The dark origins of the Mad Titan are revealed at last...

(Panini Books)

The revelation of the mastermind behind the Chitauri’s attack on Earth in the post-credits sequence of the 2012 Avengers movie would have drawn a sharp intake of breath from comics fans, but is unlikely to have meant anything to newbies.

The so-called mad Titan, Thanos the destroyer, is a major player in the Marvel Universe, but has little mainstream recognition, something the comics publisher is hoping to change in the future, with the character involved in various forthcoming storylines including the universe-shattering Infinity crossover.

Even long-term Marvel readers will want to pick up this volume, as for the first time Thanos’ origins are revealed in depth, charting a lifetime of torture and brutality in the service of Death herself.

The son of the noble leader of the Titan Eternals, A’lars, and his beautiful wife Sui-San, Thanos carried the Deviant gene, sharing the physical characteristics of the Eternals’ mutated cousins.

Shockingly, his mother attempted to kill him on first sight, recognising within her the capacity for destruction and slaughter, and was immediately driven mad by the knowledge. Yet despite this unfortunate incident Thanos grew up to become a pacifist, a talented artist and an intellectual, making friends despite his appearance, and gaining a reputation for his genius.

Quite what triggered the dark side of his personality is open to interpretation, but one school of thought has it that he was courted by the physical embodiment of Death, who sought to seduce him into becoming her champion.

Fleeing Titan after being implicated in a string of serial killings which involved the torture and dissection of his friends and mother, Thanos embarked on a career as a space pirate which took him across the cosmos and lead to him producing various offspring on a wealth of different planets.

Yet no matter how many civilisations he destroys, how much bloodshed he wreaks, it isn’t enough to win the love of his dark mistress, and Thanos comes to realise that he will only find true peace when he is the last survivor in a dead universe…

Make no mistake, this is far from a happy or optimistic read, revealing as it does a lifetime of nihilism and cruelty which takes in matricide, homicide and infanticide as if they were tick boxes on a checklist of murder.

However, it is a dark and brooding character study which adds new depth and weight to one of the all-time great Marvel villains, and should certainly not be overlooked just because it’s not all hearts and flowers.