Marvel 1985 #1 Review

The Revolution has been curious about Millar’s Marvel 1985 for a while. This title sounds like it has the potential to be a neat little read. I always dig a story that involves multiple Earths. I have confidence that Millar will be able to hook me into this mini-series with Marvel 1985 #1. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards

Art Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with a scene of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1961 creating the Marvel universe. Or so they thought… We then cut to 1985 with the events of Secret Wars. (Oh man, that story was dumb.) We see Doom kill the Beyonder and then attack our assembled heroes.

We then cut to a young boy named Toby reading Secret Wars #10 at his local comic book shop. Toby is enthralled with Secret Wars (Well, I suppose the story would appeal to someone around the age of 10 years old) and has the owner of the comic shop get him the first nine issues and add Secret Wars to his regular pull list. Toby also adds Daredevil, only if Frank Miller is coming back. (Good choice. Miller’s Daredevil was awesome.)

One of the employees at the comic shop derides Toby for being a Marvel zombie and not reading truly great comic books like Cerebus and Love and Rockets. Toby then spies a toy figure of H.E.R.B.I.E. from the old Fantastic Four cartoon. Toby says that he didn’t know they ever made a H.E.R.B.I.E. toy. The owner of the comic shop responds that he got it at a local junk shop this very morning. The owner says that the funny thing is that they never made a H.E.R.B.I.E. toy.

We see Toby walking home. He thinks about how his parents got a divorce and his mother got remarried. Toby has barely uttered three words to his stepfather. Toby thinks how he stated picking up comic books again when he was thirteen years old after two years of trying hard to be a normal person. His parents divorce and a random issue of Iron Man (The boy clearly has good taste) was all it took to reel him back into this simple world where every problem could be solved in twenty-four pages.

We see Toby arrive at his house. His father is there talking to his stepfather. Evidently, Toby’s dad, Jerry, has been strapped for cash since his band broke up and Jerry had to get rid of his car because he could not afford it. Of course, Toby’s stepfather, Hart, has a good job and just bought a new Cadillac. (Pimp.)

Toby and Jerry then walk off to the old Wyncham House in the woods that has just been sold. Evidently, someone is going to turn it into a nursing home. During their walk, Jerry tells Toby that he read some of Toby’s comic books and that the X-Men stuff was fantastic in particular the “Dark Phoenix” issues and the “Proteus” story. (Oh yeah, I remember those days when Uncanny X-Men was truly one of the best comic books on the market.)

Toby answers that Hart thinks comic books are a waste of time. Hart says that Toby should get his head out of the clouds and make more of an effort in school. Jerry says that Hart is probably correct. That there isn’t a job in the world where you need to know Giant-Man’s secret identity. Jerry tells Toby that he doesn’t want to end up dumb and broke like his father. Jerry says that Hart is good to Toby and his mother and that Toby doesn’t need to hate Hart to please Jerry.

The father and son arrive at the old Wyncham House. Jerry used to be friends with Clyde Wyncham when they were kids. That Clyde ended up having an accident and became brain damaged. A small man wearing dark glasses and looking suspiciously like the Mole Man asks Toby and Jerry if he can help them.

Jerry says he had friend that grew up here. The small man then says that they are cleaning out the home to turn into a big hotel. The small man asks Toby if he likes comic books because when they cleaned out the house they found a bunch of them. Toby and Jerry look at the box of comics and notice that it contains valuable issues like X-Men #1, Hulk #1, Spider-Man #1 and Fantastic Four #1. The small man looks at Jerry and says “Fantastic Four?”

Jerry then tells the small man that comic books are worth thousands of dollars and that it wouldn’t be right for Toby and Jerry to take them. Jerry tells the small man to take the comics and sell them to the local comic book shop in town. During this conversation, Toby looks into one of the windows of the old home and sees the Red Skull staring at him. The Red Skull then disappears from the window.

We cut to school the next day. Toby tells his friend Darius that he saw someone dressed like the Red Skull at the Wyncham House. Darius replies that Toby keeps getting weirder and that Darius is going to get beat up for hanging out with Toby. Toby then says that he also met a creepy midget guy who looked really familiar to him. Toby wishes he could remember where he knows him from.

We shift to that night with Toby’s mom ranting to Toby about what a bum and a stiff his father is. That Jerry should have taken the comic books and sold them for thousands. Instead the comic book shop owner bought all of them for eighty dollars. Toby’s mom calls Jerry an idiot.

