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An Age of Wonder

January 10, 2010

     Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting continue their epic story of the beginnings of the age of superheroes in the newest issues of the Marvels Project, which ties together all sorts of stories from around World War II.  Dr. Erskine meets one of his colleagues, who is experimenting on a mysterious American soldier named Jack Steele with indescructible skin.  However, Erskine plans to defect to the United States, and Nick Fury and Red Hargrove pick him up.  The Angel makes his costumed debut, and many superheroes follow.  The original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, also hears the call and joins the police department.  One superhero, the Phantom Bullet, is killed, and the Angel makes it his mission to find out why.  A detective named the Ferret begins to investigate the death of a house cleaning lady (who was actually killed by an undercover Nazi agent), and Hammond enjoys himself as a police officer, getting his first taste of humanity.  When his co-workers convince him to take time off to visit Coney Island, Prince Namor attacks in anger for the pollution of the sea and the destruction of his city.  The Human Torch stops him and becomes a hero in the public eye.  Back in Germany, Erskine’s former comrade’s lab gets bombed, and Jack Steele escapes.  Another Nazi agent comes to the U.S. to kill the defector Erskine, and the Ferret is killed while tailing him.  Steve Rogers gets selected for Dr. Erskine’s experiment to create a super soldier, and the Angel also begins inspecting the Ferret’s murder.  In Germany, Jack Steele ends up meeting up with Fury and Hargrove, and as Erskine’s experiment becomes ready, the Nazi agent stands in the wings, ready to kill him.

     Although I was skeptical about the specific reasons for why Ed Brubaker was writing such a story, I’ve pretty much forgotten them by now.  He’s weaving all the disparate stories from the World War II-era Marvel Universe into a clear narrative that will be the definitive story of that time period once it is over.  Even though I never knew much about heroes like the Angel or the original Human Torch, Brubaker is injecting this great humanity into them so that they seem to just jump off the page.  Of course, part of that can also be attributed to the superb pencils of Steve Epting, the definitive street-level artist of Marvel Comics.  Okay, so Namor and the Human Torch aren’t street level superheroes, but the Angel and Captain America most certainly are.  I’m curious as to how much things from this time period like the Invaders and Nazi villains like Master Man are going to figure in the rest of the story, especially with the work Brubaker’s done on characters like Spitfire and Union Jack in the present day.  At any rate, Brubaker is managing to get me interested in something about which I normally couldn’t care less, the origins of the age of superheroes in the Marvel Universe.  I thought that story had already been told, but he’s telling it better than anyone before him ever did.  And it’s just so great!

Plot: 9.0      Art: 9.4      Dialogue: 9.2      Overall: 9.1

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