“The Marvels Project” has been a curious series from day one. Set in the earlier days of World War II, its chronicle of how the race to create superhumans to try and turn the tide of the war has certainly caught my attention. It’s in many ways a companion piece to Ed Brubaker’s run on “Captain America,” evoking that same feel of history and importance towards Captain America and Bucky, and continuing (in a retroactive way) the characterization he’s brought to both of these Marvel icons.
But because it’s a book about the lead-up to the United States being pulled fully into the conflict, there’s also a certain inevitability to the series. You know on some level how at least part of it will end; Pearl Harbor will be bombed, and the country will go to war. Brubaker doesn’t try to pretend otherwise, but it does mean that at least one avenue of suspense is lost to him. What I found odd about this issue, though, is that even as the end draws near (with just one part to go), it feels like we’re at the halfway point, not eighty-seven percent of the way complete. There’s still a lot of setup happening in issue, with new characters gaining abilities and starting to enter the fight in new ways, while other characters meet up for the first time. I think it’s because of the pre-Pearl Harbor nature of the comic that all these characters have to be in place for part of a greater story about to be told, and that “The Marvels Project” needs to be viewed more as a prequel than a stand-alone book in its own right.
Steve Epting continues to turn out beautiful art, with another reminder of why I liked his art so much on “Captain America.” From German castles rising up over a forest, to a prisoner hiding behind enemy lines, each scene is carefully composed and executed with equal attention and skill. Colorist Dave Stewart works well with Epting; the burnt sky in the background of the Destroyer’s debut, for instance, helps bring an air of dread and death to the dramatic scene. It’s that extra punch in every page that makes this a real collaboration, Epting and Stewart enhancing each other’s work.
“The Marvels Project” has been an interesting ride, and I’m sorry to see it almost at an end. If you’ve read and enjoyed “Captain America,” you really should be reading this series too. While there is some oddness to the nature of it being a prequel to a large historical event (to say nothing of the reminder that in the Marvel Universe there are Atlantean warriors running around with Nazi regalia on), on the whole it’s a nice addition to your bookshelf.