This series is designed as an introduction to the Marvel universe for the grade school set. Here we read about the back-stories of different Marvel superheroes: Thor, Captain America, Spiderman, X-Men. Each book is written in a very straightforward way, with simple sentences and large drawings of our heroes in epic and/or heroic poses. Perfect for small children. The stories do a decent job giving an accurate back-story to each superhero consistent with the one already laid out in older versions of these tales.
The Amazing Spiderman traces our hero Peter Parker’s journey from an adolescent science geek to Spiderman with the single bite from a radioactive spider. The Courageous Captain America shows how Steve Rogers was so patriotic during World War Two that he volunteered to test the army’s Super Soldier serum, which transformed him into Captain America. The Mighty Thor traces a story line describing how Thor, a god from Norse mythology, is tested repeatedly until he proves his worth to command the war hammer Mjolnir and becomes a mighty warrior. This story is accurate to the Marvel universe but not to Norse mythology. And The Uncanny X-Men focuses on Professor X, born a mutant named Charles Xavier, as he develops his powers and puts together a group of fellow mutants to fight the dangers of the world.
While these books do give a decent first taste of the superhero universe, they are really glorified picture books, not comics or graphic novels (they do not even have sequential art, only illustrations). The art is almost a parody of what comic book art should be (bulging muscles? Check. Heroic posing? Check.) although their simplicity is appropriate to the books target age-range.
The stories, if you can call them that, are really just a list of facts about the characters with little narrative, especially the Uncanny X-Men that has so much story to cover. Random words and phrases are highlighted for no apparent reason (I thought at first that they were supposed to be vocabulary words, then I thought they were key concepts to the story, but really they are just random. “Old Woman!” “First Born!” “More Difficult!” Who knows what the writers were thinking).
As much as I, as a grown-up, have some problems with these books, I do think that children will like them. I would probably have bought them for my own children at this age. (In fact my husband, a K – 5 teacher, has already absconded with them for his classroom). For librarians, desperately searching for anything suitable for children who want to read about superheroes, these fit the bill. But think of them as placeholders until Marvel realizes that children can understand and appreciate plot and decent art and redoes the series (as I hope they will).
Marvel Origins Series
The Uncanny X-Men: An Origin Story
Rich Thomas adaptor, Storybook Art Group illustrator
The Amazing Spiderman: An Origin Story
The Mighty Thor: An Origin Story
The Courageous Captain America: An Origin Story
Rich Thomas author, Val Semeiks and Bob McLeod illustrators
Marvel Press, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: Ages 4 – 8