Toby then sees a news report about some strange bald man in a green bird outfit on the rooftop of the Town Hall. The news report shows a picture of the mysterious man and it is none other than the Vulture. Toby freaks out.

Toby calls Darius who lives next door. The two stand in their bedroom windows to look at each other as they talk. Darius says that it was just a guy in a costume pulling a prank. Toby says he is going to go investigate the Wyncham House tonight. Darius refuses to go saying that they are too old to be playing “Nancy Drew” (Wait a minute; you don’t know who Nancy Drew is?) Toby counters by asking if Darius is wearing a Masters of the Universe t-shirt. Darius pauses and sheepishly answers “Yes.”

We cut to Toby making his way over to the Wyncham House that night. Toby thinks that he must be crazy to believe that comic book characters have come to life. But, that if they are real then maybe all of this problems can be solved in twenty-four pages, too.

Toby crouches in the shrubs next to the house and sees Dr. Doom talking with the Mole Man. Doom complains about having to live in this miserable hose surrounded by idiots. Mole Man reminds Doom that it is only for a little while. That once they have done the great man’s bidding then this world of his will be theirs for the taking.

Mole Man says that there are no super heroes on this world. Doom comments that the “great man” is playing Mole Man and the others. Doom says that the man’s mutant powers have no influence over him. Mole Man counters that the great man ripped a hole from their world to his. That they cannot disobey him. That Doom must think of the consequences. Doom scoffs that he never thinks of the consequences.

We then see Dr. Doom setting a bunch of furniture from inside the house on fire. Toby is stunned and mutters “Jeez.” Dr. Doom hears Toby. Toby then runs and is chased by Mole Man’s underground creatures. Toby runs through the woods thinking how they are all real. The Red Skull, Dr. Doom, Mole Man and the Vulture. They are all real.

Toby keeps running until he suddenly runs into something that knocks him on his butt. Toby looks up and sees the Hulk staring at him. End of issue.

The Good: Marvel 1985 #1 was an enjoyable read. This was a pleasantly paced issue. Millar takes his time setting up the story. I like the measured pace of this story that slowly builds in intensity and then explodes for an exciting ending. Marvel 1985 #1 is well plotted as Millar clearly has a well constructed story and is moving the story along with a purpose. Millar does a fine job placing all the various players into place and then teasing the reader with a couple of interesting plotlines.

Millar whips up some solid dialogue. The dialogue has an enjoyable realistic and natural flow to it. Each of the characters are surprisingly well developed for just the first issue. Millar impressed me by being able to give the reader a good sense of each character’s personality in just a few panels. Millar also injects some good humor into this issue. All the dialogue between Toby and Darius was pretty funny.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Millar unfolds this story. Millar makes sure that he sets the scene properly. The reader truly buys into the fact that we are reading about our Earth. I know that Marvel likes to boast that the 616 universe is “realistic.” But, honestly, at no point have I ever read a Marvel comic and thought the 616 universe was like ours. Millar does his job by making the Earth in Marvel 1985 #1 feel just like ours. And getting the reader to this Earth as our world was critical in allowing the reader to just as stunned and amazed as Toby was when he sees the appearance of Marvel characters.

I love Toby’s character. This is a kid that I can relate with. I liked the home problems that Toby is dealing with. I can completely understand his using comic books as a form of escapism from the real world. I did the same at his age. It was the only way to transport myself away from the crappy barrio I lived in full of losers doing nothing and going nowhere. Millar does a great job fleshing out Toby’s character in this issue.

My enjoyment of Marvel 1985 #1 also stems from the fact that I was a little kid in 1985. This is the Marvel universe that I grew up with and loved dearly. It just feels right to see this era of Marvel heroes and villains. I am looking forward to seeing the various heroes in all their 1980’s glory.

Millar immediately won my heart with the opening scene. I loved the one page splash shot of the two icons in Jack Kirby and Stan Lee standing together as they begin to create the 616 universe. It doesn’t get much better than Kirby and Lee. Nuff said.

The scene at the comic book shop was perfect. You know that you have these type of fanboys at your local comic book shop as well. You have the indie comic book snob who sneers down the edge of his nose at anything published by the big two. This guy is clearly too far evolved to read your mainstream super hero titles and is simply too smart for you.

And then there is the Marvel zombie that populates many local comic book shops. This is the guy that will purchase anything by Marvel regardless of how putrid the story is or not. Marvel could publish a story with stick figures and dialogue written by chimpanzees and the Marvel zombie would buy it and add the extra opinion that DC sucks.

