Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s collaboration on “Captain America” got a lot of press when they killed their title character in #25. For anyone who’d already been reading the title, though, they knew that it was deserving the attention due to a series of strong creations from the duo. It was the strength of their names that made me pick up “The Marvels Project,” and as we cross the halfway mark of this 8-issue series, I’m still enjoying it a great deal.
Set in the Golden Age of comics as World War II rages across Europe, the book is a mixture of faces that should be familiar (Captain America, the Human Torch, Namor) and those that might feel a little more obscure (the Ferret, the Angel, John Steele). What unites the book, though, is narration from the Angel as he tries to solve a murder that leads him into a much larger picture. The Angel tells the story in hindsight, but in a gentle, relaxing manner. It may sound strange, but I think it eases the reader into the story. A likable narrator can pull you deeper into a story (something used to great effect in books like “Marvels” and “Kingdom Come”), and that’s what Brubaker provides.
Brubaker also does a good job of balancing the different settings and characters in “The Marvels Project.” It would be easy to lay all the focus on the more popular characters, or alternately to put the big guns as background figures and stick strictly to the less well known. Brubaker instead gives them all a chance to shine, and I think that’s a smart decision. It helps bring across a, “We’re all in it together” feel, something perfect for a story set during World War II. It also doesn’t make any portion of the story feel less important; everyone’s contributing in their own way.
Steve Epting continues to create solid, attractive art. Just knowing that Epting is drawing the Red Skull again is reason to buy “The Marvels Project.” I love the craggy, stone-like features that Epting gives the character, and the Skull’s eyes continue to glint in such a way that he creeps me out. Epting’s backgrounds are as expressive as his characters, too; a ruined town in France has never looked so gray and collapsed. From the scattered debris on the ground to the twisted railings, Epting makes sure that the devastation hits home with the reader.
“The Marvels Project” is the kind of book that I think is going to benefit greatly from being re-read all at once. While I’m enjoying it serialized every month, I think it’s going to be great fun to go back through and watch how all the different plot threads and characters intersect and weave together to form a unified whole. Until then, though, it’s a nice experience revisiting the Marvel Universe from 70 years ago.