I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I’ve delved into the comics a few times, so when Julia at Titan Books asked if I’d like to review a prose novel based on the comics, I jumped at the chance. Obviously, Thanos: Death Sentence has been re-released to take advantage of the hype for Avengers: Endgame (which I have seen and loved, but no spoilers here!), but it was interesting to see a different take on Thanos, and particularly to see his actions from his point of view.
A new life for the Mad Titan! Thanos’s pursuit of the Infinity Gems has always defined him. But when the Marvel heroes defeat him once again, Thanos’s beloved Mistress Death grants him one fi nal chance. Stripped of his powers and his old skin, Thanos embarks on a cosmic walkabout to reassert his power over himself and the Multiverse. This all-new, original tale explores the inner life of one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. Haunted by family – or the semblances of it – the Mad Titan may become something else entirely. Will he maintain his illusions of grandeur, or is this a new path for a lost god?
Thanos: Death Sentence is structured in four main parts. There’s the surrounding story, which starts and ends the book, with the Avengers and Fantastic Four and X-Men, among others, fighting Thanos, and then there are the sections where Thanos lives as three different people, and tries to get his bearings on the journey Mistress Death has sent him on. Along the way, we get to see Thanos remembering his original life and what set him on his path of destruction.
We also get a insight into some of Thanos’s crew, Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive and Ebony Maw. My only previous reference for these three is Avengers: Infinity War, so this was really interesting for me. I loved how lost they were once the original Thanos disappeared, desperately searching the universe for someone to follow, and Proxima Midnight’s conviction that the person she’d found was Thanos, only to lose him again. Her relationship with Glaive was also fascinating, and I really liked getting the chance to get to know these characters a bit better.
I found it interesting that two of Thanos’s lives in this book had a romantic element to them. Romance is really not something I associate with Thanos, and it did make me wonder how much a lack of love has affected his decisions in the past. This is a theme that does run through the book, as Thanos reflects on family and the events that made him, and it was fascinating to see this side to him. I think all villains should be multi-faceted, and Thanos: Death Sentence certainly increased my understanding of his history. There is a chance that this might smack of rehabilitating someone who shouldn’t be rehabilitated, but I think it’s clear from the book that Thanos will never change.
In fact, this is one of the biggest problems in the book. Thanos goes on this journey, but he’s not changed by it. He still causes chaos everywhere he goes. He still wants to please Mistress Death above all else. The only self-realisation he has is that he doesn’t want to change and that he shouldn’t have to. Which is a great message in a YA contemporary romance, for example, but not so good when it’s a book about one of the Marvel Universe’s greatest villains. It’s also overlong, and drags, and I found parts of the last life very confusing in terms of timescale (and that’s before the great rug-pull at the end of it!). There’s also the problem that all the Marvel prose novels seem to have, which is that they’re trying to bridge the gap between the comics and the films, but it doesn’t work because there are too many differences. They want you to bring the affection you have for the film characters, and apply it to the comic characters, but, certainly for my brain, that just ends up confusing because they’re not the same characters.
It’s a valiant effort though, and I definitely applaud Marvel and, in this case, Stuart Moore, for trying, and for giving the purple Titan a bit more attention. It didn’t quite work for me as a story, but I still enjoyed it, and it’s probably worth reading if you want a bit more depth than the comics give you.
Thanos: Death Sentence is out now from Titan Books