Way back in 1999, Earth X was an incredibly revolutionary and epic Elseworlds take on Marvel’s future superhero world. The dystopian future narrative isn’t necessarily new, but to see what happened to the superheroes in a world where everyone had powers rendering their abilities common was an exciting take. Now the Earth X creators Alex Ross and Jim Krueger are back to tell us how that world fell to pieces. The new prequel series Marvels X opens on a boy named David just after Terrigen Mists were released into Earth’s atmosphere, transforming humanity into heroes. Well, most everyone as David remains normal. It’s a deeply human and realistic look at a younger man enamored with superheroes navigates a world where he is extraordinary because he hasn’t gained powers. A flip on the idea of superheroes if you ask me!
This book opens with David playing with his superheroes and in short succession, all that is great with Captain America, Spider-Man, and Iron Man is detailed well. Ross and Krueger make it clear they are heroes not necessarily because of their powers. From there much of the book deals with David’s family as they slowly turn from human to superpowered and at the same time the world crumbling around them too. You see, when everyone has powers things get very chaotic fast. In one poignant moment between David and his grandmother, the point is made superpowers bring out who people really are. It’s a valid point and one that seems to be the grand purpose of this series. In the grounding of David and the turmoil his family goes through, we begin to see an interesting take on the heroes we love amongst all the calamity.
This Earth X prequel is a deeply human story
This book has some incredibly well-written captions all in David’s voice and written just as a boy might speak. It further brings the narrative to a human place of doubt, fear, and all the rest. Further, this voice is striking when the news is talking gloom and doom and serves as a reminder a child’s perspective is sacred and unique. It’s not easy to capture a specific cadence and voice, especially one of a child, and I think Ross and Krueger do a great job putting you David’s shoes.
The art is by Well-Bee with letters by Cory Petit. Well-Bee has a good eye for detail, giving the book a good dose of realism. A crack in a wall, a sad toy on the bed, or the texture of a rug as David hangs over his grandmother add a certain amount of morose decay. When we first meet David his life hasn’t quite fallen into shambles yet, and you get that from the bright purple wallpaper, but later the there is much more use of brown and monotone colors that bring the temperature down. Faces are well rendered too with a heightened sense of realism. In a lot of ways, the style of art reminds me of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.
I was a bit shocked at how far removed this issue is from the superheroes themselves. That’s a pro in a sense since it allows us to connect with David, but aside from a few panels, I was wishing to see this new supernatural world come alive.
This may well end up being a strong candidate for the most absorbing and deeply human comic book series of 2020. It may not exactly be the superhero fight comic some might expect, but it’s hard to deny how strong the sensitive depiction of the protagonist is and how well you’ll connect with him. Marvels X captures the wonderment of superheroes through a deeply human story.
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