Mere days before the stateside premiere of "Iron Man 3," the character introduced in "Invincible Iron Man" #55 is the star of "Thanos Rising" #2, which continues the methodical investigation of the origin of the Mad Titan. Jason Aaron's writing seems like a great fit for this character on initial reaction, as does Simone Bianchi's art, but the duo just don't live up to my expectations for this story.
It may be that my expectations for this are not dissimilar to those I had when I originally learned of a planned trilogy of "Star Wars" prequels. There are characters that are just better left being evil and somewhat mysterious, and Thanos is the Marvel Universe equivalent of Darth Vader. To dive all the way back to the first playground slight against the Li'l Thanos or Li'l Vader begs the reader to find sympathy for the devil. Sometimes, the reader simply wants to read about the devil, the better to appreciate a universe's evil and magnify the goodness that same universe has to offer.
Aaron's work with Thanos is building towards the stories I want to see as a reader: Thanos earning his reputation as a badass. I'm not interested in the drawn out details of Thanos dissecting various species throughout the moon of Titan, nor am I interested in the rationale behind that. I am simply interested in why people are scared of Thanos. Give me that. Better yet, summarize it so succinctly that I can easily hand it off to a friend and say, "This is why that guy at the end of ‘Avengers' is cool." I have no doubt Aaron's going to get there, but first the writer is trying to build a case for decisions Thanos makes later in his life. Backstory we really don't need. While Marvel found success in this formula with "Red Skull: Incarnate," that story worked by showing the weakness that fueled the fire for the Red Skull's evil. In Thanos' case, the weakness lessens what should be one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe without a battle being waged.
Bianchi's artwork, like Aaron's writing is getting to the point. It just hasn't quite hit the point yet. The artist tends to draw iconic imagery rather than storytelling panels. While that's pretty to look at, it doesn't do much to instill motion, action or adventure in the pages of "Thanos Rising" #2. Bianchi's art is detailed and design-heavy and some of his figures bear a most striking resemblance to Gil Kane's work, but on the whole, the art just isn't where it feels like it should be, much like the story.
While most of my experience reading about Thanos involves him pining for Death or lusting after the Infinity Gems and being soundly defeated, I'm itching to see Thanos being bad. I don't want downtrodden Li'l Thanos dissecting things looking for the answer to the universe's questions, I want Thanos hunting down answers and squeezing them from the skulls of his prey. You know, kind of like Darth Vader did in the first "Star Wars" movie thirty-some-odd years ago. Aaron and Bianchi have the talent and the power to make Thanos being bad a good thing. I just hope they get to it soon.