Thursday, March 22, 2018

Starlin's Thanos, part 4 of 10: The Gloves Are on

Need to catch up? Part 1: The Mad Titan and the Cosmic Cube; Part 2: Chaos Meets the True Neutral; Part 3: Laid to Rest

In 1987, writer Steve Englehart launched the Silver Surfer into a new ongoing series, one which finally placed the cosmic hero into cosmic surroundings, pitting him in the midst of a new Kree-Skrull War and repeated clashes with the Elders of the Universe. In the course of the series, the Elders obtained the six Soul Gems which had lain dormant since Thanos' death.

When Jim Starlin arrived as the new writer of Silver Surfer in 1990, Englehart's use of the Soul Gems was like a blessing to him. Joining with artist Ron Lim (inks by Joe Rubinstein & Tom Christopher), Starlin wasted no time in bringing his pet character back: in issue #34, Death herself raises Thanos from the dead to correct a cosmic balance - that is, there is too much life in the universe. Thanos' mission is to deplete the universe's population by 50%.

The Silver Surfer proved a capable foe for Thanos, he being a stolid, honorable man like Mar-vell and Adam Warlock had been in earlier Starlin epics. The comparisons between the Surfer and Adam Warlock grew all the more during issues #40-43, during which Thanos faked his death and lured the Surfer to the bureaucratic Dynamo City for the reading of his will. The frustrations the Surfer found in Dynamo City recalled the kangaroo court the Universal Church of Truth ran in Starlin's Warlock.

Thanos spent issue #35 calmly explaining his rationale behind universal genocide, it being his contention that there is simply too much life to properly sustain itself. This was the first time Starlin attemted to grant Thanos a point of view, rather than simply lusting after destruction for Death's favour. These stories also saw the introduction of Thanos' floating chair, which would become a staple, and his teleportation technology which was first used in Warlock became a standard part of his equipment.

At the same time they were creating Silver Surfer, Jim Starlin and Ron Lim (with inker John Beatty) created Thanos Quest, a two-part prestige format comic book which marked the first time Thanos took a starring role. In order to fulfill his mission from Death, Thanos sets after the Soul Gems to obtain omnipotent power. Thanos easily fights his way through the Elders of the Universe and adopts the gems, renaming them 'Infinity Gems.' Ergo, Thanos' gauntlet is now the 'Infinity Gauntlet.'

It should be said, the Infinity Gauntlet is just Thanos' glove. The glove existed decades before the famous Infinity Gauntlet story. And yet, in decades to come many revisits of the Infinity Gems have involved Thanos' glove, for no good reason other than it being the form the six were wielded in previously.

Starlin brought his reliable Drax the Destroyer back from the dead, once again sent by Kronos to hunt Thanos. However, Starlin took advantage of the means by which Drax died to alter him; because Moondragon had killed Drax psychically, his new body has suffered tremendous brain damage, leaving him fairly, well -- stupid. In the course of this lengthy arc which ran from Silver Surfer #34-50 (then continued in Infinity Gauntlet), the Surfer and Drax were briefly drawn into Adam's Soul Gem by Thanos. Within the gem, the Surfer and Drax met Adam, Gamora, Pip and the others Adam had absorbed.

I should also mention that Nebula - the granddaughter of Thanos whom Roger Stern created after Thanos' death - suffered somewhat under Starlin's hands. Starlin was (and is) very protective of Thanos and wasted little time in pitting Thanos against Nebula, with Thanos pointing out how incredulous it is to think that a man who devoted his life to death would ever create life. Starlin's slight against Nebula was the first of many course-corrections Starlin would make.

The storyline Starlin had been creating in Silver Surfer proved to hold so much potential it grew beyond the scop of just one book...

Next Tuesday: The Power Glove.

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