Marvels is a retelling of the first forty years of Marvel Comics history, but in only a handful of issues can it do the source material justice?
When it comes to comic books everyone is looking for a place to start. Most of the time, I recommend starting with critically acclaimed one-shots then following up with some of the more popular runs from your favourite character, but there is another way. In theory, you could attempt to start at the beginning and follow one of the comic book universes all the way from their very earliest issues to this week’s new releases. This would take a long time and a lot of sifting through some pretty dated material. In an attempt to circumvent this process Kurk Busiek and Alex Ross teamed-up and created Marvels.
Taken from the perspective of photographer Phil Sheldon, Marvels attempts to cover almost forty years of Marvel history from the late 1930’s all the way until the mid-1970’s highlighting how some of the greatest superhero storylines of the time and how they would have effected the everyday people of the Marvel Universe. The novel is a wonder to behold as Kurk Busiek works to create scenarios that put Phil right in the centre of the action and make the heroes, whom we normally view as protagonists instead into forces of nature that inspire awe, wonder and fear. It’s this visual aspect of superheroes that serves as a running theme for the narrative as Phil begins to photograph the heroes, making a name for himself off their appearances and battles.
The visual focus makes the art style all the more important in this series and there is simply no artist that can match Alex Ross from detail and beauty as he paints each individual panel. This give the piece a richer feel than most comics as many scenes long term fans recognise become magnificent oil paintings and water colours which emphasise on tone, shading and texture in a way that the original block print style of comics never could. Ross also works hard to include era-specific details that bring the real world and the Marvel world closer than ever before.
This is a truly amazing book and a great start to any Marvel fan’s collection. I was recently asked by a mother what comic book to buy for her teenage son and this was the one that immediately leapt to mind as it captures the sense of wonder that only comic books have the power to instil. If the piece has a weakness it is a little bit stumpy at a mere four issues but but I wouldn’t count that against the piece too much as this is more of a case of quality over quantity. Coming in between £10-£20, Marvels is well worth your money. If you only ever buy one Marvel comic book make it this one.