- Reading level: 8 - 12 years
- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Book Group Us Agency (6 January 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 078514286X
- ISBN-13: 978-0785142867
- Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 1 x 25.7 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,36,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marvels (Graphic Novel Pb) Paperback – 6 Jan 2010
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unless you've been living in a cave for the past 20 years (or you just don't read comics, which amounts to the same thing), you already know that Alex Ross is one of the best artists in the business, and Kurt Busiek is a pretty darn good writer as well.
"We are all living under the shadow of Dr. Manhattan." I read a theory that Geoff Johns has been spending his entire comic book career trying (and, in my opinion, failing) to "refute" Alan Moore's "Watchmen." Busiek, on the other hand, does it easily, over and over again, and "Marvels" is just one example of this. "Superheroes don't make any sense," Watchmen would tell us. "Marvels" disagrees. This is the tale of one reporter, Phil Sheldon, as he lives through the beginning of the era of Marvels in the 40's - with the original Human Torch, Namor, and Captain America, through the early 60's; where the golden era of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four mixes with the anti-mutant hatred against the X-men; all the way up to a tragic event in Spider-Man's life. You don't need to know much about Marvel comics to enjoy this, but you more you know, the more you'll get out of this.
At first the ending threw me for a loop, but after thinking about it for a bit, it made sense to me.
What makes this such a great book is that the writing keeps pace with the artwork. Kurt Busiek's retelling of the history of the Marvel Universe from the standpoint of a newspaper photographer is absolutely brilliant in depicting that history as background rather than foreground. To be honest, when the story does dwell over the photographer's reactions to what he has witnessed, the narrative wobbles a little. And the ending is truly a weak one, as the whole book just seems to sputter out with no climax of any kind. In fact, if there had been a strong ending this would easily have gone down as one of the 4 or 5 greatest superhero comics ever produced. Even as it is, it is one of the top dozen.
But as good as the story is, the great appeal of the book for me is the artwork. For my money, Ross draws people better than anyone in the business. He makes his figures look real in a way that no one else manages. They are also lovely, but it is the concrete realism he embues his figures with that makes them special. To contrast his work with Cassaday, whose work I love nearly as much, Cassaday's figures tend to look wonderfully stylized, posed to look impressively epic rather than natural. I love PLANETARY or THE ASTONISHING X-MEN in large part because of Cassaday's artwork, but you can't look at his figures and sense any kind of realism, despite how lovely they are. But you can almost imagine stepping into the pages of Ross's MARVELS.
This book goes, of course, on any short list of the great superhero graphic novels. Most serious fans of the genre will already own it. For those who do not but want to build a start up library of adult comics, this should be right up there on the list of first purchases.
I imagine that this read would be fun for a lot of long time fans. Going through and remembering different points in Marvel history. Though I think this is a great graphic novel I can also see this being some what boring looking for some of the more typical clash-of-titans type of comic book stories. Also, special note I really enjoy the art work of Alex Ross and in particular I enjoyed one panel where he worked in a homage to the painting Nighthawks, which while appearing in popular culture lots of other times before it fits in so well into Ross's style you almost wouldn't even notice it's there
The book travels from beginning to end in Marvel History. It's best to know a little bit of the history, or else you'll have no clue why Galactus is attacking Earth, or who in the world Gwen Stacy is. Any person without the history lesson isn't going to take away as much from Marvels as a fan would. However, if you are a fan, be prepared to read something you've never read before.
The book starts off with a very strong intro on how the Human Torch came about. This is story-telling at its finest and I actually wish I could read more like this in the book.
The book then switches gears and every account is then looked through the eyes of the main character who is a everyday citizen employed as a photographer. The first story deals with the sudden appearance of superheroes, or as the book refers to them, marvels. The genius of the books lies in looking at the marvels from a different persepective, that of a everyday person which is not really done in any comic book story.
The second story continues with the mutants, notably the emergence of the X-Men as outcasts in society.
The third story is the legendary story of Galactus and Fantastic Four.
The final story is another historic one: the death of Gwen Stacey with the most famous Marvel character of all, Spider-Man!
Although I feel the story is somewhat lacking since it basically just traces some of the history of Marvel Universe, just the concept of looking at these marvels thru the eyes of an ordinary person is very revolutionary by itself. Still, I feel there is so much potential for an even better story. If there are any complaints it would be the story, but the writing is absolutely terrific and a joy to read. Now for the art. I kind of regret not getting the hardcover book because this is a book that I would like to keep and treasure for a long time and getting it as a hardcover would be a better investment. The art is just revolutionary. It took the artist, Alex Ross about a year just to finish the artwork for one of four stories in the book and almost 3 years in total. This is not cartoon pop art, this is fine art. The illustrations in the book are actual paintings, mostly derived from water colors. And they are not in abstract or impressionist style, but in portrait-like detail. It is absolutely the highest level a book can reach in terms of illustrations short of actual photographs which would be a quite a task in the making. So if anything, do yourself a favor and get this book for the artwork. You will not be disappointed.