The Thanos comic books definitive issue-by-issue collecting guide and trade reading order for omnibus, hardcover, and trade paperback collections. Find every issue and appearance! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated November 2018 with titles scheduled for release through July 2019.
Marvel has a handful of characters whose appetites for power and wakes of destruction single them out as a pantheon of the deadliest villains of the universe, and Thanos The Mad Titan is chief amongst them.
Modern audiences are just as likely to have met Thanos in his cheshire-grinning cameo at the end of The Avengers film as through comic books, but fans of every era of Marvel comics from his 1973 debut forward know of him – even if they’ve never read him directly. That’s because Marvel has used him judiciously over the years, keeping him largely under the pen of Jim Starlin and never making him a regular character, trivial guest-star, or easily-defeated foe. Thanos’s arrival has always been a main event.
The result is a tidy, eminently-readable back catalogue of Greatest Hits caliber stories.
It all begins in an unlikely fashion – with two anonymous, oddly-colored, muscle-bound aliens having a knock-down, drag-out fight in the middle of an unsuspecting Iron Man issue. Those aliens were Drax and Thanos. While Drax has undergone a considerable update for the modern day, Thanos remains true to that first appearance.
Soon after, he was adopted by Jim Starlin for his cosmic saga spanning Captain Marvel and Warlock, which together account for the first great Thanos story. It’s so great that it spills over to a pair of unrelated annuals for its resolution after Warlock’s title ends.
That was it for Thanos for over a decade aside from an interlude in Starlin’s landmark graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel.
Thanos remained out of play until Starlin took over Silver Surfer in 1990, immediately bringing his favorite obsessed-with-death villain into play. After over a year’s saga of lead-up issues, the result was one of Marvel’s most memorable events: The Infinity Gauntlet, which saw Thanos wielding the legendary weapon against the entire universe of heroes.
However, many readers of core titles like Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, The Avengers never even knew Thanos was threatening the Earth! That’s because 90s mini-series events only intruded into lower-selling titles while borrowing top-selling heroes like Wolverine from their own books to boost the mini-series sales. Two more events followed in the same fashion, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade, which gradually twisted the narrative until Thanos was forced to fight alongside the heroes he so often sought to destroy.
After another relatively quiet period, Thanos returned (again, under Starlin) in Infinity Abyss and a resulting ongoing series, his first. Then, Thanos is thrust onto center stage at the start of Marvel’s blockbuster 2000s cosmic saga, Annihilation, and he reappears to terminate it with The Thanos Imperative.
Finally, concurrent with the release of The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy films, Brian Bendis and Jonathan Hickman formalize Thanos as a villain who can square off agains the assembled might of the Avengers. For many Marvel readers who hadn’t read the Infinity or Annihilation sagas, it was their first exposure to Thanos.
It won’t be their last exposure, as Marvel seems to have plans to keep Thanos visible in their books straight through to his featured role in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018. He has starred in digital series, one-shots, original graphic novels, and his second ongoing launched in late 2016.
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This guide is split into several eras:
- Thanos Rising (2013)
- Classic Thanos (1973 – 1977)
- The Infinity Trilogy (1990 – 1993)
- After the Infinity Trilogy (1993 – 2002)
- Infinity Abyss and Thanos, Vol. 1 (2002 – 2004)
- The Annihilation Saga (2006 – 2011)
- Thanos Returns & The New Infinity Saga (2012 – 2015)
- Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers (including Infinity) (2013 – 2015)
- All-New, All-Different Marvel (2015 – present)
- Marvel Legacy (2017 – 2018)
- Marvel Fresh Start (2018 – present)
As you read the guide, the formatting calls out important material:
- Key Thanos material is in bold.
- Significant but non-key guest appearances are aligned to same left margin as the bold appearances to reinforce them as part of Thanos’s core story order.
- Minor appearances and cameos are indented further right and in italics. These tend to be optional, and I’ve provided some background where possible.
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This 2013 mini-series by Jason Aaron and painterly penciler Simone Bianchi explores the history of the mad titan for the first time, staring with his childhood.
I wouldn’t describe this book as essential or necessary to read first. Actually, it might detract from Thanos’s mystique for you! I’d recommend jumping in with one of his bigger stories below, and then returning to this as a flashback.
