Marvel Age #1000 – A Star-Studded Celebration

A nostalgic look back at the history of the Marvel Universe.

As Marvel continues to celebrate its ever-growing legacy, with a now 60+ year history of continued publishing of the same characters all within the same universe (more or less), it has become a bit of a traditional to occasionally release big celebratory anthology issues, where they get some of the biggest names in comics to write short, one-and-done stories. This tradition continues with 2023’s Marvel Age #1000, billed as a massive commemorative issue, and featuring short stories from the likes of Marvel staple Dan Slott, to HBO’s Veep creator Armando Iannucci. Each of the stories only runs a few pages at most, with no connective tissue tying them together, a format I prefer over Marvel’s previous attempt in Marvel Comics #1000 to tell a full story throughout.

Digging into the actual stories, the high point of the issue is already reached within the first story, with a gorgeous retelling of the origin of Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, by Mark Waid and Alessandro Cappuccio. Waid’s ability to dig into the humanity and fallibility of our superheroes shines through in this story, as we see how Hammond went from emotionless robot to a caring and thoughtful hero. The true standout is Cappuccio’s art, however, as he draws The Human Torch flying through the night skyline with such life, adding heavily to Waid’s characterization. Cappuccio also renders his action scenes in varying angles and perspectives, giving the whole story an incredible sense of motion. While a $9.99 price tag is a bit much for the average issue, this story alone does make picking up the book feel worth it.

Unfortunately, however, the first story is really where the high points end. All the other stories range from “decent” to “passable filler”, which is really not good in a 10 dollar book. An anthology like this, with heavy hitters behind every single story, should really be all back-to-back hits, otherwise I begin to question why the stories made the cut. There were a few I enjoyed, such as Dan Slott’s Captain Mar-Vell story, which gave us a look at an untold story from the long gone hero’s past, but I think I mostly enjoyed it for the beautiful Michael and Laura Allred art, not so much the look at a past long forgotten. Jason Aaron’s newest Thor story, about a girl who hates heroes but then sees The Mighty Thor in action was compelling, again mostly because of the art, this time rendered amazingly by superstar artist Pepe Larraz, someone whose very name on a book makes it worth checking out for me.

These stories, while mostly drawn insanely well, just didn’t hook me at all, or really show me why they were worth telling. I think this speaks to a larger issue that Marvel is experiencing currently, and it is one that has been observed many times recently. All of Marvel’s current line seems to reflect the stories seen in this books, some really incredible high points (see: X-Men: Red), with the rest of it being pretty okay, to just borderline passable. Also seen heavily in Marvel’s line, reflected intensely in this anthology issue, is a huge reliance on nostalgia, such as heroes who are no longer active making a big return, writers going back to runs that made them famous, or full-on mini series that simply take place in an era revered by fans. With such a focus on the past in the main Marvel line, it feels hard for me to be very excited by a big celebratory book doing the exact same thing. While it would be unfair to say that Marvel Age #1000 is a complete waste of time to pick up, the steep price tag does make it a hard buy, especially with most of the stories being fairly generic, but if you are looking to return (once more) to the Marvel stories of the past, it may be the book for you.

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