hey say that every dog has his day, and in Marvel Comics, that means even Thanos gets his shot at leading The Avengers. That sentence will seem like blasphemy to the longtime Marvel Comics fans: perhaps even more offensive and unthinkable than Captain America killing Avengers in cold blood. But where the company’s massive Secret Empire warped the reality of the Marvel Universe, the twist of cosmic destiny that sees Thanos defending Earth alongside Spider-Man, Thor, and the rest of the Avengers is a bit more… fantastic.

The unexpected turn from supervillain to superhero comes in the Mad Titan’s titular comic series, pitting Thanos up against the machinations of his son, Thane, and a shocking betrayal from Lady Death herself. Getting his powers back and teaching his son a lesson leads Thanos to do the impossible, risking his reputation and his life by leaping into the unknown. In this case, a world where Thanos wasn’t an Avengers villain, but their most accomplished and successful champion.

Casual Marvel fans roped in by the official synopsis claiming Thanos was “Earth’s Mightiest Hero” and not Earth’s most fearsome foe are dropped into confusion from page one. As the Incredible Hulk villain Abomination a.k.a. Emil Blonsky terrorizes what looks to be New York City, the Avengers on hand are already completely vanquished. But where Captain America, Wasp, Thor, Hercules, and Spider-Man aren’t enough to stop the mutated monstrosity, a quick look to the Heavens sees the city’s salvation in Thanos – even uttering the famous “Avengers Assemble!”

The shock of seeing Thanos the Mad Titan leaping in to the rescue with Daredevil, Ms. Marvel, Vision, and Iron Man is sure to last for most of the issue, especially when Thanos warns that attacking his “friends” means Abomination receives no mercy. A few powerful blasts of energy later, and the villain is defeated. The heroes gather to celebrate, and Captain America’s inquiry as to whether or not Thanos is “Okay” leads to the most surprising moment yet. As Thanos mulls over the question, he cracks into a smile, acknowledging that for the first time in what may be centuries… he is.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Which means that nagging feeling in Thanos’s brain telling him something is off is revealed to be completely accurate.

The revelation comes from Sam Wilson directly, confirming Thanos’s suspicions that something is not right. Showing the events of his past comic storylines and current series, Thanos has his memories come flooding back. The truth of the matter is that this reality – a world in which Thanos has friendship, is beloved by a planet, and can live in happiness for all time – is a construct. It’s essentially one large test delivered by the Three Sisters of Eternity, whom Thanos sought out in the previous issues.

In an attempt to gain back his godly powers and immortality, Thanos went in search of the Sisters and the location they guard, known as The God Quarry. Picture a massive hole dug deep into the fabric of reality, lined with the bodies of gods and goddesses who came before, turned to stone by some unknown force beyond our universe. Thanos dove into that unknown at the Sisters’ instruction, and was turned to stone himself… before learning what the true reason for the gods’ slumber may actually be. In short, an eternity of contentment and peace.

Sam Wilson extends the offer on behalf of the God Quarry’s makers, but gets a hearty laugh from Thanos once he realizes the true scale of the Sisters’ folly. He is Thanos, after all.

Without hesitation, Thanos recognizes that the Sisters of Eternity have underestimated his brutality, his thirst for power and destruction, and the revenge driving him to defeat his petulant son. After that, the Mad Titan shows what would actually happen if he suddenly appeared in the heart of Avengers Tower, and caught the superteam off-guard. First, vanquishing Captain America with a single clap of his massive, once-again-superpowered hands. Second, vaporizing the rest of the Avengers in one fell swoop.

The twist drives home just how singular Thanos’s villainy is in the Marvel Universe. Not just because he would reject a life of absolute contentment, but because the idea of him actually putting his abilities to use for good is laughable. Thanos soon returns to the God Quarry to make his escape with powers renewed, and sets off to finally meet Thane in one-on-one combat. It’s the showdown that the series has been building to from the very start, and with this quick trip into the heroic life Thanos could have, Jeff Lemire, German Peralta, and Rachelle Rosenberg are headed straight for it.

But readers won’t soon forget the image of Thanos siding with the Avengers. However, we can’t help but think that’s not the direction that the movie version of Infinity War will be heading.