Other issues containing flashback material that occurs prior to Thanos’s debut include:
- Guardians Team-Up (2015) #2 features several panels of Thanos training a very young Gamora)
- Avengers: Celestial Quest (2001) #5
- Daredevil (1964) #105
- Captain Marvel (1968) #32
- Avengers (1963) #135
- Iron Man (1968) #55
- Avengers (1963) #Annual 7
- Daredevil (1964) #107 (flashback panels)
- Marvel Holiday Special (1991) #1992 (6th story)
- Avengers (1963) #118 features a shadowy single panel cameo
Thanos debuted in the pages of Iron Man as the enigmatic villain behind Drax’s misery. He has few lines of dialog and is mostly shown in shadow or from behind. He has a brief run-in with the golden Avengers, but flees and leaves a robot in his place for their climactic battle. Afterwards, Thanos was quickly co-opted by Jim Starlin for his famous cosmic run on Captain Marvel and Warlock.
The majority of this classic period has been collected into a single expansive omnibus or a smaller, more-focused paperback.
The Thanos Wars: Infinity Origin Omnibus (2019 oversize hardcover)
Collects (in this order) Iron Man (1968) #55, material from Logan’s Run 6, Captain Marvel (1968) #25-34, Marvel Feature (1971) #12, material from Daredevil (1964) #105, Avengers (1963) #125, Strange Tales (1951) #178-181, Warlock (1972) #9-15, Marvel Team-Up (1972) #55, Avengers Annual (1967) 7, Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2, Marvel Graphic Novel (1982) 1 – The Death of Captain Marvel.
Compared to the omnibus, the paperback version omits one issue of Captain Marvel, collects more of Daredevil, omits the non-Thanos Strange Tales arc reintroducing Warlock and his subsequent appearance in Marvel Team-Up (1972) #55, and does not include the Death of Captain Marvel OGN.
Avengers vs. Thanos AKA Thanos Classic
While this book was labeled as “Avengers vs” to help its sales, it could easily be retitled “Thanos Classic,” as this single volumes collects the entirety of the Classic Thanos era listed below with the exception of The Death of Captain Marvel. That includes Iron Man (1968) #55; material from Logan’s Run 6, Captain Marvel (1968) #25-33, Marvel Feature (1971) #12, Daredevil (1964) #105-107; Avengers (1963) #125; Warlock (1972) #9-11, 15, Avengers Annual (1967) 7, and Marvel Two -In-One Annual 2.
Keep reading for the detailed reading order and explanation of those issues, including Thanos’s other, less-significant guest appearances.
Iron Man (1968) #55: In “Avengers vs” above. See Iron Man for more options. Thanos’s debut as a villain antagonizing the long-suffering Drax.
Logan’s Run (1977) #6 (2nd story): In “Avengers vs” above. This back-up story in a licensed comic title was published later – after Thanos’s run in Warlock. It fills in more about Drax than it does about Thanos, further detailing the loss of his wife and child at Thanos’s hand.
After Logan’s Run: flashback in Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #10
Captain Marvel (1968) #25-33: In “Avengers vs” above. See Captain Marvel for more options. The issues in the next three entries occur during this story.
Marvel Feature (1971) #12: In “Avengers vs” above. Occurs during during Captain Marvel #30 and continues to #31.
Daredevil (1964) #105-107: In “Avengers vs” above. See Daredevil for more options. Occurs during Captain Marvel #30 and continues to #31. While these issues do not contribute directly to Thanos’s ongoing story, the fascinating pairing of Daredevil and Black Widow with Moondragon and Captain Marvel is partially motivated by Thanos’s actions. Thanos appears on-panel only three times – once in Moondragon’s flashback in #105, and twice in flashback in #107 as Captain Marvel narrates.
Avengers (1963) #125 – In “Avengers vs” above. See The Avengers for more options. Thanos appears in two panels at the end of the issue foreshadowing the action in Captain Marvel #33; this story occurs simultaneous to early action in that issue.
After Captain Marvel #33: flashbacks in Avengers Annual 7, which recaps many of Thanos’s actions through this point.
