I have extremely high expectations for Marvels Project #1. As long time followers of The Revolution know, I am very fond of Golden Age characters. You add to that the stellar team-up of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting from Captain America and there is just no way that I am not going to love this issue. Let’s do this review for The Marvels Project #1.
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Steve Epting
Inks: Steve Epting
Colors: Dave Stewart
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in a hospital in New York City in 1938. Dr. Thomas Halloway (The Golden Age Angel) is tending to one of his patients named Matt Hawk (The Two-Gun Kid). Dr. Halloway narrates how Mr. Hawk was a strange old man who talked about unusual tales of super powered beings from the future. Hawk comments that when he got old that they sent him back to his own time. Dr. Halloway says that he should have figured out who Matt Hawk really was.
Hawk tells Dr. Halloway that it all began in New York City. Dr. Halloway was fascinated by Hawk because of Hawk’s insistence that he had lived in the future and adventured along side of super powered men and gods. Dr. Halloway took copious notes on what Hawk would tell him. Dr. Halloway opined that Mr. Hawk’s condition was unlike any case of senile dementia that he had ever seen.
Dr. Halloway thinks how he genuinely looked forward to his daily talks with Mr. Hawk. We cut to the next day with Dr. Halloway arriving to visit with Mr. Hawk. The nurse informs Dr. Halloway that Mr. Hawk passed away last night. The nurse hands Dr. Halloway a wooden box and says that last night Mr. Hawk asked her to give this box to Dr. Halloway. The nurse said that it was strange. That it seemed like Mr. Hawk knew he would not be waking up.
We cut to that night with Dr. Halloway in his study at his desk. Dr. Halloway opens the box. In it are Hawk’s two six-shooters. There is a note that says “To Doctor Thomas Halloway. From one hero to another.” Dr. Halloway thinks how he should have put it together that Matt Hawk was none other than the Two-Gun Kid.
We flashback to Halloway as a little boy where he lived in a closed part of a state penitentiary where his father was the warden. Halloway read all the books in the prison’s library. And those included books about the tales of the Two-Gun Kid. Halloway worshiped the Two-Gun Kid.
Halloway cursed himself for not being able to tell his idol how much he meant to him. Halloway looked at Matt’s gift to him and wondered if Matt already knew how Halloway viewed him. Halloway thinks how suddenly the future that Matt Hawk talked about did not seem that far away.
We cut to the Atlantic Ocean in 1939. FDR is relaxing on the yacht of his friend Vincent Astor. Astor ran a secret intelligence group called The Room. They talk about how it is worth the risking the lives of soldiers to go try and stop the German’s Project Nietzsche.
Astor then says that they have are having problems at the Brooklyn lab. That the creature keeps catching on fire. Astor says that Professor Horton and his partner, Bradley, are working on solving the problem.
FDR then reveals that the Germans have a ship in the Atlantic heading toward Bermuda. Astor says that he had heard that too and that they do not know what the Germans are up to other than the fact that they are dropping depth charges.
We cut to that night in the Sargasso Sea northeast of Bermuda. We see a German fishing vessel dropping depth charges. Hundreds of bodies of dead Atlanteans rise to the surface. The bodies are then scooped up in fishing nets and dumped onto the deck of the vessel.
The crew working the vessel are sickened by what they are doing. However, they try and think that they are just fishing and remember this is an important job and that the sea creatures are very important to the work that is going on back in the Fatherland.
Suddenly, a massive tidal wave appears next to the boat and the Sub-Mariner springs forth from the tidal wave. The tidal wave crashes over the entire vessel. Namor lands on the deck of the vessel. Namor stares in horror and anger at the bodies of the dead Atlanteans that have been stuffed in the fishing holds of the vessel. Namor looks at the German crew and growls “You will pay. All of you.”
We shift forward to a few weeks later with Professor Phineas Horton holding a press conference for the public unveiling of his synthetic man. The synthetic man is in a glass tube. Professor Horton then pulls a level that allows some oxygen to enter the tube. The synthetic man then catches on fire. The flaw is that the synthetic man catches fire the minute he is exposed to oxygen.
We flashback to Horton and Bradley arguing over their creation just before the public unveiling. Bradley says that he won’t have his work wasted on a publicity stunt. Bradley accuses Horton of being used by Roosevelt’s people. Horton brushes off Bradley’s accusations. Horton asks Bradley if Bradley had no idea who they were working for this entire time.
