The origins of the Rider, Thanos's companion and former Punisher, are shown. From the fall of Earth's heroes, to a plea from Galactus, and ending with another encounter with Thanos, we learn how Frank Castle became what he is now.
After this, the Fallen One, the Silver Surfer, arrives to face King Thanos, his younger self, and the Rider on the field of battle.
"Tell me, Norrin… if you came all this way just to die… why did you wait so damn long?!"
That bellowed line from King Thanos stuck with me after reading this issue. In a way, it helps encapsulate what Donny Cates's Thanos has become in a short time. It is a thunderous proclamation and statement of intent from Thanos. It is the inevitability of Thanos's victory and a touch of dry humor.
Like Jeff Lemire before him, Cates understands that if one is going to read a comic about the Mad Titan, they want to see massive displays of cosmic might and godlike beings clashing across the stars. While this issue saves that for the back half, it is worth the wait.
That is not to say the backstory behind the Rider isn't similarly engaging. Seeing Frank Castle transition from Punisher, to Ghost Rider, to Herald of Galactus, and finally to acolyte of Thanos, is greatly enjoyable too.
We don't get much of the actual degradation of Frank's sanity. There's a scene of him screaming on a plateau, and he's chatting up Galactus in the next. Admittedly, the narration helps make up for this by telling us how much time has passed and reminding us that there is no other living thing on Earth with whom Frank Castle can speak. Yet, some transitionary panels of Frank/Ghost Rider talking to himself would probably help convey the idea. Even then, this is a minor complaint, especially when compared to how joyous it is to watch Galactus lose his patience with this chatty Ghost Rider.
Geoff Shaw's art conveys all of this with aplomb. There are so many good, imposing stills of characters like Thanos, Galactus, and the Rider. He plays with setup and payoff from page to page. Perspective is also used well with Galactus, with lower shots of him spilling oceans of blood and his cries for help shattering windows. There are many great battle scenes too. Antonio Fabela's color art contributes a lot, as well. Many darker shades and purples are used throughout, offset by the occasional display of reds, oranges, and yellows of the Ghost Rider.
Also, for those wondering, this is the kind of book in which the graphic displays of gore feel appropriate. That is in no small part thanks to the "Parental Advisory" stamp.
Thanos #16 is a fantastic read. Action, dry gallows humor, abstract sci-fi concepts, and utter ruthlessness come together for an enthralling narrative bolstered by great artwork from Shaw and Fabela. This one is definitely recommended. Give it a read.