Thanos (2003) Annual 1: A flashback story from the Infinity era, it has been collected in three different places to date – Thanos: A God Up There Listening (2014) (which collects the Infinite Comic of the same name, also a flashback), Avengers Revelations (2015) (which collects unrelated Marvel Now era one-shot Avengers stories), and The Infinity Entity (2016) (collecting a Marvel Now era Warlock mini-series).
Warlock (1972) #9-11 & 15: In “Avengers vs” above. See Guardians of the Galaxy for more options.
Avengers Annual 7 and Marvel Two-In-One (1974) Annual 2: In “Avengers vs” above. See The Avengers and Fantastic Four for more options, respectively (Two-In-One is The Thing’s title). Avengers Annual 7 acts as an epilogue to Warlock’s series, putting he and his companions Gamora and Pip to rest at the hands of an evil plot by Thanos. Thanos is mostly seen in flashback in that issue, with the big battle in the Two-in-One annual. The end of that story sees both Warlock and Thanos taken off the table for future stories (although both have convenient outs for resurrection). Flashbacks in Death of Captain Marvel depict this battle.
X-Factor (1986) #246 is narrated by Pip The Troll and contains a single panel flashback to Avengers Annual 7.
Thanos famously appears using a Thanos-Copter in Spidey Super Stories (1974) #39 in 1979. However, aside from being after Thanos’s defeat, the Super Stories series is not in main Marvel continuity. A flashback sequence in Deadpool (2012) #45 depicts Thanos in said ‘Copter as Deadpool’s client, so it likely meant as a sequel to this story.
Marvel Graphic Novel (1982) #1 – The Death of Captain Marvel OGN (ISBN 0939766116)
This can be read as the close of Thanos’s first chapter at Marvel. He appears on panel just once early on in the story in his inert state, while he is later shown in flashback to the preceding battle in Marvel Two-in-One. However, it is Thanos’s appearance in spirit at Captain Marvel’s deathbed that provides for the epic and truly moving battle between the two nemeses, and closure for both characters. The easiest collection to grab this in is The Death of Captain Marvel (also available in hardcover), which has the added bonus of adding Captain Marvel #34 to close out the story starring Thanos in #25-33 (plus Marvel Spotlight #1-2).
Thanos makes several appearances after Marvel Two-In-One (1974), but they’re all either in flashback, part of narration, or out of continuity. They include Captain Marvel (1968) #57-58, The Avengers (1963) #174, Marvel Two-In-One (1974) #61, Super-Villain Team-Up (1975) #17, The Incredible Hulk (1968) #248, Thor (1966) #314, The Avengers (1963) #220, Captain America (1968) Annual 7, Hercules (1984) #3 (this series is out of continuity), The Avengers (1963) #247, The Avengers (1963) Annual 14, and Quasar (1989) #2.
As hard as it is to believe when it comes to Marvel’s signature intergalactic bad guy, Thanos sat on a shelf for nearly a decade after his appearance in The Death of Captain Marvel. In fact, it would be Jim Starlin himself who brought back Thanos, in the page of Silver Surfer – and, he did so in the service of creating a new cosmic saga for Marvel.
Infinity Gauntlet Omnibus oversize hardcover
This Omnibus is the definitive collection of Thanos’s return and participation in the first event of the Infinity Trilogy. It includes Silver Surfer (1987) #34-38; 40, 44-60; Thanos Quest #1-2; Infinity Gauntlet #1-6;Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #31-36; Cloak & Dagger (1988) #18; Spider-Man (1990) #17; Incredible Hulk #383-385; Quasar #26-27; and Sleepwalker #7.
Here’s the detailed reading order of Thanos’s appearances throughout the Infinity Gauntlet material and beyond:
Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #34-38 & 40: In Infinity Gauntlet, above, and Rebirth, directly below. See Silver Surfer for more options. Thanos is implied in #36-37. A flashback in #40 fits between #35-36.
Thanos Quest (1990) #1-2: Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos
Collects Silver Surfer (1987) #34-38 & The Thanos Quest (1990) #1-2, plus Logan’s Run (1977) #6. Available in hardcover. Also in Infinity Gauntlet, above, in Silver Surfer Epic Collection: Thanos Quest, and a 2012 one-shot.
Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #44-50: In Infinity Gauntlet, above. See Silver Surfer for more options. Thanos is behind the scenes in #46.
After Silver Surfer #47: Two Infinity Gauntlet tie-ins that are included in the Omnibus, above – Spider-Man (1990) #17, Cloak And Dagger Vol. 3 (1990) #18
After Silver Surfer #50: Quasar (1989) #24, which is not in the Omnibus, and flashbacks in Thanos (2003) Annual 1
Infinity Gauntlet #1-6: See Marvel Universe Events for collection options beyond the Omnibus, above. Thanos is the primary villain in Infinity Gauntlet. An approximate chronology for Thanos in this event:
Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #1
After IG #1: Quasar (1989) #26
Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #2-4
During IG #4: Doctor Strange, Sorceror Supreme (1988) #33 + Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #57
Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #5
During IG #5: Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #59
Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #6
Infinity War: See Marvel Universe Events. An approximate chronology for Thanos in this event:
Infinity War (1992) #1
During IW #1: Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #7
Infinity War (1992) #2-3
During IW #3: Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #108-111 (4th stories) + Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #8 + Quasar #38
Infinity War (1992) #4
During IW #4: Alpha Flight (1983) #111 + Wonder Man Vol. 2 (1991) #14 + Fantastic Four (1961) #369 + Silver Sable and The Wild Pack #5
Infinity War (1992) #5
During IW #5: Quasar (1989) #40 + Fantastic Four (1961) #369
Infinity War (1992) #6
During IW #6: Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #10 + Fantastic Four (1961) #370
After Infinity War: Quasar (1989) #40 (behind-the-scenes or implied), Quasar (1989) #42, Marvel Holiday Special (1991) 1992 (6th story),
Infinity Crusade: See Marvel Universe Events. An approximate chronology for Thanos in this event:
Prior to IC: Warlock Chronicles (1993) #2, Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #19
Infinity Crusade (1993) #3
During IC #3: Warlock Chronicles (1993) #3 + Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #83
After IC #3: Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #20
Infinity Crusade (1993) #4
During IC #4: Web of Spider-Man #106 + Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #84
Infinity Crusade (1993) #5-6
Despite being relegated back to guest-star status, Thanos would not go forgotten again after the Infinity Trilogy the way he was in the 1980s.
Thor: Blood & Thunder
This crossover begins in Thor #468. Thanos appears in the third rotation of the crossover through its four titles, in Thor (1966) #470, Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #88, Warlock Chronicles (1993) #8, Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #25, and the finale in Thor (1966) #471. See Thor for more options.
Secret Defenders (1993) #11-13: This Thanos team-up story concludes in #14, in which Thanos does not appear. Issues #12-14 are included in Thanos: Cosmic Powers, below. See Defenders for more options.
Quasar (1989) #59: Not collected. A story of Thanos and his brother Eros AKA Starfox. Sadly, Marvel did not include this in the Cosmic Powers collection, where it would have fit nicely.
Cosmic Powers (1994) #1-6: Cosmic Powers
Also collects Secret Defenders #12-14. A sort of “Cosmic Entity Team-Up” book pairing Thanos with other galactic heroes (and villains).
Silver Surfer Vol. 3 (1987) #98: See Silver Surfer.
Cosmic Powers Unlimited (1995) #1: Not collected
Warlock & The Infinity Watch (1992) #40-42: Infinity Watch, Vol. 2
Collects #26-42 & Warlock Chronicles (1993) #6. These issues are tacitly part of Atlantis Rising, but they don’t cross over directly with the event and were not included in the recent Atlantis Rising collection. See Guardians of the Galaxy for more information.
Lunatik (1995) #1: Not collected. A two-page cameo mostly serving the purpose of making Lunatik look cool (thanks to CBR’s legion_quest for the info).
Thanos appears throughout the out-of-continuity DC Vs. Marvel (1996) #1-4 (he is behind-the-scenes or implied in #1) and, after his next appearance, in the similarly out-of-continuity Rune / Silver Surfer #1, Rune #2, and Green Lantern/Silver Surfer: Unholy Alliances (1995) OGN.
Spider-Man Team-Up (1995) #2: Spider-Man: The Ben Reilly Epic, Vol. 3.
