RUN: 5 issues (1-4 +
KEY CREATORS: Kurt Busiek (writer) and Alex Ross (artist)
OUTLINE: Key points in the history of the Marvel Universes started from World War II, as seen through the eyes of a photographer.
STANDOUT ISSUE: Kind of hard to say with an series this small, but if pressed I love the World War II look for #1 and the emotional aspects of #4
DUD ISSUE: No issue is a dud. The issues I like the least were #3 (because the many full page panels reduced the amount of actual story) and #0 (because I prefer story to pinups).
OVERALL: At the time this came out Busiek, though a veteran writer, was nowhere near as well known as he is today. So I think I can be forgiven if my second thought after seeing the art in Previews (the first being how
great the art was) was "I hope the writer doesn't screw up the story the art promises."
Well, although I didn't order it, I saw #1 on the shelf and took a chance. And the writing actually enhanced the series. We got to see a young Jameson talk the way I'm expect him to talk (though he isn't actually named in #1; I'm guessing to avoid later problems due to Marvel time), and Sheldon grabbed me as a character. His thoughts and fears made me look at the Marvel Universe partly through new eyes, partly though through old and almost forgotten eyes as I recaptured some lost sense of wonder.
Which brings us to Ross. As effective as writer as Busiek is, I don't think he would have been half as effective without Ross' stunning realistic paintings. This as well changed the way I looked at the Marvel Universe, as more than any other artist, he captured what the Marvel Universe would be like if it was real. And somehow he made it seem real without making the costumed characters look a bit off, as sometimes happens to costumed heroes in live action films. A good part of the thrill of the series is seeing just what Ross will do to make heroes look more real. Spidey's shiny eyes and creased costume in #4 typifies the amount of care put into the art to make it appear real.
The use of red in the X-Men sequences was a nice way to show the fear towards the X-Men, though part of me wouldn't have minded one costume shot in their actual colours. #3's panels sped up the story a wee bit for
my liking, though I understand why it was done and liked the Surfer being reflective. And Gwen...oh man, Gwen was a character I loved even before Ross painted her. I realize she was a bit goody goody. That's what I
liked about her. Ross captured both her physical and inner beauty in her panels.
Ross' own writing in the Torch story in #0 may not be up to Busiek's level, but it's an engaging story in its own right. The posters weren't exactly a great read but do showcase his art on various characters.
And before I forget, though you need a magnifying glass or to squint real hard, the readable newspapers were a nice bonus.
RECOMMENDED OR NOT? A must read
CONTINUITY NOTES: The non-World War II settings, due to Marvel time compression, should be taken as artistic license designed to help capture the era's feel. Alternately Marvel decades look like a crosspatch of
earlier real world decades. Marvel time compression will probably screw up Sheldon and Jameson being in WW2 eventually.
Phil Sheldon's role at the wedding of Reed and Sue is elaborated upon in Marvel Heroes and Legends#1, but Stan Lee gave Sheldon an almost completely different personality in that title