All posts by Phil W

Glimmerglass, by Marly Youmans

Who didn’t have ghosts? And she was diminishing, changing–her face momentarily strange in the glass. She had hold of the tail end of middle age; she was an attractive woman, often mistaken for one much younger. Her hair still shone black, with only sparse threads of snow, and her skin was unwrinkled. There might be something left for her, here in the gatehouse beyond the village. Hadn’t she long ago combed her hair with the teeth of pain, eaten the poisoned apple, and married the prince of fire? What more could hurt her now?

I picked up Glimmerglass by Marly Youmans, thinking it was a fantasy written by a poet. That’s exactly what it proved to be, but it took reading three quarters of the book to get there. Most of the time the fantasy might be simply metaphor. I mean, a house with seven doors and talk of Snow White doesn’t actually bring dwarves into the story. But elements of fairy magic and oddness, as we read in Lars’s novels and other deep-rooted fantasies, abound.

Cynthia Sorrel arrives at the village of Cooper Patent on the southern tip of Glimmerglass lake (a fictional variation of Cooperstown, “America’s Most Perfect Village,” on the southern tip of Ostego Lake in New York. Village and lake call back to James Fenimore Cooper). She’s open to renting the gatehouse but has no real plans for anything yet. She’s just lost. The spritely, frail-looking caretaker who gives her the keys talks her into staying by assuming no alternatives.

Cynthia keeps to herself for a while and slowly begins to connect to the quirky people in the village, the vicar’s wife first, the Wild brothers, and later the vicar himself. The Wilds turn out to be her landlords, and with them come the main fantasy elements. Their mansion is a labyrinth of rooms that butts into the forest hill. There’s a locked door into the hill, a curious aura radiating from it. One of the Wild cousins went through that door many years ago and was never seen again. And there’s a pale, shirtless boy who stares at her from the woods before disappearing into them. Is that the ghost she felt must be lurking in a house or village like this?

Glimmerglass the novel may be like Glimmerglass the lake. It’s beautiful from the shore, warm, inviting, even with hints of danger and mystery, and alien, if not weird, under the surface. When Cynthia falls into the icy lake, metaphorically speaking, she emerges among chain-smoking ghosts, feathered angels with parasols, minotaurs, and palace dance halls. Sure, it sounds trippy, but it works beautifully well.

Read about this and her many other books on Marly’s blog.

Photo by Parker Amstutz on Unsplash

Voces8: “Be not angry, O Lord”

Ne irascaris Domine satis,
et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostrae.
Ecce respice populus tuus omnes nos.

Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta.
Sion deserta facta est,
Jerusalem desolata est.

Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
    and remember not iniquity forever.
    Behold, please look, we are all your people.
Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
    Zion has become a wilderness,
    Jerusalem a desolation. ( Isaiah 64:9-10 ESV)

Losing Liberty

When the taste for physical pleasures in such a nation grows more speedily than education or the habit of liberty, a time occurs when men are carried away and lose self-control at the sight of the new possessions they are ready to grasp.

Casey Chalk quotes Tocqueville above in an article on digital minimalism and how we can reclaim our attention and improve our country.

Americans engage in self-congratulatory, pseudo-civic activism on social media simply by clicking the “like” and “share” buttons or changing their profile picture—activities that amount to little. “Men travel faster now,” observes a character in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, “but I do not know if they go to better things.”

What Is Meant by Branding a Product “Plantation”?

When someone introduced food writer Osayi Endolyn to Plantation Pineapple Rum, she says she was immediately suspicious. Plantation was not a neutral word for her because her grandparents had fled from the Jim Crow South years ago. But the rum was good enough to put those thoughts aside for a while.

Later she asked a bartender for the name of the pineapple rum in her drink. The woman seemed embarrassed to admit it was Plantation Rum.

Why would anyone be embarrassed about a brand called plantation? What would a company mean by choosing that name? Bigelow sells a Plantation Mint tea and Charleston Tea Plantation sells a variety teas. Plantation Peanuts of Wakefield sells gourmet peanuts grown in Virginia. Carolina Plantation sells rice. Many recipes have plantation in their name, such as Plantation Skillet Cake and Auntie Crae’s Plantation Chews, so surely the word connotes an idea or mood the owners wish to convey to others.

Endolyn dug into the meaning by talking to the owners of the brand and learning a bit of French and Barbadian history that supported using the word plantation over the equivalent farmland. What would you expect from those words in food brands? Are they interchangeably applicable to rice, butter, peanuts, leaf tobacco, bread flour, and beef?

