The history of the Marvel Universe is a living, breathing thing that changes with each new comic published. It’ll look different from one year to the next, and possibly even unrecognizable between decades. So the idea that someone was going to do a comic that was going to outline it all, up to the point that its final issue was published in December, does kind of seem like an exercise in futility. Despite the best efforts of Mark Waid, a writer who respects continuity and does his level best to integrate previous stories into his own, it succeeds in laying out the history while also making for a pretty dull read. The history is framed as a story that Galactus is telling to Franklin Richards at the end of time, and it effectively boils down to a series of splash pages with dialogue that goes, “First this happened. And then this. And then this…” So while it’s interesting to see what made the cut as “significant” for the Marvel Universe’s history -- I’m happy to see Slott and Allred’s “Silver Surfer” acknowledged -- the actual reading isn’t all that fun.
There is, however, one good reason for people to pick this up: The incredible art from Javier Rodrigues. The artist always made a good impression when I saw him in the pages of Waid’s “Daredevil” run or in the one Annual of “Superior Spider-Man” he did. “The History of the Marvel Universe” is effectively a series of splash pages chronicling these events, and Rodriguez looks to have viewed it as a challenge to completely cut loose. There’s a incredible Kirby-esque energy that has an obvious place in the early days of the Universe, but feels perfectly at home as things strive towards the present day. While some of his compositions may be hard to follow, the majority of them capture the eye and demand that you unpack how he made them work on the page. It’s stunning work and it deserves to be seen in the oversized treasury format the volume was published in. Just be advised that you’re getting a really good-looking history lesson with this volume (and one whose page count is half footnotes in the back) and not a proper story.