We see that the news reports of this “Human Torch” created by Professor Horton spread across the country and the globe. The government expected this news to provoke a reaction from Germany. However, what the government did not expect was the negative reaction the Human Torch sparked in America. The American public protest the creation of a synthetic man. The protesters call the synthetic man nothing more than a monster.
We cut to Horton in his lab with the Human Torch. Someone from FDR’s administration informs Horton that due to public pressure the President has ordered the Human Torch to be encased in cement and buried. Horton is upset with this decision. The government agent leaves. Horton stares at the Human Torch and says “I’m sorry my boy. They don’t understand you.”
We shift to the Human Torch being encased in concrete and buried so that no enemy agents will ever be able to get to him. We then slide over to Germany where two German scientists are looking at a newspaper article about the Human Torch. One of the scientists says that the SS is going to be pressuring them more than ever. The other scientist is none other than Erskine.
We see that their lab is full of the dissected bodies of Atlanteans. The other scientist says that Erskine is supposed to be a genius so it is time for a breakthrough. The scientist says that neither of them want Himmler to pay them another visit. Erskine says “No. No. We don’t want that.” Erskine looks very unhappy.
We cut to London, England where two government agents are intercepting German communications and are cracking them. One of the British agents cracks a German message and is shocked. The agent rushes off to the home office where their American friend will want to hear this news.
We zip back to New York City where Dr. Halloway is at a movie theater watching the news film on the war over in Europe. Dr. Halloway says that the Nazi war machine felt closer than ever. That it did not feel safe for the Nazi war machine anymore even in New York City. Dr. Halloway then leaves the theater.
We pop back over to London England where Colonel Ellis from the British army and an American military officer arrive at a pub. Inside are two American ex-soldiers fighting with each other over which guy will get to hit on the pretty bar maid. The two ex-soldiers are Nick Fury and Red Hargrove. Nick and Red are in England to train British paratroopers. Colonel Ellis introduces Nick and Red to the American officer who is Lieutenant Sawyer.
Ellis, Sawyer, Nick and Red all sit down to talk. Sawyer needs Nick and Red for an important secret mission. The fact that Nick and Red are not in the military is perfect for the mission so that the government has plausible deniability should the mission go badly. Sawyer says that there is a Nazi scientist who wants to defect to America.
We cut back to New York City. Halloway narrates how that night the Human Torch broke free from the concrete he was buried in. Halloway narrates that later they would learn that Professor Horton had been in constant contact with the Human Torch while he was buried. That Horton had been teaching Torch about their world and their history. That this prompted the synthetic man to break out of his solitary confinement so he could experience the world that Horton spoke of.
Unfortunately, the Human Torch immediately caught fire when he broke out of the concrete. And to make things worse, Human Torch could not control the flames. Therefore, everything around him started catching on fire. Bystanders panicked at the sight of the Human Torch. Human Torch screams for everyone to stay back from him. Torch then flies off into the air and far away from the city.
Halloway narrates that Torch was afraid of himself. That section of the city is consumed in flames. Halloway sees a woman being attacked by some opportunistic thugs. Halloway jumps to the rescue and beats up the thugs and saves the woman.
Halloway comments that he knows all about criminals. That he has known all about criminals for his entire life. The woman says that people are looting around the part of the city that is on fire. Halloway comments “Yes. People are disappointingly predictable, aren’t they?”
Halloway proceeds to spend the rest of the evening saving people from the fires from the Human Torch. Halloway also beats up more looters and criminals.
While Halloway was pulling off these heroic deeds he thought about the words of Matt Hawk. That it all began here in New York City. Halloway then wonders if this is the beginning. Halloway wondered if Matt Hawk knew that it would all begin in flames and destruction.
We cut to Halloway back at his home as the sun rises. Halloway is dirty from rescuing people and fighting criminals all night. Halloway stands in his study and narrates how Matt Hawk seemed to know Halloway better than Halloway knew himself. Halloway narrates how he had always valued knowledge more than action. But that was now changing. That Halloway had acted last night without thinking.
Halloway opened the box from Matt Hawk and stares at the two six-shooters. Halloway narrates that it seemed clear that morning that nothing would ever be the same again. End of issue.
The Good: The Marvels Project #1 was a fine read. Brubaker spins a wonderfully textured and complex read that offers the reader plenty to digest. Brubaker constructs a sumptuously rich setting. Brubaker perfectly captures the mood and feel of the late 1930’s. Brubaker certainly succeeds in fully capturing the reader’s attention and getting the reader to feel that something truly big and special is about to happen. The reader can feel the electricity from the anticipation of an incredible new age that is about to be birthed.
