I fully intend to give my 60-year-old uncle the Marvels X trade and I expect it will be right up his alley. It feels a lot like many of the classic alt-future/reality superhero books like Secret Identity and Kingdom Come, and what I imagine Marvels feels like, though I haven’t read it. That would be meant in a greatly complimentary way, if those other comics weren’t almost a decade old at the newest. Even then, this comic struggles in a few ways that I think would have separated it from those other classics, and that I’m kinda scratching my head about now.
One is just the weird timing of all the Marvels branding. I have seen this talked about across this year, but wow this year has had a large number of Marvels stuff, which I’m not sure is much of a problem in general, but it is super confusing for this to be Marvels X and not have any real connection to the plentiful recent Marvels comics. Of course, some of these problems might just be my lack of familiarity with the Marvels and Earth X books, but I think it’s fair to assume this would have some kind of connection to the one with roughly 1,000 tie ins this year (and at least one that was one of the best issues of the year!). This isn’t that big of a complaint, to be honest, but it’s a weird thing!
I think my primary complaint is pretty singular: that of Luke Cage making himself into the head cop of New York. Now, if this were made in the 1990s, I’d get it. I can see the cogs working that can make sense of the convict becoming a cop and how that feels like a satisfying arc. And maybe that’s what happens in the original story, and this was simply referencing that! Unfortunately, a black man choosing to be a cop, no, the cop, in New York City is a big ol’ yikes from me. It’s a bad look by any measure, and even if their hands were tied by continuity, the choice to just not tell that story was there. Relegate it to the past, there was no need for it today.
Now, something that wasn’t as bad as that but was still a problem had to do with a very basic idea in comic storytelling that was just unused throughout the book, and that was the idea of the page turn. Page turns are basically a way to control pacing, and they’re specifically used to better hide reveals in the story from the reader. The idea is, if you put a reveal on a left hand page, the reader will see that first and the reveal will land, but if you put it on a right hand page, they’ll see it before they actually get to it. There were at least two instances of reveals on right hand pages, and they were BIG ones. I would understand this happening once in a trade — sometimes you just can’t edit or move stuff around, but two of the biggest reveals in the story happen on right hand pages, which seems wild to me. I’m not sure why or how this happened, but it was especially notable to me.
As much as all of that’s pretty negative, though, I still enjoyed my time with the book overall. Sure, it doesn’t feel very original, and the highs feel like they’ve been done better in books that are twenty years old, but it’s a fairly short read with iconic characters acting exactly how I felt they would (aside from Luke, that is). It’s a book that I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to read, but I’m not upset that I did, and I think it’ll, funnily enough, jumpstart my way into the now wide-ranging Marvels-verse. Which I guess is pretty cool!
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