Marvel Comics’ Thanos #1 reveals the Mad Titan’s adopted daughter Gamora, the deadliest woman in the galaxy, is among the very few beings capable of casting eyes upon the little-seen embodiment of Death.
Set long before the grown-up Gamora slays the warmonger Thanos, who has an obsession with Death, “Zero Sanctuary” part one finds Gamora recounting her days growing up on Alpha Prototype O: Base Ship Sanctuary, better known as Zero Sanctuary, a half-finished space station commandeered by Thanos.
Originating as a base for the ships under Thanos’ armada, a “bloodthirsty crew of pirates, soldiers, and mercenaries he’d gathered under his command,” Zero Sanctuary became “less a warship and more a house haunted by its master.”
The Butcher Squadron — assassin Ballista Grim, joyful killer Proxima Midnight, the foolish Ferox, living hive Infesti Macera, and neophyte Ebony Maw — are seen gambling. Ferox is picked off when heading to the bathroom and is pinned to a table by captain Thanos, who quiets the squealing alien: “Shh. It’s for her.”
Death, in her hooded human-looking form, watches quietly from behind. “For who?!” Ferox screams, begging not to meet death.
The next day, Maw points out Ferox never returned. “If I’m not mistaken, this is the sixth consecutive occasion of our receiving orders immediately following the disappearance of one of our crewmates. Something to think about.”
Thanos, suited in his armor, issues orders: quickly exterminate any of the pacifistic Dorcaernir they come across. “Kill them,” Thanos yells, leading the Butcher Squad into battle. “Every last one!”
Gamora recalls the “awakening in your chest when you take a life” as commanded by Thanos, who closes in and kills a young member of the green-skinned race who barely escaped death at Proxima’s hand. Overlooking the slaughtered Dorcaernir, the killers are ordered back to the ship.
Back on Zero Sanctuary, Maw points out something has changed in Thanos. “His furor is waning. His bloodlust seems staggered, irregular, chaotic,” Maw says. “There is only so much he can kill and only so much it can mean, yes?”
Maw says it’s better when their chosen prey fights back. Confronted by Thanos, Ballista admits it’s “too easy,” saying the slaughter was little more than picking off roaches.
“If it’s more challenging prey you want,” Thanos says, “them more challenging prey you will get!”
“Thanos spent a lot of time then in the presence of things that would not question him,” present-day Gamora says into her recording.
“A vision of a woman that surely loved him so dearly that she would let no one else see her — and a machine, meant only to find him the more dire threats to his rule.”
Thanos orders the computer to show him current potential hazards to quell his restless crew. The computer reports on Thanos’ primary threat, the Magus, leader of the Universal Church of Truth, who commands an army of zealots, his clerics, rivaling the size of Thanos’ own forces.
“The church maintains a purification form of missionary work that exterminates alien races that do not convert. Much like you, the Magus is extremely powerful and...”
It’s cut off. Thanos insists it not compare the Magus to his own might. “He is currently your primary threat,” the computer responds. “Until he is dispatched, I will continue to suggest—” Enough.
The computer reports his secondary threat: the planet Lazareen, home to a regenerative species who was recently cut down by Thanos and his forces. Enough time has passed for their life cycle to be complete, resulting in thousands of sleeping larvae waiting on the planet’s surface — but Thanos, angered, does not want to be taunted by “insulting missions of stomping eggs before they hatch.”
Despite the computer’s warnings Thanos’ armada would not survive an attack following an interstellar journey to the Magus’ location, Thanos cracks a smile: “If I continue to taunt him... heh. Oh yes.”
Another underling, a strategist known as Snare, is picked off by Thanos. Thanos consults with Snare, telling him he’s not destined to fight the Magus for “many, many years,” but admits “the threat he will pose makes him my prime enemy. It is ideal for us to strike at him now, before he grows in power. But I cannot expend the resources to go and strike at him.”
Thanos reports his computer tells him the Magus is headed for Zen-Whoberi, “a peaceful planet with no idea what is about to befall it.”
The plan, Thanos confesses, is to make the choice for them. “We’ll kill them all, so there is no one to convert when they arrive. To hell with Magus’ violent church. My men have no need of faith to die for my whims.” Death watches from the shadows as Thanos executes the pleading Snare.
“I nearly feel like myself again,” Thanos says.
Thanos’ main transport shuttle, The Sepulcher, reaches Gamora’s home planet of Zen-Whoberi as the Magus’ ships arrive. Thanos’ ship opens fire on the planet, sending Gamora’s family — a mother, a father, a younger brother — fleeing. Gamora falls behind, and is rocked by a blast fired by Thanos that obliterates her family.
Death is stood feet away from the young Gamora as she mourns her losses. “I saw you, Death. You wicked creature. I saw you!” Thanos cries. “You dare taunt me?!”
Thanos then savages his way through “every Zen-Whoberian I’d ever known,” Gamora recalls, before meeting with Magus. “And they stood on our ashes like it was sand on the beach and met with smiles on their faces.”
Magus tells Thanos he came to speak, aware this is a move intended to taunt his church. Thanos and his Butcher Squad continue their slaughter, telling the departing Magus, “Enjoy your weeping converts. Fah. I’ve other things to believe in... if I can find her.”
In a nearby hut, Thanos finds a knife-wielding Gamora hidden in cabinets. She orders him to stay back.
“As a rule, I do not disperse mercy. But you may see it as such,” Thanos says.
“Save me from him!” Gamora yells. Thanos is surprised to see Lady Death enter the hut, but she silently turns and exits.
“No!” Gamora yells. “Don’t leave me with him!”
Thanos is surprised to learn the crying green-skinned girl can see Death.
“I was a little girl, the last person alive on the only planet I’d ever known,” Gamora recalls. “Even if he’d let me live, it was only a matter of time before I would have starved, or fell down a well. Of course I could see the face of Death.”
“Did Thanos make Gamora who she is, or was she always the deadliest assassin in the galaxy?” asks the synopsis for Thanos #2. “Plus, see the origins of Thanos’ Black Order!” Thanos #2 goes on sale May 29.
On May 15, Marvel Comics releases Guardians of the Galaxy #5, which finds Groot’s band of space heroes at the mercy of the Goddess of Death as Hell seeks to resurrect Thanos amid Star-Lord’s apparent death when protecting Gamora from a deadly blast fired by Nebula.
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