Warning: SPOILERS for Marvel's Thanos #1
Marvel fans may think they know the story of Thanos and his adopted daughter Gamora, but the most obvious question - why did he choose her? - is still without an obvious answer. Until now.
When it became clear that James Gunn would be adapting the Annihilation-era version of the Guardians of the Galaxy for his MCU film, comic fans knew that team would include Gamora, the alien survivor who had been plucked out by Thanos and trained into a living weapon. And considering the role Thanos built to in Avengers: Infinity War, Gamora being a key player and adopted daughter paid off big time. The movie version of their meeting fit the comics loosely enough, but with countless planets conquered, and thousands of children slain or orphaned... why did Thanos choose Gamora, anyway?
Marvel Comics has provided the incredible answer, which is likely to change the way fans look at Thanos and Gamora from now on... assuming they know the villain's history with Lady Death, even if the Marvel films decided to ignore it completely.
Thanos Was Lost (Before Finding Gamora)
The new Thanos comic from Marvel makes Gamora more important than ever to his story, and not the other way 'round. Because after years and decades of slaughter across the universe, Thanos has finally begun to lose his hunger for death when the story begins. As fans know, we actually mean Lady Death, the female Grim Reaper of the Marvel Universe. And where the Avengers movies changed Thanos into a murderer killing in the name of "balance," this new chapter of Thanos' life confirms his original comic book goal. Put simply? Winning the love of Death herself, since only HE can perceive her:
"As a child, Thanos' fascination with killing was kindled by a girl whom Thanos grew to love. As they got older, the girl promised to return his love if only he could prove himself to her. However, no matter how high Thanos' death toll rose, she always demanded more. Realizing that he was the only person who could see his paramour, Thanos discovered that she was no mere woman, but the incarnation of Death itself."
As the events of Thanos #1 begin, the conqueror has grown weary of endless slaughter--and who could blame him? But as the tyrant starts butchering his own lieutenants just to feel closer to Death, he actually admits that he has considered abandoning his mission ("What if I simply... stopped?"). It's in this state of mind that he arrives at the next world his army will destroy: Zen-Whoberi, home of the Zen-Whoberians... and a young girl named Gamora.
Lady Death Chose Young Gamora?
Once Thanos decides upon his plan to murder the Zen-Whoberians (thereby denying his rival, the Magus thousands of new cult members) he watches the orbital bombardment before he personally leads his troops to the surface to clean up the survivors. It's here that Thanos first lays his eyes on Gamora--although he doesn't know who she is, or what bond they will soon share. She is simply one of countless other children fleeing for their lives, who watches as her parents and brother are obliterated by one of Thanos' strikes. But as Thanos observes the girl falling to her knees next to the crater marking her family's death, he notices a familiar face: Lady Death at her side.
It's an important moment, as Death appears not just to Thanos' eye--the only ones ever able to see her at all--but through his surveillance feed from the planet's surface. To the reader, Death appearing directly behind Gamora before turning away marks the girl as special. To Thanos, he barely has time to consider Death's meaning before his surface craft and troops are announced to be ready. So with his lover's trip to the surface still puzzling him, Thanos descends to eliminate the rest of the Zen-Whoberians. Clearly his talk with the Magus ends in continued rivalry, and Thanos slices through the natives like a scythe through wheat... until arriving at the house belonging to the mystery girl, and opening the cupboard in which she is hiding.
Only Gamora Could See Death, Just Like Thanos
Their meeting actually goes a bit more believably than the movie version, with Gamora brandishing a small blade and unleashing her anger on Thanos upon being discovered. But exactly what Thanos intends for her isn't clear, since his idea of "mercy" is up for debate (kill her quick, or leave her alive... on a dead world). Before he can decide, Gamora screams for help--from Lady Death, who has appeared inside the house before making one of her typically rapid exits.
Only when Thanos pursues her outside and Gamora follows behind him does it finally click: Gamora can see Death just as plainly as Thanos. That's a gift that only he has ever possessed in his long life, as the previous passage makes clear. One can only imagine what went through his head after a lifetime longing for the love of Lady Death leads not to their union, but to the arrival of a child. Based on Deaths earlier appearance, one she has chosen for Thanos to find and, in bearing witness to her, be the answer to his loneliness. Thanos may not be able to call Death his bride, but... a daughter?
In the fiction of the Thanos comic, it's actually Gamora telling the story. So fans don't have to wonder how the scene or Lady Death's appearance was perceived from her perspective. However, the daughter of Thanos may not see their shared sight as anything more than the grim reality he had inflicted upon her, explaining that:
"I was a little girl, the last person alive on the only planet I'd ever known. 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."
The rest of the Thanos series is expected to explore the childhood that follows, as Gamora is taken in by Thanos and given new purpose. Fans shouldn't expect a heartwarming father-daughter tale, with Thanos racing his little girl in a jogging stroller from one end of his spaceship to the other, introducing her to Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, and the rest of his ruthless lieutenants. He must start her on a path to becoming the cosmic warrior fans know and love. Right up until the moment when Gamora kills Thanos in Infinity Wars, of course.
It doesn't take much imagination to grasp her reasons for revenge, but writer Tini Howard and artists Ariel Olivetti and Antonia Fabela have started an intriguing new origin story all the same. One that will forever change how Gamora fans view her tutelage as Thanos' adopted daughter... and perhaps make her Infinity War death even more controversial by comparison.
Thanos #1 is available now from your local comic book store, or direct from Marvel Comics.