"It's an all new, all different Marvel when the Marvel Universe is reinterpreted within the popular art form known as Manga. Hulk is a 20-story tall monster; Spider-man is a ninja; the Fantastic Four investigate paranormal anomolies as the Megascale Metatalent Response Team. It's Marvel mayhem in the Mangaverse manner!"
I’m a big fan of elseworlds and alternate universe stories in comics.
Most superhero characters have such a long and convoluted history of death, reincarnations, reboots and crossovers that it can be a daunting and awkward thing to get into. Because of this it can be really fun to pick up elseworld books, stories which deliberately sit outside of the major canon and offer up a self contained story which can be understood with only a limited knowledge of the character.
Bruce Wayne dresses up as a bat and fights a clown? Well what if he was a ninja and the clown was a pirate? Superman is the all American hero? Well what if his spaceship had landed in Russia instead?
Marvel Mangaverse, as the name implies, takes the Marvel universe and reforms it with a distinctly Japanese flair, replacing the tropes of the American superhero with those of Japanese anime and manga.
The transformations of the characters are what really make this a fun book. The Hulk becomes a giant Godzilla-a-like Kaiju, crushing New York beneath his feet, the X-Men become a group of wandering Ronin and the Avengers become a Power Rangers style team complete with a giant mech version of Iron Man.
It’s silly and over the top and basically a lot of fun. There’s a sense running throughout the book that the writers and artists had a real blast in redesigning these characters and, while the plot is heavy on the action, it clearly understands how silly it is and it never takes itself too seriously.
Not all of the characters make the transition too well, the Punisher is transformed from a gun toting, revenge driven merc to a kinky bondage obsessed Geisha in one of the weaker issues in the series, both in terms of story and art style.
I’m also not really a fan of the X-Men’s reimagining which tries to do a little bit of everything, Samurais, demons, mechs and monsters and doesn’t manage to really hit any one nail on the head.
When a character is done right however, it’s a really great thing. The Magaverse iteration of Spider-man might just be my favourite version of the character across all versions of the Marvel universe. He becomes a Ninja, the last surviving member of the spider clan and his Spider powers are replaced with knowledge of Kung-Fu and gloves with blades extruding from the palms which he can dig into buildings in order to climb walls.
It’s a great redesign, backed up with some of the most beautiful artwork in the book and his chapter is a definite highlight. A few years later this version of Spider-man got his own miniseries which was also a blast and he even got a couple of action figures.
For the most part, the art is fantastic, especially Ben Dunn’s work on the opening and closing chapters. It’s vibrant, colourful and detailed, though the amount of effort gone into forcing every female character into compromising positions reeks a little of desperation to appeal to teenage boys. One in every five panels seems to shove a bust or crotch shot in your face to the point where it’d be embarrassing to read this book with other people present.
The main fault with the book though is the story. It’s as if the writers were more concerned with cramming in as many characters as possible and showing off their new designs that they didn’t really think much about what to have them do.
Most issues of the comics are one shots dealing with specific characters with only slight connections to the overarching plot which sees Iron Woman, Nick fury, Dr Strange and a few others battle the Hulk and Prince Namor who have attacked Stark Island.
These one shots are fun enough but their just fluff, there’s no real depth to them, even the main story is so bogged down by exposition that it becomes almost unreadable at times.
All of that said though, while the story is slight, it’s still a lot of fun to read. Long time Marvel fans will love seeing the redesigns of the more obscure characters and those with only a passing knowledge of the Marvel universe will find it accessible enough to enjoy.
It’s a book that I return to once every couple of years when I just want to read something that’s purely spectacle and not too deep. It’s popcorn at it’s finest.
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