Trade Perspectives: Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

[Thoughts from Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

One of Marvel’s biggest projects, premiering in November (just in time for the Guardians of the Galaxy film to hit DVD ... hmm ...) is the Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus, boasting content chosen by fans. The results of the fan vote were revealed a few weeks ago and there were some interesting results. I won’t be buying it since it would duplicate many issues I already own and because I don’t have the space for such a book, but I can appreciate the effort put towards creating it. Please note that despite the above link and the online listings, the exact contents have yet to be revealed, so some of this preview is subject to change.

Many of the choices don’t surprise me. I knew that either The Dark Phoenix Saga or The Death of Gwen Stacy would top the poll. What I didn’t expect was the choice at number 2: Civil War. Many of the choices are recent comics, including Thor: God of Thunder, Secret Invasion, Nextwave and The Death of [Ultimate] Spider-Man. Marvel has attracted many new fans thanks to their films, so I get why they would select more modern stories ... but I’m still stunned that House of M and Deadpool Kills made it on to the list. I have a feeling that a similar DC omnibus would skew far more towards the '70s and '80s than the Marvel omnibus does.

That’s not to say that the '80s Marvel Epics go unrepresented. Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor gets two slots with the introduction of Beta Ray Bill and the sacrifice of Skurge the Executioner. Other stories from the era include Armor Wars, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, Days of Future Past, Kraven’s Last Hunt and two key tales from John Byrne’s Fantastic Four. The '90s lose out a bit but certainly have a presence with stories such as Age of Apocalypse, Infinity Gauntlet, Clone Saga, X-Men: Fatal Attractions and New Mutants #98. Yes, even the anniversary omnibus can’t escape the clutches of Rob Liefeld, but this was undoubtedly voted in because of Deadpool’s first appearance.

First appearances are a common theme, including those of Wolverine, the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, the Vision, the Uncanny X-Men, and the New Mutants. Naturally, deaths are featured as well, such as those of Captain Marvel and Guardian (of Alpha Flight). Captain America and Elektra have the unique honor of having both their first appearances and deaths on the list of top Marvel stories collected in the omnibus. Most of the stories are single issues or will be one issue selected from a larger narrative; for instance, “X-Men Alpha” will represent Age of Apocalypse while it’s likely that Infinity Gauntlet will be represented by issue 4 (with the “Come and get it” cover). The few multi-issue stories present are the original “Galactus Trilogy” and the Amazing Spider-Man “The Final Chapter!” trilogy featuring his classic escape from crushing debris to save Aunt May.

The final omnibus doesn’t quite represent my selections. They did include the one story that, if left out, would ruin the book’s credibility: Thunderbolts #1, the greatest twist ending in Marvel Comics history. The other ones from my list include Hawkeye #11 (told from a dog’s point of view), Armor Wars, Simonson’s The Mighty Thor, and Avengers: Ultron Unlimited. The only exclusions from my list that really sting are the Amazing Spider-Man story “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut!” and Deadpool Vol. 1 #11, in which Deadpool is inserted into a classic Spider-Man story. The absence of Joe Kelly’s run on Deadpool in favor of the Cullen Bunn version is a little depressing; I was hoping that at least something from the current Duggan and Posehn team would make it in.

My biggest complaint is that the choices get repetitious for certain characters. Did they really need to include three separate Frank Miller Daredevil stories? Certainly they could have swapped out The Man Without Fear for something from Mark Waid’s run. I’m actually surprised that only one Punisher story was chosen; as much as I dislike Welcome Back, Frank, it was the natural option. I also question having both Planet Hulk and World War Hulk on the roster. For some variety, the list really could have used more classic Iron Man and Captain America stories, like Demon in a Bottle or The Captain.This isn’t Marvel’s fault since it’s fan-selected content, but I wouldn’t have held it against them if they used a little editorial restraint after seeing the polls.

There are a couple of notable exclusions, including anything starring Moon Knight, Carol Danvers, Ghost Rider, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, or the Defenders. One of my entries was Avengers Annual #9 in which the former Ms. Marvel rips the team a new one after they let Marcus Kang rape and impregnate her. I was really certain that the Wolverine story “Old Man Logan” would have made it in, and if the list went to 100 instead of 75 it probably would have been a selection. The same goes for Fantastic Four #51, the classic “This Man, This Monster!” The only alternate imprint represented is the Ultimate universe; Warren Ellis’ Doom 2099, Peter David’s Spider-Man 2099, or a classic What If? story would have spiced things up a bit.

Still, with those issues in mind, I still think Marvel put together a great overview of their history in the Marvel 7th Anniversary Omnibus. It strikes a balance between enormous fights -- such as the Thing taking on the Champion of the Universe -- and character-driven moments -- such as a classic X-Factor story wherein the team members reveal their various psychological hang-ups to Doc Samson. If you’re new to Marvel, this can serve as a gateway into what you should read to catch up; otherwise, since it’s a compilation of individual stories, it’s great as something to read during a break. And if nothing else, I salute my fellow readers for voting in the original wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.
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  1. How big is that book supposed to be?

  2. It's apparently a 1200-page (or so) omnibus, so it's fairly large. It should actually be at the $125 price point but I think Marvel is keeping it low to sell more copies. They can get away with, for instance, $125 for the "Infinity Gauntlet" omnibus since it's greatly in demand following "Guardians of the Galaxy".