So perhaps you are expecting a month of winter themed reviews, perhaps based on Christmas and although I would love to review some of my December favourites, instead I’m going to treat myself. For this month I’m throwing my pattern and restrictions out the window (not literally, it’s freezing outside). So I’m going to review what ever I want.
Several years ago I was in the Kirkwall library (love that building) and in the section for graphic novels I found a real gem, Marvels. Marvels is a graphic novel that truly does well what many of these live action adaptions fail to do, it makes the universe all seem real.
When we often describe making something feel real, it usually means making it dark or dulling it down because it was just too fantastical, but Marvels didn’t. Marvels kept the early Marvel universe as it was, but changes its perspective. We are not seeing the emergence of this world of wonders from the perspective of the heroes, but from regular people looking up at them. This works perfectly, when you see a super hero in a show or an adventure in a space ship, because you were viewing it from the people this was just normal to, you soon lose the sense of wonder and amazement by making it a story of a guy on the ground it retains that sense of how amazing this world is .(Helped that it’s set mostly during the Silver Age where comics could get really weird)
The art by Alex Ross helps bring this to life, as it’s a style of photo realism. This makes it look like it’s almost a photograph. While this might not work for your everyday comic, given the nature of this story it beautifully enhances it as once again it makes it all seem so real. And no less must be said about writer Kurt Busiek. Reading editorials at the beginning you find out just how much hard work it was back then to line up events so that what was happening in Marvels lined up with a timeline in the early Marvel universe, which is impressive since they didn’t have a set timeline back then and thus had to work out with some difficulty what happened in comics relating to one another.
While the prologue is from the perspective of the original human torch (who was a robot, not a member of the fantastic 4 existed just before America went into WW2 and cameos in Captain America First Avenger, go on look). The 4 issues proper star Phil Sheldon a photographer.
Issue 1 starts in that same period of time as the prologue, just before WW2 when the Marvel universe just begins to start. You see his reaction as the human torch comes to life, hearing reports of a strange man emerging from the sea and leads into Captain America going to war.
Issue 2 moves us into the Silver Age where Phil is a fair bit older (as it’s the 60s now) and the Marvel universe has truly started (there were comics before it, but most people see the Marvel universe proper starting with the first issue of the Fantastic 4). But while the early wonders of the Silver Age delight us, Phil soon gets caught up in one of the anti mutant riots and then begins to come to terms over the guilt he felt getting caught up in that all the while the sentinels fly overhead.
Issue 3 focuses on something interesting ,The coming of Galactus (number 2 of characters I wish Marvel could get into the movies but is tied into another studio, look it up) a cosmic god who destroys planets. You see from the people on the ground, as gods battle for the fate of the world.
The final issue is rather poignant, after the cosmic power of Galactus we come all the way back to the ground, as Phil spends what is to be the last day in the life of Gwen Stacy.
Marvels is truly a work of art, it shows just what sequential art can be, both the story telling and visuals are phenomenal seeing the early and very well known tales of the Marvel universe from this new angle that reignites your sense of wonder.
A must read, not just for comic book fans if it is in your library sit down and enjoy the Marvels.