Originally announced in 2003, “Marvels: Eye of the Camera” has taken an impressively long time to make it to release. The series was initially conceived as a 10th anniversary project commemorating the original “Marvels” by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. When it became clear that the deadline wouldn’t be met, Marvel decided not to rush the series out. Based on the first issue, that appears to have been the correct judgement.
Beginning mid-way during the original “Marvels” series, readers once again follow freelance photographer Phil Sheldon as he experiences the emergence of Silver Age super-heroes in the Marvel Universe. Reflecting the title, this issue places greater emphasis on Sheldon’s family life and the world he inhabits than it does on the events in the Marvel Universe. After re-establishing Sheldon and his character, the issue concludes by skipping ahead in time to a point beyond where we last saw him, as Sheldon deals with some world-changing events of a much different nature.
Since the series sprang from the pen of Kurt Busiek, there was little doubt that “Marvels: Eye of the Camera” would be anything but well-written. The pressure, then, was doubly on artist Jay Anacleto to fill the shoes left by Alex Ross, and ensure that the visuals lived up to the high standards set by the original.
In that regard, it’s largely a success, with clear, nuanced storytelling and detailed backgrounds — although on closer inspection some of Anacleto’s faces do seem to have a slightly manic quality. That aside, there’s more than enough going on in every panel of every page that you can appreciate why this series took so long to get drawn; certainly you can’t accuse Anacleto of doing things by halves. His near-photorealistic pencils challenge Ross’ painted work on several occasions.
Where the series really shines, though, is in Busiek’s writing. There’s little meat to the first issue, plot-wise, until the final pages of the issue, but the bulk of the book spends its time crafting such a compelling, three-dimensional portrait of Sheldon that you won’t worry that, on the surface, it could be considered something of a glorified recap.
By the end of the issue, readers are left in no doubt that this series will be far more about Sheldon himself than the events he witnesses. If you buy this issue simply expecting to see him photographing the events of “Inferno” or “Secret Wars” then you may be disappointed — indeed, only events from the 60s get a look in here. It’s certain that any Marvel fan will be engaged by Busiek’s studied portrayal of life inside the Marvel Universe, but, as with any good comic, it’s the characters that make it worth reading.