Marvels by Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek

Marvels was an incredible attempt to produce a social history of the Marvel universe.  This was told from the perspective of an ‘everyman’ reporter Phil Sheldon.  Phil charted the history of the fictional Marvel universe from it’s humble beginnings with the adventures of the Human Torch and the Submariner through to the death of Gwen Stacy.

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This series did more than anything to make Alex Ross an iconic talent. It’s difficult to pick up a major title now without the obligatory Alex Ross variant.  He is everywhere and has developed from an artist to an impressive creative force.  Responsible for co-plotting series’ like Kingdom Come and Justice at DC comics.

However the impact of the series was far greater than that, the comic book shaped the way that the two major companies (DC and Marvel) looked at their principle properties.  They soon realised that nostalgia could become a key marketing force in the industry.

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Marvels begins as a form of deconstruction, we are treated to a unique perspective on the superhuman battles between the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. The perspective however isn’t one of excitement as you would expect, it’s complete terror.  To the ordinary citizens of the Marvel universe these confrontations heighten their mortality in comparison to the battles being waged in their city.

Brilliantly Busiek anchors in the irrational hatred that characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men seemed to endure almost daily.  He roots this firmly back in the ‘Golden Age’, in those powerful initial appearances of the Superheroes. More than that, Busiek also tries to explain how a nation can fear and mistrust mutants.  Even if they respect and worship heroes like Captain America and the Fantastic Four.  It isn’t the fact that mutants are different, it’s the fear that they might replace us.

Marvels is a fantastically self aware narrative and features all the important moments of iconic comic book history from a fresh perspective.  I highly recommend this title.

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