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MarvelsMarvels is a superhero comic with an intelligent edge, managing to embrace the genre and come up with a story that is simultaneously original and traditional. The tradition comes from the fact that it celebrates the history of Marvel Comics' superhero universe in an ultra-faithful manner, spanning its major events from the formation of the Fantastic Four to the death of Spider-Man's first girlfriend, many years later. Yet it's simultaneously unorthodox in that its main protagonist is not a costumed hero but a photojournalist, covering the actions of these Marvels (as he calls them) for newspapers like the Daily Bugle.
Alex Ross' painted artwork is a phenomenal achievement, refreshing Marvel's characters and history with a sweep of colour and realism. It seemed to us that he was more comfortable with the human characters than some of the more exotic ones though. Trying to create a realistic looking Thing, who has a rocky outer skin, was obviously tricky and might be better left to the traditional comics style that requires more suspension of disbelief.
The story, written by Kurt Busiek, takes you through Marvel's history from a very human perspective. Imagine going about your everyday business when a supervillain turns up and starts creating havoc. A superhero is never going to be too far away - they'll fight, a few buildings might get flattened, and it's all over. This inevitably causes frictions with the civilian populace, who prefer their buildings the way they were. The back-stories of the heroes, that provided them with their human characteristics, are largely ignored in this version, presumed to take place behind closed doors (except for a celebrity romance or two). This leaves the powerless populace feeling threatened from all angles by these seemingly alien beings with amazing abilities.
Busiek has done a fair job of creating a realistic playground for the superpowers to do their stuff in, but it raises as many questions as it answers. For example, New York is the centre of superhero attention but you can't help wondering what's going on in the rest of the world, beyond Marvel's 'universe', especially since the reader is given a taster of superheroes fighting in World War II. Having said that, it's a well-researched and enjoyable read, showing superheroes from a perspective you don't often see.
Marvel Books (US)
Originally published as
Kurt Busiek interview