Avengers vs Thanos Review
Marvel Studios’ most-awaited movie, Avengers: Infinity War, is fast approaching its release date and hype is fast approaching a fevered pitch. As such, Marvel Comics is pushing out a lot of tie-in materials in the hopes that the average movie-goer will pick up these comics for themselves or someone they know. You really can’t pick up a Marvel Comic these days without seeing either Thanos, an Infinity Gem Stone, or someone who’s hyped to hold one of the recently-recolored Infinity Stones. Marvel is even pushing out a larger than normal amount of trade paperbacks featuring Thanos or the Infinity Stones, and even reprinting old comics in the individual format as well.
The collection Avengers vs Thanos is one of them, and a sneakier entry into the trade paperback market.
This is, unfortunately, not the same-named earlier Avengers vs Thanos that collects much of the early Jim Starlin-penned Thanos stories. While most of those stories are awesome, they don’t tie in as closely as Marvel might like. It’s also not a renamed reprint of the classic Infinity War storyline either. That one begins with Thanos having the Infinity Gauntlet completed, and much of the hype around the new movie is Thanos getting those stones.
No, this is a collection of Marvel Universe: Avengers Assemble Season 2, featuring issues 1, 2, 11, 12, 15, and 16.
Before reading this trade, it’s rather important to note something that isn’t immediately obvious. This isn’t an actual original tale made for MU:AA, or a collection of themed tales written for the tie-in comic. Avengers vs Thanos is actually a photo-comic. There’s a hint of this by only crediting Joe Caramagna as a writer and adapter, but the only real clue is the back cover advertising that this was shown on Disney XD.
Our story begins with a bizarre alien invasion, with some of the aliens shooting one of their own out of the sky, while the others tussle with the Avengers. Since it crashes in Central Park, Captain America goes to investigate. It turns out the crashed alien is actually the Red Skull, who is petrified that Thanos is going to destroy everyone. He also has the red Power Stone, which Captain America barely uses to destroy other invaders. As it turns out, this Power Stone is also part of an old Stark family experiment, Project Arsenal, an intelligent autonomous robot that also wants to be Tony’s best friend.
Our story continues by having the Avengers fight Thanos on the Blue Area of the Moon, with the Watcher standing on the sidelines. Amusingly, it’s not explained why guys like Hawkeye, Cap, and Hulk can breathe on the Moon. They just can. It’s a really nicely done fight, but ends with Thanos claiming the Power Stone from Arsenal. Arsenal sacrifices itself to send Thanos back, but is rendered beyond repair in the process.
The collection then jumps nine issues ahead, with the Black Widow stealing three Infinity Stones from Iron Man’s vault. It’s not explained if he’s had them all along, or if the missing tales would have covered this. It turns out the stones have been corrupting the Avengers, and both Natasha and Thor have decided to get rid of the stones… only for the Guardians of the Galaxy to slip in and try to take them as well. Thanos decides to come in, take the remaining four stones (apparently, this continuity went with five stones instead of six), and the Avengers beat him with the power of friendship and snark.
In the final story, with the Avengers called off to an alien world to fight off the Black Order, and a newly-empowered Thanos. After the Avengers route the Black Order eventually, they need to take down a Kaiju-sized Thanos and pray they can keep him away from the Infinity Stones long enough to depower him. Can they do it? Well, seeing how the show got two more seasons after this and has just been renewed for a fifth...
In all, this isn’t a bad package. The screencaps are very serviceable in most places and the show’s art holds up very well as a bunch of images, though a few times the fact that the focus was off on some items revealed it was just a series of screencaps rather than actual comic art. However, the fact that this content was originally intended to be seen as a cartoon really makes for a jarring experience at times. Events sometimes occur more abruptly than the dialogue implies, leaving many things feeling like they’re happening at random. Jon Caramagna’s writing is also very good here, capturing the characters from the show well. Much of the credit probably needs to go to the original writers of the cartoon, but the package really works well as a whole. However, since it’s a direct adaptation of a cartoon rather than an actual original story, it feels like a Cliff Notes version of the original content. Missing ten issues between all the ones collected tends to do that.
In short, while it seems a little dishonest that Marvel’s slipping this out in the mayhem of hype for Avengers: Infinity War, there is something to respect for doing this. Since the actual show has long since passed covering Thanos, and the original adaptations were published long ago as well (2014 and 2015, respectively), this winds up being a great way to introduce younger readers to Thanos. Or, more likely, to try and bring younger readers entranced by the events of Avengers: Infinity War into the fold of reading Marvel Comics. This just probably isn’t the way to do it, though.
Really, Marvel needs to try again at making an all-ages line of comics. Sure, it would probably be based more along the lines of the movies, but this isn’t a bad thing. When the most family-friendly thing Marvel can do is either bring out a line of Archie Comics published digests of reprint materials or put out trade paperbacks of photocomics, there’s a problem.
Avengers vs Thanos (2018) earns a final grade of