Announced in December 2019, Marvel added Marvel Snapshots to their year-long 80th-anniversary celebration of the company. What better way than to bring “the world outside your window” into focus than by letting Marvels writer Kurt Busiek curate a series of one-shot stories? Each tale in this beautiful oversized collection is written and drawn by creators selected by Busiek aiming to tell a story at a specific time in Marvel history and focusing on a specific character.
This book is a fantastic way to celebrate the many characters in the Marvel universe. Running 264 pages long and featuring eight one-shot tales, creators like Evan Dorkin, Mark Rusell, Howard Chaykin, Tom Reilly, Mark Waid, and Jay Edidin focus their lens, so to speak, on a specific character. A common trait in all of these tales is when their stories take place, which firmly establishes specific times in history. That gives the book a more historical feel, like in Alan Brennert’s story set during World War II, which also ties into the original take on the character. Each story here focuses not just on the character, but a specific era, and that further connects these tales to relatable experiences.
This book opens with the Namor story, or in this case he’s the Sub-Mariner, and it focuses on Betty Dean, a mild-mannered American woman with a storied past with Namor, who actually convinced him to join the Invaders. Brennert and artist Jerry Ordway do well to capture the horrors still living within Namor. We get to see it in key flashbacks and through his actions while Namor and Betty go on a date. Marvel has done a fabulous job giving Namor more humanity with key emotional trauma tied to his short temper and past villainous acts. By the end of this issue, you’ll feel like you know these characters a little better in just a day, sharing moments in a slice-of-life story set in spring 1946.
This tale is followed up by a Fantastic Four story by Evan Dorkin and Sarah dyer with art by Benjamin Dewey. Like the Namor issue, this book focuses on a very human character — in this case, Human Torch’s ex-flame — as they prepare to interact with the superhero for the day. In this case, we learn there’s a ten-year high school reunion and a local news program is doing an expose to show how much the Fantastic Four and Human Torch have helped the community.
Following this is a story involving Captain America by Mark Rusell and Ramon K. Perez. Set in the South Bronx, a boy named Felix works in his dad’s repair shop when suddenly, the city is struck with a madness. People start attacking one another with a rage they cannot control. Captain America and Falcon are there to attempt to slow down the mayhem, but lives are affected and some are lost. This leads to a further economic downturn in the bad parts of the city and further destruction of Felix’s world. Seeing how the acts of supervillains affect regular people brings the story to a level you don’t normally see in superhero comics.
This is followed by an X-Men story that focuses on Cyclops. Written by Jay Edidin with art by Tom Reilly, the story puts you inside Scott Summers’ head. He lives in an orphanage and idolizes superheroes like the Fantastic Four, but that world is far away not knowing he’ll one day have superpowers. He’s all of us, so to speak, as he’s not yet found his place or learned to fight back against bullies in a smart sort of way. His courage is there, but he’s hasn’t learned who he is yet. It’s a heartfelt story that celebrates the heroes within us.
Next up is Howard Chaykin’s Spider-Man story, or more specifically a story all about Ronnie and Dutch, two-bit hoodlums who want to make it in New York City crime. If you haven’t guessed yet, not every story is about the superhero, but about the human they were before getting powers or the humans who are affected by superheroes. Ronnie has aspirations to get rich fast using supervillain tech, while Dutch is a little more even-keeled and reasonable. This is an endearing sort of comic if you like banter and the very normalized idea that Spider-Man could be knocking a pillar down near you and you wouldn’t even bat an eye. It’s a “snapshot” in the sense that it shows what it would be like if you were criminally minded and envied the big supervillains.
Following this is a story about the relatable lives of those around the Avengers, Captain Marvel, and Maria Hill during the Civil War event. Like the stories that came before, these tales hammer home the people affected by heroes, for better or worse. The writers and artists always seem to capture the humanity of its key characters further connecting superheroes to our reality.
Marvels Snapshots was an already great series of one-shots, but in this extra-sized hardcover format, it’s a must-read for every Marvel Comics fan. It can be enjoyed by the hardcore comics fan that reads it all just as much as the casual reader who may have strayed from superheroes.
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