Editor's Note: Marvels: Eye of the Camera #6 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 17.
"Chapter 6: Closing the Book"
I have no idea what was responsible for the delay in producing this final issue of Marvels: Eye of the Camera (issue #5 shipped way back in April 2009), but now that it's here, I'm pleased to report that it's as fitting an ending for the miniseries--and for the Marvels saga as a whole--as its readers could hope for.
Whilst previous issues of the series have seen Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern give equal weight to their exploration of the history of the Marvel Universe and their recounting of the life of photographer Phil Sheldon, this final chapter sees Sheldon step into the spotlight, as he is visited on his deathbed by a character who is living proof of the positive effect that his past actions have had: Maggie, the young mutant girl from the first Marvels miniseries, who has found her own way to help those less fortunate than herself.
Whilst some readers may be disappointed that so much of this final issue revolves around a relatively minor character in the Marvels saga, it actually proves to be a very effective way of conveying one of the book's most important messages: that the label of "hero" shouldn't be confined to fantastical comicbook characters, and that you don't have to have a gaudy costume and special powers to make a difference in people's lives. In case we didn't get the message, another scene sees Sheldon surprised by the fact that a journalist protégé of his has finally achieved the success that she deserves, thanks in no small part to his own contributions to her career. It's a nice way of demonstrating a more realistic approach to the same message, even if it doesn't really say anything that isn't already conveyed by Maggie's scenes.
Jay Anacleto again provides the book's artwork, and whilst he's again given the chance to draw one or two impressive splash pages of Marvel Universe action and adventure, the majority of his work in this issue is more grounded. That's due to the fact that much of the issue takes place in the hospital in which Phil Sheldon is being treated for his cancer, and Anacleto does a good job of capturing the sterile coldness of the environment whilst also adding life to it via his expressive characters. It might be a less visually spectacular conclusion to the series than some readers would like, but it feels as though it serves the needs of the story well.
One element of the story that probably won't be as obvious when reading this single issue in isolation is the metaphor that Phil Sheldon's life experiences provide for the Marvel Universe (and vice versa). Throughout the course of the series, we've seen echoes of Sheldon's own experiences and feelings in the wider events of the Marvel Universe, and whilst the writers don't tie things together quite as explicitly here, there's still an implicit connection between Sheldon's story and that of the wider MU. By choosing to end the timeline of Marvels at a certain point in time, (before the advent of downbeat storylines like "Avengers Disassembled", "Civil War" and "Dark Reign"), Busiek and Stern are able to finish on a high note, with an overwhelming sense of positivity at the end of the issue, despite dealing with some weighty and potentially depressing subject matter in the lead up to the final pages.
I can't decide whether the writers are implying that the point at which their story ends is the point at which the development of the Marvel Universe ceased to matter for them, or whether they're simply saying that life will inevitably go on after death, but all that matters is what we do with the finite amount of time that we have on this Earth. Either way, it's food for thought from a series that has never shied away from exploring the real-life implications of the Marvel Universe's ideas, and which uses its final issue to quietly make some interesting points about actions and their consequences, and the value of acting selflessly and responsibly.
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