Marvel Comics #1000 Is An Entertaining And Suitable Celebration Of Marvel’s History

by Olly MacNamee

You couldn’t help but notice that Marvel Comics #1000 was out this past week and taking a leaf out of DC Comics recent Action Comics and Detective Comics #1000 anniversary with an oversized issue recounting the history, not of a character, but a whole publishing empire, from its early days back in 1939 and the first appearance of the Human Torch in Marvel Comics #1 right through to the present day and a mystery set out by the main writer on this book, Al Ewing, tantalisingly left on a cliffhanger. A story for another day, introduced into this anniversary issue, just as Action Comics and Detective Comics also laid the foundations for stories yet to come.

As to the nature of this mystery; it’s all down to a mask known as the Eternity Mask. A common enough trope of the superhero genre and so an apt, talismanic item to build an anniversary story around, with the help of a great deal of comicdom’s greatest artists, minus those who are exclusive to the Distinguished Competitors, of course. But, for every Jim Lee that’s missing there is the inclusion of the likes of George Perez in, surely, his last ever published artwork. Like any anniversary issue of this nature, its a great excuse for an art jam of grand proportions, with the likes of legends such as Steve Epting, Time Sale, Ron Frenz and Walt Simonson – all names intrinsically linked with Marvel Comics – alongside newer names (well, in comparison to these just mentioned) such as Oscar Martin, Javier Rodríguez and Joe Bennett. Its a huge roll call as each artist, and oft-times other writers too, contribute one page of art for each year of Marvel Comics’ existence with key events from each year making an appearance. How many were at the request of Marvel editorial and how many were from Ewing’s own devising we may never know, but I dare say there will be many, many arguments online about what should and shouldn’t have ben included.

I’m not sure, for instance, that the celebration of the Howard the Duck movie would be something I included for the year 1986, when compared with the return of Jean Grey from the dead in Fantastic Four #286 which led to the original X-Men reforming in X-Factor #1 in this very same year, but you can’t have it all. But then, I was happy to see Star Wars (1977) get a page as well as Conan The Barbarian before it (1970). You can’t have it all, even if that Howard the Duck inclusion may sit uneasy with me for some time yet. And, hey, anyone can forgive the absence of Captain Britain (1976) in favour of a page by George Perez celebrating Marvel’s first Puerto Rican superhero, The White Tiger, right? I know I can. Especially when Marvel UK get a great prose page on Night Raven, suggesting they ain’t done with this gritty crime-noir character just yet.

Although, this is a small price to pay for an otherwise outstanding comic book that includes a number of fun ones-pagers that help break up the main story and keep it both engaging and entertaining. As well as being a gargantuan who’s who of the comic book industries leading lights and shining upcoming stars, it also plays with the medium from time to time too. There’s the inevitable Little Nemo In Slumberland parody featuring Black Bolt from The Inhumans (hmm, I wonder what happens when he snores in his sleep?) as well as Deadpool stuck in a 9 panel grid and not happy with it’s limitations, along with a few other great inclusions. Even that damn Howard the Duck masquerades as a parody of a Hostess’ Fruit Pie advert that older readers will remember with fondness. Although, I’m surprised there weren’t any artists aping the style of the mighty Jack Kirby, which many included have done so well in the past, such as Steve Rude. But, on second thoughts, maybe it was the right choice to allow all the artists to shine in their own right with their own styles. It certainly makes for a more eclectic book and one that’s more in keeping with contemporary comics.

Overall, its a great, fun issue that’s accessible to all and everyone. Having had the pleasure of sharing a pint with Al Ewing recently, he shared with me his sheer delight in receiving that George Perez page I keep mentioning (and others too, I imagine), and its a delight shared by this reader as I languidly read through this special edition book and marvelled (I know, I know, but I couldn’t help include this poorly put together pun) at the talent on view.

Well worth passing onto those who have grown up with the movies as a reminder of the original source material and the greatness of the medium from which a whole movie empire has grown from. Who knows, it may even kick start  a younger generation to go explore the mighty world of Marvel beyond the silver screen. But, I’m not holding my breath.

Marvel Comics #1000 is out now from Marvel (of course).

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