Graphic Novel Review: Marvel Movie Collection: Iron Man 3: Prelude; Guardians of the Galaxy: Prelude; Doctor Strange; Avengers: Age of Ultron
PUBLISHED: 14:43 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:47 04 October 2019
With the third phase of Marvel's Cinematic Universe now at a close, Panini have used the opportunity to launch a new imprint based around the phenomenally popular movie series.
These debut volumes mix stories set firmly within the continuity of the films with comics from throughout the long history of the mainstream Marvel U, which has the potential of confusing new fans unprepared for the different back stories and such like.
For example, Groot's first appearance in a 1960 issue of Tales to Astonish couldn't be further apart from his celluloid counterpart, being an invading alien intent on absorbing wood for food, who arrives on Earth and is summarily defeated in just a handful of succinct pages.
This particular tale sits alongside Rocket Raccoon's debut in the pages of The Incredible Hulk, the first appearances of Thanos (Iron Man #55) and Gamora (Strange Tales #181), as well as a re-telling of Star-Lord's origin from a near-contemporary issue of Guardians of the Galaxy from 2013.
With all of these issues collected elsewhere, the highlight of the Guardians volume are stories set before the first in the movie series, focusing on Nebula, Rocket and Groot, and Gamora, which add detail and depth to events seen on the big screen.
The Iron Man volume, by contrast, offers a perfectly serviceable adaptation of the second in the movie series, albeit lacking some of the depth of the film with a definite focus on the action sequences. It sits alongside an excellent Iron Man 3 prologue, which explains exactly what James (War Machine) Rhodes was up to during the Chitauri invasion witnessed in the first Avengers instalment.
There's also another reprint of an instalment from Warren Ellis' Extremis arc, perhaps the benchmark for modern Iron Man comics, and definitely worth checking out if this is your first encounter with this exceptional mini-series.
There is also a decent selection of original MCU material in the Doctor Strange collection, featuring as it does the two-part movie prelude and digital Infinity Comic, alongside classic issues The Oath #1, Doctor Strange (2015) #1, Strange Tales (1963) #110 and #115, and Marvel Premiere (1972) #14.
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Setting the tone for the film, the prelude titles reveal the back-story behind the Masters of the Mystical Arts, the world's greatest magic practitioners, who hone their skills from their sanctuary on a mountain in the Orient. It explores the tensions between different factions of Masters, leading to the split featured in more detail on-screen.
The choice of Marvel U issues offers a journey through the career of Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, from his origins as an arrogant surgeon whose hands were ruined in a drink-drive crash, through his somewhat trippy adventures in the 1970s, and into the 21st century with the debut issue from Jason Aaron and Chris Bachelo's outstanding run.
We wrap things up with the Avengers: Age of Ultron, the second in the series, which focuses on the eponymous robot's quest for human extinction and the debut of assorted new heroes to stand alongside the original team line-up.
It kicks off with a two-part adaptation of the first Avengers movie, which is very much along similar lines to the Iron Man 2 comic mentioned earlier, with a stripped-down narrative that picks up the main beats of the film with a focus on the action sequences.
The subsequent Ultron Prelude story (This Sceptre'd Isle) reveals the origins of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and how Baron Strucker not only came into possession of Loki's sceptre, but used it to unlock the siblings' latent powers.
As an aside to the film, this is a fascinating addendum to the events seen on screen, and almost makes you wish that it could have been included for reasons of canonicity. That said, anything which adds further weight to the movie mythology is to be welcomed, even if it only appears on the printed page.
Then from the mainstream Marvel Universe we also have the two-part debut of the Vision at the hands of Roy Thomas and John Buscema, the conclusion of the Ultron Unlimited saga by Kurt Busiek and George Perez, and a one-off Point One story from the Brian Michael Bendis era.
As a companion range to the Marvel Platinum imprint, the Marvel Movie Collection of graphic novels provides an innovative platform for collecting the digital-first Preludes alongside adaptations and relevant Marvel Universe tales. Highly recommended.