THANOS #16 BY DONNY CATES, GEOFF SHAW, AND ANTONIO FABELA
Plot
Art
Characterization
Summary
THANOS #16 is a fun romp that tells the origin of the alternate reality Ghost Rider version of Frank Castle. It's filled with humorous dialogue and gags. Writer Donny Cates made this one of the most memorable issues I've read in a while. Artists Geoff Shaw and Antonio Fabela helped make it a hilarious book.
88 %
Utter Fun

THANOS #16 shows the origin of my favorite new(ish) character of the past year. The Rider, Frank Castle’s cosmically hellish alt-reality alter ego, makes for an intriguing and surprisingly hilarious character. Writer Donny Cates piles on the humor and absurdity to this tale, which makes it memorable and unlike many other Ghost Rider stories. Geoff Shaw’s detailed drawings of Frank as the Rider add even more humorous detail to this stellar story. THANOS #16 is a reminder that Cates is one of the most talented writers currently at Marvel.

You Should be Reading THANOS!

The Ballad of Frank Castle

Last issue, we learned the identity of the mysterious blabbermouth Ghost Rider who served as an alternate future Thanos’ right-hand-man: Frank Castle. In THANOS #16, the Rider’s origin takes center stage. Years ago, in this alternate timeline, Thanos successfully takes over the earth. He kills every Earthbound superhero, as well as all life on Earth, except for one man. Frank, then known as the Punisher, makes a deal with the devil in order to get revenge on Thanos. He becomes the Ghost Rider, but it’s too little too late for Frank. Everyone is dead, and he’s left roaming around the Earth for millennia with no one to comfort him.

Eventually, Galactus seeks refuge on earth from Thanos’ galaxy-wide pillage. He also needs a new herald after his last one, the Silver Surfer, seemingly died in battle. Finding only Frank, he grants him the Surfer’s Power Cosmic and makes him his new herald: the Rider. After Galactus falls in battle, Frank pledges allegiance to his former foe: Thanos.

Thanos #16
THANOS #16 page 1. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

While this story may sound like a dark, depressing tale of loneliness and revenge, it only feels like that for the first few pages. While riding around the Earth in solitude, Frank eventually loses his mind. After that, he loses his grim and overly-serious demeanor and becomes a Deadpool-like character. Cates made an ingenious decision when he thought of this. Instead of making Frank an even more dour character as the Spirit of Vengeance, he instead goes the opposite route. As such, this issue ends up being quite funny.

Humor Abounds in THANOS #16

THANOS #16 is rife with humorous dialogue and sight-gags. When Frank first meets Galactus, he’s already gone insane. He greets the Devourer with a simple “Hey-o!” As a pretty big Deadpool fan, I love seeing characters who interact with the larger Marvel Universe, especially the more ridiculous aspects, with humor. Seeing Galactus react to Frank with bemusement and utter annoyance is funny for me. By doing this, Cates eschews an overly dark story to one that’s actually fun to read. If this were written how one would expect a “The Punisher turns into Ghost Rider” storyline would go, it would possibly be a slog to get through. The issue would be filled with Frank bemoaning how he must rain vengeance on the criminals of the universe. Instead, we get a happy-go-lucky angel of death chumming it up with a cosmic deity.

I love the absurdity of that situation. Frank’s matter-of-fact dialogue, using slang and making jokey observations, made this, for me, one of the most memorable comic scenes I’ve seen in months.

Frank’s First Tour Ends in THE PUNISHER: PLATOON #6

Geoff Shaw’s Awesome Artwork in THANOS #16

One of the factors that made this issue, and this scene in particular, remarkable for me was Shaw’s artwork. He somehow manages to make Frank’s face, a flaming skull, emote. I can see the confusion on his face as he “scratches” his head. His overall body language conveys how ridiculous he is. He sits on the edge of a building, dangling his feet, while he talks with a hundred-story tall purple-garbed cosmic force. It shows Frank’s insanity.

Thanos #16
THANOS #16 page 11. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Later on in the issue, Shaw also crafts a great absurd visual gag when he clothes Galactus in a rad 90s X-FORCE inspired costume (as seen in the image at the top of the article). On top of his usual gaudy purple garb, he wears a ripped tunic, gigantic shoulder pads, a ridiculously large gun, and various pouches on his belt. This made me chuckle. It makes a mockery out of the ridiculous styles of gritty 90s books while also serving as a funny sight gag on its own.

Final Thoughts

While light on much plot progression, THANOS #16 is a great palate cleanser before the two Thanoses battle with the fallen Silver Surfer next issue. It’s a great stand-alone issue that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who loves humor books. If you’re a fan of the Punisher, you may get a kick out of it too.

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