Thanos’ traumatic injury from his last encounter with the Guardians of the Galaxy has yet to heal and is the reason he is killing the Eternals.
WARNING: The following article contains Eternals # 5 spoilers for Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribic, Matthew Wilson, VC’s Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
The last time Thanos appeared, he was resurrected and then quickly sucked into a black hole thanks to the intervention of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, however, he has returned and is murdering the Eternals.
Although there are still some important questions about how this is happening, Eternal # 5 revealed that Phastos, the Eternals’ master technologist, has been their silent partner in this attack, who has also seen the failure of the machine that facilitates the endless resurrections of the Eternals. Beyond that, the issue hints at why the Mad Titan needed to have a partner in Phastos in the first place, as Thanos is not yet fully healed from his injuries. From the looks of it, Thanos is only kept alive thanks to Phastos’ mechanical enhancements at his heart.
Thanos’ physical form was destroyed when he was sucked into a black hole in Guardians of the Galaxy # 6 by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw and Corey Petit from VC. In fact, the black hole opened inside Thanos, so it would be more accurate to say that his body imploded. It’s hard enough to imagine how one could return from such a fate, but Phastos’ scientific knowledge is second to none and he apparently found a way to help resurrect Thanos. However, Phastos was smart enough to evade even being under suspicion of betraying the Eternals, so he would not have resurrected Thanos without certain guarantees.
As Thanos explained to Druig, there was still something wrong with his body. He revealed that his heart was repaired after Phastos removed it from inside the black hole, but it was not fully restored. Phastos does not like to commit violence, but for unknown reasons he has forced Thanos to make a deal to be his sword. Thanos would kill Eternals, something the Mad Titan admitted he enjoyed, and Phastos would return him to his former glory in return.
Of course, Thanos is also smart enough to know that Phastos will never keep his word. He may be ordering Thanos to kill his fellow Eternals, but there’s clearly no joy in that. Whatever motivates him is something beyond personal whim, Thanos is just a means to an end for Phastos, someone good at killing. However, to cure him completely would unleash one of the greatest threats to all life in the universe.
Thanos understands all this and has no illusions about what this deal is or what it is; it’s a bondage that won’t end unless Thanos finds another option to heal himself. But any damage done to his body is clearly beyond what he believes the average doctor or healer can repair. And it is clearly something beyond his ability to heal himself.
Now, Thanos finds himself weakened in a way rarely seen in the comics. Although he has a menacing figure, in this scenario, Thanos really isn’t the evil to be feared. He is simply the tool and not the carrier. It creates a level of vulnerability that has never really been explored for the Mad Titan. And clearly, he doesn’t know how to react to that either, other than to do what is asked of him.
He knows no alternative solutions to his difficult situation and, as a consequence, he is as incapable of saving himself from this deal as the Eternals of saving themselves from it. There’s no question that he could probably kill Phastos if he wanted to, but brute force won’t solve his problem. Right now, Thanos, the being who wiped out half of all life in the universe, has lost a battle of wills and cost a demigod his autonomy with his own designs.
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