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Marvels Project #7

Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010
By: Paul Brian McCoy

Ed Brubaker
Steve Epting, Dave Stewart (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: The Marvels Project #7 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 24.

Back in my review for issue #5 of this title, I said, "The Marvels Project is a book that develops the structures and themes of the Marvel Universe in such a way as to create a field against which everything else can be re-evaluated and re-interpreted. This is a book that makes Marvel better. It's a reinforcement of the foundations."

I have yet to see anything to contradict that.

Brubaker and Epting are doing a masterful job of bringing all of the disparate threads of Marvel's Golden Age together and turning it into an accessible and logical narrative about the origins of the Marvel Universe while placing Captain America firmly at the center of everything.

Granted, he wasn't the first costumed character, but it really isn't until he arrives on the scene that the others begin to realize just what they can be and what they can accomplish.

That continues here, as Namor sits in a military prison cell, unmoving and unresponsive, as The Human Torch takes a young orphan under his wing, and as Cap does the same. What we've got here is the secret origin of The Invaders, really. But their coming together is foregrounded against the developing Timely/Marvel America of 1940, and the obscure characters found in the comics back then.

The Angel has had a resurgence of late, being a central figure here, providing the narrative voice and through line, as well as being the main character in Fred Van Lente's X Men Noir minis. But Angel isn't the only classic character showing up here. This month we get the origin of The Destroyer, which emphasizes the parallels between his creation and Cap's (not to mention the familial history of costumed adventuring with his father, the WWI hero, Union Jack), and the continuing story of Private John Steele.

Steele was a minor character whose only appearance was in Timely Comics' Daring Mystery Comics #1 (1940). He was a soldier of fortune who fought Nazis before America was even in the war. Brubaker has retconned him into a hero from WWI with bulletproof skin and super strength (although in that one appearance, he is never shot at and the tank hatch he "rips" open, isn't really ripped, he just yanks it open).

This retcon was established in the Marvel Mystery Handbook: 70th Anniversary Special, released as The Marvels Project began. In John Steele's entry, he is described as fighting at the end of WWI, with super strength and bulletproof skin, but the story described is the same story in Daring Mystery Comics #1, which has a strange mix of WWI and WWII elements (although the Nazi swastika is clearly marked on the single-wing planes that are bombing the battlefield).

Anyway, none of that really matters here, since whatever changes Brubaker made to the character are working just fine. I'm just curious about the motivations for the changes.

Oh well.

And just let me say that Steve Epting is doing the best work of his career. This is a beautiful book. From the settings, to the design, to the action sequences, to the expressions and body language, this is just gorgeous. And Dave Stewart's colors help to bring it all to life. Even when we move from the grays, greens, and browns of everyday life to the brilliant reds, whites, and blues of the costumed heroes, it all works. Those colors leap off the page in a way that makes even the more outrageous costumes seem believable.

This is one for the bookshelf, folks.







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