MARVEL LEGACY #1 Review: Legacy Intact
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic & Steve McNiven w/ others
Letter: VC’s Cory Petit
Covers: Joe Quesada, Kevin Nowlan & Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marvel Legacy #1, from Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, and Steven McNiven, is a special kind of book. It’s what the Marvel Point One books could have been but never were. Marvel Legacy #1 is a strong prologue to this phase of Marvel’s storytelling. It has an interesting main conflict with a face-paced story. It teases plenty of intriguing plot threads across Marvel’s publishing line, often better than the Generations one-shots did. And, best of all, it tells a great story.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR MARVEL LEGACY #1 AHEAD
Marvel Legacy #1 Recap
Marvel Legacy #1 opens with unknown narrating talking about legacy. The reader is introduced to the “Avengers” of one million years ago, past versions of modern heroes—Odin, Phoenix, Starbrand, Black Panther, Iron Fist, Agamotto, and Ghost Rider, who are locked in battle with the First Host, a deranged Celestial.
The story then shifts to the present when, after dreaming about the mad Celestial, Robbie wakes up near Cape Town. He encounters Starbrand, who is trying to stop the Ghost Rider, from uncovering something buried in South Africa
The narrative then shifts to Jotenheim, where Loki is preparing a horde of Front Giants to attack a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. The Jotens mission to retrieve a container with unknown contents is interrupted by The Avengers.
Back in South Africa, Ghost Rider and Starbrand’s brawl takes them through dig site. Ghost Rider uses the Penance Stare on Starbrand, seemingly killing him. The attack unearths the remains of the deranged Celestial, which has come back online.
At the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, The Avengers stop the Jotens. One Joten, though, escapes with the container, only to put down by a resurrected Wolverine. Inside the box, Wolverine finds an Infinity Stone.
The two narratives dovetail when Loki, having lost his Infinity Stone, arrives at the cavern at deranged Celestial. The Celestial is attempting to summon the Final Host, and Loki agrees that it sounds like a good idea.
The final pages reveal that Valeria Richards has been narrating. She’s still exploring the new universes created in the wake of Secret Wars. The issue ends as it began, with Val narrating. “And imagining my way home,” she says, “I’ll see you when I get there.” And in the bottom right corner, there is a “4” logo, teasing (hopefully) the return of Marvel’s First Family.
Marvel Legacy #1 Tells a Great Story Well
The area in which Marvel Legacy #1 is most surprising is in how it elevates non-A-list characters. In the main story, the current Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes, and Starbrand are duking it out. Unbeknownst to Robbie, he is connected to a larger, older story concerning a Celestial that is buried in South Africa. As protector of the Earth, Starbrand is trying to stop Robbie from being drawn to it by the Ghost Rider.
These characters, who’ve struggled to maintain ongoing series in recent years, feel vital in this story. They feel vital to the fabric of the Marvel Universe and its future. That’s no small feat and is in-line with the epic storytelling Aaron’s become associated with.
Another interesting aspect of Marvel Legacy #1is how it sets up plot threads outside of the main story. Throughout the issue, there are ten one-page teases for upcoming storylines. These pages, by different artists, are very intriguing. Some of the storylines have been teased before like Return to Planet Hulk. Others, though, were surprising and exciting, like the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda. And the success of these set-ups has to do with their length. The one-page tease is short enough not to interrupt the main narrative too much but long enough to pique interest.
If there’s one place the script felt weak, though, it was in its narration. It was reminiscent of the overwrought narration in Secret Empire but less so. The narration mentioned “legacy” no fewer than eleven times. Still, this is one small part of a larger story and is easy to forgive. And learning on the last page that it’s been Val narrating makes it all but impossible to forgive. If that tease doesn’t have readers excited for Marvel Legacy, nothing will.
Marvel Legacy #1 Doubles Down on Top-tier Art
As with the writing in Marvel Legacy #1, there’s very little to take issue with art-wise. A big criticism of Marvel over the last few years was that there was a lack of investment in top-tier art. And between Ribic and McNiven, Marvel seems to be answering that criticism with a strong showing in the main story.
One place where the art could have suffered but didn’t, was with the large assortment of art styles this issue boasts. Most of these artists check-in for just a single page teasing the other Marvel books they’re working on, though. It’s enough to make a point, but not enough to take away much, if any, momentum from the main narratives. And with these teaser pages, it’s even harder not to feel that Marvel is doubling down on great art. With names like Dauterman, Maleev, Immonen, Acuna and others, how could it not?
Marvel Legacy #1 vs. DC Universe: Rebirth #1
The comparisons Marvel Legacy #1 and DC Universe: Rebirth #1 will be unavoidable. Both are oversized one-shots that set up both the threads and the tone for a phase of storytelling. Each issue features A-list talent. Both serve to course-correct their respective publishers.
What stands out about Marvel Legacy #1 is that it feels more organic. DC’s Rebirth initiative, as excellent as it’s been, has been marketed as a course-correction for the publisher. Legacy, while in the same exact vein, doesn’t call attention to the places where it’s going back to basics. Aaron, Ribic, McNiven, and the slew of other contributors tell their story and that’s it. And for this reason, Marvel Legacy #1 makes better editorial and narrative use of itself than DC Universe: Rebirth, if only just so.
There will be those on either side of that fence, but that’s a good thing. Marvel and DC are both at their best when they’re competitive, and both publishers are looking strong right now. If this one-shot is any indication, fans have great things to look forward to during Marvel Legacy.
Marvel Legacy #1 is on sale today.
Frank Gogol is a comic book writer who dabbles in reviewing as a way to learn his craft. His approach to reviewing comics is equal parts critique and analysis. For more from Frank, follow him @frankgogol on Twitter.