I don’t think anybody would disagree that Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels is one of the greatest comic book stories of the past twenty-five years. Told from the perspective of Phil Sheldon, a photojournalist for The Daily Bugle, Marvels put the narrative voice in the hands of an everyday person. Someone who would likely have the same reactions that you or I might if marvellous beings like the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man or Captain America came out of nowhere to be part of our own everyday lives. In the hands of writer Busiek and artist extraordinaire Ross, Marvels became a gorgeously epic tale of the astounding. It’s been republished countless times and has inspired various sequels and tie-ins.
The latest was just released last week and is a worthy addition to the ethos and vibe Busiek and Ross created.
Sub-Mariner: Marvels Snapshot #1
Writers: Alan Brennert with Kurt Busiek
Artist: Jerry Ordway
Marvels Snapshot is a series of one-shots curated by Busiek, crafted to tell its stories through the eyes of ordinary people, just like the original Marvels. In the case of this premiere issue, the story is told from the perspective of Betty Dean, the girlfriend of Namor, the Sub-Mariner following the end of World War II. Brennert does an admirable job of giving the issue a very old school, Golden Age feel. And while there’s certainly lots of action happening, courtesy of Namor and his All-Winner’s Squad comrades like Captain America and Bucky, The Human Torch and Toro, and the Whizzer and Miss America, where Sub-Mariner: Marvels Snapshot #1 really shines is in the characterization for its leads. Both Betty Dean and Namor have seen terrible things because of the war, and are dealing with PTSD in their own, very human ways. In just 33 pages, both characters are given a lot of depth; I don’t recall Namor ever being so sympathetic.
While Alex Ross lends his distinct style to the cover of Sub-Mariner: Marvels Snapshot #1, its industry legend Jerry Ordway who illustrates the interior, and he does an outstanding job. There’s a timeless quality to his work that recalls 1940s Timely Comics, but it’s honed in such a way that it still feels contemporary.
I’ve read Marvels countless times, and I’m pretty much a stickler for any work that wants to place itself in its hallowed realm. Amazingly, Sub-Mariner: Marvels Snapshot #1 does the trick and earns a place alongside its classic inspiration.