explain to you in words how awesome Magus opening the fault is, but just take my word for it. Setting up Captain Mar-Vell to be the antagonist against Thanos as a protagonist is a pretty interesting development. (Even though I’ve always found Mar-Vell to be Quasar levels of boring.)

The Thanos Imperative #1. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Artist: Miguel Sepulveda; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Flashback to two years ago, where Nova and Peter Quill having a momentary peaceful conversation at their camp during the middle of the Annihilation War. (I love these flashback moments. They serve as a great reminder of all the things these two have been through in recent years, and serve to tie everything back together.) Peter Quill talks about how it’s trouble when the abstracts get involved in any conflict. The avatars of eternity, death, oblivion, and so on.

In the present day, Thanos has Star-Lord by his neck.

Rocket comes in to save the day, threatening to hit Thanos with a cold fusion cannon, which would paralyze him long enough for them to seal him up in a cryogenic pod and drop him in a gravity sink, sentencing him to eternal life. The exact opposite of what he desires.

Rocket Raccoon is the real deal.

The telepaths all hit Thanos at once with their powers, containing him with another psionic mindlock. With Thanos neutralized, the team turns their attention back to the fault. They receive transmissions about the Magus opening the fault, and fleets of ships emerging from within. The allied warships attempt to fight back, but are far outnumbered. The Shi’ar flagships are invaded by disgusting alien creatures, which seem to be very difficult to kill.

Transmissions come in from everywhere of the impossible-to-kill creatures, and the allied forces getting slaughtered. From far off in space, the Silver Surfer takes notice.

Inside the Universal Church of Truth starship, Vaughn and Lord Mar-Vell converse on the progress of their expansion into this new universe. Locating the avatar of death and removing it remains the highest priority. To do this, they reveal their own dark and twisted version of the Avengers, the Revengers (dark versions of Thor, Ms Marvel, Captain America, Iron Man, Giant-Man, and Scarlet Witch).

Back on Knowhere, the current events are violating Thanos’ psychic field, causing him to convulse.

Star-Lord tries to wrap his head around what’s happening. Quasar told them that a rival universe was on the other side of the fault. A universe that had conquered death, and as a result, was a dimension filled to the bursting point. As Moondragon discovered, a dimension called the Cancerverse, which is trying to expand into their universe, but the question remains of how they can stop it.

Thanos interrupts, “You give it the one thing it hasn’t got…..me.”

In a Nova Corps starship near the mouth of the fault, the Nova Corps and Namorita (?) try to fight off the creatures. Richard Rider and Quasar arrive to assist. Suddenly, they are attacked by the Revengers. Nova and Quasar do all they can to repel their attack, but the Revengers kidnap Namorita and escape.

Back on Knowhere, Thanos charts their path into the Cancerverse, while half the team continues to debate allying themselves with the Mad Titan. Drax arrives, wearing more “classic” garb.

The team activates their passport bracelets, and teleport into the Cancerverse.

Thanos collapses, overwhelmed with the pain of being in a universe full of nothing but life. The Guardians find they have more immediate problems though, when they turn around to see a twisted version of the Defenders.

My brain thoughts: I really like Miguel Sepulveda’s art style on this book. The size difference he gives to Thanos versus everybody else around him really adds an extra bit of menace to the character. Unfortunately, somebody decided to put Drax back in a version of his original outfit, which is just silly.

The Thanos Imperative #2. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Artist: Miguel Sepulveda; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Nova and Quasar, as well as the rest of the allied forces, continue to have considerable trouble killing any of the creatures from the Cancerverse. Silver Surfer arrives in spectacular fashion… (I hope this means Silver Surfer finally met Mantis again, since they had a "thing" back in the late 80s when Steve Englehart was writing Surf's series. I wonder if Surfer ever found out Mantis didn't really die.)

…followed closely behind by Galactus and some Celestials-type beings.

Back inside the Cancerverse, the Guardians face off against the dark Defenders.

I love Mantis so much. High kick!

Star-Lord takes out Hellcat, and Rocket guns down Nighthawk. Gamora skewers Valkyrie. Drax rips off Namor’s head, and Cosmo causes evil Hulk to stroke out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stick, and the evil Defenders rise, even uglier than before.

