Marvel #4 has the same issue that most anthologies face. Simply, the honest fact of the matter is that some of the stories are really, really good…and some are not.
The question with all anthologies, then, is are the good stories in them enough to outweigh the bad? With a finite amount of money and a lot of good comics that come out each week, do you want to spend your time and energy on a book that will only be about fifty percent good? It’s a real question that we have to ask ourselves.
And that is a real question when it comes to Marvel #4. The book has four stories. After a framing story by Alex Ross about the Celestials, Nightmare, and Doctor Strange – which is the same as the framing story in the last issues, it’s not that good, don’t worry about it – there’s a really good Deviants story by Kurt Busiek and Daniel Acuna, a mediocre humor story by Hilary Barta and Doug Rice about the end of the monster comics and Doctor Druid, and a very pretty looking story with a very dumb plot by Sal Abbitani about Ben Grimm.
The Busiek/Acuna story is great. I’ll be honest, I really like it. Busiek hasn’t done a bad comic for a long time, and Acuna can do a rollicking sci-fi story like no other – see his work on Black Panther if you aren’t convinced. The Deviants – you know, the guys who fought the Eternals – have risen up in cowboy times and conquered the world. In the present, humanity survives only as slaves, and the superheroes fight in gladiatorial arenas. And, hey, it’s pretty fun. There’s a Luke Cage Killraven, and a Thing with Stilt-Man legs, and a Beta Ray Bill Gladiator, and a Captain America with a knife-shield, all very cool. And the images of these gladiatorial matches are coupled with narration about how mutant terrorists are preparing to overthrow the Deviants . . . only for Galactus to suddenly arrive.
It’s fun! Acuna’s art looks amazing, Busiek is very good at his craft, and it’s as good as you’d expect. The Deviants are a great set of villains, and Acuna is clearly enjoying inventing these super-gladiators. But I can’t help but question if I’d have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t just read all of Marvel’s published Eternals comics.
The Barta-Rice comic, on the other hand, is . . . well it’s certainly an attempt at humor. I’m not a comedian, so I won’t try to say that no one will find it funny. But I find it hard to believe that a long joke that relies on people having an encyclopedic knowledge of pre-Fantastic Four #1 Kirby and Ditko giant monster comics is going to be a real hit.
It’s similar with the Abbitani Thing comic. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great. It is genuinely fantastic looking. But, well, I have heard the “Ben Grimm feels sad, realizes that he still is good despite looking like a monster” story many, many times before. This comic looks great, but it’s not anything I haven’t read a hundred times. And I have to wonder why I couldn’t have just looked at a bunch of lovely paintings not weighed down by trite storytelling.
Maybe you think that one good story out of four is a worthwhile purchase. That might be worthwhile for you. But I can’t recommend it.
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