OK this one is all about Marvels. A Limited series written be Kurt Busiek and painted (yes, PAINTED) by Alex Ross and published in 1994. Marvels is the history of the Marvel Universe from pre-World War II (when it wasn’t even Marvel Comics Co.) to the early 1970s. This series isn’t really a comic to read for a person’s very first one ever because it truly is a “history book” of 30+ years rather than an in-depth hero book.
It is a great book for a person who knows the major Marvel Heroes and Villains, even if only from the movies. The beauty of the story is the history of super powered people appearing is told entirely from the point of view of normal man who is a photojournalist named Phil Sheldon. As the series goes on he becomes a family man which makes him think even more about the perils of being a normal human in a world filling up with unbelievable power.
The first book is the pre-Marvel history after that it all Marvel “proper.” It covers the major beats of the Marvel U. the creation of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson rabid hatred for Spidey, and the formation of The Avengers just to name a few. When people are running away from something Phil runs towards it because it tends to be a battle of the “Marvels”, as Phil calls them. He also covers less amazing but more important things.
Then even bigger things happen that change his world again. Galactus – Devourer of Worlds, aliens like the Skrulls who want to conquer the Earth and more. And now humanity knows there are much larger things in the universe that make the super powered heroes look so very small and weak.
Next is the rise of the Mutants and with them the formation of the X-Men. This was Marvel Comics commentary racism back in the day. People hated and feared mutants and decided to “protect” themselves by creating the Sentinels, giant killer mutant hunting robots.
During this time people start attacking anyone who looks like a mutant. When running to the scene of an anti-riot Phil finds a little mutant girl that has no chance of blending in and was abandoned by her family. Phil decides that regardless of he worries about people with powers he can’t leave her to be attacked and takes her to his home and raise her alongside his daughters. The ending to this part of the tale is rather heart wrenching.
*Spider-Man movie (2012 and on) *SPOILER WARNING* if you don’t want to know what comes up in a movie or 2 scroll down fast and don’t look at the picture. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*
Phil starts looking into Spider-Man’s “murder” of Captain Stacy. During the course of this he ends up talking to the Captain’s daughter Gwen. After talking to her he sees the Green Goblin fly off with her and gives chase. Phil doesn’t know that this is a ploy by the Goblin to lure Spider-Man out by kidnapping Spidey’s girlfriend and taking her to the Brooklyn Bridge. And it works. During the fight Gwen is knocked from the top of the bridge. Spider-Man tries to save her but she gets killed. This is the thing that convinces Phil to retire and stop covering the “Marvels.”
*OK SPOILERS OVER*
Marvels is a classic, it is one of the best normal person’s point of view super hero stories. Phil’s feelings about the heroes changes naturally as he lives his life. Having a family nudges him one way while finding a defenseless mutant girl sends him in a different way and interacting with “Marvels” shifts him even more.
Marvels is also stunningly beautiful. Alex Ross is an amazing artist. Throughout the series he recreates classic Marvel images. You can probably find dozens of examples on-line. He also tosses in little nods for dorks like me who have been reading comic for decades. The series is worth the purchase price for the art alone, the great story is an added bonus.
Oh and the nice normal kid at the end who takes Phil’s picture? Yeah he’s the guy who becomes Ghost Rider in the 90’s.