Racing towards its conclusion, “The Thanos Imperative” #5 offers some surprises, including a shocker of a cliffhanger, building off of the years of cosmic stories Abnett and Lanning have told. Instead of just ‘another event,’ this series does feel like the culmination of what’s come before. With two separate groups of heroes, the issue bounces back and forth, delivering a strong forward-moving pace that culminates in the confrontation between Thanos and Lord Mar-Vell, the Avatars of Death and Life for their respective universes.
The contrast between the two groups is stark. While the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thanos deal with the Revengers in the Cancerverse, the rest of the cosmic heroes and races confront the grim reality that the forces of the Cancerverse are too much for them to handle. In the Cancerverse, the Guardians catching a break when that version of the Scarlet Witch betrays her teammates in favor of her husband, the Vision, is a nice callback to both the relationship of Wanda and Vision and the events of “Avengers Disassembled.” She also acts a convenient way to transport the Guardians to the point of origin for the Many Angled Ones where Thanos can strike at them and help lead to the defeat of Lord Mar-Vell and the other Cancerverse heroes.
The resulting confrontation between the two forces at that point of origin delivers the best page of the entire series. The first panel has Thanos charging, screaming “MAR-VELL!” while Lord Mar-Vell moves at Thanos, yelling “THANOS!” and Star-Lord is left, in the final panel, clutching his head, realizing what’s about to go down, and saying, “OH @#$%!” The entire series has built to that page and DnA and Miguel Sepulveda pull it off.
In the regular Marvel Universe, the discovery of Star-Lord’s plan involving Thanos is divisive and puts the focus on Nova, which makes sense given his prominence in the stories until this point. DnA clearly put the onus of “The Thanos Imperative” upon the Guardians and Nova with the rest of the characters playing key yet supporting roles as established in previous stories. It’s nice to see the characters that carried things with their own series still receiving the lion’s share of the plot importance.
Miguel Sepulveda continues to evolve and improve as an artist here, especially in the fight between Thanos and the Guardians, and Mar-Vell’s forces. His Thanos is a large monster, towering over other characters. Understandably, something to be frightened of as he makes Lord Mar-Vell look weak and outmatched. Sepulveda’s art is at its best when he’s drawing something over-the-top and filled with energy. The talking scenes suffer a little, because his art is too stilted and stiff. When there’s a fight, he’s much more livelier and his figures look more integrated with one another and their surroundings.
With the shocking-but-not-surprising final page cliffhanger, what happens next is anyone’s guess. In this issue, DnA manage to deliver some payoff after months of build-up by centering on the characters that have driven the cosmic books for years. I’ve said it before, but it still stands: this is what an event comic should be.