Thanos Legacy aims to bridge the gap between the end of the last Thanos run (now commonly referred to as Thanos Wins, also written by Donny Cates, with art by Geoff Shaw) and the events of Infinity Wars, specifically the opening issue, Infinity Wars Prime. It’s a one-shot, so don’t be fooled by the large #1 on the front, or the “to be continued” that closes out the main story, but it’s also much more than a simple continuity tidy up, offering what will undoubtedly be a vital piece of Thanos’…well…legacy, moving forward.
At first, the main purpose of Thanos Legacy doesn’t seem all that necessary. There didn’t appear to be much continuity to consolidate between Thanos’ last appearance and his next, and while his appearance in Infinity Wars Prime was a little…abrupt, there’s probably a healthy portion of the audience that knew there was more to the story than what was on the page. Thanos Legacy answers that question rather succinctly, albeit through offering up more questions than answers, and rather than it being what was advertised — namely an exercise in timeline cleanup — it is instead a form of closure to Cates’ run and an illuminating retelling/expansion of what we’ve already seen in Prime.
Thanos has won, but at what cost? He’s seen the end of things in the far future and turned his back on it, but he’s now faced with the task of defying that end and securing a future more to his liking. Perhaps the reemergence of the Infinity Stones is the way to do that? On the way through, he takes a pit stop that ties things together with not only Cates’ previous run on Doctor Strange but the current run of Thor by Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo. The art of tying up loose ends in a neat little bow is a slippery slope in a vast fictional superhero universe like this, but at no point does Thanos Legacy feel like that. Rather, the nods to other books feel more like fun little asides, if not a courtesy acknowledgment that, yes, this is a shared universe where events continue to move forward.
From there, we see the events of Infinity Wars Prime from Thanos’s point of view, and as suspected there’s more to what happened. Nothing is necessarily undone by these revelations, everything that happened, happened, but it’s clear that these new facets could potentially be the start of an all-new chapter of Thanos’ journey. If true, then it’s a good thing that the abruptness of his appearance in Infinity Wars Prime is expanded upon here. The inclusion of some ancillary characters in Thanos’ life — one classic, one very modern — also helps to ground this issue and make it feel like a relevant moment in his canon, and the cliffhanger to the story also makes it an important part of whatever comes next.
Brian Level is a fascinating choice as the artist on Thanos Legacy. On the one hand, he manages to bridge the visual gap between Geoff Shaw and Mike Deodato really well, almost adapting his style as necessary as the narrative shifts from one artist’s space to the other. On the other hand, his style is uniquely his own, and he takes full advantage of the canvas he’s been given. The issue opens with a classic view of Thanos on a throne, then moves through the final moments of Thanos Wins before moving into Infinity Wars, even stopping off at a panel that mimics a famous Thanos pose from Infinity War movie posters. You get the feeling that Level is referencing a lot of other works, but that never really interferes with his own style.
A highlight of the issue is Level’s ability to create truly creepy moments. A scene that we’ve seen before is given a fresh vantage point thanks in part to the revelations in the narrative, but also within Level’s ability to capitalize on those story beats with a truly scary juxtaposition: what should be a sad, awful moment for Thanos instead fills him with a perverse joy, and those emotions are all on display on the Mad Titan’s face, accompanied by some extremely well-used shadows.
There’s a backup story here, too, by Gerry Duggan, Cory Smith and Ruth Redmond. It’s a ten-page silent tale that provides an interesting piece of the complex puzzle that is the relationship between Thanos and Gamora. As far as new readers go, this is perfect, as it could sit within the Marvel Cinematic Universe just as easily as it does within current comics continuity, and provides a much-needed reminder that Thanos’ name may be on the front of the issue, but he’s far from the hero of this tale.
Thanos Legacy is billed as a comic that fills the gap between two larger stories, and while that’s certainly true, that almost does a disservice to the importance of this issue. It’s hard to tell just how important the events of the main tale will be, that all depends on exactly where the story threads will be picked up, but either way, Thanos Legacy provides a deeper narrative to what happened to him in Infinity Wars Prime, and whether you’re a fan of that event, of Cates and Shaw’s Thanos Wins, or just a sucker for a good tale about everyone’s favorite Mad Titan, there’s something for everyone here.