Marvel has never been a company to pass up a trend. DC has seen considerable success with Action Comics #1000 and Detectice Comics #1000, and Marvel wants a piece of that pie despite not having any books that have run for 1000 issues. Enter: Marvel Comics #1000 (Marvel), celebrating the 80th anniversary of Marvel Comics with a book that would have maybe been the thousandth issue of Marvel Comics if it ran monthly for 80 years with a couple years of accelerated shipping. But it didn’t. It ran for 92 issues and ended in 1942, so the book lacks the triumph of Action Comics and Detective Comics #1000, two titles that endured for decades.
Marvel Comics #1000 is caught between dual purposes: setting up a new story spearheaded by Al Ewing and honoring the past 80 years with one-page stories by a massive line-up of creators. The book would benefit from being one or the other, because the chosen structure, while ambitious, makes for an awkward read. The quality of the tribute pages varies significantly, and the fact that Marvel is releasing Marvel Comics #1001 next month with more pages from creators originally announced for Marvel Comics #1000 makes the whole thing come across as a sloppily organized affair.
Putting Ewing in charge of the overarching narrative is a wise move considering his exceptional Marvel track record, and he unites Marvel’s different publishing phases by introducing a new supernatural object and a secret cabal that has been operating in the background for years. At first, the Eternity Mask feels like another new Marvel object imbued with incredible power à la the Cosmic Cube or Infinity Gauntlet, but the Eternity Mask holds more allegorical value. When someone puts on the mask, they are evenly matched with any opponent, tying personal strength to the act of concealing your identity.
The one-page story is a tricky thing, and some creators are far more inventive with how they use the format. Kieron Gillen, Doug Braithwaite, and Diego Rodriguez distill decades of Loki stories into five panels sharing a single line of dialogue. Jimmy “Taboo” Gomez, Benjamin Jackendoff, and Jeffrey Veregge honor Native American culture with their tribute to Red Wolf, built around a striking visual that could easily function as a superhero mural. Many creators go a more light-hearted route: Kathryn and Stuart Immonen return to Patsy Walker for a cheeky guide to selfie success; Joe Hill, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred pit Doctor Strange against his magical cape on laundry day; Ed Brisson, Jorge Fornés, and Jordie Bellaire send Speedball bouncing through the city on an especially pathetic patrol; Jason Aaron, Goran Parlov, and Giada Marchisio reveal Wolverine and Punisher’s proclivity for soothing baths.
The biggest surprise of Marvel Comics #1000 comes courtesy of writer Brad Meltzer and artist Julian Totino Tedesco, telling a poignant story about a new generation of kids named after Spider-Man’s beloved Uncle Ben. Meltzer, notorious for killing the pregnant Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis, makes small amends with this tale of Spider-Man saving pregnant women over and over again, and getting painted sequentials from Tedesco, one of the best cover artists in the game, is a rare treat.
Marvel Comics #1000 has courted its fair share of controversy, starting with the majority straight white male creator line-up, which is unfortunately representative of the publisher’s creative stable throughout history. This has been a problem across all of the recent #1000 issues, highlighting how marginalized creators have been kept away from the genre’s most popular properties. Last week, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Mark Waid changed an essay in which he was critical of the U.S., which appeared in an earlier version of Marvel Comics #1000 sent out to retailers to drum up interest. This comes shortly after Maus creator Art Spiegelman had an essay critical of President Trump removed from an upcoming collection of Golden Age Marvel comics being published in the U.K. These events, taken in conjunction with Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter’s role as a Trump advisor and financial supporter, make it hard to swallow the revolutionary spirit that a book like Marvel Comics #1000 purports to celebrate.