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Monday, 16 July 2012

Simple MARVEL...ous

Marvels
Graphic Novel - NO 13 in the Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection

by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross


Originally published as a four issue mini series in 1994.

Those with a knowledge of comic books will have heard of this groundbreaking title, but this is the first time I've come across it. I enjoy graphic novels and have read a great many over the years but they form only a small portion of my reading and the Marvel Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection is proving a must buy for me and allowing me to catch up on classics that originally went beneath my radar.

Before I talk about Marvels - I just want to say it blew my mind.

It really is that good.

It's basically the entire history of the Marvel universe,encompassing all the key events, but told through the eyes of ordinary people - our ordinary Joe is Phil Sheldon who just happens to live and work in New York. Marvels super heroes, unlike DC's, tend to live in real cities, most often the Big Apple and  so Phil  gets plenty of photo opportunities to snap the various super heroes or, as he calls them, Marvels. The graphic novel kicks off with a prologue featuring the original Human Torch and then takes us into the Second World War and the appearance of Captain America.

The story continues through until the present day, well the 1990's in any case, where Phil is now an old man who has grown tired of the way the world at large treat the Marvels.

 "It would have served us right if the Marvels never returned. We didn't deserve them."


The death of Gwen Stacy hits Sheldon hard and our story ends with him retiring from photo journalism to be with his family.

The art by Alex Ross is absolutely stunning with each incredibly detailed  frame hand painted- there is some humour too and in the frame depicting the wedding of Reed and Sue Richards, The Beatles can be spotted amongst the guests. And when you've got artwork this good twinned with a script as strong as this one, you've got something very special indeed.

It works on a few levels - on the surface it's an incredibly entertaining read, but underneath it serves as a fitting tribute to everyone who over the years worked on building the Marvel universe.


It is also a stroke of genius to make out narrator an everyman and make the super characters part of the supporting cast. It all seems so real and this graphic novel is as complex as any straight novel and really shows what the medium is capable of.

The deluxe hardcover edition published this week as part of the ultimate graphic novel collection part work is excellent value - priced at £9.99 you are getting a book that is easily worth double the money.


The original mini series won several awards and turned both the writer and artist into superstars.

  • Won "Best Finite Series" Eisner Award
  • Won "Best Painter" Eisner Award, for Alex Ross
  • Won "Best Publication Design" Eisner Award, for Comicraft
  • Nominated for "Best Cover Artist" Eisner Award, for Alex Ross
  • Nominated for "Best Single Issue", for Marvels #2 "Monsters"














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