The Marvels Project is a technically well written and constructed story. Brubaker displays a nice sense of history and is able to take the 616 universe’s continuity and nicely integrate it into the pre-World War II historical setting. The use of historical characters gave this story an enjoyably realistic and textured feel. Brubaker plays off the nation’s conscience prior to World War II and spins it forward to how the nation would approach the birth of the era of the superhuman.
A good example of Brubaker’s feel for the era was the scene with Dr. Halloway in the movie theater. Brubaker makes good use of the old news reels that would play before the main feature that were common in this era. This scene did a fine job building up the feeling of impending doom that existed prior to the U.S. becoming involved in World War II. This feeling of impending doom nicely mirrored the uneasy feeling that something big was about to happen in New York City with the birth of a new age.
Brubaker has this story match the mood and tone of the late 1930’s in America. Brubaker plays with the creeping feeling that something dire in the form of the Nazi war machine was becoming more and more of a threat to America. The tension of the threat of the growing Nazi war machine is matched by the wonder of the new age of man that is about to dawn with the birth of the modern mystery man.
Brubaker shows off a deft hand with his handling of the birth of Marvel’s Golden Age. Most of that can be credited to Brubaker taking the time and effort to perform plenty of research concerning Marvel’s history. I like Brubaker’s decision to use the big four Timely Comics characters as the pillars that serve as the foundation for the Marvel Universe’s history.
The four most successful Timely Comics characters are The Angel, The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Captain America. Brubaker used three of those four characters in The Marvels Project #1. Even though Captain America did not appear in this issue, we did get to see Abraham Erskine in this issue who is the creator of the Super Soldier program.
I loved how Brubaker used Matt Hawk aka The Two-Gun Kid in this issue. Brubaker has the Two-Gun Kid be the catalyst for the birth of Marvel’s Golden Age. And that is fitting given that the Two-Gun Kid is Marvel’s earliest mystery man. Yes, technically, the Two-Gun Kid is not as old as the Timely characters since the Two-Gun Kid was created in the early 1960’s. However, within the 616 universe’s history, the Two-Gun Kid operated in the late 1800’s long before there were masked mystery men patrolling New York City.
The use of Two-Gun Kid was well played given the fact that he is not only one of Marvel’s first masked men, but he also traveled to the future and operated during our present day period. In fact, the Two-Gun Kid was a part of the fifty state Initiative after the conclusion of Civil War. This unique experience enables Matt Hawk to be the prophet who not only inspires Dr. Thomas Halloway by his actions as the Two-Gun Kid, but also as his role as a prophet. Matt is able to tell of a future full of incredible super powered heroes, their rise to prominence and their important role that they play in society.
I enjoyed how Brubaker took several Silver Age characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and placed them into Marvel’s Golden Age. This was a brilliant move to use some Marvel Silver Age characters who would have operated during World War II in order to beef up the roster of Timely Comics Golden Age characters. It also helps to make the Timely Comics universe and the Marvel Comics universes more streamlined and integrated.
The Silver Age Lee/Kirby characters that we see in The Marvels Project #1 consist of characters from Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. We got to see Red Hargrove who grew up with Nick Fury in Hell’s Kitchen. We also got to meet Samuel “Happy Sam” Sawyer who organized and led the Howling Commandos. Having Sawyer enlist Hargrove and Fury to smuggle Erskine out of Germany was a perfect way to mesh these characters nicely into the Golden Age origin of Captain America. I liked seeing a young Nick Fury back when he was nothing more than a hell-raising soldier.
The Marvels Project #1 moved at a measured pace. As always, Brubaker was in no rush with this story. Instead, Brubaker took his time to lay an incredible solid foundation for this story. The measured pacing of this issue was a nice match to the mood and tone of this story. Brubaker crafted the feeling of a creeping bad feeling that was slowly making its way across the country.
The Marvels Project #1 was a strongly plotted issue. Brubaker installed several plotlines with this issue and gave the reader an excellent feel for the purpose of this title. Brubaker also showed the reader how the various disparate plotlines will eventually lead to a common occurrence which is the birth of the modern super hero era of the 616 universe. This was a rich story that has plenty of substance to it that is sure to satisfy most readers.
