Launched last summer, Marvel Comics has given Kaare Andrews’ Amazing Fantasy miniseries the Treasury Edition treatment. Marvel has done an exceptional job with this format from Wolverine: Black, White, & Red, Fantastic Four: Antithesis Treasury Edition, and the amazing History of the Marvel Universe Treasury Edition. Printed in a stunning 9.45 x 0.4 x 13.25 inches, the art is even more in-your-face and larger-than-life. For a story like Amazing Fantasy, that’s a huge benefit.
This story opens and closes in a specific era for Captain America, Spider-Man, and Black Widow. They’re the main heroes of this epic and we see they’re snatched from their earlier days as superheroes. That includes Spider-Man as a teenager and Black Widow going through spy school. Keep that in mind when entering this story since all three aren’t quite how you’d expect them to act.
Captain America ends up being a kind of leader in this collection. He’s a bit stoic and is ready to take an entire people to war. His thinking is if they want to attack, instead of holding back, take the fight to them. Spider-Man, meanwhile, is completely taken aback by his uncle Ben being alive. Black Widow ends up becoming embroiled in some monarchy drama with a minotaur who serves as the king’s guard.
This series lives up to the name as it blends high fantasy, science fiction, and superheroes. Each of the main heroes ends up tiptoeing at times through this world as they are as unsure of their surroundings as we are. Whisked off to a mysterious island, they make choices, fall in love, and end up being heroes in new ways.
At the start of this story, Captain America wakes up on a beach wracked with guilt for being the only survivor on a battleship in the heat of WWII. He soon discovers the island he is on doesn’t have tropical drinks, but dangerous and wild gryphons. As a period piece, Andrews makes sure to position Cap’s personality in the classical sense; more soldier than a superhero. Meanwhile, Spider-Man is firmly set during the ’60s as we can see someone is referring to the barricading of Cuba. Soon he too finds himself on a mysterious island. One can surmise something is drawing them to this island, and they may very well be from different times.
So begins the mystery in Amazing Fantasy, which mixes action and adventure well. Andrews infuses the story with fantasy via the creatures both Spider-Man and Captain America face off against and the look of those they aim to save. There are dragons in this tale as well as other fantasy elements. There’s a Tarzan vibe to the island itself, and it’s clear there’s lawlessness these heroes will have to endure. As a first issue, this issue gets the heroes where they need to be while supplying the reader with enough detail to start to question what is really going on.
In general, the story is very untethered from Marvel stories, right down to Captain America’s overtly stoic nature. Spider-Man is a younger version and thus shows his youth. Black Widow ends up being keen. Ultimately there are dramas for each of them to help resolve a story that feels overly large and at times vague. It’s hard to know why they’re fighting for any of it since we don’t know where they are. It’s more clear in the final chapter, but by then you’re either on board or have put this book back on the shelf.
The word balloons add ample attitude and a period drama feel thanks to their placement and the use of thought balloons which have gone out of style in modern comics stories. Letterer Joe Sabino uses subtle notes to amp up dialogue, like in one scene where the boldness around the balloon increases. Sound effects do well to capture different feels, like animal noises or the “ba-dunk” of a mode of transportation.
It may not be immediately obvious, but Andrews uses slightly different art styles for each hero. This helps establish the different personalities of each character ever so slightly. It’s a smart choice, giving Captain America a more detailed illustrated style versus Black Widow’s more dreamlike and moody art versus Spider-Man’s bright and bubbly vibe.
Amazing Fantasy is a fun idea with great art that transports readers to an entirely new fantasy world. General audiences will want to skip this part because it’s so dissociated from canon, including how these main characters act, but the entire work is like a love letter to fantasy pulp comics. From an artistic standpoint, Andrews is doing interesting things visually while characterizing each hero well. Amazing Fantasy perfectly exudes old-fashioned charm.
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