Marvels: Eye of the Camera – Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern

This is a sequel to the highly acclaimed book Marvels. But you can still enjoy this perfectly as a stand-alone volume. If you have read the original work it is great to see Phil again and learn how the events of this life and that of his family continue.

We follow photographer Phil Sheldon and his documentation of the emerging superhero and mutant phenomena of the 70’s & 80’s. This is very different style of book and isn’t about individual battles and heroes. Instead it’s about the broad strokes of culture and society as a whole and how it views this historical period.

Phil is also a fully fleshed out character with a family and problems of his own. It is this human narration that serves to elevate this book from spandex extravaganza to thought-provoking discussion.

The background events are a chronologically accurate representation of what was going on in the Marvel Universe at that time. If you have some knowledge of the continuity you will recognise many famous key story points of the past. If you aren’t then they are just as dramatic and exciting. And at the back is a huge index that tells you where these story-points come from right down to the issue number.

The art is spectacular. Every panel is practically an Alex Ross cover with them all being (hand) painted like a Blacksad story. It is so different from normal 2D comics and lends such a mature gravitas to the whole work. It is exactly what is needed to support the weighty themes the book is portraying.

There are extensive design notes, a page of art construction and two full draft outlines of the project allowing you to see how it changed during revisions.

The hardcover is superb with a dark blue binding and copper foil stamping. The paper is a sturdy gloss that allows the art to radiate from the page. Even the flyleaf inside the cover is premium quality.

It is hard to know what more they could have done to make this book more perfect.

Double Thumbs Up!

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Superstar: As Seen on T.V. – Kurt Busiek

Superstar - As Seen on TV This presents the unusual concept of a superhero whose power level is linked to his popularity. A dramatic idea and a sly dig at our culture of media celebrity.

It is a great proposition and well executed but doesn’t quite hit the highs you want it too. It ticks all the boxes but there isn’t the crackle of magic as our hero whines about how tough it is to be popular. The plot unfolds like a 60’s Batman episode with ridiculous villains and giant monsters. Whilst the main Shakespeare quoting robot villain is interesting the trite “freedom” speech the hero delivers after the smackdown is a little sickly. Unless it is all an allegory about the erosion of freedom in Western civilisation but you aren’t sure Busiek is that deep.

The art and colours are lovely. A classic spandex rainbow that epitomises the genre with plenty of dynamic layouts and oversized lettering. There is a lot of history on the page and it combines old school and modern techniques very well.

This is a hardback book but the story is very short. There is a mini-story that introduces the world and character, like you would find free online or as a trailer in another book. There is also a massive sketchbook and history of the project with Busiek recounting the years of difficulties in development. There are also some interesting “pilot” pages allowing you to see how things changed.

Nothing wrong with it but a shame more wasn’t done with the idea. You can see why it never took off. Thumbs Up!