Legacy is an important concept in comics, particularly for characters with long histories or who carry on mantles. “Marvel Legacy” has been billed as a game-changing tribute to those legacies, and has brought in an all-star team to bring the new story to life. How well did they do? Let’s brace for spoilers and take a look!
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Esad Ribic, Steve McNiven, Chris Samnee, Russell Dauterman, Alex Maleev, Ed McGuinness, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Pepe Larraz, Jim Cheung, Daniel Acuna, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Mike Deodato Jr., and David Marquez
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
It begins at the dawn of the human race, and ends with a child’s prayer! In between, empires fall, mysteries brew, secrets are revealed, quests are undertaken and legends are forged! All leading up to the dramatic return you’ve been waiting for — and one you’ve been dreading! Jason Aaron (MIGHTY THOR) and Esad Ribic (SECRET WARS) usher in a new dawn — one whose rays will touch every corner of the Marvel Universe in the days to come! MARVEL LEGACY: It’s everything you’ve been longing for — and more!
Well, as the vast number of contributing artists reveals, we’ve got an all-star team working on “Marvel Legacy.” The first issue is a lengthy one, jumping between multiple sub-plots and pieces of the Marvel universe, but the overall story flows well between them, thanks to Jason Aaron’s masterful storytelling.
As the comic shifts between story points, the artwork changes as well. One moment we’re getting the soft colors and wide panels used in the Captain America subplot, the next it shifts to Mike Deodato’s signature style of single shots split into multiple panels, all faded and dyed red. But the artists were chosen for scenes and stories that match their unique styles nicely, and while the shifts are noticeable, they do not detract or distract, and add a special flavor to each scene.
While the artists may change with each subplot, “Marvel Legacy” doesn’t have to worry about multiple writers trying to take the story off in different directions, as Jason Aaron is the one behind the story. I’ve been a fan of his work ever since “Wolverine and the X-Men,” and there’s no one I’d rather trust to execute a story of this scale. There’s plenty of moments of great dialogue, well-paced reveals, and some nice twists even in the first issue.
That said, not all the story points feel entirely necessary in this issue. One moment it’s building up the mystery of the issue, then suddenly it cuts to Deadpool’s bathroom stall confessionals; sure, it’s a well-written, well-illustrated, and overall amusing moment, but it fails to add to the story in any way that couldn’t be done just as well in Deadpool’s own ongoing.
Similarly, has Wakanda always had an intergalactic empire? I know I’ve fallen behind on “Black Panther,” but it took one page to jump over to Planet Bast, then cut back to the story without doing anything there.
Whether or not they feel important, though, the best scenes are the ones that give us solid character moments. Take, for instance, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm standing on a roof and talking. Yes, it sets up the “Fantastic Four” related story to come, in a small way, but it doesn’t relate much to the rest of the issue. Yet it’s paced so well, with solid dialogue in which the characters discuss their place in the Marvel universe, and illustrated with such loving detail that it adds to the issue even if it only does so much story-wise.
In fact, there are a lot of scenes that only serve to set up plot points for future issues of the tie-in “Marvel Legacy” story arcs, like Normal Osborn’s search for magical power (I love the lines about the shrubbery), a message from Planet Sakaar, and the ominous foreshadowing of Mangog’s coming. They’re more or less tied together through the narration, and the various artists’ work on each one is absolutely stellar, so they still serve their purpose in giving us the scheme and scale of the story.Continued below
The main narrative points, however, all tie together to an ancient Celestial buried underground. Ghost Rider’s fight with Starbrand, the archeological dig it takes them to, Loki’s schemes with frost giants, and the heroes coming to stop them, they’re all connected, but it’s built up in such a fine way that each piece of the story stands on its own.
Although I also feel the need to note that the aforementioned Celestial, as fantastically illustrated as it is, has a color scheme that reminds me of Eva Unit 01. That’s scarcely relevant, but I still felt it worth saying.
