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The Thanos Imperative: An Out of this World Overview of 5 Glorious Years of Marvel Cosmic Comics

The Thanos Imperative is a 6 issue mini-series published by Marvel Comics in 2010. I love it and want to tell you about it, but to do that, I’ll need to take you back in time to 2006, plus take you on a journey across the entire Marvel Universe.

The journey to The Thanos Imperative begins with Annihilation, the gloriously entertaining Marvel cosmic crossover that was written primarily by Keith Giffen but had writing contributions from the tag team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who went by DNA.

I did a full reading order for Annihilation, so I’ll point you there if you want an issue-by-issue look. Let’s just sum up here:

Marvel’s Annihilation

Annihilation was a 6-issue miniseries published in 2006 that sprawled into a 30 issue behemoth with the inclusion of several accompanying 4-issue minis that featured solo supporting characters.

The core 6-issue is EXCELLENT. The plot goes thusly: A wave of Annihilus’ minions invade the Marvel 616 from the Negative Zone, a realm that traces its origins back to Stan the Man. Nova forms an army to oppose the Annihilation Wave, an army that includes Drax, Gamora, Ronan the Accuser, the Heralds of Galactus, and Peter “Star-Lord” Quill.

As if that isn’t enough, the story includes Thanos. It’s *ahem* cosmic in scope.

As I mentioned, that’s just the 6-issue core miniseries, so take that deep dive if you want to know which of the 4-issue solo character series are skippable. Just don’t skip the Nova mini, nor Nova (vol 4), the ongoing series that spins out of it. Fans of the New Warriors will recognize Richard Rider, but this is him all grown up and serving in the Nova Corps. That is where the writing team DNA cuts their teeth on Marvel cosmic titles and hoo-boy are you in for an exciting journey across the galaxy at light space!

Marvel’s Annihilation: Conquest

I’ve seen a thousand movies where a botoxxed action hero jumps out of a speeding car onto the hood of another speeding car while shouting “Take the wheel!” toward the passenger seat. Marvel had aspirations to reestablish their cosmic characters and they shouted at Abnett and Lanning to take the wheel, promoting them from writing the Nova series to driving the rocket ship that was Annihilation: Conquest.

Marvel again published a 6-issue miniseries that was supported by several 4-issue character-driven miniseries. Here is a deep dive that goes through each series.

The Phalanx are the primary enemy of Annihilation: Conquest, as they use the confusion of the Annihilation Wave to take control of the Kree army through their techno-organic virus. The swift and sweeping invasion by the techno-organic Phalanx leaves a war-weary galaxy reeling. The same heroes from the Annihilation are present, but they are overwhelmed, sidelined, or simply suffering post trauma.

Worse, the universe itself is impacted. Back-to-back wars damaged the fabric of the universe, threatening to open up a tear that Star-Lord calls “The Fault.”

As a lead in to The Thanos Imperative, definitely read the core 6-issue Annihilation: Conquest (2007) plus the Nova regular series, both written by DNA. Annihilation: Conquest Starlord #1-4 by Keith Giffen is also excellent and leads to a monthly Guardians of the Galaxy (vol 2) series that is a must read.

Unless you are a completionist, skip the rest and let’s set our thrusters toward The Thanos Imperative.

Marvel’s War of Kings

Nova was reestablished as a cosmic force and the Guardians of the Galaxy had been successfully reimagined and would soon appear in the MCU. But Marvel wanted to shoehorn in the X-Men.

Although I attempted a deep dive, the reading order for War of Kings is an absolute mess. You can read the core 6-issue story written by DNA but it doesn’t bring much to The Thanos Imperative other than let a reader know that the Inhumans and Shi’ar are now engaged in cosmic affairs.

Do keep up with the Nova solo series and the Guardians of the Galaxy monthly title however, as they are incredible as well as critical to your enjoyment of what’s to come.

Marvel’s Realm of Kings

Just keep up with Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy unless you really want the full scope of Realm of Kings, as the Inhumans and Imperial Guard series don’t add much.

Here’s what you need to know: The events of War of Kings was finally too much for the Fault, meaning a giant time-space tear has been created. Our heroes learn that the Fault leads to another universe described as the Cancerverse.

The Thanos Imperative

I realize it’s frustrating to go 600 words only to just now properly get to The Thanos Imperative. But the excellent Nova monthly series ends its run at issue 36, which is a tie-in directly to The Thanos Imperative. Guardians of the Galaxy does likewise at issue 25.

The two primary protagonists in The Thanos Imperative are Nova and Star-Lord, so those two series provide incredible context for the events to come. Simply reading those – plus the core Annihilation series, if you wish – are not quite required reading but they are close. Besides, both series are incredible.

Now: The Thanos Imperative. It is again a 6-issue miniseries, but this has very little tie-in issues, only Thanos Imperative: Ignition and Thanos Imperative: Devastation.

The first issue opens with a flashback on Nova and Star-Lord that goes back to Annihilation. If you’ve read DNA’s Marvel cosmic all the way through to this point, the payoff is incredible. You’ve journeyed with these characters and you will be fully invested in The Thanos Imperative.

Imagine an alternate universe where the entity Death has died, so life runs rampant, spreading like a cancer. But also imagine that life has been corrupted by Cthulhu-like influences. That’s the Cancerverse and the previous wars have allowed it an entry into the Marvel 616 universe.

Cosmic beings like Galactus must make a stand at the Fault to prevent beings from the Cancerverse from pouring in. And in an interesting reimanging of the classic Death of Captain Marvel, there are dark avatars of Earth’s Greatest Heroes trying to push into the Marvel Universe as well.

But who despises life more than Thanos, so Star-Lord makes a devil’s pact.

The Thanos Imperative is EXCELLENT. It is among the most entertaining comic books I have ever read. Standing alone, it is exciting, energetic, action-packed, and engaging. If you read it on the heels of Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy it picks up an extra layer of character depth that is among the best in comics.

DNA did a masterful job in rebooting the cosmic corner of Marvel Comics. If he wasn’t before, Nova will become one of your favorite characters and the mythos of the Nova Corps shines.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were established as a critical part of Marvel and the character work that was began here was further on the big screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I half hope you didn’t absorb a word of this article and you only skimmed the headline, which inspired you to give all of this era of Marvel cosmic a read. It’s so good, I’d love for more comic book fans to discover it as unspoiled as possible. I hope I whetted your appetite.

You can get The Thanos Imperative here. The whole enchilada is available via Marvel Unlimited or you can scan through my previous deep dive articles to find the appropriate trades in print. For now, I’ll point you to Nova and the Guardians: