Friday, June 19, 2015

A Gathering Of Heroes!

OR: "Titan: 1999"

A few things have happened since Captain Marvel was whisked away to a far-off location by the entity known as Eon and transformed into a cosmically-aware protector better able to challenge the mad Titan, Thanos. First on his list of things to do after being returned to Earth was to rescue Rick Jones' girlfriend, Lou-Ann, from the clutches of the Controller; he then crossed paths with Madame MacEvil Moondragon (known as "Moon Dragon" in these earlier stories) in the pages of Daredevil, allying himself with her before heading in the direction of Avengers Mansion in order to enlist the aid of those heroes in his continuing struggle against Thanos.

Yet, when the two arrive, they find a group of Avengers already dealing with a being who had arrived searching for Mar-vell in order to inform him of dire news regarding the Titan. Though it seems this intruder may have neglected to ring the doorbell:

And so the Avengers assemble--and you and I might as well sit in on Mar-vell's briefing, since it does a fair job of bringing us all up to date on the tale that artist Jim Starlin continues to build into Marvel's earliest epic involving Thanos of Titan.

With the Cosmic Cube in Thanos' possession, he's now able to strike at will, at any moment he chooses. Will these heroes even have time to act in order to save not only Earth, but perhaps the universe?

Unknown to anyone present at this heroes' summit, Thanos has been holding his own briefing--with himself, and one other--in order to plan his next move. And he, too, is assessing the threat potential of his enemies in order to act decisively against them.

Throughout this tale, we've seen the hooded personification of Death taking a place by Thanos' side and accompanying him as he tends to his intricate scheme to seize the power of the Cube. What hasn't been entirely clear is the reason why. The presence of the Watcher would be easier to understand, given the stakes here; on the other hand, there have been many such critical points in history where the Watcher hasn't materialized and chosen to observe personally, so we could reasonably presume that he's looking in on the situation from afar as it develops. But, Death taking a personal interest in such a scheme? In any scheme? Starlin presents us with a fascinating premise as to why that might be, at least from Thanos' point of view.

By all appearances--and by the way Starlin shapes this scene--it's reasonable to come to the conclusion that the feelings that Thanos expresses towards Death are mutual, which raises Thanos' profile considerably as a character, not only in this story but in his own right. But Death, as we've witnessed and as Thanos himself points out, isn't talking, on this subject or any other. That, in itself, bears some scrutiny; but Starlin realizes that her silence works well for the scene, and wisely tables the matter for now, at least for the reader.  In hindsight, we've seen that Starlin likely has good reason for keeping her mute.

Also tabled for now, it seems, are Thanos' plans for the Cube--but that doesn't mean he's not ready to act against those enemies he's put on his short list.

With Mar-vell and the others rendered helpless, Thanos at last reveals more of his plans--specifically, the fact that the Cube isn't all he's been busy acquiring, in the process of making Earth his stepping stone on the path to greater ambitions:

And as a demoralizing factor, Thanos demonstrates how the Cube has made it possible to imprison one of the original Olympian Titans that had long ago gone on to become a near-deity:

Finally, Thanos returns everyone to Titan, where he reveals that his plans will culminate in something called the "Grand Transformation." But Mar-vell has been working on a plan of his own, which will hopefully win their freedom and allow them to strike back. And it depends on first freeing his alter-ego, Rick Jones, from the Negative Zone, if only briefly:

With the Cube still in his possession, Thanos is still an overwhelming force to contend with, even off-balance. And speaking of off-balance, Mentor makes preparations to increase that state a hundred-fold.

It's a powerful moment, and certainly a visually stunning one, as Titan hurtles from its orbit to its possible destruction (and just a year before we would see a similar catastrophe befall Moonbase Alpha). Yet it's a scene mired in improbability, given that Titan, like any satellite, doesn't need the help of a mechanical, internal gyro ("cosmic" or not) to maintain its orbit--nor would that gyro have any association with the "life-support elements" which Mentor seeks to override (unless we're speaking in the general sense of a steady orbit keeping the moon's population alive). Perhaps it would have made more sense to describe the device as something that Mentor instructed Isaac to put in place in the event of a doomsday scenario--though equally improbable, in light of the world of peace and tranquility which Mentor set out to create.

Regardless, the chaos has given Mar-vell the chance to act, and his strike is well-placed, indeed:

You'd think that with Thanos being kept busy with the attacking Eros, Iron Man, and the Destroyer, Mar-vell would keep his eye on the ball and retrieve the Cube--he certainly had the seconds to do so, and surely "cosmic awareness" could keep track of a "Cosmic Cube" no matter where it had bounced off to or how wildly Titan was careening through space. For that matter, now that Thanos doesn't have the Cube, what's keeping the Destroyer from putting an end to him, here and now? Is he a match for Thanos or not? Well... the short answer is, not if Starlin has Mar-vell waiting in the wings.

When Moondragon's challenge is also met and defeated, Thanos ensnares everyone in energy tendrils to prevent further interference and sets all to rights regarding Titan. And then, without further delay, he uses the Cube to initiate the "Grand Transformation"--which, given the staggering result, is something of an understatement:

Let's not give up hope--we know the Destroyer can still take 'im!

(You look skeptical.)


Captain Marvel #31

Story and Pencils: Jim Starlin
Inks: Dan Green and Al Milgrom
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


Anonymous said...

Things look grim here.
There seemed to be a method to Starlin's wonderful madness, as Mar-Vells' cosmic awareness and martial arts skills seemed sufficient to keep even an all-powerful Thanos off-balance enough to prevent him from using his powers to their utmost. Still, Mar-vell is just playing for time, until he can figure something else out. At this point, he doesn't know what that something is. Hoo-boy. Hopefully the Destroyer can play some interference.
I always loved Starlin's flashback sequences, which were used to amazing, dramatic effect in Avengers Annual 7, aided by Joe Rubinstein's inks.
I guess if I got my hands on the Cosmic Cube, the first thing I would wish up would be an ice-cream cone, which would give Captain Marvel and Drax plenty of time to take me out.
Maybe an ice-cream cone and a force-field, to give me a little time to figure out my next move.
Mar-vell's not about to give Thanos any time to adjust to being a god.
One of my favorite comics and a great review.

david_b said...

One of my favs as well.., remember my previous mention of the Starlin keeping Swordy in the panels during this tenure..?

As a big fan of Swordsman-as-an-Avenger, it was a pleasant gesture.

I liked how Starlin weaved Mantis in with MarVell's cosmic awareness. Interesting move as well.

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