Brubaker delivered plenty of great character work in this issue. The character that received the majority of the character work is Dr. Thomas Halloway aka The Angel.
Brubaker also crafted some excellent narration and dialogue. The use of Dr. Halloway’s inner narration as the spine of this issue nicely served as a tool to connect the various scenes together into a cohesive story. Dr. Halloway’s narration gave this issue a common thread that cued the reader into how these different plotlines relate to each other.
Even though The Marvels Project was a slower cerebral read; Brubaker does not completely deprive the reader of action. We at least get a bit of action when Dr. Halloway finally accepts his destiny at the end of the issue as he battles the looters. Having said that, this is not an issue that is going satisfy a reader’s urge for adrenaline pumping action scenes.
My favorite scene in this issue was the one involving Namor and the German “fishing” vessel. That was an absolutely bone chilling scene as we saw the vessel drop depth charges to kill the Atlanteans, net them up and then stuff them in the hold of the vessel like fish.
This scene was a shining example of how a scene can be incredibly horrific without resorting to over the top gore and violence. This was a short scene, but still quite impressive. I particularly enjoyed Namor’s entrance via the tidal wave. That was a dramatic and bad-ass entry into the story.
I have always liked the original Human Torch and I enjoyed how Brubaker handled the Torch’s creation and his impact on the world. It was a neat twist that Horton’s sympathetic man scared the people of America as much as it did the Germans. Human Torch is the Marvel Universe’s Frankenstein’s Monster and Brubaker picks up on this literary theme and runs with it.
Torch’s character conjures up the modern debate over advanced scientific methods such as cloning where mankind continually inches closer to replacing God. The Human Torch is a symbol of all the positive aspects of the dawn of the super hero age as well as the potential evil that will be birth in this age as well.
Brubaker did a fine job fleshing out the father/son relationship between Horton and the Human Torch. It was nice to see a genuine fatherly love between a brilliant inventor and his machine. While the rest of the world can only view the Human Torch with fear in their hearts; Horton only sees the wonderful positive possibilities of the Human Torch.
Brubaker did a nice job conveying the Torch’s horror once he breaks loose from his concrete chamber. The desire to live life like a human is a natural instinct in Torch’s synthetic brain. However, his lack of control over his powers makes him come off as a monster to the bystanders. I am curious to see Torch’s growth and maturation as he learns to control his abilities and attempt to live life like a normal man.
I liked how Brubaker used Abraham Erskine in this issue. It was cool to see Erskine’s work while with the Germans. It was a stark contrast to see the man who ends up creating arguably the greatest hero in the 616 universe overseeing such a grisly and ghoulish project for the Nazis. Erskine’s lab was a virtual horror chamber.
The final scenes in The Marvels Project #1 were great. It was neat to see Dr. Halloway instinctively acting as a hero and rescuing people who were being attacked by the looters. Dr. Halloway had been portrayed more as a man of thought than action. Therefore, it surprised the reader to see Dr. Halloway snapping to action without any hesitation or second thought.
The final page with Dr. Halloway accepting the mantle that the Two-Gun Kid had bestowed upon him as the first super hero of Marvel’s Golden Age were well played. The final page had a nice impact on the reader and conveyed the fact that something big is about to happen.
Steve Epting’s artwork simply gorgeous. The Marvel Projects #1 is just sumptuous looking. I know I am biased when it comes to Epting’s artwork, but I was simply blown away with his effort on this issue. Epting is wonderful at giving each scene a proper tone and mood. Epting delivers several incredibly dramatic pages. My favorite is the way that Epting drew Namor coming out of the tidal wave. Epting’s artwork is strong enough to bolster Brubaker’s story and give it even more depth and texture.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue. Having said that, there is not much action in The Marvels Project #1 and that is sure to turn off some readers. Another problem some readers may have with this issue is the pacing. As always, Brubaker employs a slow burn approach to The Marvels Project. This story may move too slowly for readers he prefer a more compressed read.
Overall: The Marvels Project #1 was a captivating read that immediately hooked my attention. Now, admittedly, I am a fan of both Brubaker and Epting. I also am a fan of Golden Age stories. However, I do feel that readers who enjoy complex and well crafted stories will enjoy The Marvels Project #1. This story is intelligent and does a good job engaging the reader’s mind.
Having said that, readers who prefer fast paced stories will probably become irritated with Brubaker’s slow burn approach to this story. Also, readers who enjoy action packed reads will probably be disappointed by the relative lack of action in this story.