Thursday, August 7, 2014

Not Really Off-Topic: Review of Marvel's THANOS: INFINITY REVELATION

I have been waiting for quite a while for Jim Starlin's newest MARVEL offering. Jim Starlin is responsible for Thanos, the greatest super-villain in all of comicdom, in my opinion. He is the mind behind the greatest cosmic story arcs Marvel has ever seen, and he's done much to develop some of my favorite characters in the whole Marvel universe. It isn't out of line to say that Starlin's spirit lays behind much of the mythos Disney is building with the Marvel Universe films, too. Now he is returning to the characters he did so much to develop so long ago, with the hardcover one-shot, THANOS: INFINITY REVELATION.

The two main characters in the book are two of my favorite characters in all of comic books, Thanos and Adam Warlock. The entire book revolves around their quest to complete a job given to them by some mysterious Higher Power, that stands over the entirety of the Marvel universe. This mysterious Source of Fate is supposed to be greater than Eternity, Infinity and The Living Tribunal, ostensibly the three greatest power sin the Marvel Universe. Thanos senses it calling him to investigate some strange device of vast cosmic power. Along the way he encounters many of the cosmic heroes that dominate Marvel. This gives him a chance to reflect upon the totality of his life, where he has come from and where he is going.

He is joined by the only being in the universe that he may call a friend. Adam Warlock has played the part of both Thanos' companion and his greatest enemy, but the two have a level of respect for one another that each lacks for almost any other being. In this story they are truly cosmic forces, representing a higher power that is beyond good and evil. Every aspect of this book is carefully planned out, and the effect is striking. Starlin is trying to reproduce the experience of a direct encounter with Mystery, Mystery as a godlike force which moves the universe along.

As he does this, he seeks to return these two titanic characters to what he sees to be the essence of their being. He wants to restore Thanos and Warlock to what he thinks they should be without simply retconning the history Marvel has built around the characters without his involvement. It is clear that Starlin sees these characters as embodying something vital and mystical. He cannot return them to their former state without creating a cosmic crisis around which the transformation takes place. For him, any shift in these characters' essences must correspond to a shift in the entire Marvel universe. If Adam Warlock and Thanos change so must the entire cosmos, if even on the smallest of scales.

The ostensible occasion for the shift is the merging together of two dimensions, something we are told is not completely unheard of but which rarely accompanies such fanfare as surrounds the reappearance of these two characters in this book.

It is clear to me that Starlin feels like he touches on something of the ultimate character of mystery in this comic book. Certainly the strangeness of the storytelling and the images share much in common with mystical experience as it is actually, well, experienced. But what is missing here is the conviction that behind the mystery there is ultimately love. It doesn't feel like Starlin sees the universe as indifferent per se, but rather as not having plans or goals that in any way account for the lives of particular beings, beyond their smaller role in some larger drama. There is much of Ecclesiastes in all of this, added to a bit of Ezekiel.

I for one find the Ultimate Mystery in love itself. Nothing to me matches up to the mystical like the simple emotion of love. And I take that to mean that behind the mystery there is love. That Mystery and Love are one. Of course there is enough of the demonic in the realm of the mysterious and the spiritual to make this question one that cannot be answered by experience alone. One has to truly make a leap of faith here. You have to believe in, ironically enough, Revelation, what God has revealed to particular people as recounted in scripture. You have to trust that behind the Mystery is Love. And that all will be well.

As I've said before taken only on the face of mystical experience, dualism makes perfect sense. So does, I suppose, the proposition that within God is both good an evil or neither. I've written recently about how I conceive of God as, in some sense, both 'beyond good and evil' and the source of all that is good. The one experience that trumps this kind of dualistic experience is Love itself. If God is not Love, then we would be required to worship Love rather than God. Love is the that one mystical encounter that trumps all others, and seems to be the most relevant to life in this world. Love is that which makes me believe that evil is not primary, but derivative. Particularly as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I see Love as proof that God is life and not death, and that what we call 'evil' is a rebellion against God and a leap into nothingness.

But this comic book does a good job at capturing the experience of the mystical. More than a good job, it is almost a mystical experience itself. For all that, and just because I like the way Starlin essentially resurrected his vision of two great characters, this book gets five stars.

Storyline: 4.5 Stars
Dialogue: 4 Stars
Pacing: 4 Stars
Art: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars

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