Thanos Wins spins an audacious new chapter in the ongoing story of the Mad Titan.
Thanos finds himself yanked from the present day to the twilight of the universe, where his future self reigns, having succeeded in killing most of the universe. The future Thanos needs his younger self to help him destroy his last implacable foe, in the process making the final offering that will unite Thanos with his beloved Death. A fierce battle with a surprise enemy precipitates a final, brutal showdown between the two different versions of Thanos.
Donny Cates has developed into one of Marvel’s more interesting writers in a relatively short period. His concept for Thanos Wins is a gonzo fever dream that somehow makes perfect sense, while also being freakishly entertaining. A dystopian, end-of-days scenario might be expected to play as unrelentingly grim, but Cates finds the absurdity in the tragedy he unspools here, providing different narrative shades that add depth and interest at just the right moments, punctuated with some smart humor and inspired high concepts. His “Cosmic Ghost Rider” character became an instant sensation, and his revelation of that character’s identity provides a clever surprise. If the identity of Thanos’s ultimate enemy won’t be much of a shock to long-time readers, it provides a nice symmetry, making effective use of past stories.
Cates has a solid grip on the book’s star, capturing the haughtiness and cruelty of Thanos, while mining moments of unexpected, genuine pathos, especially from the older version of the character. The “Thanos vs. Thanos” idea could have come off as trite, but Cates whips up some nasty energy for the big fight that infuses the scenes with added dramatic heft. The style and imagination on display in this arc mark Cates as a key writer to watch going forward.
Geoff Shaw experiences something of a breakthrough with Thanos Wins, producing the kind of polished, big ticket visuals that push an artist to the A List pretty quickly. He does some inspired world building, crafting the wintry decline of Thanos’s end of time empire, capturing the dignity and the degradation in carefully produced sequences that marry well-observed details, emotional expressiveness and thrilling action for an attractive package that gives the storytelling motion and dynamics. He mixes up his panel designs, moving from a traditional approach to experimentalism and back as the story’s needs dictate without seeming like he’s showing off for its own sake. Colorist Antonio Fabela is a strong partner, masterfully deploying cool shades of blue, green and purple to communicate the autumnal feel of the proceedings, punctuating with wild bursts of color to make the big moments pop. It’s strong work from a team one can only hope will continue to collaborate with one another.
No specific prior knowledge of the Thanos saga up to this point is necessary to enjoy Thanos Wins; anyone with a basic knowledge of the character can jump in and follow the story with minimal fuss. It’s completely worth the ride.