By Ryan North, Amy Chu, Danilo Beyruth, Cris Peter, Ryan Browne & Reilly Brown
Anthology titles can be a tricky beast to master; finding a consistency within shifting stories and creators is not easy. Despite this hurdle, 2015 hinted at a revival of the format with indie books such as Island and Fresh Romance. Marvel got in the game as well with their stellar Secret Love one-shot and a Guardians team-up book which was stronger than expected. All of this would bode well for Marvel’s new series A Year of Marvels. The debut issue may not reach the heights of last year’s examples, but it is still a fun read.
The concept for the series is that each story takes place on a different holiday, as the title makes its way through the year. Skipping January, Year of Marvels, begins in February for some Valentine’s Day excitement with Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Peter Parker is on his way to his evening date when a batch of police cars screech past. Parker Luck, right? Soon, Spider-Man is webslinging his way to confront his old foe, The Vulture. Writer Ryan North does a good job of playing on the various tropes of both Spider-Man and Valentine’s Day. For example, Spider-Man and Vulture each take turns complaining why their opponent is there instead of taking the night off for more romantic exploits. North brings to the story the same affection for the wacky side of the Marvel Universe that he celebrates so well over in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. While this story might not match Squirrel Girl’s level of wit, it remains a delightful romp through the streets, skies and waters of New York City. This aspect is strengthened by Danilo Beyruth’s art, which conveys the dynamic energy of the costumed chase. His sketchy, expressionist style fit well the manic mood of the piece.
Valentine’s Day is followed by March, which for many people means Spring Break, which naturally leads a good chunk of those revelers to Miami, current home of Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man. Scott is in a bit of a bind (again) as he needs to raise some cash fast. Luckily a distressed young woman pops up offering to employ him on the simplest of jobs. Naturally, the plot twists from there. Writer Amy Chu has a good feel for Scott’s character, yet the narrative itself is pretty slight. Also, Chu never really engages with the holiday in the same manner as North. The party at the center of the story could have taken place at any time of year. This sensibility is carried over to the art by Ryan Browne and providing layouts Reilly Brown. Their art is fine, yet never has the same vibrancy to it as Beyruth’s. Like the script it never fully conveys the spirit of the characters or the occasion.
Taken together, these two tales are a mixed start to Marvel’s latest anthology offering.