Review: Hulk vs. Thanos #1

(Marvel Comics, 2015)

Writer/Pencils- Jim Starlin
Inks- Andy Smith
Colors- Frank D’Armata

At this point even the casual comic book reader is familiar with the Infinity Gauntlet, at least by name; due mostly to its alluded to inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Certainly there is no other writer more closely connected to that story and perhaps even the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe than Jim Starlin. Starlin has dedicated more of his career to Thanos than any other character; beyond the various Infinity titles Starlin has penned several one shots, minis and even an original graphic novel featuring the exploits of the Mad Titan. So with that being the case I have to wonder why the big bad purple skinned villain occupies so few pages of this introductory issue allowing Pip the Troll to all but steal the show.

The idea of this story first came to light around the time Savage Hulk was launched. Marvel teased the concept of pitting these two Goliaths against one another with Starlin at the helm which would most likely mean the story would be set in the cosmic landscape of the Marvel U.

Fast forward a few months and that concept has become a full mini-series much to the joy of long time Starlin enthusiasts, but the new comers might find the material a bit harder to follow, particularly since this first issue consists mostly of set-up and exposition with very little actual Hulk/ Thanos action before the final pages of the book. That is not to say that this issue is without merit, quite the opposite, this is Starlin at his most ambitious. He digs deep into continuity populating this cosmic tale with characters from his previous forays into the far flung corners of the Marvel Universe. However, as I have stated this is not written for the first time Starlin reader, there is an abundance of references to his former work which results in a rather wordy and often times extremely exposition heavy pace that plods along; instead of speeding us through the intergalactic landscape Starlin becomes bogged down under the weight of his previous accomplishments. Once again its Pip the Troll who saves the day, his dubious plots and devious schemes progress the narrative enough to keep stagnation from setting in at times, even inadvertently providing the catalyst that brings the two titular titans together. His antics provide a degree of absurdity and nonchalance that offset the rather weighty cosmic elements at work here in Starlin’s complex narrative providing a bit of heart and strangely enough, humanity.

This is classic Starlin, love it or hate it, this is what this guy does best and he does it extremely well. The tonal quality is audacious, inventive and imaginative if a bit dated feeling. He has carved out a huge piece of real estate in Marvel’s cosmic neighborhood and made it indelibly his own by creating stories and characters so unique that they have taken on a kind of mythology unto themselves, separate but included in Marvel continuity, at least on the periphery. Starlin has done more to develop and meticulously flesh out Thanos than any other writer; his work on the character has become mandatory reading for anyone interested in the inception and evolution of this fearsome villain. He has painstakingly transformed Thanos from a space faring thug into a tyrannical ruler wielding god-like power. Starlin has an intimate comprehension of this character and it is precisely that kind of detail that has crafted Thanos into a nuanced, complex character and one of, if not the number one, most intriguing and formidable Marvel villains.

Starlin is reunited on this issue with the creative team responsible for the recent Thanos: The Infinity Revelation graphic novel, so the result is a very similar appearing book. For the most part, Starlin’s style has not changed since his first foray into Marvel’s Cosmic Universe, which again is great news for Starlin purists but for those who may be new to his work it may seem more than a little dated when compared to some of today’s more dynamic artists. I love Starlin’s art because it harkens back to a time of wonder and discovery for me but without that nostalgic barometer to inform my opinion his work appears flat at times and by its very nature, extremely dated. However, Starlin shows particular expertise in his dynamic use of panels and in his inventive page compositions. There is no disputing the fact that he is a consummate professional and that is reflected in his clean line work which is enhanced by Andy Smith’s precise inking style. Frank D’Armata’s colors work well in bringing Starlin’s intergalactic settings to vibrant life.

Over all this issue didn’t knock me out but it did set the stage for some pretty major events in the coming chapters of this epic tale, however Starlin could have spent just a little less time on exposition and set up in the interest of pacing. The book is classic Starlin from start to finish and for that fact alone I would not recommend it to first time readers as an introduction to his work. It relies quite heavily on previous events in Starlin’s very unique section of the Marvel Universe so for anyone who appreciates strict adherence to continuity I highly suggest picking this one up. Starlin is something of an acquired taste, but for those of us who have acquired it this series is sure to feed the cosmic need. (4/5)

Reviewed by Shawn Warner


shawnwarner-bio-pic1-crop22

Name: Shawn Warner

Twitter Account: @shawnwarner629

City: Baltimore, MD

Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading,
collecting and living comic books for over 30 years.
He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots
of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.

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