This year marks the 80th anniversary of Marvel Comics–you know, the place that comes up with all those movie ideas. As such, Marvel has a number of celebratory projects in the pipeline, many of which are hitting stores as I type this. Projects like Marvel #1000 might seem gimmicky (“Find me Marvel #212,” railed Stew on a recent podcast), especially since their Distinguished Competition released two 1000 issues the year before, but that’s the grand Marvel tradition. Take something that might have been done before, but put that Marvel twist on it. In the case of Marvel 1000, I’m simultaneously really excited but preparing for devastating disappointment. They’re bringing all of these fantastic creative teams together–for a page. I’m sure there will be some great projects springboarding out of the project, but that’s for another time.
Marvel also has plenty of other neat extra stuff going on in addition to their already double and triple-shipped regular titles, including Chip Zdarsky’s Spider-Man: Life Story that will wrap up soon and Mark Waid’s History of the Marvel Universe that just started. I’ll even count Donny Cates and Tradd Moore’s Silver Surfer: Black as another anniversary themed prestige project designed to take my money (and it is gettting that money), although that one seems more like standard operating procedure than special occasion. I guess what I’m getting at is that there’s a lot of great stuff going out this year, and it’s very easy for something great to get lost in the shuffle. I’m here today to plead the case that you don’t forget about the Marvels Epilogue.
Don’t let my Skottie Young variant cover fool you. (Of course this has a bajillion variants–it is modern Marvel. after all). This one shot by the original Marvels creative team of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross features a 16 page story that perfectly encapsulates what these celebratory issues should be about. It adds to a classic story, which itself brilliantly weaves threads from Marvel’s most revered stories together. The epilogue has the same everyman with his family warmth that grounded the original series, and it also features the brilliant painted art of Alex Ross as well. You don’t need this story to feel like Marvels is a complete work, but you can certainly rest easy knowing that it’s quality work and not just some rushed cash grab. Busiek and Ross do not miss a beat. From the very first page you get right back with Phil Sheldon before Ross gets you with the spread culled from Uncanny X-Men #98. Classic X-Men fans will immediately recognize the page when they see it, while still being able to search the page for all of the additional homages and winks that Alex Ross is known for hiding in his artwork.
From there, it’s a story about how the X-Men met up with the Sentinels–except it’s more about the people in background panels and how they dealt with the craziness that was Marvel’s New York City. The location looks real; the people look spot on; the feelings are there; the only fantastical element is everything that happens. For my money, Alex Ross is one of the few artists who can have his photorealistic style but still capture the fun and energy and awe of super hero comics. He does this here to aplomb. You get something a little extra that you wouldn’t have known if you had just read X-Men 98 that happens down a few streets, and you’re treated to one more double page spread so that you can pore over every detail and composition decision. Then it’s done. The story doesn’t overstay its welcome. Phil Sheldon’s daughters lend just enough growth to make the story feel appropriate in its progression from the original. But it doesn’t forget about the series’s lead or the magic that made everything work. It’s not so short that it’s unsatisfying. It’s not long enough to drag. It’s just right to let you back into the universe, to give you one more taste of the brilliance, and then it’s out. The rest of the book comes packed with extras like interviews and a double-page spread drawn by Phil Sheldon–or at least the real life model who stood in for his photo reference.
As opposed to Marvel #1000’s one page efforts, I would gladly trade those 80 individual pages for three or four efforts similar to this one. Have the original creative teams try to respark some of the magic that made their best works so great. Make them all satisfying single-issue (or close to it) stories while you’re at it. As if that’s easy :-). Blame Marvels: Epilogue. Busiek and Ross sure make it look that way.
The bottom line: Make sure you don’t overlook this one in all the hubbub, bub. Marvels: Epilogue is an A effort that does everything you want an anniversary celebration issue to do. I’m sure it’ll pair great with the next printings of Marvels, but if you already have yours–go out and pick this issue up!
Until next time, I’ll be sorting through so many other celebratory issues and mini-series and one-shot efforts that Kool and the Gang will be telling me to give it a rest.