See Spider-Man for more information. Much of this issue occurs on Thanos’s ship, and he eventually appears and joins the action. Ben Reilly is Spider-Man.
Silver Surfer: Dangerous Artifacts one-shot
Thanos appears in just one page of this issue, but it’s a pretty spectacular page, and it implies his participation throughout the rest of the issue. Not a critical read, but a fun one. See Silver Surfer.
Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (1995) #5: See Captain Marvel. Single-panel flashbacks in Captain Marvel (1999) #5 and 14 fit here.
Thanos cameos in a non-continuity fashion in Thor: The Legend (1996) #1
Ka-Zar Vol. 3 (1997) Annual ’97 and #1-11 as #1-7 & #-1 in By Waid & Kubert Vol. 1 and #8-14 & Annual in By Waid & Kubert, Vol. 2. Thanos appears on-panel in Annual, 4, and 6-11. Without revealing too much, Ka-Zar’s encounters with Thanos here are later revealed to be not quite what they seem by Infinity Abyss, yet this story still makes sense within Thanos’s continuity.
X-Man/Incredible Hulk Annual 1998: See Hulk for options. Thanos is the featured villian in a similar fashion to his condition in Ka-Zar.
Thor Vol. 2 (1998) #21-25 & Annual 2000: Thor vs. Thanos
See Thor for more options. The Annual appearance is in the 2nd story, as flashback between #21-22. Similar to Ka-Zar, Thanos’s appearance here is later slightly retconned by Infinity Abyss, but still makes sense to read here in continuity order.
Thanos makes a one-panel cameo in Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt (2011) #2 fighting Thor sometime around Thor (1998) #25.
Captain Marvel Vol. 3 (1999) #17-19: See Captain Marvel for options. Same comments regarding a slight retcon apply, but this is a more substantial appearances.
Avengers: Celestial Quest (2001) #1-8: Same comments regarding a slight retcon apply.
This extension of the Infinity saga focuses entirely on Thanos, and his plot to clone crosses of himself with some of the most powerful beings in the universe – Professor X, Doctor Strange, Gladiator (leader of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard); Tony Stark, and Galactus.
Deadpool Vol. 3 (1997) #62-64: Deadpool Classic, Vol. 8. See Deadpool for more options. There may be the implication that Thanos is watching Deadpool in #62-63, but it’s scant, and only in service of an on-panel punchline at the end of #64 where Thanos continues his jealously of Death’s fixation with Deadpool.
The following ongoing Thanos series depicts a surprisingly repentant titan, though he’s still in the service of seeking power and pleasing his consort, Death.
Thanos (2003) #1-12: Thanos: Redemption (2013 edition)
Previously collected in two volumes as #1-6 in Epiphany and #7-12 in Samaritan. The back half of this series is part of the run-up to Annihilation and is re-collected in Road to Annihilation, Vol. 2.
GLX-Mas (2006) #1 in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl & the Great Lakes Avengers. See Squirrel Girl for more options. This is the now-legendary battle between Thanos and Squirrel Girl in one of her earliest appearances.
She-Hulk #12-13 in She-Hulk by Dan Slott: The Complete Collection, Vol. 2.
See She-Hulk for more options. Though this story was published during the opening chapters of Annihilation, it must fit prior to that epic. It also contains copious flashbacks to earlier points in Thanos’s story that don’t contain enough context for me to place definitively.
Thanos makes an out-of-continuity appearance in this period in Marvel Universe: The End (2003) #1-6.
Thanos is central to the beginning of Marvel’s modern cosmic saga, Annihilation, though he retreats from view for the ensuing cosmic chapters to re-emerge at the end in his own story, Thanos Imperative.
Annihilation Omnibus Oversize Hardcover
Collects the entirety of the Annihilation event in a single volume, including Drax the Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation Prologue, Annihilation: Nova #1-4, Annihilation: Silver Surfer #1-4, Annihilation: Super Skrull #1-4, Annihilation: Ronan #1-4, Annihilation #1-6, Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #1-2, and the Annihilation: The Nova Corps Files handbook.
