It took three-quarters of a century to get here, but “Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration” #1 serves up a sampler of the company’s history, stretching back to the early debut of the Human Torch and even Stan Lee himself. This hefty comic carries a six-dollar pricetag, but it serves up an interesting cross-section of what Marvel Comics are all about. Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four and Jessica Jones are all featured here, giving readers bite-size portions of the broader canvas of the Marvel Universe.
It only seems appropriate then, that writer James Robinson and artist Chris Samnee open up this issue with a story titled, “Anniversary.” The duo make sweet comics together, providing a grand recap of the formative mission Reed Richards and his colleagues embark upon through the words of famous “Daily Bugle” reporter, Ben Urich. Woven through the adventure sharp-eyed readers will catch glimpses of many of their favorite Marvel characters as Urich asks, “What were you doing when the world became fantastic?”
Jordie Bellaire’s colors are sublime, from the rolling African savanna to her treatment of Susan Storm discovering her invisibility. Cory Petit rounds out the visual smorgasbord with tasty lettering that swaps between Courier-esque newspaper font and a solid range of word balloon positioning and emphasis, including a niftily reduced size in the musings of Doctor Henry Pym. From the start of the modern Marvel Universe to the present with peeks in to the formative years of Sam Alexander (Nova) and Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), Samnee, Robinson, Bellaire and Petit make a very strong case for more work of this nature, especially since they only covered thirty-one (give or take a pair) of the Marvel Universe’s super-inhabitants in the course of nine pages
The next yarn spun in this extra-sized anniversary celebration is “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge,” a tale wherein Bruce Timm and Stan Lee work Marvel-style over the span of seventy-three years. Based on a text piece from Lee that was published in “Captain America Comics” #3 (which is reproduced in this issue), Timm’s style immediately casts this adventure as both timeless and classic. It even goes to the point where it ends with a wink and nod, exchanged as much between Cap and Bucky as it is with Cap and the reader. Dave Stewart’s colors are equally timeless; helping make this story a wonderful spectacle that can only be enhanced by the classic comic book lettering decisions Ferran Delgado spreads throughout these eight pages.
“Alias” doesn’t quite fit the timeless vibe of this special, but Brian Bendis’ creation, Jessica Jones, finds her way into this comic book in an adventure drawn by co-creator, Michael Gaydos. A throwaway line that underscores Jones’ history and persona elevates this title to being more appropriate for the teen-plus crowd, which keeps the comic from being completely all-ages appropriate.
In “Alias,” however, Bendis brings in a connection between the original Human Torch and Jessica Jones in a pair of pages that colorist Matt Hollingsworth instantly ages for historic vibes aplenty. The connection to Torch validates the story’s inclusion. In addition to tying history together, Bendis plants seeds for what is to come, leaving readers with a bright, Gaydos-drawn smirk on Jones’ face at the end of this chapter.
“That Parker Boy” puts a Riverdale spin on Peter Parker and his amazing friends: Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, Harry Osborn, and Flash Thompson. No stranger to Spidey, Tom DeFalco writes a tale that plays to the strengths of his artist, “Archie” great, Stan Goldberg. As noted in the credits for this segment, Goldberg colored Spider-Man’s first adventure. Sadly, it appears as though this tale might be his last contribution to Spider-Man’s legend, as Goldberg passed away earlier this year.
In this tale, however, Goldberg brings his “Archie”-ness and Paul Mounts colors it handily, adding depth, texture and tone to a light-hearted tale of Peter Parker seeking balance. It’s only five pages long, but this story packs in plenty of heart and makes for a nice crossroads for fans of all kinds of comics.
Wolverine sees readers through the end of the issue in a tale titled “Walkabout.” Len Wein, creator of the clawed Canuck, returns to his most famous creation and gives readers a treat into Logan’s head. While the story itself is set before Wolverine joins the X-Men, Wein doesn’t let that limit him, peeking into the future of the team and showing readers everything that occupies Wolverine’s mind in the dreamtime. Paul Gulacy provides splendid storytelling, even if his style is more adept for characters trending closer to the real world than Wolverine. Rain Beredo’s colors fit nicely for this tale, providing plenty of warm hues under the Australian sun in these eight pages.
With five enjoyable adventures, a collection of eight covers featuring “Marvel Comics We Never Made,” a tribute page to creators no longer with us and a sprinkling of text pieces that track the confluence of Marvel and the real world, “Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration” #1 packs a lot of bang for your buck. That said, this is a collection more apt to please hardcore or long-term Marvel fans as opposed to hooking itself too deeply into passing, casual fans that are looking for a good starting point. Robinson & Samnee’s “Anniversary” provides a nice gateway, but the rest of the issue is clearly targeted at more seasoned readers who can appreciate the decisions that went into the anniversary issue’s creation.