Another View 2: Thanos vs. Hulk #1 Part 15

Thanos vs. Hulk #1 says on its first page that it takes place before Thanos: The Infinity Revelation, which came out several months before this comic. Why is that specificity important to how we are to react to Thanos?

What exactly happens to Thanos in The Infinity Revelation is somewhat ambiguous. It’s not quite spelled out in specific “Thanos was X and now he is Y.” It’s less a transformation from one character to another than a reversion, a reset. Post-Infinity Gauntlet, Jim Starlin had Thanos progress as a character away from his worship of/obsession with Death. Her actions in Infinity Gauntlet made him finally realise that his desire was hopeless and, more often than not, found himself on the side of the good guys. He ceased being a villain, even going so far as to attempt to atone for his actions. However, that progression put him at odds with the way that every other writer wrote the character. If you ignored Starlin’s work (and the Keith Giffen follow-up in Thanos to a degree), Thanos was a simple bad guy. So, Starlin made his version of the character a simple bad guy again, complete with his relationship with Death.

What that means is that the Thanos we get in Thanos vs. Hulk #1 isn’t the straight ahead bad guy. He may not be the ‘on the path to goodness’ Thanos that Starlin last depicted, but he’s certainly somewhere in the middle. A Thanos that places his self-interest ahead of almost everything is a Thanos that occupies some middling state; he can do anything. To me, that version of the character has always been more compelling because there’s so much potential. He can fight Galactus, he can team-up with Adam Warlock, he can search for god-like powers... even in “Time Runs Out,” Jonathan Hickman comes close to depicting/suggesting a Thanos that isn’t a straight ahead villain, kind of. He may destroy worlds, but it’s for survival and, in some ways, saves the universe in the process.

In Thanos vs. Hulk #1, we don’t see a lot of Thanos. He threatens/dismisses Pip, expresses some consternation at Annihilus’s kidnapping of the Hulk, and then seeks out the virtual world that Banner and Hulk inhabit. He’s driven by his own self-interest, yes; he’s also doing something atypical of a villain. He’s reacting. Annihilus schemes, creates a plan, sets it into motion, and Thanos, upon learning of it, is the one that springs to action to, theoretically, stop him. Pip is just another name for Commissioner Gordon. When Thanos was a villain, he drove the story, he initiated all actions, and he was what the heroes responded to. It’s a subtle indication of his place at the time of this story, one that’s easy to miss given the way he speaks to Pip and the presence of the Outriders.

Annihilus is the clear bad guy here. By opposing him, Thanos doesn’t make himself the good guy necessarily, but he’s definitely not the villain either. He doesn’t become that again until the end of The Infinity Revelation. What we see in Thanos vs. Hulk #1 is the beginning of the last Thanos as hero story. Jim Starlin is the only one who ever told those types of stories and, now, that’s over.

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