Here’s the specific reading Thanos’s appearances throughout Annihilation:
Thanos appears in Eternals (2008) #1 for a single-panel, non-continuity appearances under narration.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2008) #24-25: by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Volume 2
These issues detail Thanos’s return after Annihilation (having skipped Annihilation Conquest, War of Kings, and Realm of Kings) as a lead-in to Imperative. Fully collects #13-25. See Guardians of the Galaxy for more options.
Thanos Imperative Ignition, #1-6, & Devastation: The Thanos Imperative
As you can tell by the title, this is a marquee Thanos story that puts a definitive end to many plot threads of the cosmic saga that began in Annihilation. Available in oversize hardcover. Available as part of a wider context in War of Kings Aftermath: Realm of Kings Omnibus.
Thanos returns from the cosmos (and his appearance death) to Earth to harass the Avengers in Avengers Assemble as a tie-in to his cameo in the first Avengers film. By publishing date, his first significant appearance in Marvel now was in Infinity, below. However, in the years following several series have filled in his actions between the end of his galactic adventures and his reemergence in Infinity.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2013) #18-20: Vol. 4: Original Sin.
See Guardians of the Galaxy for more options. This Origin Sin story from 2014 details how Thanos escaped his fate at the end of Thanos Imperative. While present-day action for the Guardians occur during Original Sin (after Infinity), all of Thanos’s action occurs in flashback. Fully collects #18-23 and Annual 1. Available in hardcover.
Avengers Assemble (2012) #1-8: Avengers Assemble by Brian Michael Bendis
See Avengers & New Avengers for more options. This includes the full movie-inspired cast of Avengers plus the movie-inspired Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos does not appear in #1, but it is an integral set-up to this story-arc, in which he is the featured villain. Available in oversize hardcover.
Thanos makes a single-panel cameo in Guardians Of The Galaxy Infinite Comic (2013) #3 – Gamora; the cameo is merely an image under narration, and has no place in continuity. The issue ostensibly falls between Avengers Assemble and the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy (2013).
X-Factor (1986) #246 contains a flashback to Avengers Annual 7.
Thanos vs. Hulk (2014) #1-4
This Starlin-penned-and-drawn series is the prelude to the New Infinity Saga. This is another later series that fits prior to the events of Infinity.
After Revelation: cameo in Age of Ultron (2013) #10
The Infinity Entity #1-4
Starlin explores Warlock’s role in the New Infinity Saga.
Thanos makes another non-continuity single-panel cameo under narration in Iron Man: Fatal Frontier (2013) #3
The framing sequence in Thanos Rising #1 and 5 purported at the time to be his last appearance prior to Infinity, although it might ultimately prove to fall before the Infinity OGNs. Lending credence to it fitting here, Thanos is ominously pictured in a single panel of New Avengers (2013) #3 while on Titan as he feels the activation of the Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos’s role in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga (really an extension of his Fantastic Four writing starting in 2009) is not of the primary antagonist or architect, as we know him from Infinity Gauntlet and Annihilation. Instead, he is an opportunist, finding whatever means he can to wage war against both Earth in specific and all living things in general.
His first feint is in Infinity, attacking Earth while the Avengers are scattered across the galaxy defending against the builders. Later, in Time Runs Out, the Avengers attempt to use him against the increasing incursions, only for that plan to backfire. Finally, he wields his influence over death itself in Secret Wars.
Guardians of the Galaxy #5-6: Vol. 2: Angela
See Guardians of the Galaxy for more options. Thanos is in full movie mode here, providing oblique commentary from a floating space throne. This is a prelude to his actions in Infinity. By story continuity, there’s a chance this fits after Infinity Relativity, above, but the Starlin New Infinity Saga is of a single piece – you’d be better served reading this here. Fully collects #4-10. Available in hardcover.
Infinity #1-6 Oversized Hardcover
Thanos is one of the main antagonists of this event, harassing Earth while its heroes are far afield fighting against The Builders. He appears in every issue except for #2, but only in a handful of tie-ins. See Marvel Universe Events for more information.
