By Mark Millar (story), Tommy Lee Edwards (art), John Workman (letters)

On sale 5/29/08

I think Mark Millar has a fetish for boys coming from broken homes. Anyone who’s read Wanted and/or Kick Ass will understand what I’m talking about. With Marvel 1985, we’re put yet again into the shoes of a young boy from a broken home. But unlike the lead characters from the aforementioned series, this kid, Toby, has no desire to get himself killed or become a high-powered super villain. In fact, he’s a very normal kid who happens to be caught between his parents’ divorce. Using what money he has, he buys comics from the local store – using them as a tool to escape.

This book has a lot nostalgic value to it, so you’re going to have to forgive me if I come off a bit biased. You see, 1985 was the year I actually started reading and collecting comics. I remember the sights, the smells, and the bike rides I would take during the summer to get to my local comic store (it was miles away off the Air Force Base I lived on). Millar sets up the story right from the first page, and while I won’t disclose much of the story, I’ll say that this very much feels like a sequel to Secret Wars (the first series). The tempo of the book is paced evenly throughout, and in true Millar fashion we’re treated to a bevy of cultural references (relevant to 1985). I was even creeped out by one scene involving The Red Skull (Tommy Lee Edwards again gets a lot of credit for this striking scene).

Tommy Lee Edwards does an amazing job capturing the look and feel of the era. I can’t begin to tell you how closely I studied each page, enjoying the high level of detail and easter eggs Edwards planted. For those who were reading comics during this time frame, they’ll be instantly transported back. One scene in particular that blew my mind was Toby’s trip to the comic store. The attention to detail is just amazing! Edwards also handles the coloring chores with near perfection. The scene where Toby and his father walk through the woods is completely mood driven and the colors are the key to making this sequence work.

The unsung hero, however, is letterist John Workman who lettered this book completely by hand – a perfect throw back to the time. And while the word balloons in 1985 never looked this sloppy, the imperfections do nothing but add to the book’s character. With most lettering done by computer these days, it’s nice to see a tribute to this lost art.

Marvel 1985 will be fun for just about any fan of Marvel Comics. It’s an revisitation to a familiar time, when things weren’t so gloomy. It’s also a refreshing concept that goes beyond super heroes and villains. It’s like Kurt Busiek’s Marvels in a way, but it’s based in the 80s and seen through more innocent eyes. This kid isn’t witnessing any key events of the past like Busiek’s protagonist – he’s caught right in the middle of it! (Grade: A-)

– J. Montes