The 10 Best Thanos Comic Book Storylines, According To Ranker

As the MCU continues its divisive Phase 4, it's hard not to look back at the Infinity Saga with longing. The twenty-three-film saga had a perfect villain at the center, Thanos, a compelling, layered, and menacing figure that succeeded in defeating Earth's Mightiest Heroes, for a while, at least.

Thanos is an icon in Marvel Comics, acting as the main antagonist in many of the publisher's most celebrated storylines. Fans on Ranker vote for their favorite storylines, and while the usual suspects are there, there are also some pleasant surprises that prove there's more to Thanos than just the Infinity Gauntlet.

Note: Due to the nature of Ranker's voting, these results may change. At the time of publication, this list is correct.

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10 The Magus Saga (1975)

Artwork showing Thanos and Adam Wrlock in Marvel comics.

Adam Warlock is one of Marvel cosmic's most important and powerful characters. The so-called "Magus saga," which covered numerous titles, including Strange Tales and Warlock's eponymous series, explores Warlock's duality and psyche by pitting him against Magus, an evil version of himself.

RELATED: 10 Ways Adam Warlock Could Factor Into Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3

The MCU doesn't explore their relationship, but Warlock and Thanos have a complex and rich dynamic in the comics. The "Magus saga" serves as the perfect set-up to explore the characters' contentious relationship while also marking the debut of Gamora, Thanos' daughter and another crucial character in the Mad Titan's journey. The saga ends with the first assembling of the Infinity Stones, marking one of Thanos' landmark achievements.

9 Marvel Universe: The End (2003)

Thanos in Marvel The End

The 2003 six-issue crossover The End features the origin of some of the most elusive figures in the Marvel canon: the Celestials. The story's main plot features the return of the corrupted Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten and his subsequent conquering of the Earth. Thanos joins Doctor Doom and other heroes to travel back in time and rewrite history.

The End is a character study that puts Thanos front and center and showcases the eternal conflict within his character. He is incapable of letting go of his desires and ambitions, even if it's in service of the greater good. Thanos will always believe he is right, and his actions will ultimately bring destruction despite his best intentions. The end sees him sacrificing after sharing an emotional moment with Warlock and Lady Death, proving that Thanos is more than the madness usually associated with him.

8 Thanos Rising (2014)

Thanos in Thanos Rising

The 2004 storyline Thanos Rising chronicles Thanos' origin story and subsequent rise to power. Returning to his destroyed world of Titan to visit his mother's grave, Thanos reminisces about his childhood, including an event that scarred him for life.

Thanos Rising does excellent work humanizing the Mad Titan, allowing him a complexity like never before and succeeding in explaining his conflicting nature. Most importantly, the storyline features the origin of his eternal obsession with Death, poignantly portraying the one-sided nature of their bond.

7 The Thanos Imperative (2010)

Thanos on the cover of The Thanos Imperative comic.

One of the most ambitious Marvel crossovers, in terms of themes, at least, was 2010's "The Thanos Imperative." The plot focused on the cosmic heroes joining forces to deal with the Fault, a rift in the space-time continuum that led to the creation of the Cancerverse, where death doesn't exist.

"The Thanos Imperative" sees Thanos assuming his place as the Avatar of Death in a story that pits him against his first foe, Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel. The storyline doesn't reveal anything new about Thanos, instead toying with familiar concepts like the Mad Titan's obsession with Death. Still, the storyline features some impressive moments, particularly between Thanos and his old foe, Mar-Vell.

6 Annihilation (2006)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Nova, and Inhumans in Marvel's Annihilation Comic

The massive 2006 crossover "Annihilation" featured every relevant character in Marvel cosmic and then some. The plot follows the impending arrival of the Annihilation Wave, a large armada in service of the supervillain Annihilus. Thus, every major character joins forces to stop the wave.

RELATED: The 10 Biggest Cosmic Events That Could Happen In The MCU

Thanos' role in "Annihilation" is relatively small, although everyone in this massive crossover sees their participation reduced. The Mad Titan does his part by defeating the Beyonder -- with help from Star-Lord -- and enslaving the Fallen One, a former herald of Galactus. He then allies with Annihilus but has a last-minute change of heart before dying at the hands of Drax the Destroyer.

