Out this week in comic book shops, Alex Ross’ curated epic Marvel has made its way into Marvel’s top-of-the-line and extra-sized Treasury Edition format. Truth be told, this is the best way to read this stellar series of iconic artists. Earlier this year, Marvel released the Fantastic Four: Antithesis Treasury Edition and last year the amazing History of the Marvel Universe Treasury Edition also dazzled. Marvel tops them both — the creatives working on this book can’t be beat.
It includes Alex Ross, Kurt Busiek, Frank Espinosa, Steve Rude, Dan Brereton, Eric Powell, Paolo Rivera, Alan Weiss, Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott Gustafson, Ryan Heshka, Daniel Acuna, Hilary Barta & Doug Rice, Sal Abbinanti, Adam Hughes, Gene Ha, Mark Waid, Lucio Parrillo, Greg Smallwood, and Lee Bermejo. And that’s not even all of the creators involved. In truth, this book is held together by a somewhat conventional story by Alex Ross that is lifted up by his incredibly epic and realistic art. But that really doesn’t matter. You’ll find in this book, which collects Marvel #1-6, all sorts of art from painted works to cartoonist styles to classic super muscular superheroes. And every single one is lifted up and improved by the 8-inch by 13-inch size.
The A-plot opens and closes each chapter of the book slowly unveiling Nightmare’s take over of, well, everything. Ross writes a short introduction to the book explaining how the very idea contained here is what Marvel rejected when he pitched them decades ago. He admits it doesn’t sting at all knowing how he was able to go on to do Marvels with Kurt Busiek. This main plot ends up connecting the issues, but ultimately all the stories stand alone. One can assume the A-plot is there to keep readers coming back, but in this extra-sized format you’ll be salivating over every page of this gorgeous book as if it was the tastiest cake in existence.
Contained in the first issue are three stories — opening with “Overture” by Alex Ross, then a Spidey tale titled “Spider-Man: Make My Day” by Frank Espinosa and Saajan Saini, a classic Avengers tale by Kurt Busiek and Steve Rude, and then closing to lead us to the next adventure. The entire narrative hangs on Ross and Darnall’s tale, which is incredibly drawn and maybe some of his best work yet. It’s striking, dark, and may stick with you. It’s the stuff of Kingdom Come and Marvels before it and once again I’m struck by how awesome his art can be. It’s a clever premise too, allowing the anthology to work and yet allow creators to do anything they please. A smart way into these stories.
Following this is the Spidey story by Espinosa (with dialogue by Sajan Saini) and the art is gorgeous. I’m guessing it’s oil paintings panel to panel. At first, it looks expressionistic, but once you realize each panel is a work of art in itself you linger longer. The tale is a quirky one and it gives us a classic MJ and Peter good-vibes story.
Next up is the Busiek and Rude story that looks and reads like any Stan Lee/Jack Kirby yarn. It’s seriously clever and never loses sight of the voice and tone of the characters at this time. Titled “The Boy…and the Brute,” you can probably guess Hulk and Rick Jones play a part. It suits the theme of the anthology too and is a nice reminder of the old days at Marvel Comics.
The Spidey story is gorgeous, but a bit long and redundant. The book also ends abruptly as there are a lot of Marvel ads closing it out that give it a thicker feel. If you’re unfamiliar with or just not a fan of the original Avengers, you may not enjoy the Avengers tale as much as others.
Throughout the book there are stories that will make you stop, put the book down, and look outside your window. Not just because of Marvel’s knack for making us see superheroes in a realistic way, but by the sheer talent supplying incredible stories and art. Truly, each story deserves its own essay, but standout tales include Sienkiewicz’s mixed media exploration of the Watcher, Mark Waid and Lucio Parrillo’s epic Hulk vs. Wolverine story (easily top 3 ever made), and Daniel Acuña’s story that features new character designs and a crazy tale only comics could tell.
This book has extras too with sketches by Acuña, process pages by Paolo Rivera, inks by Hughes, process pages by Parrillo, and thumbnail sketches, cover concepts, and an unused Spider-Man cover by Ross. There are no notes, but frankly, the art speaks for itself.
This is a gorgeous collection that looks great and brings you back to the wonderment and heroics of the Golden Age of comics. Alex Ross reminds us once again he’s a master at mood and atmosphere, and for his art alone this book is worth picking up. Every story holds up on its own, entertains in different ways, and makes this a coffee table book well worth owning. Rarely do you see art this epic and inspiring.
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