Review: Marvel 1985

(****)

I missed this series on the monthly circuit and perhaps you did too. Four dollars for 32 pages is bad enough, but when you’re dealing with a series that’ll be a hardcover in a few months, it’s very deterring. Though I’m a fan of Millar, I was even going to pass once this was collected. I was uninterested due to the likelihood of sappy nonsense and Edwards’ seemingly esoteric art didn’t help. Over NYCC, I read an interview where Millar mentioned that Marvel 1985, Old Man Logan, and his Fantastic Four are all connected. Well, I read and adore Old Man Logan and FF, so I thought I’d go ahead and give this book a shot.

Do you like Steven Spielberg movies? If Spielberg wrote comics, they’d be a lot like this. Is it a bit corny and predictable? Yeah, but we need to embrace conventionalism every now and then. “It brings out the kid in you”, is uttered a little too often. It also happens to be appropriate in this case. Who didn’t fantasize about superheroes when they were a kid? I still fantasize about superheroes; although I will admit, my fantasies have gotten a bit more erotic. Anyway, I too dreamt of not only superheroes coming to our world, but also going to theirs. Wouldn’t it be cool to go to the Daily Bugle and say “Hey Pete, I know your secret.” That, and more, is explored in Marvel 1985.

Something we didn’t really consider when we were children, were the repercussions of our fantasy. If there are heroes, there must be villains. That’s actually was dominates Marvel 1985. The heroes don’t really show up (Except Hulk. And what happened to him is something that’s left unanswered) until the ultimate chapter. One of this book’s most appealing qualities is the fact that it shows C-list villains in a badass light. When was the last time you saw Vulture, Electro, or Fin Fang Foom get a full page splash? Has MODOK ever terrified you? Several other baddies you’ve probably never even heard of are mentioned in passing. Marvel 1985 feels like an event. Sure, not every character gets a shining moment, but they’re all there in appearance and spirit.

At the event’s epicenter lies Toby, a young boy who’s recovering from his parent’s divorce. We see all the wonders and horrors through his eyes. This makes Marvel 1985 a spiritual sequel to Marvels. One of the defining things about that series was the look given by a newcomer, Alex Ross. Though Tommy Lee Edwards, the artist on Marvel 1985, has a similar feel, his work will undoubtedly be less praised. The only extra in the hardcover edition I purchased, is a detailed look at Edwards’ artistic process. The man spent a year rendering this book. Everything visual about Marvel 1985, except the lettering, is all Edwards’ doing. He offers unique artwork to say the least, but I for one found it fascinating. It may not be very pretty at first glance, but Edwards is a born storyteller. Sampled in the art above my words, you can see scratchy realism. This is absolutely appropriate and vital to the story. When Toby enters the Marvel universe, Edwards’ work reflects that and morphs into a cleaner, Lichtenstein-esque form. Though it may take some getting used to, I’m a fan of the art.

Marvel 1985 has its problems. It’s not breaking any rules and there are a few artistic and literary missteps. Nevertheless, Millar’s verisimilarly brilliant tale will move you.

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