THANOS #1-6 (2003-2004): Epiphany

These six issues are created primarily by Jim Starlin, and an extended, decompressed look at Thanos couldn’t be undertaken by a more qualified man. Thanos is to Jim Starlin what Moon Knight is to Doug Moench.

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“A tale of unnatural enlightments, futile longings, tenuous alliances, and bitter betrayal.” There’s really no better way to sum up the career of Thanos.

Thanos decides to stop being such a bastard after having an epiphany, with the help of Adam Warlock.

To start being a better person, he goes to a planet that had been ravaged by his former, evil ways and swears to make things right. And then he’s given the opportunity: Galactus is coming to eat the planet!

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But it turns out, the big G isn’t hungry.

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He’s looking for Infinity Stones.

Thanos fails to protect the planet and swears to avenge the loss, when a strange looking creature emerges–unseen by Thanos.

That’s “Hunger,” a being who eats entire realities. Basically, he’s like Galactus times a million.

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Galactus gets all the Infinity Stones, but is under the thrall of The Hunger. Hunger has tricked Galactus into believing that the stones could remove the curse of his need to eat planets, but instead it opens a vortex that enables Hunger to arrive into Earth 616’s universe.

To stop Hunger, Thanos gets a rematch against Galactus.

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He wins and thwarts Hunger.

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With issue #6, Jim Starlin says goodbye to Thanos, and leaves the universe exactly how it was when he created: The infinity stones are spread across the galaxy, waiting to be collected.  A 20-year saga ends, and the mantle for the cosmic line of Marvel characters is handed off to Keith Giffen, who picks up issue #7 and will become one of the main “cosmic universe” architects for Marvel.

As for Thanos himself, he embraces his own moral ambiguity…

Jim Starlin wouldn’t write the mad titan again for a long time, but this comic is a solid send-off. One of the best Thanos stories of all time.