Who the heck is Thanos? Why is everybody talking about him after The Avengers and the lead up to Avengers: Infinity War? What makes me think “everybody” talks about the same things I talk about, despite clear evidence to the contrary? Keep reading to find out and see how you can read every Thanos comic ever:
Marvel did a lot of things right in their approach to the first Avengers movie. But one thing they absolutely nailed, time after time, was the use of after-credits shorts to build excitement for the next episode.
Whether it was Thor’s hammer, Nick Fury talking Avengers Initiative, or Loki & the cosmic cube, Marvel struck an impressive balance between fanboy nerd revelations and mass consumer curiosity.
The Avengers was no different in its after-credits buzz-building. If you saw the film any time in the first month of its release, there’s a strong chance you heard comic guys & gals in the audience inhale with the sort of excited shock generally reserved for marvels of God. Things like walking over the Grand Canyon. Watching a dolphin leap out of Hawaii’s icy blue coast. Discovering another human is willing to get naked with you.
It was an appropriate reaction, then, for as we’ll see, this after-credits revelation is truly a Marvel God: Thanos, the mad Titan (in all his high-res glory below).
This is the first time Marvel Studios has used the credits for a major character reveal, and while Thanos is easily one of the coolest characters in the Marvel cosmic canon, he’s not exactly a household name. It’s understandable if you were one of the ones in the audience going “Wha? Huh?!” as I high-fived my wife’s shoulder excitedly (she stopped offering a hand after about the 12th time).
Who is Thanos? In short, he’s one of the single most powerful, diabolical, brilliant and riveting villains in the Marvel canon. He’s like the Dr. Doom of space, but probably even smarter, and with better gloves.
So without further ado, if you’re looking to stride into Avengers: Infinity War with the confidence of this guy, or if you’re looking to enjoy the schemes of the Titan with the Purple Scowl in full, here’s the complete Thanos reading order guide. You can click each link below for full reading information. Enjoy!
Thanos Reading Order (Jim Starlin’s Cosmic Comics!)
- Thanos’ First Appearance, Captain Marvel, And the Cosmic Cube
- Thanos Returns – War w/ Adam Warlock
- Avengers vs. Thanos
- A lot of readers have asked me “Hey, what about the Avengers vs. Thanos trade? Where does that fit?” It’s a good question, and essentially, Avengers vs. Thanos will give you a combined package of 1) Thanos First Appearance + Captain Marvel & the Cosmic Cube & 2) The Adam Warlock adventures. It also adds a few oddball Daredevil issues that technically involve Thanos. If you’re a purist, you’ll miss out on a few Warlock issues, but all in all it’s a good trade that gets you the best of early Thanos stories!
- The Death of Captain Marvel
- Marvel’s first official Original Graphic Novel is – as you’d expect – a Jim Starlin Captain Marvel story through and through. Aside from simply being a classic and all-time great, though, Starlin does weave some Thanos throughout, and the graphic novel can fit within the larger Thanos narrative.
- Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos + Thanos Quest
- Infinity Gauntlet
- Note that the above link will provide a full event reading order for the early 90’s Infinity Gauntlet. The comics included are based on the Infinity Gauntlet Omnibus, although I have reordered significantly as the omnibus is a chronological mess. While I enjoy the Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange tie-ins, the core series is accessible on its own, and you can enjoy that here!
- Infinity Gauntlet: Aftermath
- Worth noting that this trade is the easiest way to get at Warlock & the Infinity Watch #1 to #6 – issues that are NOT currently included in Marvel Unlimited (boooo!!!)
- You could also pick up the Infinity Watch Vol. 1 here, which collects Warlock & the Infinity Watch #1 to #22. Only read Infinity Watch #1 to #7 prior to Infinity War, issues #8 to #10 are tie-ins, and #11 to #17 are included in the Infinity War: Aftermath.
- Infinity War
- The Warlock and the Infinity Watch tie-ins are the most highly recommended Infinity War tie-ins, but if you want to play along in Marvel Unlimited (as of 8.28.16):
- Infinity War Reading Order:
- Warlock and the Infinity Watch #7
- Infinity War #1
- Fantastic Four #366
- Infinity War #2
- Fantastic Four #367
- Infinity War #3
- Marvel Comics Presents #108 to #111
- Fantastic Four #368
- Warlock and the Infinity Watch #8
- Daredevil #310
- Infinity War #4
- Guardians of the Galaxy #27 to #29
- Warlock and the Infinity Watch #9
- Infinity War #5
- Fantastic Four #369
- Warlock and the Infinity Watch #10
- Infinity War #6
- Fantastic Four #370
- Infinity War: Aftermath
- Infinity Crusade
- Infinity Watch Vol. 2
- Thanos: Cosmic Powers
- Includes Secret Defenders #12 to #14, and Cosmic Powers #1 to #6.
- Thanos in Thor #21 – #25
- Infinity Abyss
- Thanos Ends the Marvel Universe
- 2003 – 2004 Standalone Thanos arc
- I’d consider jumping to my modern Marvel cosmic reading order at this point. That will fill in the entirety of the Marvel Cosmic landscape around Thanos. Naturally, the mad Titan is a major player in all the events leading up to The Thanos Imperative.
- Thanos and Annihilation
- It’s worth noting here that Annihilation sparks modern Marvel Cosmic, and although these books are inherently indebted to the one and only Jim Starlin, he’s not involved directly in the saga. Nonetheless, the full Thanos narrative would not be complete without Annihilation through Thanos Imperative. You can view the full reading order here.
- The Thanos Imperative
- Thanos Rising
- If you’ve been following me on Comic Book Herald for any amount of time, you know that I can’t stands Thanos Rising. Nonetheless, it’s an in-continuity part of the Thanos narrative. The book deals with the origins of Thanos, meaning in theory, you could place it first on any reading order. Personally I think that’d be a horrible mistake, as there’s no way this should define the character of Thanos.
- Pay close attention to the New Avengers #8 tie-in!
- Thanos: A God Up There
- Thanos Annual #1
- Deadpool vs. Thanos
- The Infinity Revelation
- Thanos vs. Hulk
- The Infinity Relativity
- The Infinity Entity
- The Infinity Finale
- Time Runs Out! – New Avengers #24 to #33
- For the full reading order (which includes crossover with Avengers and Avengers World), you’ll want to check out the Secret Wars reading order.
- Secret Wars
- Ultimates: Omniversal Vol. 2
- Although Ultimates Vol. 1 does not directly relate to Thanos, you’re going to enjoy this second volume a whole lot more if you’ve read the first six issues of Ewing and Rocafort’s Ultimates. It’s also one of my favorite All-New All-Different Marvel series.