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"Marvel Comics #1000" is an entertaining but expensive celebration of 80 years of the Marvel Age

Writer: Al Ewing and Various, Art/Colors/Letters: Various.

"Marvel Comics #1000" main cover art by Alex Ross

Laying aside the controversy over whether Marvel Comics is legitimately at issue #1000 at precisely this moment in history, the 80th anniversary of Marvel Comics #1 and the Golden Age of Marvel heroes is celebrated with an ambitious attempt to link all of Marvel’s creations since then with an interweaving mystery. The mystery revolves around a group whose mission is to try to “impose their own order on society,” and also around an ancient, mystical black mask worn by an early Marvel hero, and passed down through generations of heroes.

Marvel Comics #1000 begins with over 30 cover variants, the main cover paying homage to classic Marvel cover hero poses by the modern Marvel master artist, hyper-realistic painter Alex Ross. All of the figures radiate out from the pages of Marvel Comics #1 from 1939.

The story is told in 80 pages, each page devoted to or mentioning character premieres or events in the Marvel Comics universe for each year of publication, chronologically from 1939 to the present. Each page also features a different creative team. Some feature the black mask mystery, but most don't; they are just commemorative entertainment.

Highlights include a patriotic and dramatically lit full page splash of Captain America by John Cassaday, an all-too-brief return from retirement by Stuart Immonen to remind readers of Patsy Walker’s long Marvel history, a Dr. Strange comic relief page by Joe Hill and Mike Allred, a page with the surprising answer to the question: “Who do you call for help when you are bitten by a radioactive spider?”, a powerful lesson from the Black Panther, a new way to consider Galactus, a creative and colorful Red Wolf page, some Quesada Daredevil, a surprise writing credit by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a touching Watcher’s regret.

"Marvel Comics #1000" interior art. One of the many non-black mask related pages in the anniversary issue.

Many of the featured annual events are a stretch, like “Storm dramatically changes her look” in 1983 (yes, I know the Mohawk was trendy, but surely something more significant happened that year!), or the 1986 release of the Howard The Duck movie. The entire 1980s pages in particular seemed to be uneventful. The 1990s pages aren’t much better, if Marvel has to call out the infamous Spider Clone saga, or when Erik Larsen became the artist on Spider-Man.

Al Ewing is the writer who tackles the black mask legend and the task of weaving it through Marvel history. I found the premise imaginative, and brilliantly paid off on the last page. And while some may feel the 80 pages are very disjointed with each page illustrated by a different team, I found the variety entertaining, and represented the various types of titles and characters and art styles that only the medium of comic books can deliver on a weekly basis. I am not sure the $10 price tag is worth it, but how often does a number 1000 come along?

The 80-plus page Marvel Comics #1000 lists for a cover price of $9.99 and is on sale August 28, 2019.

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