The Marvel Mangaverse seemed like a really cool concept from the get go. Take all the Marvel characters we know and love, render them in manga style, and twist up their stories to make them feel fresh. On paper it makes sense, and after reading this new trade paperback collection it’s quite clear it’s a fun series if you’re open to trying out something new, but familiar.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
East meets West as your favorite heroes are reimagined in hyper-kinetic style by some of the most celebrated artists of the massively popular Japanese art form, manga! It’s a new dawn as the Marvel Universe emerges like never before. Brace yourself for a kaiju-esque Hulk and a mecha-style Iron Man! Plus versions of the Avengers, Spider-Man, Punisher, Ghost Rider, the X-Men and more unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! The excitement only builds with a fresh take on the Galactus saga, manga-fied! Can the Fantastic Four and friends save the day, or are they destined to meet their Doom?! Make yours Marvel manga!
Can I jump in easily?
Yep — this is the “complete collection,” after all. There seems to be some backstory not present in this book, but you won’t need to know it. This volume introduces all the characters well, from the new Fantastic Four to a version of Doctor Doom who has a few secrets.
Reason 1: All of the same heroes, just remixed.
This comic introduces nearly every major hero from the Marvel universe and every single one comes with a twist. Spider-Man learns from a sensei. Iron Man is actually the sister of Tony Stark. Hulk is actually a Godzilla-sized monster. There are little twists for some characters and huge changes for others. The Fantastic Four for instance, have a completely reworked dynamic and their powers are different too. Reed Richards is an egomaniac and apparently a chauvinist, Human Torch is now Jonatha Storm (a lot of male to female swaps in this universe!), Benjamin Grimm (pronounced Ben-Ya-Men) turns into a huge rock monster, and Sioux Storm is Invisible Woman who also turns into a giant invisible monster. In fact, characters turning into giant forms to fight giant monsters is a running theme in this book. Apocalypse, for instance, turns into a giant which can only be defeated by a Megazord Iron Man (long story). There are some clever and unique character differences, like Vision, who ends up being a boy given the body of a density-changing robot, or Iron Man being reduced to just a disembodied head. These changes make for a fun exploration of the characters we know and love and after a while it becomes fun just to see how the creators augment these characters.
Reason 2: New takes on villains.
Galactus gets a major overhaul and ends up being a giant planetoid sized world eater. His backstory is also changed and it’s quite inventive. Hulk ends up being a major villain as he’s an uncontrollable giant monster rampaging through the city and this villain ends up being one that draws all the characters together. Doom is particularly fascinating as the character wields a sword and has a clever connection to Black Panther. Apocalypse is also the leader of a team of bad guys that contains a team with interesting twists on characters like Juggernaut, Mr. Sinister, and Emma Frost. Annihilus makes an appearance as a giant monster (you see the recurring theme here) and Nightcrawler of all characters ends up being a villain too!
Reason 3: One big event with other mini events to go with it.
The way this story hangs on the Hulk story is clever. It opens setting up this threat, then cuts away to introduce the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man. The characters fight their own battles and eventually end up having to face Hulk. This bleeds into a conflict with Namor and then eventually Dr. Doom sweeps in. Dr. Doom ends up being a longer end story and it draws in characters like Thor, but also Nick Fury, which gives the collection a bookended feel.
How freaking weird and cool is this team?
Reasons to be wary?
Once the creativity of the twists and characters changes wears off you may end up realizing this is rather melodramatic storytelling. There isn’t much character building going on and that’s evident early on when Iron Girl shows off some busty breasts. The butt shot and boob shot panels run rampant in this book, which makes me think it might have been geared towards teen boys. The stories seem to sag too. The Fantastic Four story, for instance, is mostly about the characters screaming and having difficulty taking out Annihilus. There’s a clever storytelling mechanic of the characters talking about each other in video diaries, but they aren’t very likable and their conflict is a basic one to take on.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this series as I’ve never dipped into the mangaverse, but I was pleasantly surprised to find interesting remixes of the characters, the relationships, and the universe itself. If you dig elseworlds tales and Marvel, this is going to be a must buy. It’s also a good purchase for teens as it’s fun, bubbly, and action packed.