5 The Infinity War (1992)

The sequel to the 1991 crossover "The Infinity Gauntlet," "The Infinity War" sees Magus, Adam Warlock's newly recreated evil persona, seeking revenge against Warlock and Thanos. To succeed, he creates a new dimension full of doppelgängers, pitting Marvel's heroes against themselves.

Unlike the big-screen adaptation, Thanos doesn't play an antagonistic role in "The Infinity War." On the contrary, he acts as one of the main players trying to stop Magus, going so far as to actively help Warlock stop his evil double. The storyline is a refreshing change of pace to Thanos' otherwise simplistic villain persona, even if the Mad Titan's good intentions don't last past the end of the last page.

4 Infinity (2013)

A close-up of Thanos roaring with glowing eyes in Marvel comics.

2013's "Infinity" storyline goes back to basics, featuring Thanos launching an attack on Earth while the Avengers are off-world trying to unite the universe against the alien race known as the Builders. "Infinity" is the continuation of several storylines, including "Age of Ultron."

Thanos is the crossover's main antagonist, doing little more than being evil and trying to conquer the Earth. However, the storyline offers some refreshing insights into the Mad Titan by showing him through the eyes of several other characters. Most see him for what he is -- a deranged and power-hungry tyrant --, but a few offer some intriguing interpretations about Thanos' motives.

3 Thanos Quest (1990)

Thanos displaying his powers in Marvel comics.

The Infinity Stones are some of the most powerful items in Marvel, and "The Thanos Quest" tells the story of how the recently resurrected Thanos obtains them. The storyline features Thanos challenging several prominent characters in Marvel cosmic, including the Champion of the Universe, the Collector, and the Grandmaster.

"The Thanos Quest" is a brilliant showcase for the Mad Titan. Thanos wins the stones using his wit and cunning instead of brute force, adding considerably to his previously straightforward characterization. The storyline sees him outwitting every single foe, to the point where Death herself seems somewhat impressed by his achievements. "The Thanos Quest" also sets up "The Infinity Gauntlet," confirming it as one of Thanos' most vital storylines.

2 Silver Surfer: Rebirth Of Thanos (1987)

Thanos Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer takes center stage against the Mad Titan in 1987's "Rebirth of Thanos." As the name implies, the story features the Mad Titan's return to life and his continued quest to unite the Infinity Stones. The Surfer joins forces with Drax the Destroyer and The Impossible Man to stop Thanos from achieving his goal.

RELATED: 10 Most Powerful Heralds Of Galactus (Who Aren't Silver Surfer)

Like other classic Thanos storylines, "Rebirth of Thanos" portrays him in a wholly negative and slightly one-note light; he is evil and wants Death to love him. Still, "Rebirth of Thanos" is as responsible for cementing Thanos as one of Marvel's ultimate threats as future storylines like "Infinity Gauntlet." Silver Surfer is the true star of this show, but Thanos is a worthy foe.

1 Infinity Gauntlet (1991)

Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet in George Pérez art.

One of the most well-known and celebrated storylines in Marvel history, "The Infinity Gauntlet" sees Thanos reuniting the six Infinity Stones and wiping out half of all life in the universe. When the Gauntlet gets stolen by Nebula, Thanos joins the heroes led by Adam Warlock to recover it.

"The Infinity Gauntlet" is the Thanos storyline. It features every prominent thread in the Mad Titan's mythos -- his obsession with Death, his ambition to reunite the Stones, his troubled relationships with his daughters -- and blends them to create a cohesive storyline that brings the entire Marvel universe together against the Mad Titan. "The Infinity Gauntlet" is a before and after in Marvel history and the perfect proof that Thanos might be its greatest villain.

NEXT: Gorr The God Butcher & Other Villains With Signature Weapons

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About The Author David Caballero (921 Articles Published)

David is a twenty-eight-year-old Mexican writer and reader. Having studied Marketing in school, he spent three years working a nine-to-five desk job before deciding to pursue a writing career. He now works as a Senior Writer in ScreenRant and does some more freelancing job, talking about the entertainment business he so loves. Currently, he's also writing his second novel while actively working to get his first one published.

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2022-07-06T20:44:35.000Z

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