Marvel comics made history when it introduced art whiz, Alex Ross, to the general comic book public. In a 4 part miniseries, collected handsomely in this TPB, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross take us on a history run of Marvel's most famous heroes, as we learn of their beginnings and take a ride down memory lane through the eyes of a photojournalist, a normal human.
Marvels is a success in two different aspects. The first being the extensive history, writer Kurt Busiek, takes on to bring all the right details in Marvel's events and actually make them fit. Be it sheer will or just luck, but he masterfully weaves a pattern that brings justice to Marvel's long abode that the company truly works on continuity and that a small even happening to one of the heroes will eventually affect another some other time. The art is something else. Alex Ross is amazing. Though he's not as crisp as he is in his later works like Kingdom Come, his work on Marvels takes on an evolutionary step in the visual rendition of comic books. The comic medium becomes not just restricted to pencil art, but full fledged painted art. Through it all, you can get a feel that his work gets better with each chapter. Chapter 3 and 4 being the most visually appealing.
Marvels is truly a gem of a work. It was a huge commercial success and racked some numerous awards too. It was interesting to look at the Marvel Universe through the eyes of your average joe. The same concept of the third party spawned the idea of the highly successful Spiderman's Tangled Web. This can only mean the comics are not just interested in stories about their favorite heroes, but also the people in which these heroes can affect their life. It is only through that do people can fully relate to and think that guy could very well be me. Marvels paved the way with a top notch story and over the top art.
First and formost, I am not a very big Marvel fan. I picked this up after reading "Kingdom Come" and thoroughly enjoying Alex Ross' art. The art here was just as good as it was in Kingdom Come but the story was totally different. As a matter of fact, this was different that any comics stories I've read. Nearly all stories put the superheroes in the driver's seat, with the stories being from their point of view and narration. This was the exact opposite. This story, much to its credit is told from the point of view of a photojounalist, Phil Sheldon. He chroicles the entire birth of the Marvel Universe, from the birth of the Human Torch in the 1940's to the death of Gwen Stacy in the more recent chain of events. He tells a story of awe, appreciation, respect and fear regarding the Marvels (as he likes to call these superheroes). He reflects the emotions of how humans would truly react whether this phenomenon had really occurred. The end product being a masterpiece and one of the best comic stories....no, one of the best stories ever written. As I mentioned in the beginning, the art is flawless and truly a feast for the eyes. The details that Ross places on every panel he paints is truly uncanny and cements his status as on the best artists in the medium. Much applause and crdit should go to the author, Kurt Busiek who does the seemingly impossible task of tying together all the events on the Marvel Universe in a very coherent manner (from the sighting of the X-MEN to the senate hearing for Tony Stark, the disbanding of The Avengers to the death of Captain Stacy). This shows that he had put in a lot of work on this painstaking research and story. All of these factors puts MARVELS on the list with other comic masterpieces such as The Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, etc. Anybody who believes comics are for kids and just a showcase for colorful and flamboyant superheroes should read this. This story manages to penetrate deeply emotional issues that are comparable and might even rival some of the writing done in the more mature and regular medium.
MARVELS is a neat chronicle of watershed events in the Marvel universe that occur over a period of about fifty years. It's also seen from the perspective of the average, non-superpowered 'man on the street'. It all unfolds from the view of a newspaper photographer, as he witnesses the legendary battle between Namor the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch, the rise of the X-Men & their battle for equality, the death of Gwen Stacey, the aftermath of the X-Men's first battle with the Hellfire Club, and many more turning points in the Marvel world's history, all from an almost-safe distance.
Alex Ross's photorealistic painted artwork, rather than the pencil-ink-color process that is the norm, gives the book a 'real world' look. It's how the Marvel universe would look like were it shown 'live-action'. MARVELS marks Ross's big break into the comics scene, eventually making him one of the most in-demand talents in the medium today. This book was my first exposure to Ross' efforts, and I've been a big fan of his art ever since.
But there's also Kurt Busiek's story, which shows the man's reactions to the events as an outsider looking in. His story artistry gives you a glimpse, if you were able to, of how you'd experience the world of superheroes.
It's hard for me to justify the expense of a hardcover graphic novel, especially if it's a collection of individual issues I already have, but when I heard about the Marvels 10th Anniversary edition I knew I would have to get it. Not only is Marvels one of my favorite comics of all time, but the extras packed into this book really show how collected editions are starting to become the DVD equivalent for comic books.
In "Marvels," Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross took us through the life of photojournalist Phil Sheldon, an old-fashioned newspaperman with printer's ink in his veins and a camera to his eye. Phil, however, lives in a more fantastic universe than you or I, he lives in the Marvel Universe, home of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Through four issues, we watch how Phil and his world grew and changed, how people thought about the superheroes -- the Marvels, as Phil called them -- and how perceptions evolved along the way. It's a beautiful, poignant series about ordinary heroism, hero worship, and the heroic ideal. Ten years later, it's still one of the best comics I've ever read.
If you've already read the comics, though, there is still stuff here for you. This collection includes the four pitches Busiek and Ross went through to get the series made, the complete scripts for all four issues, character sketches, production and promotional artwork, a guide to "Easter Eggs" in the artwork, a section on Ross' technique of painting from photographed models and even the text of all the newspaper articles that only partially appeared throughout the series. It's packed, and that makes the reading all the more fun.
If you've never read "Marvels," you're missing out. If you read it and loved it, this book takes the story one step further. Kudos to Marvel for putting out such a great edition of such an important comic book.
P. Nicholas Keppler
For the 1994 mini-series, Marvels, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, came-up with an idea so brilliant, yet so simple, it is curious why no one thought of it years ago. Marvels presents the Marvel Universe (The fictional world that holds all of characters of Marvel Comics including Spider-man, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Captain America and more) through the eyes of the common man. Of coarse, to keep the book from being a commonplace tale with some supermen in the background, Mr. Busiek and Mr. Ross needed a protagonist that would have some interaction in the spandex-clad guardians of this world. Enter photojournalist, Phil Sheldon. Despite snapping photos of The Mighty Thor and The Uncanny X-men (and despite his astute introspection) Mr. Sheldon is just your average joe. He is a middle-aged man who commutes to work every morning, plays bridge every weekend, and tucks his daughters in every night. He is also the mouthpiece for the feelings one would expect of a man living in a time of unprecedented spectacles: curiosity, skepticism, awe and a huge hunk of fear. Mr. Busiek obviously undertook massive brainstorming and employed very careful reasoning to construct such a believable, not to mention likable, character with such rational, plausible concerns about an extreme, fantastic world.
If there was ever an artist born for such a project it is Alex Ross. His paintings are clear, crisp and, most of all, convincing. He sacrifices excessive dynamics and flashiness for images that are utterly realistic. Only actual photographs of a shimmering extraterrestrial floating down from the heavens or a man in a red and blue costume swinging from building to building could possibly be a step up from his work. Mr. Ross' stunning artwork greatly enhances the feelings of awe and wonderment of a man looking-up at the sky and seeing human beings airborne.
Throughout the years of overused ideas, disregard for scientific realities and perspectives from behind the mask, the fantastic events of comicbooks lost their majesty. By viewing them from the eyes of someone no more spectacular than me or you, Mr. Busiek and Mr. Ross return that feeling of wonderment and exhilaration one may have felt in 1938 when Superman first flew or in 1941 when Captain America tackled the Axis Powers with just a shield and a side-kick with more lushness, deliberation and proficiency than ever before. Marvels will do nothing less than make a reader forever see the Marvel Universe in a new light.