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Posted by No_Name_ (16193 posts) - - Show Bio

"Was it right that I should be given life, only to be placed in eternal imprisonment? To be tantalized with knowledge of the world, and denied the chance to savor it?"

Within the first few pages of Kurt Busiek's story the original Human Torch begs an existential question: is it fair that he is given life only to be denied the chance to actually live? Further, what is his role in the grand scheme of things? The Torch's moment of imprisonment isn't something that lasts very long, but the scenes and the language are indicative of a deeper story: a story of understanding, one that explores the psyches of these superheroes and allows readers to comprehend them on a far deeper level. That is why reading MARVELS is essential to your comics reading: within the pages of Busiek and Alex Ross' story is the exploration of characters we all know and love on a far deeper level. The language is beautiful and the layout of Ross's panels and art that compliment this story? In a word: it is breathtaking.

One of the great things about this particular trade are some of the extras you will find within its pages. The forward, for example, is written by Stan Lee: the man who created all these fantastic (no pun intended) characters. Stan covers a lot of what makes this particular story so compelling in his forward for the book. In it he explains that sure, when he first created these Marvel characters he intended that his characters and stories be "injected with realism" by using real cities, (like New York, for example) real buildings and the like but that it wasn't until MARVELS that the characters really felt authentic. Yes, these characters can do incredible things. Namor can fly, the Human Torch can light himself on fire by simply being exposed to oxygen, but the stories within the pages of MARVELS somehow feel so grounded that the characters feel like they actually exist, or could exist in our regular world. Through Ross' incredible ability to depict realism through painted art, and through Busiek's psychological exploration of these characters: that's what makes it feel as if these characters could simply jump off the pages and exist in our reality.

If you get the trade you will notice that it is split into different sections with each section focusing on a different character's story. The first focuses on the original Human Torch and Namor and is set around World War II in New York City. The panels feel real and dense, and Busiek makes sure to use language that was common for that era in New York. The result is a really beautiful, well written tale of two super-powered characters who seem to simply be misunderstood in that society but told primarily through the eyes of regular people who are witnessing these "Marvels" when they first come into existence, a detail which serves to further embed these characters in this realistic environment. Busiek takes it even further, leading his narrator, a journalist for The Daily Bugle, to beg where he and the rest of humanity fit in when these characters, these super-powered Marvels are becoming a reality.

"Marvels, I called them -- and that's what they were. Next to that -- what were we?…We weren't the players anymore, we were the spectators."

Humanity is no longer at the top of the food chain, and this is, in a sense something that is becoming more clear each and every day.The art is, of course, breathtaking and Ross even sneaks in a reference to artist Edward Hopper's famous 1942 Nighthawks painting which is considered one of the most famous and recognizable pieces of modern American art, a detail you should definitely look for if you manage to pick up this series.

The first section of the series serves as the introduction of these Marvels through the eyes of a younger man, and as the story progresses the man ages and more and more superheroes come into existence. Readers are introduced to some of the first mutants, as well as the Fantastic Four, Tony Stark and Captain America. And as the world is changing around our narrator, he continues to struggle with this idea that homo-sapiens are no longer superior beings, so how can he save his family in a climate that is changing and in a world that is day-by-day more and more out of his control? It's an interesting concept and is a big part of what makes reading this a very interesting experience.

Busiek's retelling of some of these classic stories is really well done and all tied together in a way that is organized and entertaining by the perspective of the narrator, a regular family man who is coming to the realization that the world around him is changing. Often when we read superhero stories, we fail to really consider the role of the bystander, and that's something Busiek brings to the very core of the story he is trying to tell. By having a narrator who is this seemingly normal guy who has born witness to many significant moments in the lives of these "Marvels," Busiek is essentially grounding the story in reality and making it feel like it could actually happen. Pair that with Alex Ross' absolutely breathtaking art and you have a recipe for a seemingly perfect superhero story. This is absolutely worth a look for anyone who is a fan of these characters and wants a new look at how they were originally introduced to the Marvel universe from a completely different lens.

