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Marvels by Alex Ross

Marvels (original 1994; edition 1994)

by Alex Ross, Kurt Busiek

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7642212,134 (4.11)21
Authors:Alex Ross
Other authors:Kurt Busiek
Info:Marvel Entertainment Group (1994), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Read, Your library
Tags:print, graphic novel

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Marvels by Kurt Busiek (1994)


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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
The stunningly photorealistic artwork by Alex Ross immediately draws you in, immerses you, in this stunning history of the Marvel Universe as told by Kurt Busiek. This is the Marvel Universe, from the beginning, as seen from the point of view of an ordinary person, in this case, a photojournalist named Phil Sheldon.

The book begins in 1939, with the creation of the Human Torch and the appearance of the sometimes-villain Prince Namor also called the Sub-Mariner. We see how shocking and revolutionary their appearance is and feel the excitement of this dawn of a new era through the eyes and ears of ordinary people. At first, Sheldon believes these new "marvels" will blow over, and things will return to normal, but he comes to realize that it is not the case . . . and he comes to embrace these new heroes and follow their escapades.

The story continues through World War II and the appearance of Captain America. We move into the 1950s with the Fantastic Four - Sue and Reed's celebrity wedding - juxtaposed with the violent hatred shown towards the new and emerging mutants. It's interesting to see how Sheldon's life intersects with the larger events of the Marvel Universe, for instance, as the anti-mutant riots are going on, he discovers that his own little girls are sheltering a mutant in their basement - and his shock at discovering this "horrible thing" that he's been told again and again wants to kill everybody is just a frightened child!

Then we have the invasion of Galactus - an apocalyptic event! And Sheldon sees how fickle the public is, how they are so easily willing to turn on their heroes, to spit on them and accuse them of crimes and even when the world is saved the heroes go unrewarded.

"The whole city seemed embarrassed somehow -- ashamed of their terror, now that it had passed and they were still alive. And they were taking it out on the Marvels, denying what had happened -- and blaming the Marvels for the fear they felt. Nice town, huh?"

"We had no faith, that was our problem. We didn't trust the Marvels -- so every time there was the slightest crisis we'd get scared all over again."

Sheldon has faith in the heroes, which is what makes the ending all the more fitting -- and heartbreaking -- as the novel concludes with the death of Gwen Stacey. Really, it is the most fitting end you could have, as for many her death marked the end of an era in comics story telling. It is powerfully done here, as Busiek and Ross take the time to establish her character, and her innocence, you can't help but love her - and share in Sheldon's pain and sense of betrayal - at the Marvels who failed to save her, at the uncaring world that just keeps rolling by with one less girl in it. But this all makes the Marvel Universe feel more real, more tangible and layered - that is what this entire volume displays so well - the layers and complexities of the Marvel Universe, the brilliant way it all fits together with the very human contradictory reactions of its human public.

I was blown away reading Marvels it left me breathless in awe of these superbeings and their world - which I'm sure was the intention. A must read for comics fans - and also a good choice to put in the hands of people who say they just "don't get" the appeal of the whole superhero thing. ( )
  catfantastic | Nov 16, 2015 |
Marvels focuses on different points in time, following various big events (the coming of Galactus, the death of Gwen Stacey) but rather than telling the story through the eyes of superheroes, it is told through the eyes of a news photographer.

Anchoring the story with a simple man has an interesting effect, very much like using the priest character in Kingdom Come. You never see anything about secret identities or personal lives, and the action is always from the outside, from a distance. I appreciate the approach and I think it largely works.

Unfortunately, by spreading the concept out for decades, the story somewhat loses focus, and each issue seems to have a sense of "what can the internal monologue be about that kind of relates to the event covered in this issue?" Overall, the narrative is a bit spotty.

Additionally, because we are seeing classic events through a new person's, the stakes are much lower than in, say, Kingdom Come, where we are seeing new events and have a great deal of insight into the older versions of classic characters.

Marvels definitely works - the artwork is amazing, the concept is fresh, and it's a good read. It occasionally drags in some places and isn't quite as good as some other work, but if you've never read it and you have a passing familiarity with the Marvel universe, it's definitely worth a read. ( )
  rodhilton | Nov 14, 2014 |
The breakout book for Alex Ross this is more his book than Kurt Busieks. There's a story here but the art is so good that it overshadows the narrative. ( )
  Kurt.Rocourt | Jun 20, 2013 |
A great take on popular Marvel super-heroes from the point of view of a newspaper writer/photographer. The art is beautiful and it's great to see some of the classic stories happening through the eyes of an ordinary person and the effects these events had on the rest of the public. ( )
  aarow | Apr 30, 2013 |
Summary: News photographer Phil Sheldon lives in an amazing world: the Marvel Universe. He was there when the Human Torch was first unveiled, he was there watching Captain America fight the Nazis, he lived through the era of the Fantastic Four and the mutant panic that came with the rise of the X-Men. Many of us are familiar with the exploits of superheroes from their perspectives, but what about from the perspective of an everyday person? What about the people who have to live with the flaming cars and demolished buildings after every battle to save the Earth from destruction by evil forces? What does living in a world full of Marvels do them, and to their sense of what it means to be human?

Review: As I have admitted before, I am only vaguely acquainted with the Marvel Universe, and most of that is via various movie adaptations than it is through any of the comics (and *certainly* through not any of the original comics.) So while I really liked the concept of this book - what's it like to live in a world where you are one of the shrieking masses fleeing from the Hulk throwing train cars around Manhattan? - I didn't have the background to get really invested in the story. In some of the vast amounts of supplemental material in the back of the edition I read, Busiek states that his original intent was to write several new stories, but instead was urged to place Phil as a bystander to some of the early foundational effects of the Marvel Universe. Because Phil is, like I was, an outsider, the broad strokes of the plot are easy enough to follow. But I constantly felt like there were huge areas of detail and backstory and meaning and subtlety that I was missing out on... because of course, there were. Still, it was an interesting spin on the typical superhero comic, and I thought it asked a lot of really interesting questions, even if I didn't always agree with the way it answered them. The art was lovely; primarily paintings done from real-life models (some of the photo comparisons in the section at the back were equal parts amazing and hilarious), it was both realistic and yet slightly more luminous than real life. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: While this was understandable and enjoyable for someone like me, I think it would be best appreciated by someone who was raised on a steadier diet of superhero comics, and Marvel comics in particular. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Jan 17, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kurt Busiekprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ross, AlexIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being..." - Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Alex and I would also like to dedicate the entire work, with respect, admiration and gratitude, to the memory and the achievements of Jack Kirby.
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Horton. Phineas Thomas Horton. Quite possibly the greatest scientist of his time. He was my father.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0785100490, Paperback)

Welcome to New York. Here, burning figures roam the streets, men in brightly colored costumes scale the glass and concrete walls, and creatures from space threaten to devour our world. This is the Marvel Universe, where the ordinary and fantastic interact daily. This is the world of MARVELS. Collecting MARVELS #0-4.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:43 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Marvel Comics brings back Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' fully painted retelling of key moments in the birth of the Marvel Universe, as seen through the eyes of an innocent bystander.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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