An approximate chronology for Thanos during this event:
Infinity (2013) #1 (includes the material from Free Comic Book Day 2013 (Infinity) (2013) #1)
During & After Infinity #1: Nova (2013) #7-8, Mighty Avengers (2013) #1-2, New Avengers (2013) #9-10
Infinity (2013) #3-4
During & After Infinity #4: New Avengers (2013) #11, Infinity: Heist (2013) #2 (cameo)
Infinity (2013) #5-6
New Avengers (2013) #12 (an epilogue; Thanos appears only in cameo)
Thanos finds himself indisposed at the end of Infinity in a fashion that mirrors his original hiatus after Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2. However, this time he’s only kept out of action for a few months before becoming further embroiled in the Illuminati’s plans to save the Earth.
In the time that he is removed from action, three series were released in his name featuring flashback content:
Thanos: A God Up There Listening (Infinite) (2014) #1-6: Oversized Hardcover
This is tricky. The present-day action of this series occurs immediately after Infinity – maybe even prior to New Avengers #12. However, aside from a brief overhead shot in the opening panels, present-day Thanos is not much of a participant – the series is mostly focused on his newly-discovered son, Thane. We do see a lot of Thanos – in a battle against Ego, The Living Planet. He has a relationship with Death and his Obsidian Order with him for the fight, and they were not introduced until Infinity. Yet, there’s really nothing barring the flashback material from occurring earlier, so far as I can tell. Since it has no impact in either direction, I think it’s fine to read her as a revelation of dubious reliability from Thane’s narrator.
Thanos Annual (2014) Annual 01: This issue occurs after Captain Marvel #33. There is no modern-day framing sequence. It is collected with Listening, directly above, as well as Avengers Revelations and The Infinity Entity, above.
Thanos Rising (2014) #1-5
The series was released here, but chronologically it is Thanos’s first story. It does have a framing sequence that occurs after Thanos is already the Mad Titan, but it occurs at an unspecified point after his destruction of his homeworld, Titan.
Before making his return, Inhumanity (2014) #1 shows a pair of brief points of Thanos’s intersection with the Inhumans in Infinity (his visit to their throne room and his plotting from a different perspective – see Marvel Universe Events.
Then, Thanos appears in a single panel of both New Avengers (2013) #15 and 19, foreshadowing his upcoming return. Finally, he appears asleep in a panel of a parody backup story Deadpool (2013) #27 at some point when he possesses the Infinity Gauntlet.
Free Comic Book Day 2014 (Guardians of the Galaxy) (2014) #1 contained a preview of Infinity Revelation (above), not any original story content.
Then, Thanos briefly rejoins the present day.
New Avengers (2013) #23 in Vol. 4 TPB & HC and Oversized, Vol. 2. Though Thanos appears in just two panels of this comic, they’re pretty major ones in terms of the ongoing Avengers plot! See Avengers and New Avengers for more options.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2013) #18-20 were released here and the framing sequence falls at this point in continuity, but all of Thanos’s action appears in the past, as noted above.
Legendary Star-Lord (2014) #3-4 in Vol. 1. Thanos has a single-panel cameo at the end of #3, but a knock-down, drag-out battle with him is the main story in #4. It’s hard to saw where this falls in relation to New Avengers #23 – would Thanos take a break on the moon after his action inNew Avengers? Or, upon being freed would he first retire to the moon to contemplate his next steps. Ultimately, the reveal of him in New Avengers deserves its shocking status as the announcement of his return. See Guardians of the Galaxy for more options.
The opening panel of Nova (2013) #25 features Richard Rider fighting Thanos at some undetermined point in the past (possible during Annihilation, as that was their marquee battle).
Guardians Team-Up (2015) #2 features several panels of Thanos training a very young Gamora, which is one of his earliest canon appearance outside of Thanos Rising.
Thanos appears several times in Guardians of the Galaxy: Best Story Ever (2015) #1, but all are in the capacity of Rocket speculating about his behind-the-scenes plotting with Nebula – none of them are in-continuity appearances.
The 8-Month flash-forward to “Time Runs Out” begins here.
Thanos appears in a single wordless panel leading The Cabal in both Avengers World (2014) #18-19, also in Vol. 4, below.
New Avengers (2013) #24 in Time Runs Out, Vol 1 TPB & HC and Omnibus. This is a significant Thanos issue, as we finally get a taste of the brutality of his Cabal. See Avengers and New Avengers for more options.
