If I could have lunch with one author it would have to be Kurt Busiek. Busiek + Ross = Amazingness. Although, reading Marvels kind of got me wondering: is the feeble human living in the world of superhumans schtick the only thing Ross does? Not that I'm complaining, because he does an amazing, amazing job with it, but everything from Astro City, to Superman: Secret Identity, to Marvels shares that common theme. Other commonalities include a full discussion and exploration of human beings' "little man complex" in each of the series. There seems to be a moment in each of the storylines where the public turns against the heroes, out of petty jealousy or power-envy or arrogance. Shrug...whatever, they're realistic themes and they are realistically explored in each tome (yes they are each tomes of heavy, wonderful, meaningful work).
Marvels follows the story of aspiring photographer Paul Sheldon, living in New York City at the dawn of the superhero age and chronicles his life in four parts as the city quickly fills up with heroes and villains. Set against the backdrop of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Busiek painfully researched and investigated the Marvel Universe in it's entirety and manages to weave together apex moments in the company's history to form a full-narrative in the place of disconnected single-hero centered issues. We see the first appearance of the Human Torch and Namor, signaling the beginning of the heroic age, the battles of Captain America against the Nazis and the formation of the Avengers, the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and their world-shattering battle with Galactus and Silver Surfer, and finally, most emotionally, we see the life-altering death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of the Green Goblin and the impact that it has on Spider-Man. All of this we see through the eyes of a freelance photographer whose life is impacted by the arrival and existence of these Marvels. They impact his relationship with his wife, his children, his co-workers and with society at large. Sheldon goes through with the normal developmental stages of life with all of these marvelous, wonderful things going on in the background, and we get a man-on-the-street take on what he makes of it and what he makes of how the rest of the public reacts to it.
What else can one say about the art of Alex Ross other than, "IT'S FREAKING AWESOME!"
The great thing about this 10th anniversary edition is that included in the novel are the original scripts written out by Busiek, the original proposals submitted to Marvel's review board, the original cover art, commentary by both Busiek and Ross, and Ross's original sketches and commentary describing how he went from the conceptual to realization stages. Very, very valuable and a slice of comic history at that.