Author: Kurt Busiek | Illustrator: Alex Ross | Page Count: 248
"I was learning a great deal about the world, and even more about the pain of a forced solitude. I was aware of everything... understanding nothing."
The individual stories that Marvels was originally envisioned to tell would've been interesting but the unified, multi-layered work that it became is something very, very special. Writer Kurt Busiek cites Tom DeFalco as the man that provided inspiration for turning many ideas into one idea, so kudos to him.
It revisits iconic comic moments that span 35 years (1939 to 1974) by exploring those events from the perspective of the regular people that were directly affected by them. It's the Everyman story entwined with the story of a world unprepared for the threats that face it.
The eyes and voice of the work belong to Phil Sheldon, a freelance photo journalist. Phil can’t climb walls or shoot fire from his fingertips, he can’t even protect himself from being swept up by a changing public opinion, but when the superheroes begin to bleed into society he’s there to capture it with his camera.
Sheldon embodies the fear, awe and confusion that grips a person as they watch two ‘Marvels’ fighting for dominance, tearing up a city like it was paper.
Flipping the perspective from the heroes and villains to the common man replaced the usual metaphor device with a more overtly relatable truth. It emphasised the choices and consequences forced upon the ordinary citizens thrust into a world they'd no control over.
I wasn't familiar with all of the storylines that played out on the city like a canvas but it didn't matter too much, the book is written in such a way that a lack of knowledge doesn't exclude you from Phil Sheldon’s story. Even if this is the first comic book you've ever read, it still astounds.
It’s a love song to an age of comics that can never be repeated, and a genre breaking advancement in narrative that works on many levels.
It was Alex Ross’ comic début. His fully painted art is unmistakable. Using people as models helped capture a sense of realism. His heroes are truth exaggerated but never twisted into impossible forms.
5 rolls of film out of 5