After last week's prelude, "The Thanos Imperative" gets its proper start with this week's first issue. The latest in the series of events that have marked Marvel's cosmic books, this one is unique in its putting of "Nova" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" on hold, becoming the only Marvel cosmic book for the next six months. It's a smart move as it puts all of the emphasis on this one story, but that also raises the pressure and expectations for writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Like much of their work for the cosmic line, the duo delivers here with a surprising, action-packed issue that sets the stakes high and presents a seemingly unstoppable foe.
The premise of this event centers on the Fault, a gateway to the Cancerverse where life is overwhelming and has filled it. Death has been killed and Lord Mar-Vell leads a group that worships the Many-Angled Ones, Lovecraftian monsters that need the empty space of our universe to grow. With the fault blasted wide open, these monsters and forces spill into the regular Marvel universe with the various cosmic heroes to stop them. The true threat to these servants of life is Thanos, the avatar of death, but he is being held captive by the Guardians of the Galaxy, unaware that he is their best hope to defeat the dark creatures from the Cancerverse.
Immediately, Abnett and Lanning do a great job of presenting the Many-Angled Ones and the dark versions of the Marvel heroes that exist in the Cancerverse as almost impossible to stop. They're stronger, tougher to kill, and there are so many of them. They demonstrate this by jumping between various groups like the Inhumans, the Shi'ar, the Nova Corps, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, all of which seem overmatched in some way. And not all of whom make it out of their fight alive. This issue continues to push the idea that anything can and will happen in the Marvel cosmic books, making each issue unpredictable.
With all of the jumping around, DnA don't always follow-up on events throughout the issue. So many characters require a lot of jumping around, making a lot of what we see very superficial. There's such a strong focus on the Guardians of the Galaxy and their dealing with Thanos that the others suffer somewhat from a lack of attention.
Joining DnA here is Miguel Sepulveda, a somewhat surprising choice given his lack of work on the cosmic books to date. However, with colorist Jay David Ramos, he brings a nice balance between the sci-fi elements of the Marvel universe characters and the fantasy look of the Cancerverse. While the painted look of the colors definitely gets across the fantasy-like visuals, the colors are overpowering at times, muddling the art. The preview pages for the second issue at the end of the comic show how overpowering the colors can be.
Sepulveda's technique is disjointed with characters and their backgrounds obviously drawn separately and placed onto the page atop the backgrounds. It's quite distracting and, overall, that approach hurts the book in places. The cut-and-paste elements make scenes with multiple characters look cluttered and claustrophobic since they're simply placed atop one another - and since much of this comic has scenes with numerous characters, it's a problem. The storytelling isn't organic or clean. His actual figure work is good, but definitely suffers from the characters and backgrounds not being integrated enough.
With a better artist, perhaps one that had handled these characters before, "The Thanos Imperative" #1 would have gotten off to a stronger start. The writing of Abnett and Lanning is bold and confident, but hampered by the muddled, cluttered art.