Sometimes it seems random how comic publishers release special issues or annuals. Why did we need that story right now? Part of me wonders if Marvel released a whole lot of one-shot stories last year so they could collect them in Marvel Universe: Time And Again. This new collection drops in comic shops this week and for the most part, it contains nearly perfect stories throughout.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Untold tales of your favorite Marvel heroes! Before Spider-Man discovered his black costume was a symbiote, what nighttime adventures did it take him on? On an advance scouting mission during World War II, Captain America and Bucky face one of their longest nights! Discover the first meeting between Daredevil and hero-hating NYPD Detective Misty Knight! Join the Silver Surfer on a fateful hunt for a planet to feed to his master, Galactus! Learn what spider-powered teen Miles Morales was up to during the Skrull Secret Invasion! Witness Kitty Pryde’s first kiss! And join Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos as they encounter the living island Krakoa!
Why does this matter?
This 244-page collection houses seven one-shot stories featuring Captain America, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Kitty Pryde, Miles Morales, Nick Fury and Misty Knight in their own adventures. They focus on the characters at different times in their careers, most of which are far earlier than where they are at now. Consider this a collection of getting to know a character a bit better.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
After reading through a few of the stories in this collection it dawned on me what Marvel had done. They’re essentially capturing snapshots of each hero in their earlier days, giving readers a taste of who they were when they were a bit more raw. It’s a clever collection that makes a lot of sense once you’ve gathered its overall purpose. It’s a shame there is no foreword to make this clear up front, but it’s a fun thing to understand as you read.
I’m convinced anyone can pick this up and find something they’ll love. From Kitty’s teenage years running around camp (by Seanan McGuire and Marco Failla) to Spider-Man dealing with a Symbiote that takes over his body at night (by Saladin Ahmed and Garry Brown), there are different stories throughout. The Captain America story is a solid World War II story by Tini Howard and Chris Sprouse that delves into the injustices of the Nazis and the pure good of Cap. One of the folks he saves tells him he is gay, which doesn’t phase Cap at all. That purity shines through and reminds us we are all people. The Silver Surfer story by Ethan Sacks and Andre Lima Araujo stands out as it reveals a moment of clarity for the character. He understands what he has just sent Galactus to do and the incredible loss after connecting with an entire planet’s people is profound and moving. The Miles Morales story reveals a deeply traumatic moment in his earlier days being a hero establishing the hard knocks he’s endured. The Nick Fury story by Dennis Hopeless delves into one of the first superhuman interactions he had during World War II and melds classic monster storytelling with a war-torn one. The Misty Knight story plays around with vigilantism as well as her earlier work as a cop. She doesn’t trust Daredevil, but she learns maybe she should.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Not every story hits it out of the park. The Spider-Man Symbiote story relies heavily on a random kid connecting with the alien suit. In a sense, it somewhat cheapens what the Symbiote was doing by gaining a conscience from a random innocence saved.
The Kitty Pryde story suffers from what many annuals suffer from, which is elongating a story that probably didn’t need to be extra-sized. The pace is slow and without any big superhero moments the narrative doesn’t seem to stretch its legs much, leaving you with a good human story, but nothing that’ll blow you away. I also had a bit of an issue with how a character reacts to kissing Kitty. Let’s just say they’re getting way ahead of themselves!
Is it good?
It’s smart on Marvel’s part to collect all these stories in one trade paperback. They were not only crafted by some of the best writers and artists today, but they highlight snippets in time for the characters prior to the stories coming out today. That allows the creator’s free reign to explore while also making a statement on how they’ve gotten to where they are now.
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