No matter how magnetic Josh Brolin is when wearing a full face of CGI makeup—and the answer, it seems, is a surprising “more than you’d expect”—there’s no way that Avengers: Infinity War can fulfill everyone’s Thanos thirst. The character Brolin is embodying is almost too much for one person to take on. With that in mind, it’s time to head to the comic book shelves to learn more about the Mad Titan and what he’s all about. Forget about avenging—it’s time to read up on everything you need to know about the Marvel mega-villain. Start with these five titles first.
Thanos Quest #1-2
The roots of Thanos’ cinematic mission can be found in this 1990 miniseries written by the man who came up with the character, Jim Starlin. Created as a prelude to the Infinity Gauntlet comic book series—we’ll get there in a second—it’s as much an explanation of who Thanos is and what he wants as anyone needs, as well as the ideal illustration of just how far he’s willing to go to to achieve his ambition. (Spoiler alert: Pretty far, even by supervillain standards.)
How to read it: Available digitally and in second-hand bins, if you’re lucky.
The Infinity Gauntlet #1-6
Almost certainly the Thanos comic book storyline, The Infinity Gauntlet shows what happens when Thanos gets ultimate power—and why that’s really terrible news for anyone wanting to stand against him. Ready to watch your favorite superheroes get slaughtered while someone who wants to end half of all life has godlike abilities? This is where you go … especially because the complete series also demonstrates just why, as Kanye West once so poignantly put it, no one man should have all that power.
How to read it: Available digitally and in the Infinity Gauntlet print collection.
If Thanos Quest and Infinity Gauntlet are spiritual parents to Avengers: Infinity War, it’s clear the filmmakers definitely also looked at this 2013 “event series” for inspiration on how to actually execute the movie. Not only was this the place where the Cull Obsidian debuted ahead of their cinematic appearance, but there are echoes of the plot of this comic in the movie itself—not least of which being how hard the heroes will fight when it seems that all is lost. Sure, there may be no Infinity Gauntlet in this run, but as long as Thanos is causing chaos and disaster for everyone and everything around him, does it matter?
How to read it: Available digitally and in the Infinity print collection.
Thanos Rising #1-5
For those wondering just how one ends up being determined to create cosmic genocide on a scale literally unfathomable—even if, in Thanos’s eyes, he’s doing it for the right reasons—here’s your answer: The story of how a small child ended up growing up into one of the most terrifying, destructive forces in the entire universe.
How to read it: Available digitally and in the Thanos Rising print collection.
Thanos (2016) #13-18
As to where Thanos could go next, this six-part storyline from the just-concluded Thanos series is a fun possibility to explore. Titled “Thanos Wins,” it’s a story where that very thing has happened, but not in a way anyone expected—least of all Thanos, who comes face-to-face with a future version of himself that has achieved all of his aims, and remains dissatisfied with his life. (Being a Big Bad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, apparently.) As an added plus, there’s also the Sensational Character Find of 2018 to discover. Are you—is anybody—ready for … Cosmic Ghost Rider?!?
How to read it: Available digitally and in print editions