Avengers World (2014) #21 in Vol. 4. A critical issue for understanding not only Thanos’s role but also Namor’s complex motivations as Secret Wars approaches. See Avengers and New Avengers for more options.
Avengers (2013) #40-41 in Time Runs Out, Vol 3 TPB & HC and Omnibus. Thanos appears in brief, leading The Cabal. #40 is focused primarily on Namor. That focus continues to #41, but here Thanos holds equal weight as we see The Cabal travel to the final remaining incursion, which sets into motion the events of Secret Wars. See Avengers and New Avengers for more options.
Thanos appears in an explanatory flashback in Free Comic Book Day 2015 (Secret Wars) (2015) #1 AKA Secret Wars #0.
Avengers (2013) #44 in Time Runs Out, Vol 4 TPB & HC and Omnibus. Our last glimpse of Thanos before the final incursion. He gives some killer lines of dialog here, and we see where his final allegiances lie. Oh, and there’s a boring, doesn’t-count dude-fight between Captain America and Iron Man. See Avengers and New Avengers for more options.
Finally, three years of Hickman’s Avengers plots (and three of Fantastic Four, before that) culminate in Secret Wars!
Secret Wars #1-9: Oversized Hardcover
Our main-continuity Thanos appears throughout the main event, and his eventual dispersion to the land of zombies south of the Siege wall leads to a big story beat late in the story. See Marvel Universe Events for both the mains series and the Siege mini-series. (I’m not certain if the Thanos in Infinity Gauntlet is our version.)
Thanos makes the following out-of-chronology appearances in this era: Space: Punisher (2012) #1, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe (2012) #4, What If? Age of Ultron (2014) #4, and Deadpool (2013) #45 (with the out-of-continuity Thanos-Copter, as described above).
Thanos is part of the inciting incident of Civil War II.
First, he has the following appearances, which I have not yet reviewed for canonicity or reading order.
- Free Comic Book Day 2016 (Civil War II) (2016) #1, Civil War II (2016) #1, & Civil War II: X-Men (2016) #1: See Marvel Universe Events
- All-New, All-Different Avengers (2016) #7
- Captain America: Sam Wilson (2015) #7 & 10-11
- The Ultimates (2016) #5, 7-8, 10
- Vision (2016) #5
- Black Panther (2016) #3
- A-Force (2016) #8
Then, he receives ongoing series for the first time in over a decade in the end of 2016 in the wake of Civil War II. Launched by Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato, this series starts incredibly strong in both art and writing, but the plot tapers off by the time Lemire leaves it to Donny Cates, who begins with issue #13 in Marvel Legacy.
#1-6: Vol. 1: Thanos Returns
#7-12: Vol. 2: The God Quarry
Jim Starlin launched a new Thanos story in graphic novel format with some similarities to the plot of the ongoing Thanos comic. Because Starlin creates entire OGNs of plot at once, these books tend to be placed slightly earlier in continuity than the stories they are released alongside. This necessarily fits before the Cates run on Thanos, and maybe even before his reappearance in Civil War II.
Thanos: The Infinity Conflict OGN
This volume was released firmly into the “Fresh Start” era, below, but directly follows the first volume and must be placed much earlier in continuity.
Meanwhile, Donny Cates turned the world of Thanos completely on its head with a grim and future vision of the Mad Titan in his arc with artist Geoff Shaw and colorist Anthony Fabela, reteamed from their indie hit God Country. Their arc gained tremendous word-of-mouth recommendations and was massively popular (and strangely hilarious) and went to fourth and fifth printings in single issue format.
#13-18 & Annual 1: Vol. 3: Thanos Wins by Donny Cates
Spinning out of the end of Thanos Wins, Thanos makes limited appearances in the run-up of Infinity Wars, culminating with a one-shot called Thanos Legacy, which is the true end of the Donny Cates arc on the character. Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy an Infinity Wars collection to read it!
Infinity Wars: See Marvel Universe Events
Meanwhile, the ridiculous Cosmic Ghost Rider from that arc spins off into his own mini-series by Cates in 2018. This directly follows the end of “Thanos Wins” and it does have some relation to Thanos, as you will see from the title.
Finally, in Thanos’s absence, his Black Order (reformed in Avengers: No Surrender) returns in their own series.
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