Thanos: A God Up There Listening – Rob Williams

3 out of 5

What an odd comic.  You’d probably expect – as I did – that this was a movie cash-in, as Thanos had recently been present in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and was being built up as a baddie in the Marvel Cinematic U.  But we were wrong.  Furthermore, with 2000 ADer Rob Williams at the helm, you might’ve been expecting – as I was, in complete ignorance of his current Marvel output – that this would be a sci-fi tale with an undercurrent of dark humor, something I thought I saw in the pages when I flipped through.  Well, you probably didn’t think this, and I’m just an idiot.  Either way: yes, I was totally wrong.  This ‘Thanos’ mini is deeply entrenched in current Marvel lore, and doesn’t really give a new reader much of an opening to participate.  Which is just odd in general for a big pub book; there’s no ‘blah blah blah tie-in’ on the cover, and though Williams narrates effectively to set the scene, there’s a lot of information that seems to have happened elsewhere that’s not spelled out.

I mean – I dug that.  I dug that the book seemed to actually be written for a reason and not “let’s put a Thanos book out; hire a writer.”  So my average rating isn’t for the inaccessibility, I’m just not clear what Rob’s intentions were with the mini, beyond a setup for further Marvel events.  I mean, the idea is that we’re witnessing Thanos’ son, Thane, come to accept his legacy as the son of a tyrant.  This ‘lesson’ is taught to us in a very backwards way, as Ebony Maw omniscients the tale, with fairly obvious clues dropped that he doesn’t actually exist.  Maw guides Thane to Thanos’ living biographer, whom gives Thane a vision of Thanos’ battle with Ego, the Living Planet.  We stutter between this vision and the present, but it’s never quite understood if we’re to be sympathizing with Thane, or if we’re re-hashing a story the reader already knows from a new perpective…  The whole thing is presented with this odd poetic pacing, like none of it is really happening…

But, for sure, that oddity is what made it enjoyable.  There’s a certain seriousness to the subject matter – not melodrama, just obvious respect for Thane’s plight – even though what you’re reading is some absurd comic book shit, and that gives the pages credence.

The art adds to the offbeat nature, with a rotating collective of pencillers / storyboard artists: Iban Coello, Mast & Geoffo, Neil Edwards, Paco Diaz and Daniel Govar… 6 guys across four issues.  Mast & Geoffo are consistent with the layouts, though, which unifies the book’s feel somewhat, even though Coello draws cleaner than Edwards and Diaz.  The colors, unfortunately, can’t add much, as the majority of the story is located in a mess of Thanos purple and spacey blue / greys, but Dustin Nguyen provides some truly eye-catching covers that underline the Operatic, epic flair of this minor tale.

I assume if you were following Thane from another series, ‘A God Up There Listening’ gives him some deserved developmental due.  To someone who came in at random, the story has an absolutely unique vibe that keeps it readable despite it absolutely not being new-reader-friendly.  Overall, it’s hard to say what the focus was meant to be, but I didn’t feel manipulated into buying issues – into continuing to read and trying to understand the vibe – via cheap movie tie-ins or forced cliffhangers.

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