In my view Marvels
is one of, if not the greatest, comics released by Marvel Comics. I first encountered it as a twelve year old and have read it several times since. And each time I encounter again what it is that makes Marvels
a stand out work in the Marvel universe of comics.
The artwork in Marvels
is clearly a stand-out feature. Though Alex Ross is better known for his work in the also grand [b:Kingdom Come|16992|Kingdom Come|Mark Waid|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1223649455s/16992.jpg|89985] I personally prefer his artwork here where he first worked his unique stylistic magic. In my eyes Marvels
has some of the greatest illustrations in the genre. While [b:Watchmen|472331|Watchmen|Alan Moore|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327866860s/472331.jpg|4358649] and [b:Batman: The Dark Knight Returns|59960|Batman The Dark Knight Returns|Frank Miller|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327892039s/59960.jpg|1104159] may be the greatest acclaimed graphic novels, I believe that alongside [b:Batman: Noel|11186443|Batman Noel|Lee Bermejo|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1341435405s/11186443.jpg|16111174] this novel has the greatest artwork style.
The story is essentially a trip through Marvel comic history, beginning with the WW2 based heroes and moving forward to the space-age/cosmic heroes. This trip is seen from the Odyssean perspective of one man by the name of Phil Sheldon. Phil is a photographer who through the course of the novel takes advantage of the rise of superheroes to gain work experiences. Through his eyes the reader sees how the world is changing with the rise of the superhero and the prejudice as regards the mutant X-Men.
As an aspect of this comic history the reader can see the interconnected nature of the comics. I believe this shows better than any Marvel comic how connected the story arcs are. And in this way it makes the perfect entry novel into the Marvel universe. It also makes for the perfect novel to see a progression of human reactions to the heroes across the different entire continuing arcs.
Part of the joy and brilliance of this graphic novel is how it also shows how individuals respond to the heroic and to the extraordinary. There is the sense that there are those vigilante style heroes - the Spiderman characters - who are disliked, because, despite being the heroes with power and responsibility, they are the heroes who make the right calls. There are the heroes like The Avengers, the public heroes which are loved and adored by many until they make an error or leave an unforgiving public to their fate. Then there are the X-Men, those unloved figures seeking desperately to be accepted and working behind the scenes as heroes. And then of course for every hero you have a villain, the individual who chooses to use their abilities for other purposes.
The book essentially could be seen as filled with metaphors for the changes in history after WW2. For instance the rise of the nuclear powered heroes, or heroes who gained powers from nuclear power, are representative of the advent of the Cold War, where the racism directed against the X-Men reminds one of the periods of racism throughout recent history. In such a way though Marvels
is a beautiful romp through a world imbued with super-heroics it is also a tribute to our own history and a reminder through the eyes of the everyman of how we as people adapt to the changing times.
In short this is a poignant book full of superheroes and also with a deeper look into how the ordinary individual must survive in a world where men and women can tear down buildings with ease. Or to put it in other words, how men and women survive in an era of gods and mortals, an era of politics and advanced technology. It is the story of the 'marvels' but it is also the story of the ordinary people caught in the crossfire of the miraculous and therefore the deadly. And I personally know of few other comics (perhaps Watchmen
or The Dark Knight Returns
in some sense do this) that take a look into how people are affected by the extraordinary. As such I rate this as an important, must read, graphic novel.