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Comic Book / The Thanos Imperative

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What I am is ANGRY. What I am is INSANE WITH RAGE. What I am is... THANOS!!

Our universe has been damaged. A series of ferocious interstellar wars have weakened the fabric of space and time, and it has begun to tear.

The largest tear became known as a region called the Fault. At first most thought it was just a unstable rip in time and space. Until they discovered what was on the other side.

An alternate universe that seems to have gone through a Cosmic Horror Story. "Life had won" and all were united under their ancient gods called Many-Angled Ones, death is meaningless and the universe is overflowing with life to the point of it becoming "full" (please note that said life is invariably of the unpleasant variety). Thus they have used the Fault as a gateway to invade the Marvel Universe to give their gods new space to consume. Only one thing may stand in their way.

Thanos, the Mad Titan, Avatar of Death, has been brought back to life.

Now all the key interstellar empires, cosmic heroes and forces of universe have descended on the Fault to stem the invading forces of the "Cancerverse", forces filled with Eldritch Abominations and twisted versions of Marvel's strongest.

A Marvel Comics Bat Family Crossover for Marvel's cosmic/space titles that spun out of 2009's Realm of Kings storyline and various story elements that have been introduced under the tenure of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning post-Annihilation Marvel cosmic era.

Tropes in this comic:

