To anyone who has seen the latest Avengers movies you will know that Thanos is not a nice chap. He single handily (infinitely glovely) creates an intergalactic genocide. Despite this, the films try to give him some sympathetic elements; he only wipes out so many to save the whole. The Thanos of Stuart Moore’s Thanos: Death Sentence is not the Thanos of the films, but that of the comic books. This is an alien who has no interest in saving the galaxy for the long term, but wants to sit beside his idol, Mistress Death. Can this irredeemable character ever change?
With the Avengers broken, many of them dead, and Earth on the brink of destruction, Thanos is finally close to his goal of destroying all, but it ends in failure. Being so close to glory, yet so far, angers Thanos’ muse, Mistress Death, and she sends him on a mission of redemption. He must live a series of other lives to discover what he truly wants from life and death. Will Thanos come out the other end a better person?
Death Sentence sells itself as a novel, but reads more like a series of shorter novelettes. This gives the book a portmanteau feel as Thanos lives three lives other than his own. Inside he is the same person, but what people see is different. Striped of his power and influence will he learn to be more humble?
The opening segment of the book feels like the type of epic space adventure you want to see in the Marvel comic books and films. We are thrown straight in and the fate of many a popular superhero is decided within moments and not usually to the good. However, this is just a tease as the true book starts later. The three tales follow Thanos as a petty thief, a middling General and a family man. The stories make him explore his true nature and give him time to reflect on past mistakes.
Taken on their own, all three short stories are fun. The thief element reads like classic fantasy in a science fiction livery. The General section is probably the weakest, but you get a good glimpse into the Kree way of life. I found the final story about Thanos being trapped on a remote farming community the most interesting as it proved to be the most removed from his original character.
The various tales in Death Sentence may all be different, but the thread that spans them all is Thanos himself. His lust for power and death controls his actions. In most cases he ends up with some megalomaniac plan that he would have executed in his original life given half the chance.
For this reason the third story is the most interesting. Thanos the man. He is stuck on a remote farming community with no escape and no powers. His time here spans decades and he is truly able to reflect. Although I did enjoy the story, I also felt it was a little out of place for the character. It was an interesting science fiction story, but one that Moore may have had on the backburner for a standalone novel and then repurposed for this Thanos outing.
With its three stories, Death Sentence feels like a slightly off centre read within the Marvel Universe. It is good to see author’s experimenting within the confines of Marvel, but at times this book just reads like three short stories that could have been set anywhere. This is only highlighted by the high octane action of the prologue that feels pure Marvel. I enjoyed this book as a science fiction outing, but not so much as a Marvel one. Worth a read for any fan of Marvel, just be prepared to be a little baffled in the directions the book takes.
Written on 17th May 2019 by Sam Tyler.
SFBook is entirely funded by Ant including hosting, development and any other costs.
If you enjoy the site please consider a small donation towards the cost of the upkeep and development of SFBook.