It is too bad that Millar left out the stereotype for the DC comic book fan. He is usually older than the Marvel zombie and immediately dismisses everything Marvel does as all flash and no substance stories centered on ridiculously “grim” and “gritty” characters.

At any rate, the scene in the comic books store was well done and funny. Millar also teases the reader with a strange H.E.R.B.I.E. toy that the owner bought at a junk sale. The odd fact that this toy was never made means that I am going to expect this H.E.R.B.I.E. “toy” to spring to life at some point during this story.

I liked the scene at the Wyncham House with Toby, Jerry and the Mole Man. I geeked out when we saw the Red Skull. I could actually feel Toby’s excitement upon unexpectedly seeing the iconic villain. This was such an enjoyably understated way to introduce both Mole Man and Red Skull for the first time. I particularly liked the fact that after this scene Toby proceeds to rack his brain trying to figure out where he has seen the Mole Man before.

Millar does a brilliant job increasing the intensity and tension in this issue with the news report that Toby is watching while his mother rants about Toby’s father. What is so well done is that the reader, following Toby’s lead, tunes out the dialogue from Toby’s mother as we get reeled in by the news report and then see the one page splash shot of the Vulture. Once again, Millar gets the reader to share Toby’s “Oh shit!” moment perfectly.

Millar ends Marvel 1985 #1 with a great hook ending. Millar teases the reader with a mysterious mutant who Mole Man refers to as the “great man.” All we know is that this character possess mutant powers strong enough for him to rip a hole between our world and the Earth-616. The reader also learns that the 616 villains are to do this mysterious character’s bidding and in return the 616 villains will get our world as their own. This plotline immediately piqued my interest and I cannot wait to learn more about this “great man.”

Millar then cranks up the intensity as we see Toby racing through the woods as he is begin chased my Mole Man’s creatures and then slamming into the Hulk. I love the one page splash shot of a stunned Toby still reeling from all that he saw at the Wyncham House now looking up into the face of the green goliath. This ending got me on the edge of my seat and immediately made me want to come back for the next issue.

Of course, I am a total sucker for a multiple Earths story. Our “real” Earth has shown up in older DC comic books as Earth-Prime where there were no super heroes. On Earth-Prime, super heroes only existed in comic books. I dig this playful concept of heroes from an alternate Earth arriving at our “real” Earth where heroes only exist in comic books. I liked it when DC did these stories and I like it now from Marvel.

The Bad: I am just not a fan of Tommy Lee Edwards’ artwork at all. I found it to be way too sketchy and rough for my tastes. The inking was too dull and muddy. The art made Marvel 1985 #1 a visually drab and boring issue.

Overall: Marvel 1985 #1 was such a pleasant surprise. Now, this is definitely not a fast issue nor does it have any action to speak of. However, Marvel 1985 #1 is a great set-up issue that does its job of getting the reader sucked into this story. If you are the type of reader who prefers faster paced stories and plenty of action then I would not recommend getting Marvel 1985 #1. However, if you don’t mind a story that is lacking in action then I would certainly recommend you giving Marvel 1985 #1 a try. Plus, we all know that at some point Millar is going to deliver the action in spades. Marvel 1985 #1 is a solid and entertaining issue that is worth the cover price.


  1. This was such a huge week and I hope this gem doesn’t get overlooked. Millar truly gets the beauty of being a comic fan, from the magnificent first page tribute to Stan and Jack to the trip to the comic store. There is nothing more enjoyable than a writer who treats the comic experience with respect and kindness. This is a homage to everyone who grew up “discovering ” the best comic ever and then desperately trying to complete his collection.

    You are correct that the art is rough at times but Edwards does have a nice eye when it comes to body language. He poses his characters extremely well and gives them a most realistic effect; Toby looks like a bored child when at home with his mom, his mom comes across as “nagging” and the comic shop owner, well, looks like he hasn’t bathed in days! Rough, but there is a realism to his art that works for me.

    By the way, let me thank you for not only the terrific commentary but the synopsis of each book. I can only imagine how much time each one takes and while if you ever decide to stop doing them to save time I would understand, I truly appreciate them. I print them out each morning(assuming I read the book) and read them on my stationary bike. It is like reading the comic again without getting sweat all over the pages!
    (got to keep the collection in “fine” condition! LOL!)

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