THE PAST – Photographer and family man Phil Sheldon is offered a staff job as photo editor for the Daily Globe based on his body of work photographing what he called “the Marvels.” Phil said he’d consider it, but because of the paper’s material bordering on sensationalism, in particular increasing the fear of the oncept of mutants, he’s doubtful it’s a good fit. The days that follow see Phil first hear on the radio of nuclear plants swallowed up into the Earth, sightings of a scaled creatures in Sierra Leone, and a man-monster sighted in New York soon after. Phil is assigned by J. Jonah Jameson to cover the first public appearance of the Fantastic Four, apparently the cause of the halt of these cave-ins. The next few weeks see the first appearances of Thor, Spider-Man, and rumors of a creature called The Hulk in Mexico. Phil witnesses both these fantastic feats, and mixed reactions from the crowd. At home, he learns that his daughter Jenny needs glasses. Soon after, she’s frightened by a nightmare she had about the Thing. Phil picks up Jenny’s glasses while musing about how the world’s changing around them.
YEARS LATER: An elderly Phil visits the Stockton launch site where Reed Richards’ experimental space shuttle took off all those years ago. He photographs it because there is talks of making it a historical landmark and he wanted to show it in its original state. Later on at the hospital, his doctor confirms that Phil has lung cancer.
TO BE CONTINUED…
- The outside-looking-in perspective of Phil Sheldon and spectators
- Balanced equilibrium between Phil’s story and that of the Marvels’ first appearances
- No treading on the events that transpired in the first chapter of this series
- Painted comics look maintained and backgrounds look amazing
- Good twist ending
- “Period piece” motif is a little weak this time around
- No Alex Ross (he’s busy yeah but still…)
Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Webs
I know this isn’t an USM review, but since Spider-Man played a prominent role in the first MARVELS series, I felt it was justified to review the sequel. Before I get into the pros and cons of the book, I just want to say that Alex Ross is missed in this series. It was his groundbreaking breakdowns breathed life into these characters; seams in their costumes, chinks in their armor, lines on their face. He made these characters HUMAN the way none before him ever did. Now by saying this I’m not knocking Ancelato’s pencils; I’m just saying both he and Kurt should be prepared to take a hit in regards to fan reaction.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll focus on the writing. Kurt has not missed a beat in his return to chronicling the life of Phil Sheldon. At first I felt a little displaced. When we left Sheldon he had decided to retire from photography following the death of Gwen Stacy. Now Busiek has taken him back to the beginning of the Marvel Universe, this time the SIlver Age. Chronologically I’d place this issue between MARVELS #1 and #2 (in the latter issue, I believe one of Phil’s editors notes that the look that the Thing gives Mr. Fantastic conveys a sense of hatred aimed at Reed). However, rather than the 1960s feel that Ross managed to capture visually, save for a few fedoras and SLR’s and some nods to the pop culture at the time, it’s not as pronounced. Perhaps it’s because they want to make sure the readers – in an age of laptops, internet systems, and memory sticks – don’t feel too alien or asking “why is the TV black and white?” While there is next to no Spider-Man in this issue, his TV appearances are mentioned, as are reports of him turning into a crimefighter. This works in the sense that the tragedy of Uncle Ben was very private and not prominent in the press, so Spider-Man just looked as though he started his crimefighting career due to lack of ratings for his performances.
As fans will remember, in the last series, Peter Parker made several appearances both in and out of costume, often in the same office space as Phil, who detested his seemingly tearing down Spider-Man’s image for profit. However, like in the last series, it’s interesting to see the NY populace meet these heroes with mixed reactions. Some praise them, others fear them based on either creed or appearance. The notion that Thor – a self-professed Norse God of Thunder – is treading on modern religion is a subject I don’t think has ever been touched on before. Having a protagonist that isn’t completely pro-change and feels at times like his eyes are being FORCED open rather than opening by themselves makes Phil very relatable. Then there is Jenny’s nightmare involving the Thing, or Ben Urich’s opinions on mutants after seeing a photo of Scott Summers using his optic blast or the aftermath of Iceman’s fight with the town of Nassau.
Busiek manages to capture the shock and awe of a naive and ignorant population experience when met with these incredible and sometimes terrifying events that make them question their role in the grander scheme of things. It wasn’t until Phil Sheldon was contracted with cancer that I realized the point of this sequel being more than just following the intrepid photographer and supporter of these Marvels. It’s a dying man’s recollection of days long past and inner reflection on how he has led his life. There are also The irony of his visit to the site of where Reed and company took off from in FF #1 in 1961 is not lost on the reader. I anxiously await the next issue, as I’m sure fellow Spidey-fans are after looking at the next cover. Again, while this issue has good quality art, and the colors are richer in contrast, I miss the Rockwellian-inspired grainy images of Alex Ross. You have the rest of the series to prove yourself successor to the throne, Ancelato…
Cover: 3.5 out of 5 Webs
The cover is really good. A photo of The Thing stopping traffic on – of course – Phil Sheldon’s desk is a nice way of both opening the series and establishing the time frame, still in the 1960s. Plus the characterization of Ben Grimm is captured; he’s ashamed of how he looks, he wants to be human again, so posing for a lolely photographer is not on the highest of his priorities. Great job!