“The Marvels Project” began as a promising look at the early days of superheroes in the Marvel universe, starting before the United States had entered World War II, but, as it continued, the story was less coherent and lacked a central purpose. Issue eight offers that payoff based on the historic day of the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941, juxtaposing that attack with a fictional one made by the Nazis and Atlanteans in Washington at the same time. While an interesting idea and keeping with the real life elements of the characters, it doesn’t pack the emotional impact that it’s designed to, nor the necessary cohesion to bring the entire series together completely.
Steve Epting and Dave Stewart continue, in this issue, to do a stellar job on the art. Epting’s soft, shadowy pencils give the world a realistic feel that matches the semi-real nature of the plot. But, he changes it up for certain characters like Namor who is drawn with harder edges and lines. Together with his drawing and Stewart’s coloring of the Human Torch and Toro, a new standard for those characters’ visuals has been set.
Where they really shine, though, is in the two fight scenes, jumping between the Human Torch and Toro at Pearl Harbor, to Captain America, Bucky, and Namor fighting Atlanteans near Washington. They manage to give the Pearl Harbor attack a sense of largeness and hopelessness even while making the Torch and Toro effective. They’re simply outnumbered by the Japanese and can only limit the damage. While the Atlantean fight is more traditional superheroics, it’s very energetic and dynamic. Namor is like a man possessed throughout the issue, especially when he gets his hands on the traitor that’s sold Atlantis out to the Axis.
Brubaker’s writing for these scenes is strong as he emphasizes the emotional toll that they take on the heroes and the country. There’s a certain absurdity in seeing the Human Torch and Toro at Pearl Harbor during the attack, but Brubaker’s narration softens that, allowing the scene to play out as serious rather than comical or, worse, cheesy.
America entering World War II is a logical endpoint for the series since so many of the Invaders’ adventures were chronicled at the time, but it still comes off as slightly arbitrary within this series. There’s no in-story reason for the series to end here and not continue to follow the characters through their adventures aside from the Angel not being a member of the Invaders. However, his adventures continued and the idea of a hero from that era in America while the war is happening sounds like an intriguing idea.
The end of the issue offers some hint of future stories springing out of this series and I look forward to that. The best parts of “The Marvels Project” have been when Brubaker has used the bare bones of these characters to craft new stories. Overall, this issue is a solid conclusion to a solid, entertaining series.