#1 Posted by Pyrogram (42496 posts) - - Show Bio

@babs: Nice article! Highlighted some interesting points! I will take a look...now you mention it.

#2 Edited by Billy Batson (59005 posts) - - Show Bio

Was just reading it recently. It was alright.

Stan Lee: the man who created all these fantastic (no pun intended) characters.

Well he didn't really create Captain America, Namor or the original Human Torch that were the main characters in the first issue <.<

Hopefully Busiek's Astro City will eventually get one of these articles.


#3 Edited by That60sGuy (316 posts) - - Show Bio

I've read Marvels and it really is something fans of these characters and the Silver Age should check out. Definitely worth getting the trade.

#4 Posted by Om1kron (1219 posts) - - Show Bio

This is one of the few books in the marvel universe I never read. Mainly because it was always sold out when I was a teenager collecting comics. Thank goodness for oversized hardcovers, seriously the only way to enjoy a series.

#5 Edited by GiveUpNed (82 posts) - - Show Bio

Often we read superhero stories we fail to really consider the role of the bystander, and that's something Busiek brings to the very core of the story he is trying to tell.

Comic Vine/Giantbomb really needs a copy editor.

#6 Edited by gotwillpower (718 posts) - - Show Bio

I've never heard of this. Guess I have to read it now.

#7 Posted by InnerVenom123 (29814 posts) - - Show Bio

The part with Gwen was f**king sad.

#8 Edited by grenade728 (754 posts) - - Show Bio

Great Feature! I love this story, and I think it is a must for any Marvel fan.

#9 Edited by MAllen (68 posts) - - Show Bio

Busiek and Ross really doubled down on the work of Lee, Kirby, Ditko, etc. Where the early creators of Marvel made their characters more relatable to real people than any comic book superheroes before them, the Marvels crew added even more realism by giving readers the man-on-the-street point of view, and by making them LOOK like real people.

#10 Posted by Stronger (5051 posts) - - Show Bio

I 've already read it.

One of the best Marvel stories ever!

#11 Posted by The Average Bear (2239 posts) - - Show Bio

I love the Why You Should Read articles. I gotta put this one on my list

#12 Edited by kid Apollo (735 posts) - - Show Bio

ive debated before about picking this up, but lately ive got hard-on for 1940s characters/stories, so ill probably go pick this up

#13 Posted by StMichalofWilson (4598 posts) - - Show Bio

Cool. I'd like to read it

#14 Posted by Sumnerus (27 posts) - - Show Bio

This is a seminal piece of storytelling art no true marvel fan should be without. Whenever anyone asks me why i still read comics or snear at the hobby, i show them this and they either shut up or start reading themselves.

#15 Posted by Samwritescomics (13 posts) - - Show Bio

I loved this book. So much. I think it was the first Trade I bought when they reprinted it in 2003 and what got me into comics.

#16 Posted by Night Thrasher (3797 posts) - - Show Bio

Okay...I'm gonna post something that should be in the Unpopular Opinion thread

I actually like Marvels more than I like Watchmen. In fact it's close to being my all time favorite comic

#17 Posted by Chaos Burn (1875 posts) - - Show Bio

Didn't like it to be honest, bit boring and not as deep/memorable as when I read Watchmen (if you're comparing the two)

#18 Posted by dondave (39681 posts) - - Show Bio

Gonna check it out

#19 Edited by iceslick (818 posts) - - Show Bio

@giveupned: That sentence doesn't need to be edited. It's not a fragment. The fact she added a comma makes it clear to read and look like a sentence. So there's nothing wrong with it. This is coming from someone who graduated from an English major. Maybe you should go do some research on writing and editing before you speak.

#20 Posted by Mucklefluga (2645 posts) - - Show Bio

F*** me, that art! Alex Ross you genius! Your art is indescribable !!!

