Marvel 1985

Marvel 1985

Toby Goodman is a boy whose parents are divorced, he’s ostracised by kids at school and he has no friends to speak of. The one thing he really knows and spends time with is comics. Life is grim, and being 13 is no joke – it’s that exhausting age where no-one’s really there for you, but somehow they manage to engage in your life just enough to interfere with what you really want to do.

Comic books are a way for Toby Goodman to escape reality. He does realise that – being 13 doesn’t mean you’re stupid. But comics are his safety net – in comics, life is less complicated and the good guys always win.

One night, Toby is walking home with his dad (a talented slacker who drives an ice cream van) when he thinks he sees the Red Skull in the window of a house. Toby is reluctant to tell anyone about his discovery, but then he sees the Vulture on the television one evening. Toby revisits the house where he saw the Red Skull and finds Doctor Doom and Mole Man talking about taking over our world.

Suddenly, all those comics aren’t an escape route from reality – they’re a survival handbook. Knowing what Doctor Doom likes to eat for breakfast could be the difference between staying alive and being kicked around like a football while you watch your neighbour get killed by a death ray.

As Toby Goodman gets sucked into the nightmare, he has to start thinking like a comics hero and pretending he’s not one of us. If you’re a good guy in a comic book, you know how the story’s going to end – but Toby Goodman doesn’t know how the story’s going to end. This isn’t a comic book he’s holding in his hands. This is him and his dad in an ice cream truck with a mutant lizard on the roof. This is the real world. And, as Toby discovers, stories and the real world really don’t like to mix.

Mark Millar’s good at knowing what it’s like to be a teenager and getting in someone’s head – Toby Goodman on his life, his age and his isolation are cleverly observed, and this is as important as the bring-it-onness of the supervillains.

The gorgeous artwork by Tommy Lee Edward does wonders to bring this comic to life. His Hulk is is like a bad dream. He really makes you feel that in real life you wouldn’t want The Hulk anywhere near you. As Toby Goodman points out, in real life it’s the smell as much as anything that can throw you out of your pretty dream; in real life, The Hulk stinks.

Mark Millar’s basic plot is rich and fantastic and plays with the simplicity of most comic books – in Marvel 1985, you genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next.

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