Avengers: Infinity War showed us how Thanos, the fanatical Titan, and Gamora, the deadliest woman in the galaxy, met for the first time. Now, in Marvel’s new Thanos series, expertly timed with the release of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Comics gives its own spin on the same idea.
But there’s one big tweak in Thanos #1 to when Thanos met Gamora, and it has to do with the biggest difference between movie Thanos and comic Thanos: Death.
[Ed. Note: This post will contain spoilers for Thanos #1.]
When it was announced, writer Tini Howard explained that this Thanos series was not really just about the Mad Titan; it was about his relationship with his most famous foster child. It’s a story of the past narrated by the present character of Gamora, who, it’s worth pointing out, just went through an arc where she finally murdered her foster dad and then repeated his biggest crime with a new twist.
In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos meets Gamora while he and his armies are “decimating” her planet, explains his theory on balance to her, gives her a knife, and adopts her, seemingly on a whim.
Howard and artist Ariel Olivetti bring the two together in nearly the same way. Thanos and his Black Order are still on Zen-Whoberi, but this time they’re here to kill everyone, not 50% of the population. Thanos has a rival in this era, Magus, the leader of the Universal Church of Truth (it’s even less fun than it sounds), who likes to show up to planets and demand they convert or die. If Thanos kills all of Zen-Whoberi, Magus’ next target, he won’t be able to give them that choice.
Where the Thanos of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is infatuated with a warped idea of balance, the Thanos of Marvel Comics is infatuated with a woman: Lady Death, the Marvel Universe’s embodiment of, you guessed it, death. He fell in love with her in his childhood, when she appeared to him as a young girl his own age.
As the introduction to Thanos #1 says, “The girl promised to return his love if only he could prove himself to her. However, no matter how high Thanos’ death toll rose, she always demanded more. Realizing that he was the only person who could see his paramour, Thanos discovered that she was no woman, but the incarnation of death itself.”
That’s why Thanos kills — he’s trying to get her attention, like that guy who won’t leave your DMs no matter how little you interact with him.
And as Thanos observes the fleeing Zen-Whoberians, he sees the specter of Death observing tiny Gamora as she watches her parents and sibling immolated by an explosion. He travels to the planet’s surface to seek out this little girl who has done what he has not: caught Death’s interest. That’s when Gamora reveals something even more special about her relationship to Death.
“I was a little girl, the last person alive on the only planet I’d ever known...” Gamora’s closing narration says. “Of course I could see the face of Death.”
Thanos and Gamora’s arc was one of the thorniest parts of Avengers: Infinity War, sparking numerous discussions of how exactly the Soul Gem could define “love” to include Thanos’ abusive expectations of his adopted children. It looks like Howard and Olivetti’s Thanos will be exploring exactly that relationship, and it’s not afraid to pull in a bit of the MCU to do it.