Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Superheroes through one good eye

Book: Marvels

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Artist: Alex Ross

Published 2008 (as collection, Marvel)

Pages: Guys, comics don’t number their pages. Let’s just get over that now.

This is more dreamy watercolors from Alex Ross, this time depicting the rise of the Marvel universe in New York City with a focus (heh) on how it affects the citizen as seen through the photojournalistic lens of Phil Sheldon.

I use the word “dreamy” because Ross’s art is blurred just enough around the edges to give me a sort of warm fuzzy feeling when I’m looking at it even when he’s showing me a massive two-page spread of carnage wrecked by the superheroes who are supposed to be protecting the damn city, not tearing it apart. *shakes cane*

That’s what most of the conflict is about—whether or not the superheroes who emerge are actually good or just another agent of chaos (albeit well-meaning). Public opinion sways with how the big battles go; Phil himself leans more toward the thankful side with an “oh hell no!” streak about mutants, which surprised me considering how obsessed he becomes about documenting all the others so they’ll be better understood.

The writing is good in this one. Phil’s internal monologues sound like things people actually think to themselves, and he’s not overly perfect by any means. This might be a result of him being a normal guy instead of, like, Spiderman or someone, but I don’t really care because it makes for good outside observation on just exactly how these heroes are received. Good call making him a photojournalist too, because that way he can be everywhere the plot needs him to be without any unnatural torturing of his own storyline.

I never did get a full answer out of him, though. He just keeps questioning his and everybody else’s views about the superheroes until he retires, and then he puts it down like he puts down his camera. Maybe the resolution lies deeper in the Marvel canon.

A few influences I noticed in the art:
  • I’m definitely not imagining the Nighthawks panel, where Ross paints a couple of his main characters into that famous café for dinner.
  • I’m almost positive I’m not imagining Bea Author being painted as one of the guests who talks about how ugly the Thing is during a sculpture opening.
  • I might be imagining the faces of Paul McCartney, Jimmi Page, and Keith Moon being in a couple of the medium-angle crowd scenes. I do like my classic rock. 

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