Of those four interconnected plots in “Marvel Legacy,” each has its own strengths and mood. The dig creates a sense of foreboding, as they delve on against all reason and safety to a danger we as readers know awaits. The fight against frost giants brings the Sam Wilson Captain America, Jane Foster Thor, and Riri Williams Ironheart together (with a surprise return of a fan favorite at the end), and Loki… well, he’s always up to something, the fun part is figuring out what it is.
Although the Ghost Rider versus Starbrand fight does have an annoying tendency to dip into the cliche of “hero fights another hero for vague reasons he refuses to elaborate on.” Starbrand talks a lot about how they’re being drawn to it, and how their battle was destined, but neither Robbie Reyes nor the readers have any idea what he’s talking about; I’m sure it will all be explained in time, but I have to imagine it would save the characters a whole lot of trouble if Starbrand just took a moment to explain why he’s trying to kill Ghost Rider.
Also, apparently it doesn’t matter that Robbie’s ghost is not the spirit of vengeance; a Ghost Rider is a Ghost Rider, it seems.
That said, the fight scenes still look great. The way Ghost Rider’s flames are illustrated casts some excellent shading across the scenes, and each hit has a real impact to it. So if you’re the type who enjoys a hero vs hero smackdown, it won’t disappoint.
Now we get to the most important aspects: the heroes and their legacies, both looking forward and back.
The opening to “Marvel Legacy” is wonderful, with the prehistoric world setting like the opening minutes of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It reminds us that several characters or their heroic identities have histories dating back to before the dawn of time, and that the characters we know and love are but the latest in many a long line. Danny Rand is far from the first Iron Fist, just as Doctor Strange is only one of many Sorcerer Supreme, and the Phoenix Force has existed long before Jean Grey. We get to glimpse the precursors to many of these characters, and we see that their actions and choices in the past will greatly influence this story arc.
As such “Marvel Legacy” honors the characters who are a part of an in-universe legacy, as well as those that follow. The character designs for these precursor heroes are all solid too, for while many of them are more evolved in appearance than the cavemen also shown in the scenes, they have their own prehistoric touches to them. Black Panther wears a pelt and loincloth, Ghost Rider’s mount is a mastodon, and even Odin is looking rather young and less well-armored than his older self.
Similarly, this nicely leads into scenes focusing on the current Avengers, and the legacies to Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man. That, in turn, transitions to the current state of Odinson, Steve Rogers, and Tony Stark (or rather, his missing body), building on the theme.
And, because no event comic would be complete without either killing or bringing back someone (or both), we get a wonderfully set-up, well-executed reveal of Wolverine’s revival, almost exactly three years since his death. (Also, I’m pretty sure I bet someone that he’d be back in three years, so somebody owes me twenty bucks.) Wolverine’s a character with his own legacy to deal with, with a clone/daughter, an evil biological son, and an older version of himself from an alternate future. Yeah, comics are weird that way.Continued below
However, perhaps the most interesting moment in “Marvel Legacy” comes in the last few pages. The narration continues as it pulls into space, beyond the universe and into the multiverse. You want to talk legacy? There’s nowhere better to look for that than Franklin and Valeria Richards, the children of Reed and Sue of the Fantastic Four.
That’s right, they’re coming back too.
Whew! There’s a lot to unload for “Marvel Legacy,” and how well each of it goes over. The histories of old legacies are revealed, legacy characters and those who came before them are honored, several story points are set up, and old favorites are brought back. Every step of the way, the comic’s all star team of artists bring their own styles of visual delight to each page, each with their own subtle nuances and touches that enhance the various scenes and stories.
Is it a perfect comic? No, and the ends may or may not justify the means for some of the points it’s building to. But is it a solid start to a major story that properly honors the characters and their history? I’d say so.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – A very solid start to a major event. The writing is strong all the way through, and the multiple artists all provide wonderfully illustrated scenes. There are a few forgivable hiccups, but overall it achieves its goal and sets up the story well.