In many ways, comic books were simpler in the 1970s. It was easier to tell the good guys from the bad, and death, resurrection, and alternate realities were comparatively rare. That makes this edition of the Marvel Handbook—presented as if it were written on December 31st, 1979—kind of fun. It’s great to see a snapshot of what some of Marvel’s characters were like back then, especially when blessed (or cursed?) with the historical knowledge of what came next for them. Interestingly, a number of the characters on the cover have died and been reborn in the decades since that time.
The Avengers, the Punisher, and the X-Men are just some of the characters featured here, but since those major names are also included in other handbooks, more obscure characters and groups (including Hypno-Hustler, the Missing Link, and the Lady Liberators) get their stories told as well. As in all the handbooks, each page includes representative art and detailed, well-researched text that fairly oozes nostalgia, especially for longtime fans.
In the 1990s, Marvel decided to hand several of its biggest titles—Fantastic Four, Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America—over to Image founders Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld and see what happened. The results were mixed, as the “Heroes Reborn” titles brought characters back to the basics, but ended up resulting in a rather disjointed alternate reality storyline that arguably did Marvel’s core superhero titles more harm than good. In any event, there were enough good moments that Marvel re-teamed with Liefeld for a 10-year anniversary sequel, which is previewed here.
This one-shot includes interviews with Liefeld, writer Jeph Loeb, and Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort, among others. It previews “Onslaught Reborn” (named after the villain whose actions led to the “Heroes Reborn” universe) with several pages of art from Liefeld.