Thursday, January 7, 2016


MARVEL UNIVERSE was a short lived (7 issues) series published by Marvel Comics in 1998. It was similar in concept to DC's LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE series which ran for 41 issues (along with some specials) from 1998 to 2001. Both series had the same idea, that was, to explore the rich and varied histories of their respective comic book universes.

MARVEL UNIVERSE started with a bang. A three part INVADERS story written by Roger Stern with artwork by Steve Epting and Al Williamson. Have I mentioned that I'm a sucker for super-hero stories set in WWII? The original 1970s INVADERS series is one of my all time favorite comic books (written by my all  time favorite comic book writer, Roy Thomas). CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is still my favorite of all of the Marvel Comics movies produced to date. So naturally, I was drawn to this series when it was originally published.

I had forgotten about MARVEL UNIVERSE until the other day when I stumbled across a trade paperback collecting the entire series at Half Price Books. Sold. I re-read it this morning and loved every page of it.

THE INVADERS story stars the original Big Three of Timely Comics: The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner and Captain America. They're joined by The Whizzer in corker of a story that involves Baron Strucker's attempts to gain a nuclear weapon for his war time Hydra organization. This story is full of Marvel history. We get cameos by the Red Skull, Captain Simon Savage, Thor, Dr. Doom and a way-cool dragon shaped super submarine from a Golden Age issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA.

But wait! There's more! The second (and alas, final) story arc in MARVEL UNIVERSE was the delightful MONSTER HUNTERS, a team comprised of Dr. Druid, Ulysses Bloodstone,  Wakandan warrior woman Zawadi and the mysterious government agent Jake Curtiss. Before this four issue romp is over, we discover the link between all of those late '50s, early '60s giant monster stories produced by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers and Steve Ditko and Kirby's 1970s series THE ETERNALS. Oh, and the secret origin of the Mole Man too! The story is again by Roger Stern with artwork by Mike Manley who makes everything look like a Saturday morning cartoon drawn by Jack Kirby. And yes, that's a very good thing.

It's too bad that MARVEL UNIVERSE didn't find enough of an audience in the late 1990s as writer Stern and editor Tom Brevoort had many other story ideas on the drawing board. Sadly, it was not to be but the two story arcs that were published were winners in my book. Thumbs up.

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