#21 Posted by Mucklefluga (2645 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh by the way @babs you've tagged the wrong Human Torch !

#22 Posted by etragedy (2593 posts) - - Show Bio

I think Kurt Busiek is the best writer in comics today. A lot of other names get more attention (and probably more attention than they deserve), but Kurt Busiek has created a really great body of work with some modern classics, Marvels being one of them.

#23 Edited by MadeinBangladesh (9525 posts) - - Show Bio

I have been meaning to buy the marvels trade from Amazin. Now Im def buying that. DAT ART IS JUST AMAZING!!!! Alex Ross is a BOSS!!!

#24 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6959 posts) - - Show Bio

Busiek's writing is practically second to none in my opinion and hence is a good reason why this should be read. But what takes precedence for me is Alex Ross...the man is the Dean of Comic Book Artists in my opinion. such storytelling just from his images alone. I think...I'm gonna re-read this now. Thanks, Katz!

#25 Posted by Night Thrasher (3797 posts) - - Show Bio

Okay...I'm gonna post something that should be in the Unpopular Opinion thread

I actually like Marvels more than I like Watchmen. In fact it's close to being my all time favorite comic

#26 Posted by Cavemold (1818 posts) - - Show Bio

Thanks sara! Great find

Just bought mine

#27 Posted by butters911 (383 posts) - - Show Bio

I Love Marvels! Especially the last story. Its so sad

#28 Edited by tupiaz (2257 posts) - - Show Bio

Great stories (I consider it a collection of stories from different era's rather of Marvel rather than a normal storiy. Can't remember if the narrator is ever exposed other than it is a civilian). One of the first stories I read as teenager. I have the original issues. However since I'm now a tradepapbacker I would like to have it in a trade. However it is not going to happen in the next couple of months.

#29 Posted by Jonny_Rogers (138 posts) - - Show Bio

I've never been a massive fan of Marvel, but I was thinking of getting a copy of this... Pardon my ignorance, but would it be fair to say that this is Marvel's equivalent of Kingdom Come? Alex Ross is enough of a reason to buy both, though.

#30 Posted by Cyborg6971 (195 posts) - - Show Bio

Put the singles on my comic shop want list just now.

#31 Posted by shadowpdf1 (18 posts) - - Show Bio

@jonny_rogers: Sort of, Jonny. It has that kind of scope, that level of importance. But it deals with the formation of the Marvel universe, from its early days in the 1940s through to its resurgence under Lee in the early 1960s. You might compare it to DC's great mini-series New Frontier. But it goes further than how all of these characters got together; it deals with the impact just their existence has on the regular guy on the street. It's a very moving piece, and not really apples to apples with any of the great things that DC has done.

#32 Edited by Onemoreposter (4230 posts) - - Show Bio

@billy_batson: Dude I just picked up Astro City. Haven't started it yet but I've heard great things. Also, loving you avatar.

#33 Edited by Betatesthighlander1 (7721 posts) - - Show Bio

yeah, the series was good, but (I'm surprised no onae has mentioned it this far) it had the most disappointing ending of any story I have ever observed in any medium. seriously, it needed another issue to really provide an ending. as is it just makes me want to succumb to total apathy

#34 Posted by IcePrince_X (5053 posts) - - Show Bio

One of Marvel's best unrecognized work if not the stunning and "era" appropriate art work of Alex Ross blazing in, in every page. The story is very interesting actually and I am glad that it is part of my collection. The best part for me is about Spiderman, Gwen Stacy and The Green Goblin, yeah I know...almost everyone knows what happened but getting it from a another and human perspective made it a very poignant narration.

Very nice article Ms. Babs!