Fortunately, Thanos recovers enough to incinerate them all. He seems to be the only one capable of delivering permanent death to the Cancerverse occupants.

After a few moments to regroup, the Guardians are visited by the Cancerverse version of the Vision.

In an unknown location, Lord Mar-Vell continues his search for the avatar of death. The Revengers drag in a recently captured Major Victory, and throw him in with a group of individuals (including Namorita) that all register as temporal anomalies. Lord Mar-Vell does not believe him to be the one they are looking for, but are significant enough to investigate.

Back at the Fault, Galactus and the cosmic abstracts are having success against the Cancerverse creatures. Nova, Quasar, and the Silver Surfer debate the fate of the universe, when suddenly, something pushes its way through the fault.

It’s the severed head of dark Galactus, weaponized into something deadly, called the Galactus Engine.

My brain thoughts: This marks the second time that Abnett and Lanning have weaponized Galactus for a big cosmic battle. This time it’s the zombie head of Galactus, so it’s even cooler. The Guardians brutally taking out a dark version of the Defenders is pretty sweet in my book. High kick!

The Thanos Imperative #3. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Artist: Miguel Sepulveda; Editor: Bill Rosemann

As far as Quasar and Nova can tell, the Galactus Engine doesn’t appear to be doing anything. The Silver Surfer suggests that the battle is happening on a level beyond their perception. As if in response to that statement, one of the cosmic abstracts cracks and explodes in an explosion of Cancerverse beasts.

Inside the Cancerverse, the Vision has brought the Guardians to the Cancerverse version of Titan, and Thanos’ ship. He leads a machine resistance against Lord Mar-Vell inside the Cancerverse.

As Thanos accesses the databanks of the Cancerverse version of his ship, Star-Lord and Drax argue some more about allying with Thanos. At the same time, Lord Mar-Vell watches a playback of the death of his counterpart in the regular universe, succumbing to cancer.

Back in the Cancerverse, Thanos and the others watch the same scene as it played out in the Cancerverse. Mar-Vell still is on his deathbed, dying of cancer, only this time, influenced by the Chthonic Gods (whose influence was much greater in that universe), Mar-Vell transmuted his grieving allies, and performed a ritual called the Necropsy. This ritual succeeded in sacrificing death’s avatar, and thus killed death itself. It also released the “many angled ones” into that plane of existence.

The many angled ones are primordial cosmic entities that inhabit the space between universes, and they are very hard to kill.

Back in Lord Mar-Vell’s starship, Mar-Vell continues to search for the avatar of death, so that he can perform the Necropsy in this universe.

Dark Scarlet Witch reports of a brief anomalous trace that registered back on their own side of the fault. Dark Ms Marvel offers to lead the Revengers to investigate.

At the fault, Quasar convenes with the allied forces to discuss how badly they are losing. The Galactus Engine has them all on the run, even the cosmic abstracts. They bicker amongst each other, until Nova arrives to interrupt them and put them in their place. Nova suggests they investigate the individuals being captured by the Cancerverse forces. Through his quantum bond with Namorita, Nova has been able to locate her position, and proposes that he lead a strike team to recover her and the others that have been captured.

The strike team he puts together consists of himself, Quasar, Beta Ray Bill, Gladiator, Silver Surfer, and Ronan.

That’s some firepower.
Back to the Cancerverse, Thanos proposes they return to the site of the Necropsy and reverse it. The tension between Thanos and Drax comes to a head, and the two of them begin to fight. Drax slaps an anti-matter charge on Thanos, completely disintegrating him.

My brain thoughts: This now marks the second time that Drax has killed Thanos at the most inappropriate and inconvenient time. They later go on to explain that he was overwhelmed by a universe that lacks death, since he is the mortal enemy of the avatar of death, he is by nature an agent of life. Still, total dick move on his part, the universe is at stake.

My final brain thoughts: High kicks, flambé Thanos, Namorita for some reason, weaponized zombie Galactus, and Defenders ass-kicking.

Lord Mar-Vell and his zombie Avengers continue their attack on death itself in the Marvel universe. Thanos meets his end at the hands of Drax, yet again. With Thanos as their only hope against Mar-Vell and the Cancerverse, Star-Lord and the Guardians will have to think of another plan to save the universe.

Come back next time for the pulse-pounding conclusion to the story that ended a universe. (Wait, what?......)

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