This is the latest in a recurring feature recommending classic comics that you should probably reread now you’ve got some time on your hands. The last one was The Birthday Riots. Next up: Marvels.
In 1993 a 4-issue prestige format mini-series hit the comic-book shelves, simply titled Marvels.
Written by Kurt Busiek, the story shows us some of the most game-changing events in the Marvel Universe, through the eyes of newspaper photographer Phil Sheldon.
Sheldon is the man on the ground, looking at and photographing the God-like heroes that start to fill the skies above the streets of New York.
Events, like the Human Torch battling The Sub-Mariner, and the epic coming of Galactus with the Fantastic Four standing in his path, mix the ordinary with the extraordinary, in a way that comics had never really done before.
A story of this scale though really required an artist that would be able to show us these mythic heroes in a new light, and Marvels was blessed with Alex Ross. His photo-realistic painted artwork presents the Marvel pantheon of heroes in a way that nobody had ever seen before.
These characters suddenly looked real, with costumes that seemed tailored instead of spray-painted on, and faces that could belong to people that you see every day on the subway.
Ross had mastered the art of making the unbelievable seem real, and Marvel made the most of this.
Printed on high-quality paper, and covers that were enhanced with acetate, these books looked and felt different, letting readers know that this was not the usual run-of-the-mill nostalgic look back at the Marvel continuity.
As the Silver Age melts into the Bronze Age, we find that after the cosmic events of The Fantastic Four, and the emergence of The X-Men, that it is a single death of a supporting character that provides the series with its most poignant moment.
The death of Gwen Stacey in the fourth issue, seen through the eyes of Sheldon, rewritten by Busiek, and painted by Ross, is heartbreaking and as pivotal here as it was back in the original run of Spider-Man.
Watching Gwen fall from that bridge, while Sheldon watches on, is almost too much, as we know how this thing plays out. Busiek understands the relevance of this moment for the whole of the comic book industry and treats it with the reverence it deserves.
The book went on to win 3 Eisner awards, and it’s still easy to see why.
Marvels was a stunning and brave 4-issue series that looks as good today as it did in 1993. Of course, Ross would go on to use his style on every character you can think of; he currently provides covers for Immortal Hulk, as well as other Marvel-style series’, but his take on classic Marvel Universe events has never really been surpassed.
You can find the 4 issues collected in trade, and if you have never read this, I suggest you grab a copy quick. Beautiful, powerful, and iconic, it doesn’t get any better than this.
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Louie Fecou reviews films, tv shows and comics for Ready Steady Cut, HC Movie Reviews and We Have A Hulk. He currently runs his own business in between watching films.