Writers: J. Michael Straczynski, Torunn Gronbekk, Christopher Cantwell, Kyle Starks
Artists: Geoff Shaw, Andrea Di Vito, Travel Foreman, and Ron Lim
Color Artists: Israel Silva, Dean White & Ruth Redmond, Rachelle Rosenberg, and David Curiel
Cover Artists: Andrea Sorrenitino & Matthew Wilson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Thanos has a long and storied history in the Marvel Universe, and Thor wants to learn more about him. Why? To avert an apocalyptic disaster and Thanos is at the heart of it, but before he does anything, Thor takes to the moon of Titan in Thanos Death Notes #1 to see what answers the God of Thunder can find in Thanos’ past.
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This comic is really just a anthology issue for Thanos using Donny Cates’ run as a convenient excuse to make this whole thing happen. The necessary information to understand Thor’s brief journey into exploring some of Thanos’ old journal notes is explained in the issue’s recap. Basically, Thanos is alive again thanks to Kieron Gillen’s Eternals series, and now he’s in the timestream, but Thor knows that he’ll be back eventually. So, Thor is looking for information on a mysterious new object called the Black Infinity Stone (the black gauntlet Thanos wears in Thor’s nightmare vision) that Thanos had information on to see if it will help him stop the Mad Titan.
At best, I’d say two out of the three stories are actually pretty good and make for fine Thanos stories. The first part of the comic is just the opener as Thor visits Titan and goes to a place once inhabited by Thanos where the God of Thunder reads through some of his files which is how we get the stories. The first story is written by Christopher Cantwell where it follows Iron Man after defeating Thanos‘ android proxy from Thanos‘ first debut in comics. Even after it’s defeated the Thanos droid tries to break Tony Stark’s mind with a psychological gambit. At one point the story had me with the Sci-Fi idea but then it lost me with how Cantwell writes Tony Stark’s narration.
The second story is in my opinion the best one of the bunch. It’s written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Geoff Shaw who tell a more true-to-form Thanos story. Straczynski tells a story that would officially take place in the early beginnings of the Infinity Gauntlet Saga, where Thanos has been brought back to life by Mistress Death. But in this story, Death has a private talk with Thanos where she asks him about his first love before her, a fellow Titan called Carella. Don’t worry, she’s not an existing character that we all overlooked, she’s brand new and made just for this story.
What makes this story a great Thanos story is that J. Michael Straczynski and Geoff Shaw do what most comic writers, even Donny Cates, neglect to do and that’s stick with Thanos‘ actual origins and core melancholic personality established by his creator Jim Starlin while using his updated visual designs. To spoil some of it, Thanos initially recollects his youth and early life on Titan to Mistress Death on how he was ostracized by its people for his deviant appearance, which made him a morose individual even in the present. Sadly, this part of his origins was retconned by Jason Aaron in his Thanos Rising miniseries, but this story ignores that while paying homage to it by using the series’ designs for Thanos and the people of Titan. The story itself is a little sappy but perfectly fits Thanos and his early life and the story shows why it has meaning to him and Mistress Death in the story’s timeframe.
Then there’s the final story written by Kyle Starks and illustrated by Ron Lim. The main idea is that Thanos is looking for Nebula, like a father out looking for his troublemaking daughter and checks a space bar. Turns out, there’s someone else looking for Thanos as well and chaos ensues from there. This story is the second best one due to its simplicity and Ron Lim’s art which makes Thanos look good as always. If you’re looking for the more action-oriented of the stories, then this is the one for you. It’s not action all the time, but there’s far more action in this story than in the others.
Sadly, Thor learns little of value here other than someone else had already been looking for information on the Black Infinity Stone and left with it. The identity of the culprit is revealed in the comic and directly ties into the next issue of the Thor series now being written by Torunn Gronbekk.
Thanos: Death Notes #1 is more or less an anthology series that has three stories about the Mad Titan. Each story tries to cover and explore a certain aspect of the cosmic super-villain with some pulling it off better than others. However, this comic is just a tie-in to the core Thor series and barely adds much beyond identifying who the next major villain will be and what the story will focus on, which takes away a little focus from Thanos.