Publisher: Marvel Comics
This is one of those books that you'll probably know whether you want to pick up just by looking at the title. A retrospective on the work of John Romita Jr., this single-issue sized special offers pages of Romita Jr. art, an original short story, a reprint of Romita's first Marvel work, and a fairly extensive interview with the artist which spans his entire career.
The interview offers some interesting insight into the artist's early years, describing the way in which he feels many of his first stories were "saved" by his inkers, and addressing the accusations of nepotism which dogged his early work thanks to his father's success and high-level position at Marvel. It's interesting to hear an artist talk candidly about his work, but it's just as important to see the product of his pencil, and there's a multitude of pencil sketches, cover concepts and reproductions of finished panels from his books which show off the raw energy, strong composition and efficiency of linework which are inherent in his work. However, there's a nagging feeling that Marvel is as interested in plugging the upcoming "World War Hulk" and the back catalogue of Romita TPBs as they are in celebrating the man's work, as multiple pages at the back are devoted to a catalogue of Romita-related collections which could have been put to better use as a showcase for more of his art.
If nothing else, this Anniversary Special reinforces the contribution that Romita Jr. has made to the medium of comics (and the superhero genre in particular) and the career timeline that is included would make any professional artist proud. However, there's a definite sense that this book is constrained by its short page count - many of which are necessarily devoted to reproductions of the man's art - with the result that the interview can't afford to get into much depth about Romita's work or his approach to his art, skipping through his work on Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men, Wolverine and Eternals at a fair old pace. The contributions from other industry professionals are illuminating, but are reduced to mere soundbites, where it would be interesting to see what more they had to say. Anyone with a real interest in the artist would probably get more out of the Marvel Visionaries volume which is devoted to him, as this single issue just isn't big enough to give fans anything meaty to get their teeth into. Worth a look for Romita fans, but even then there's not a huge amount of original material for the fairly high price of $4.
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