Millar’s best work tends to come out of his more excessive tales â€” “Kick-Ass” and “Ultimates” are both obvious examples of Millar taking a hatchet to the genre and bringing something distilled and unique as a result. The idea of Millar doing a fairly personal story, played entirely straight, doesn’t quite have the immediate appeal of his more popular work.
It’s quite surprising, then, that the fairly conventional approach to “1985” seems to be working well. Admittedly, it’s stylistically out of step with most of Marvel’s output, but compared to the industry as a whole, it’s so traditional a storytelling approach that it borders on being a throwback — coming from Millar, that feels almost like something new in itself.
While the plot mystery ticks over nicely, the strong characterization is the saving grace of the series, especially from the slightly conflicted protagonist. This issue sees his father get to share some of the spotlight, and rounds him out nicely too, neatly side-stepping a potential pothole by having Jerry accept what his son says, rather than fall into the easy cliche role of the disbelieving parent.
Millar’s excessive tendencies do bubble to the surface slightly as the super-villains who have invaded Toby’s world begin exerting their force in as brutal and complete a manner as possible. The chilling scenes that result place previously camp super-villain plots in a new, sickly light, not least the Mole Man-orchestrated Moloid attack on a playground.
The carefully constructed reality of the book begins tearing apart with the appearance of all these super-villains, although the tone of the book remains nicely consistent — certainly, Edwards’ art is a crucial part of that, as the sketchy, expressive visuals place it neatly between fiction and reality. Likewise, the writing blurs the line, with another small hint that Toby might be something more than simply the reader’s eyes in this story.
The only thing about the book that seems incongruous at this point is the title and setting itself — the choice of 1985 as the time period seems both arbitrary and irrelevant. Hopefully, more will be made of it. That aside, “1985” doesn’t have any major flaws, and after a slow-ish start, readers should find the ending of this issue grabs them sufficiently — and frankly, if a Fin Fang Foom appearance doesn’t do it for you, then maybe the series wasn’t for you in the first place.