Review by C.J. Bunce
Writer Stuart Moore returns this month with a solid follow-up to his multiple superhero-spanning novel Civil War, reviewed here at borg. Titan Books has released the tenth book in its Marvel Comics-based series of prose paperback novels, Moore’s Thanos: Death Sentence. Originally published in 2017, this is its first paperback release. If you’re after a story about Thanos, if you love the character and want to know what makes him tick, and the circumstances around wielding that kind of power during the events of Avengers: Infinity War, then Thanos: Death Sentence is for you. Those familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers: Infinity War will find no spoilers for the film in this story, and it may just get you excited for the release of Avengers: Endgame in theaters next week.
It’s probably better knowing something about this story before jumping into the dense 336-page novel. Exciting, brilliant detailed superhero crossover events highlight the novel’s first 100 pages. In a parallel but different take on Infinity War, readers see Thanos kill off nearly every major superhero in the Marvel universe. It’s quite fun to read how Moore has Thanos do it, not with a single snap and turn to dust for everyone, but a specific, tailored death sentence for each hero. Wielding the Soul Stone Spider-Man gets relegated to re-live the death of his uncle through his own inaction, for infinity. Ben Grimm gets separated into his component stones and dispersed throughout the cosmos. With the Space Stone Thanos strands Captain Marvel beyond the solar system. The Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, Vision, Prince Namor, Black Panther, all snuffed out. And then it’s all undone. And that’s only where this story begins. The method of the undoing is not something that seems remotely possible for the movies–with far more characters introduced than we’re met on the big screen (since the entirety of the films were made before the merger with Fox to wrap in the rest of the Marvel characters).
Once the deaths are undone, Thanos the Mad Titan is forced to fight his way back to power by Mistress Death using the Infinity Wardrobe, pressed into the bodies of tangent characters in the lives of the famed Children of Thanos–his minions seen in Avengers: Infinity War: Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive, plus his adopted daughter Gamora.
The attraction for most comic book fans will be Moore’s inclusion of other villains along the way for Thanos to face, like Ronan the Accuser, the Supreme Intelligence, and the Kree, and references to characters like Morag, Galactus, Kronos, and even more obscure beings from the Marvel archives.
In Thanos: Death Sentence Moore takes the reader through the trials of Thanos. What does someone who would destroy all of humanity (not just half as in the movies) deserve as a penalty for that kind of crime? The resulting story pulls from a trope familiar to science fiction readers, but it’s a clever means to tell Thanos’s wider tale.