Marvel Comics has been showing the world how to tell cutting-edge stories for decades. You see it with the way they treat the humanity of its characters and how they consistently tell stories that reflect the real world. Now, you can own some of the most impactful stories ever told by Marvel that reflect the world outside our window in the aptly titled Marvel Comics: The World Outside Your Window.
This 320-page collection houses 14 single-issue stories ranging from 1941 to 2018. After putting this down, it’s easy to see Marvel has been telling stories that matter and likely will continue doing so, especially with the recent news that Hulkling and Wiccan are the first gay heroes to be married.
It all comes together with an excellent introduction by Jess Harrold, who outlines how every single story in this book matters. It’s hard to argue with Harrold’s assessments (okay, maybe the Howard the Duck story doesn’t feel quite as important), as he clearly outlines what was going on at the time of the story and how it changed the game. That includes information on how Jack Kirby and Joe Simon controversially pitted Captain America versus Hitler months before America actually entered World War II. Or how Stan Lee and Steve Ditko removed the Comics Code Authority seal of approval on Amazing Spider-Man #97 so they could tell an important story about Harry Osborn’s drug addiction.
I was actually feeling emotional while reading this book because I had forgotten how often Marvel touched on things in our culture that may have seemed controversial at the time. Housed here are stories around homophobia in Alpha Flight #106 when Northstar came out, or in Incredible Hulk #429 where we discover Bruce Banner’s friend, Jim Wilson suffers from AIDS. New Mutants #45 and Uncanny X-Men #303 are also important works that will make you reflect on how over time, these stories meant something.
There are also stories here that are lighter, like when Spider-Man met Obama in Amazing Spider-Man #583, or Ms. Marvel #13 when Kamala Khan stands up for democracy. For the most part, though, this collection shows us how Marvel Comics has handled heavy topics, like Jim Zub’s Champions #24 tackling gun violence in America, or J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr. showing Spider-Man react in real-time to 9/11.
Growing up as a child in the late ’80s and ’90s, it’s easy to forget how impactful Marvel Comics has been for so long. Sure, there’s the whiz-bang of comics every single new comic book day, but there’s a lot more to it. An outsider looking in might see too much spandex and the over-reliance of punching to enact justice, but if you look a little bit closer you’ll find truly meaningful stories that shape us. This book is a testament to that.