#35 Edited by samkerby9966 (4 posts) - - Show Bio

Yeah, I remember pre-ordering this series back when the issues were coming out. It was a great read, and the art was amazing...as were the covers. Don't think I've ever re-read it since it first came out, issue by issue... but I kind of also recall a second series like it called, behind the camera eye... or something like that. That had the main guy (Phil?) in it as well. Just great story telling and art, in an amazing Comic series. Highly recommend. May have to dig out the old issues and re-read them again. Great article.

edit: I just looked it up, and the sequel to Marvels is called Marvels: Eye of the Camera. I know I bought those issues as well, but don't remember much of the story. Have to dig em up and re-read them again. Been many years.

Keep On Thwipin'!!!


#36 Edited by benblanks86 (26 posts) - - Show Bio

Do not get me started on Marvels. I love this book with all my heart. I first read this as a teenager at the beginning of my blossoming infatuation for comics And I still consider it one of my personal favorite series I have ever read. I was already in love with these characters but the combination of the writing and my introduction to Alex Ross's art cemented these characters in reality for me. The mutant girl part nearly brought me to tears. If you haven't read this stop what you're doing and get it. It's most likely waiting at your local library right now ready for you to read it as fast as possible and then go out and buy it.

#37 Posted by Perfect 10 (1465 posts) - - Show Bio

it was boring to me. rarely like stories about norms

#38 Posted by feebadger (1544 posts) - - Show Bio

@iceslick: Actually, there are problems with that particular sentence.

"Often we read superhero stories we fail to really consider the role of the bystander, and that's something Busiek brings to the very core of the story he is trying to tell."

Perhaps read it again and see if it becomes more apparent. And i hope, as an English Major, you could be more patient and perhaps a little kinder than statements like, "Maybe you should go do some research on writing and editing before you speak."

#39 Edited by KomicKev (116 posts) - - Show Bio

"Often WHEN we read superhero stories, we fail to . . . ", yes?

#40 Edited by iceslick (818 posts) - - Show Bio

@komickev:No that's not really it. It's the minor issue, which is the comma that isn't really needed. But it is still considered a sentence.

#41 Posted by novi_homines (1404 posts) - - Show Bio

#42 Posted by t3hLomb (58 posts) - - Show Bio
#43 Edited by tximinoman (290 posts) - - Show Bio

Is this better or worse than Kingdom Come?

#44 Edited by Billy Batson (59005 posts) - - Show Bio

@onemoreposter said:

@billy_batson: Dude I just picked up Astro City. Haven't started it yet but I've heard great things. Also, loving you avatar.

I read the first mini in December and going to read the first ongoing this weekend. Fantastic stuff. It's like Watchmen but positive. Well more like Planetary to be precise.

I was re-reading Hitman just recently :)


#45 Posted by Night Thrasher (3797 posts) - - Show Bio

@tximinoman: I would say better. But it's really hard to compare the two b/c Marvels isn't really a superhero story and Kingdom Come is.

@t3hlomb: I just feel like I'm coming out of a closet or something when I say that

#46 Posted by t3hLomb (58 posts) - - Show Bio

@night_thrasher:I literally laughed out loud when I read that. I think I woke up my baby...

#47 Posted by Sammo21 (713 posts) - - Show Bio

This, in my opinion, was a far better comic than something like Kingdom Come. I could never get into that, but I can thank my dislike for DC's golden age characters for that.

@giveupned: So what you are trying to say is you really didn't have anything worthwhile to add to this discussion?

#48 Posted by andy_117 (92 posts) - - Show Bio

The art is breathtaking, apparently. The more you say the word, the less sense it makes. "Breathtaking." Like a lung. Surely something truly great would force you to expel air against all your human instinct to take deep breaths. Right?

In all seriousness: consider it bought. Just added it to my cart for this week on Book Depository. Thanks, Comic Vine! :D

#49 Edited by Miss_Garrick (1761 posts) - - Show Bio

I am such a huge Kurt Busiek fan, that he is the ONLY comic writer where I'll read anything with his name on it! Even if it's a cereal box.

#50 Posted by Arkhamc1tizen (2201 posts) - - Show Bio

that art holy sh*t its good

im so gonna get this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!