The Marvels #1 Review

by Charles Martin on April 28, 2021

The Marvels #1 Review
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colourist: Richard Isanove
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I consider it a part of the reviewer's duty to avoid spoilers whenever possible. But with a comic like The Marvels #1, I'm not even sure what avoiding spoilers means.

If it means not naming the obscure characters Kurt Busiek has woven into the story, well, sorry. I'm enough of a Marvel nerd that I'm gonna crow about it when I think I spot, say, Golden Age Vision.

This is a collection of scenes spanning decades and continents, each of them showing off characters and events that are intriguing but (so far) isolated from each other. We start with Swordsman arranging an arms deal in Sin-Cong in 1947; we end with some mysterious new characters watching the Punisher crawl out of a drug bust gone explosively wrong in the present day.

Let me reel in any implied negativity right now. No, this issue does not feature a cohesive plot that each scene latches onto. But that is not a bad thing. There is a bigger plot going on, and though it will probably take a lot of issues, I'm confident that the wide-spread scenes of #1 will fall in line as part of the overall narrative.

Why am I confident? Because Kurt Busiek is still Kurt Busiek, and most of these introductory scenes already demonstrate why having him on board is a good thing.

The author may be engaging in grand-scale plotting that will take months to come to fruition. But he is also diving deep into the lives of individuals, super-heroic and civilian, and he's lost none of his formidable talent for illuminating fictional characters with the light of realistic ingenuity.

Foremost example: Captain America reveals himself to be a fan of artisanal hipster food, to the amused delight of Captain Marvel. But Mr. Busiek puts heart and thought into the joke with Steve's explanation: All-natural ingredients and low-tech preparation make artisanal food taste like the food he remembers from the 30s, and that's just impossibly sweet.

With the visuals, artist Yildiray Cinar and colourist Richard Isanove achieve a timeless, somewhat retro look for both the quiet character moments and the action scenes. The colours are intensely vibrant, even in night-time settings, and the characters strike a good balance between detail and clarity. 

With a plot covering so many different time periods, I'm sure it was tempting to vary the art and play with multiple styles. But I think the art team made the right choice by sticking with one tone. For this initial issue, at least, consistent visuals serve a vital purpose by assuring the reader that this is, indeed, all one story.

And what is that story about? This issue's scattershot approach gives us only hints. Snippets. Flashes of heroism and villainy, magic and super-science, mostly centred on Sin-Cong. And it also has more than a little to do with Kevin Schumer, a civilian (is he?) whose super-hero-tour-guide job puts him close to that Punisher explosion mentioned above.

Ah, Sin-Cong, Marvel's new(-ish) fictional stand-in for Vietnam and the Vietnam War. I wasn't previously a fan of sacrificing Marvel's "world outside your window" realism for the sake of tidying up the timeline. But the way Mr. Busiek is employing Sin-Cong here -- as a nexus that can entangle heroes of multiple eras into a single struggle -- just might win me over.

The Marvels #1 kicks off a wide-ranging story that's not afraid (heck, forget "not afraid", it's positively proud) to dig into the most obscure corners of Marvel history. This issue's disparate scenes flourish thanks to strong art and confidence-inspiring writing that shows off all of Kurt Busiek's trademark strengths. Although the shape of the puzzle is obscure right now, the individual pieces are already intriguing.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
It never hurts to remind everybody that Steve Rogers is a huge Tolkien nerd!