Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fanholes Side Story #7 Forgotten Marvels

The Marvels Project is an eight issue mini series by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting that explores the early history of the Marvel Universe. As a history buff, I always find myself gravitating towards comics and characters that have a sense of history. Before I was ever interested in comics, I was a budding World War II buff. I would sit around and listen to old timers tell war stories for hours on end. As I have said before, my first comic book was Invaders #11. Also, burned in my mind was an early memory from Avengers during the Kree/Skrull War. The image of Rick Jones calling forth long forgotten heroes from the Golden Age. I asked my uncle who these characters were. Most of them he could identify, but not all. From that point on, I tracked down each issue of Invaders and followed the exploits of Captain America and Namor in their solo titles.

This mini series follows the exploits of several characters from those long forgotten days just before World War II. We see the creation of the Human Torch and how he deals with the public as they label him a monster. Also present is James Bradley, aka Dr. Nemesis, who works with Professor Hamilton on the project which gave birth to the Torch. We see Namor fly into a rage, the first of many, over the death of his people at the hands of Nazis. Also there is The Angel, a much lesser known character, who begins his career after coming into contact with an aged Two-Gun Kid.

We are witness to the first encounter between the Human Torch and Namor. An encounter that Namor will not forget, as he lets his rage consume him and is humiliated by his defeat. The battle between Namor and the Human Torch is a scene that is often reproduced, most notably in Marvels. In addition, The Angel begins his task of tracking down the person who murdered fellow hero Phantom Bullet.

There are some other, lesser known, heroes who are recalled for a brief moment. Phantom Bullet, John Steele, Fiery Mask, Mister E and Monako. John Steele has become a key player in recent issues of Secret Avengers, so it is nice to get more of his back story here. We also see a young Nick Fury begin his career as he is sent to retrieve Dr. Erskine, who would later develop the super soldier serum. It is interesting to see the creation of several ‘super’ soldiers here. From the Human Torch, the first artificial human, to Captain America and the Destroyer.

In the final issue the different heroes work together at last. Namor is forced to admit he was wrong about the surface world. The Invaders are created and go on to serve throughout the war. We also see how much the Human Torch has grown as a 'person', as he wants to keep Toro from being exposed to the horror of war. If you are familiar with Brubaker, you know he loves to involve his characters in spy games. Whether it's on his run of Captain America or Secret Avengers, Brubaker is, in my opinion, quite skillful at this. Although, if you find these elements in his comics dubious, you may want to steer clear. While it's not as heavy and ham-fisted as certain story-lines, I can see how one might be off put by it. I’ve always felt Epting’s artwork is a good fit for Captain America, and it helps that he has already drawn many of these characters during his run on that series. His work on The Marvels Project suits this tale of intrigue and mystery in the days before and during World War II.

If you enjoy Brubaker’s work on Captain America and Secret Avengers, or if you are a history buff like me, then you will enjoy reading about some ‘lesser’ heroes. The Marvels Project does a fine job of exploring the Golden Age of comics and gives us an interesting look at some long forgotten characters.

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