The History of the Marvel Universe #2 // Review
Galactus continues to tell the ultimate bedtime story at the end of the world in the second issue of The History of the Marvel Universe. The second issue focusses on the early twentieth century as told through Galactus’ words by writer Mark Waid. The story unfolds in a tapestry-like progression of pages and panels drawn by Javier Rodríguez. The overall pacing of the second issue feels engaging enough. However, as it is little more than a parade of events without much narrative connection, the series can only really only be of substantial interest to those with a substantial pre-existing familiarity to the Marvel Universe.
Galactus and Franklin aren’t at all present in the issue save for a passing mention of them. The narrative continues as Galactus’ words fill boxes detailing a scattering of events in the Marvel Universe from the early twentieth century up to and including the exhaustive, convoluted events of World War II in the Marvel Universe. The narrative covers the Golden Age of Comics and the events which have been retroactively placed there. That are painstakingly noted in big blocks of semi-encyclopedic text at issue’s end.
Waid does a pretty good job of summarizing the early craziness of the Marvel Universe at the dawn of superheroes. It’s all just a series of events, though. Without a coherent narrative connective tissue, the events of the era would feel a bit like a stale textbook to those not already familiar with the Marvel Universe. The absence of Galactus and Franklin makes the entire gestalt of the narrative feel untethered. The story of the Marvel Universe could be told countless different ways. The fact that this particular tale is rooted in a conversation between a god and one born as a mortal on earth feels really really interesting. But Waid seems to have used the context of this story as a throwaway at the beginning, disappointing.
Waid gives artist Javier Rodríguez the ongoing challenge of bringing all the disparate narrative elements together into a single, fluidly moving visual package. It’s actually pretty impressive how tight everything feels given the vast, sweeping nature of the decades being outlined. Rodríguez plays with depth, framing action shots in and out of panel to amplify the immensity of the stories being covered. There’s a clever layering of smaller panels on top of large panels with action streaking across everything in the foreground. The layout is particularly impressive. Too bad it’s in the service of such a disjointed narrative.
It’s all a jumble...but then: that’s the Marvel Universe. There had been noble intentions to keep it all together in a single world shared by characters, writers, artists, and editors. Far too many people were involved to make it all coherent, however. Waid and company continue to soldier on in an attempt to condense it all, but without a strong unifying narrative force, it feels like a largely disinteresting outline of events.