Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler/Colorist: Javier Rodriguez
Inker: Alvaro Lopez
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramgna
Cover Artists: Steve McNiven, Mark Farmer and Sunny Gho.
What a delicious mind trip of a book.
You know that specific comicbook flavor? The combo punch of several decades worth of cosmic capers, each trying to outdo the other in scale? The stacks of retcons like the Tower of Pisa, ready to topple but somehow still standing?
If you love that stuff like I do, History of the Marvel Universe #1 is your book.
Despite the backwards-facing title, the first page drops us off at the end of time. We start with a surprisingly poignant conversation with the last two beings in existence: Galactus and Franklin Richards. Richards asks Galactus to help him remember everything. What follows is the bedtime story at the sunset of the universe.
For decades, Marvel writers have stuffed the 616 universe with wild—and sometimes seemingly contradictory—histories. But now, writer Mark Waid and artist Javier Rodriguez weave these disparate threads into one story, from Jack Kirby to Jason Aaron.
This is a book with its own freaking research team. Flip to the back, and you’ll find 13 solid pages of annotations, including explanations and original source illustrations.
I hesitate to call this a “story,” because it’s not one in the usual sense. It’s exactly what it says on the label: the history of the Marvel universe. It’s almost more like a beautifully illustrated reference work.
Each text box transports us to new eons and new faces. You can’t quite recall all the threads by the end of the book—nor are you expected to. That’s no failure on part of the book. That’s just the sort of project this is.
It works because Waid imbues the tale with a mythical importance. Galactus’ dry and weighty delivery reads like the Greek Theonomy: a quick, hit-the-highlights, multi-generational creation myth.
But the immediate impact comes from Rodriquez’s art and the phantasmagorical page layouts. It’s the single busiest comic I’ve ever read. Every page brims with planets, creatures, and characters rich with comic lore. Read it slowly or read it twice. There’s too much for the eyes to take in on one pass.
Of course, some threads in this tapestry still dangle. We find no mention, for instance, of Jonathan Hickman’s builders and gardeners, nor of Knull the pre-existing void-god from Donny Cates’ Venom.
But overall, this unique and wildly ambitious book deserves a read. The completed series promises to make a great companion on any Marvel comics shelf.