Sunday, September 28, 2008


by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

Like I've mentioned before on this blog, I tend to ignore fads. I've gotten pretty good at resisting the hype to read this book or see that movie that everybody's talking about. Most of the time the hype passes and I find that I haven't missed a thing. But every now and then, I discover that the hype was justified and that I've taken too long to partake in something really enjoyable. Such is the case with Marvels. I saw the covers of the mini-series back in 1994, of course. It looked really impressive. But I'd seen pretty covers on comics whose interior art didn't quite deliver before. And besides, money was tight and I was pretty much off Marvel Comics. Fast forward 14 years. It's time for the Friends of the Library sale and I discovered that if you pay for a Friends membership and attend the preview, you get a lot better selection of graphic novels. Since they're only a dollar apiece, I shove a number into my shopping bag. Including this, the trade paperback collection of the Marvels mini-series.

Marvels is a look at the early years of the Marvel Universe from the viewpoint of normal folks. Our everyman is Phil Sheldon, a news photographer. As the events of various Marvel comics occur in the background, Phil observes and reacts to them. The original series had four issues. The first deals with the rise of super-powered beings, referred to as "marvels" by Phil. The second shifts to the second age of Marvel comics in the early sixties, contrasting the celebrity of the Fantastic Four with the fearful reactions to the X-Men. Issue three shows the reaction on the street to the first coming of Galactus. And, finally, issue four tells how Phil hooked up with Gwen Stacy in his attempt to write a book on what the "marvels" should mean to the common people of humanity. It's a collection that really struck a chord with this fan-boy, or ex-fan-boy, or whatever I am these days. I loved getting a different perspective on the stories--the mythology--I read all those years ago. And of course Alex Ross' art is magnificent, bringing a unique sense of reality without sacrificing the necessary unreality that the superhero genre requires. Part of me is tempted to go out and get a brand new copy rather than this worn hand-me-down paperback. Either way, I want to keep Marvels on my shelf.

LibraryThing link

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