I’m trying to remember the last time any one book spent quite so much time in Thanos’ head as Thanos: The Infinity Revelation does. I mean, it makes sense that it would: the question of whether Thanos’ mind is “right” is kind of the whole point of the 100-page story, which is kind of the cosmic equivalent of its lead feeling a little “off” about his place in the universe and discovering that instead, it’s the universe itself which is somehow out of whack.
The Infinity Revelation is a huge story in the sense that it features no less than three births of the Marvel Universe, but Starlin – who writes and illustrates this original graphic novel – keeps the focus squarely on its sometimes mad and just as often evil, and always complicated lead. Which is great, because even if Starlin does a great job of dissecting Thanos, the weird mystery at the heart of the book is still left up in the air by the final pages.
The book’s writer doesn’t leave you a lot of room to try to figure out what that ending means – even the Living Tribunal and the other cosmic entities watching Thanos and sometimes-enemy Adam Warlock’s adventure unfold beyond all normal perception don’t “get” what the hell just happened by the end. Starlin indulges in the full-on weirdness of the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, with a short history of Thanos’ life and sometimes conflicting motivations, while sending Warlock and the Titan on what’s essentially a fetch quest that ends in an existential meltdown (actually, multiple).
This isn’t really a book for newcomers hoping to know more about the purple dude at the end of Avengers and in the rocket chair in Guardians of the Galaxy – this is deep-cut stuff, which can leave even long-time readers off-balance, given Starlin’s decision to drop in disparate visual elements that might read as errors or jumbled panels (a character’s costume might change subtly or dramatically between panels), before you realize it’s all part of a bigger plan and broader canvass.
Starlin seems to be trying to tie together some of the disparate ways that Thanos has been written over the years – power hungry miscreant seeking omniscience, love-struck psychopath hoping to impress the embodiment of Death, occasional hero – “explaining” its lead as essentially motivated by his own whims and boredom. There’s a great line somewhere in the middle of the book where he explains that his cosmic plots to control the universe usually fall apart because it’s the quest that’s typically more interesting for him – it’s the doing, not the being for Thanos. Even a showdown with the heavy hitters in the Annhilators is just a chance for him to show his strength – their living or dying is almost irrelevant.
The revelation at the heart of The Thanos Revelation is really its lead character – Jim Starlin helps us understand him a little more, even if he keeps the cosmic mystery we’ve ostensibly been following for a hundred pages at arm’s length. It’s a strange and kind of off-putting book, but, but then so is its lead and I think that might be the point.