  • And the Adventure Continues: The story ends with the Annihilators meeting Ikon of the Space Knights of Galador, who tells them that there's an emergency on planet Galador.
  • Anyone Can Die: The Thanos Imperative is the culmination of Abnett and Lanning's cosmic Marvel comics, and a lot of the characters from them end up dead. Phyla-Vell already died in the prologue to this story in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the miniseries itself kills off Drax, Thanos, Warlock/Magus, and, ultimately, even Star-Lord and Nova, the two main characters. Though this being the Marvel Universe, most of them inevitably came back sooner or later.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Quasar in the Realm of the Kings one shot that preceded this event.
  • Apocalypse How: Thanos invokes a Class X-4 on the Cancerverse and was about to ramp it up to Class X-5 before Nova and Star Lord began to intervene.
  • Avengers Assemble: In The Thanos Imperative epilogue, Cosmo does this for the "Annilators".
  • Back from the Dead: Thanos, and he is not pleased about it.
  • Beard of Evil: All the Marvel alternates have some slight and not so slight variations to their designs... besides the red glowing eyes and the occasional tentacle.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Nova showing up in the Cancerverse to save the Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Body Horror: Does not begin to describe what's happened to the inhabitants of the Cancerverse.
  • Bury Your Gays: Thanos kills Phyla-Vell in the prologue. She's also the only major character who died in the event that has stayed dead in the years since.
  • Call-Back: The Annihilators arguing about their name in similar way the Guardians of the Galaxy did in first issue of their adventures.
  • Came Back Wrong: Thanos certainly feels this way about being trapped in the land of the living as a post-nigh-unkillable being.
  • Continuity Nod: Drax putting on a variation of his original costume as they go into the Cancerverse.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Guardians of the Galaxy vs. Defenders of the Realm. Notably the one page battle between Cosmo vs Cancerverse Hulk and Thanos' contribution.
  • The Death of Death: We see an alternate universe called "The Cancerverse". In the Cancerverse, "life won" and Death was destroyed. This resulted in all life in the universe becoming a Cosmic Horror Story (almost all living beings in the Cancerverse worship the "Many Angled Ones") and almost all available space in the universe is filled by a truly horrifying organism, described as "a cancer attempting to metastasize into our reality" to find more space to occupy.
  • Death Seeker: Thanos, of course. He even thanks Drax for killing him previously. Which makes his latest resurrection an Unwanted Revival.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: And it ain't pretty.
  • Defector from Decadence: The Cancerverse Scarlet Witch aids the heroes and her husband the Vision in reaching the site of the Necropsy Ritual. She gets her soul eaten by Lord Mar-Vell for her troubles.
  • Dirty Coward: What Lord Mar-Vell ultimately is, as he sold his soul along with his comrades and the entire universe to the Many-Angled ones in order to escape death. This is why Thanos utterly despised him and compares him negatively to Captain Mar-Vell.
    • Also Blastaar, who likes to talk big only to cut and run when things get hot, then at the end of the series launches an attack on the Inhumans/Kree while taking advantage of them being weakened by the battle against the Cancerverse.
  • The Dragon: Lord Mar-Vell acts as the herald and head underling for the Many-Angled Ones.
  • Eldritch Abomination: An entire universe.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Revengers, Defenders of the Realm and the Cancerverse's main leader Lord Mar-Vell.
    • During one of the Realm of Kings miniseries, the Cancerverse's counterparts of the X-Men appeared to fight the Shi'ar Imperial Guard.
    • After the abstracts get involved, they invoke the Cancerverse's own Galactus Engine. Serious Oh, Crap! moment.
      • To put this in perspective, there was an alternate version of Galactus in the Cancerverse. This is not just Oh, Crap! but Fridge Horror- the Many-Angled Ones killed this version and made a weapon out of his corpse. The real horror is both that the Galactus Engine is actually winning against the abstracts, and the Many-Angled Ones are pushing it from behind... and the abstracts can sense they are even stronger than it is.
    • It later turns out it's not just Galactus, it's every other cosmic being... including the Cancerverse version of Thanos.
  • Empathic Environment: Inverted. Because he's an Avatar of Life, Drax is influenced by the Cancerverse. It makes his need to kill Thanos irresistible. Meanwhile, Thanos is physically hurt just by setting foot in it.
  • Eviler than Thou: The Magus, the Big Bad from Guardians of the Galaxy, is killed at the very beginning of the event by his boss.
  • Fake Defector: Thanos surrenders to Lord Mar-Vell so that he will try to kill him and bring him close to Death. Literally, it allows Death to eradicate the Cancerverse.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Rocket Raccoon threatens to paralyze Thanos and dump him into a black hole, betting on the fact that he won't die, so he's threatening Thanos with the thought of living forever. It gets him to calm down.
  • Foreshadowing: At the beginning of the event, Thanos' internal monologue mentions that Mar-Vell died against his will, setting up the reveal of who it is that's leading the Cancerverse forces...
  • For Want Of A Nail: The only difference between the Earth-616 universe and the Cancerverse before things became tentacly was that the Cancerverse was a bit closer to the center of the multiverse, where the Many-Angled Ones lay.
  • From a Single Cell: Drax uses an anti-matter charge on Thanos, reducing him to a smoking skeleton. A few seconds later, this happens. Needless to say, Thanos isn't happy with this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Star-Lord and Nova stay behind in the Cancerverse to keep Thanos from escaping and destroying the Marvel Universe. It apparently doesn't take for any of them. A few years later, Thanos and Star-Lord manage to get out of it... A few more years after, Nova is finally rescued by his successor.
  • Hit You So Hard, Your X Will Feel It!: When Thanos kills Drax, Lord Mar-Vell feels it from another universe.
  • Immortality Field: Death is meaningless in the Cancerverse and it is overflowing with life to the point of it becoming "full." It all began when somehow, somebody killed Death and allowed Life to grow unrestrained. The entire universe is under the influence of Elder Gods and, using the Fault that has opened up in the main 616 universe, they are now intent on corrupting the rest of reality.
  • Ironic Echo: For once, Richard gets to tell the Worldmind that it's "critical you pay attention at this time!"
  • Killed Off for Real: Thanos is capable of inflicting this on the inhabitants of the Cancerverse.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: All inhabitants in the Cancerverse naturally, though how much of this is due to the influence of the Many-Angled Ones is left to the imagination.
  • Made of Iron: The creatures the Cancerverse send to attach the regular universe are by word of Gladiator very hard to kill even before dealing with the whole "undying" thing.
  • Monster from Beyond the Veil: Pretty much everyone from the Cancerverse.
  • Mortality Grey Area: The only exceptions to those not corrupted in the Cancerverse are Mechanical Lifeforms like the Vision, who are forming a resistance. As robots aren't truly alive, the Many-Angled Ones can't affect them at all.
  • Oh, Crap!: Lots.
    • First, by everyone present when Adam Magus blows up multiple planets to fully open The Fault.
    • Then by Nova when one of the Abstracts is killed right in front of him.
    • The Guardians have this reaction a few times; first when they find themselves in the Cancerverse, surrounded by the Defenders Of The Realm with their main cannon, Thanos, unconscious; and later on, when Thanos and Drax try to kill each other (with Thanos succeeding) and when Thanos double-crosses them:
    • And finally, by Big Bad Lord Mar-Vell, when he realizes that Thanos tricked him into bringing Death to the Cancerverse.
    • Blastarr in the epilogue, when he encounters the Annihilators.
    Quasar: Shall we take it outside?
    Blastarr: Oh shi-
  • Only Sane Man: The Scarlet Witch is the only Revenger who realises that, yeah, having an Eldritch Abomination attached to your soul isn't a good investement. Redemption Equals Death, however.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Silver Surfer snarks in issue 4. Those present are amazed.
  • Prescience Is Predictable: Mantis in the final issue.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: The Cancerverse eliminated Death. This was a very bad thing.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Every living being in the Cancerverse has glowing red eyes, presumably a consequence of being host to Eldritch Abominations.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: The Resistance, lead by the alternate The Vision is made of the few Marvel mechanical life that weren't wiped out in the early in the conversion of the Cancerverse.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: The Many-Angled Ones are not simply Captain Ersatz of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulian abominations; they are his Cthulian abominations, or more accurately some of them are. They are explicitly three of the Great Old Ones, with classic Marvel Eldritch Abomination Shuma-Gorath thrown into the mix (see below- Marvel canon recognizes Shuma-Gorath as the Master of the Old Ones, confirming that he is the most powerful of the Great Old Ones). The term actually comes from Grant Morrison who used it in Zenith, and they says they are also known as the Lloigor, from August Derleth's Lovecraftian stories, though Morrison promoted them to Great Old One status. The moniker "Many-Angled Ones" is meant to imply that they exist in several dimensions and what we see is only "one angle" of them; they are literally dipping into our level of existence.
    • Shuma-Gorath (who is named after a unseen sorcerer from Conan the Barbarian) is probably better known as one of the most powerful enemies of Doctor Strange and has been around since the 70's.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Drax the Destroyer.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Later developments make Star-Lord and Nova's actions in the finale pointless, since Thanos gets an Unexplained Recovery and the Cancerverse is no longer collapsing in itself. Death eventually vanishes from it again despite the climax of this event (mostly because future writers either forgot or simply went with it to justify Star-Lord and Nova's returns).
  • Shout-Out: to Hellsing. Lord Mar-Vell forms the Hellsing family Seal, complete with faded letters spelling out "Hellsing", "And Shine Heaven Now" and "Gott mit uns".
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: In the opening issue, a flashback shows Peter Quill describing his past self as a "hopeless romantic".
  • Spin-Off: The Annihilators miniseries.
  • Team Power Walk: Performed by Nova, Quasar, Beta Ray Bill, Gladiator, Ronan the Accuser and Silver Surfer. And becomes the tease before the issue's release as the basis for fan speculation of a cosmic Avengers after the event.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Well, what did you expect? Thanos surrenders and allows Mar-Vell to kill him, drawing Death to the Cancerverse and letting her destroy it.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Thanos, obviously and to a lesser degree Drax.
    • Blastaar, first running during the last battle against the Cancerverse and then a week afterward, attacking the capital of the Kree home world.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Drax gets increasingly belligerent and aggressive as the event proceeds. Justified since killing Thanos is his purpose, he's physically compelled by the universe itself to do it. And then they enter the Cancerverse, which only makes it worse...
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: The Guardians of the Galaxy at the start decide to warp themselves and Thanos deep into the Cancerverse early on, hoping to find a way to stop the invasion.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Thanos's default state on being resurrected. "Unstoppable" in the sense of being able to kill an entire planet in a few hours.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Thanos after his resurrection finds himself unable to die and return to the side of his beloved Death.
  • The Worf Effect: The Big Bad Lord Mar-Vell pulled this with most of the characters in the story. The most obvious example is Magus, who was a massively powered Big Bad of his own in Guardians of the Galaxy, yet here Mar-Vell casually kills him with a wave of his hand.
    • The only exception is Thanos, who is shown to physically overpower Mar-Vell before his apparent surrender.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Despite the arrival of the massive Galactus Engine to battle the cosmic abstracts and entities, to both the reader and the non-abstracts at the battle, it does nothing. The Silver Surfer is the one that explains that both the Galactus Engine and the other abstracts are in a battle that the rest can't fathom until the consequences have already been decided. Likely doubles as an Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
  • You Have Failed Me: Adam Magus, the Cancerverse version of Adam Warlock and head native cheerleader for Lord Mar-Vell, at the end of the Ignition one shot and prologue.
  • Your Head A-Splode: What happens to an abstract that is killed in a battle we can only see the results of.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the start of the series half of the Guardians follow Star-Lord into the Cancerverse and the other half goes to the frontlines to fight. The only member of the group that went to the frontlines shown is Major Victory, who is later among the captured anomalies on the Cancerverse flagship.
    • Inverted with Beta Ray Bill, who appears halfway through the event (the above-mentioned Team Power Walk is the first panel to actually show him), but is treated as though he has been there for the entire fight.