For a short time, you can listen to an episode of The Sporkful in which they ask about this idea to as many brand owners as will take their questions. Bigelow, for example, wouldn’t talk about it. But some people said the words calls back to an easier way of life. When you think of it that way, you may start to ask whether life was easier and for whom.

Secret Wars, by Jonathan Hickman

What would you do with omnipotence? What would you do if the universe had collapsed around you, everyone and everything had died, and you were now the omnipotent being who could put something back together again?

That’s the question in the final collection of issues in Jonathan Hickman’s lengthy story of Avengers, Illuminati, alien doomsdays, and multiversal collapse. (Finally, the end! See all previous posts by searching for Jonathan Hickman or other tags to this post.)

At the end of Time Runs Out, the Illuminati team run out of options and devised a lifeboat that they hoped would save enough people to restart the human race, if that chance ever presented itself because they weren’t equipped to recreate anything. The man who was equipped for the task was the Fantastic Four’s arch-rival Victor von Doom. You could say he was in the right place at the right time.

With the help of Doctor Strange and The Molecule Man (who were with him at the aforementioned right time), he pulled together as many fragments of the multiverse as he could or wanted to into a small, planetary reality lamely called Battleworld. What I read in this Secret Wars collection is the metanarrative that holds many other stories together. I had thought to say the world wasn’t filled with battle and you could hardly call what happens her a secret war, much less wars, but I didn’t read the many other issues tied to this this set. Who knows what madness ran around in its diapers over there?

But here Doom, having reconstructed bits and pieces of Earth and the known universe, reigns as a god. He seems to have gotten everything he’s always wanted–worship, unbridled power, and Susan Richards, his enemy’s wife. But after a few years, scientists discover a lifeboat ship and Thanos and his crew are onboard.

The story works, and I’m glad it’s over. The only unsatisfying part of the conclusion for me is the complete avoidance of the rebirth and reconciliation of Captain America and Iron Man. Since so much time was spent on them in the third act, I thought Hickman was bring them into the fourth act. But the story shifted to the Fantastic Four characters, which was compelling on its own, and the inclusion of two Spidermen added a nice spice.

Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison

I wanted to give you a thoughtful reaction to Ralph Ellison’s unfinished work, Juneteenth, at the appropriate time of the year, which is now, tomorrow being June 19, the day commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the States. But I couldn’t wade through it, only getting halfway. It’s a rambling novel that probably is best read in the company of well-read and thoughtful friends. Maybe, as you can tell from my recent posts, I’ve slouched away from that mindset.

“Ha, Bliss, so you remembered Eatmore, Old Poor John. Now that there was a great preacher. We did our circuit back there. Revivals and all. Don’t laugh at fools. Some are His. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. Which of Eatmore’s did you preach ’em, Bliss? Which text?”

Dreamily the Senator smiled. “They needed special food for special spirits, I preached them one of the most subtle and spirit-filled–one in which the Right Reverend Poor John Eatmore was most full of his ministerial eloquence: Give a Man Wood and He Will Learn to Make Fire . . . Eatmore’s most Promethean vision . . .” Hot here.

The story focuses on Senator Sunraider, quoted above, and the man speaking to him, a preacher and father figure named Hickman. In the beginning, Hickman and forty-three black men and women arrive in Washington hoping to meet with the senator for a few minutes, but he doesn’t give them that moment over the next two days. Then he is shot from the gallery while giving a speech.

I believe the rest of the novel is spent running memories through the Senator’s mind while Rev. Hickman is talking to him beside his hospital bed. Calling him Bliss, the name he’d given him as a child, Hickman remembers long sermons and revival meetings he did with the senator as a pre-teen. Bliss would be carried into meetings in a white coffin and wait for the right moment in Hickman’s preaching to rise up with his little, white Bible and preach with him in heart-tugging drama. It scared the boy and thrilled the crowd.

At another time of their lives, they went from town to town trying to sell the idea of a movie that showcased the town’s best qualities. Bliss was a young man then and naturally he discovered young women everywhere he went.

The reverberating tone in what I read points toward the senator, though himself a white man who has argued against black American equality in public life, understanding that his black heritage has formed him as a man and an American. No matter what he wants to believe, he has been shaped by black hands and black, American grassroot experiences.

In the introduction, John Callahan, who edited the draft that become this book, writes, “On many levels Juneteenth is a novel of liberation . . . Ellison, who took part in more than one ‘Juneteenth ramble’ as a boy in Oklahoma, speaks of false as well as true liberation and of the courage required to tell the difference. Even in the face of deepest betrayal, Hickman keeps his word to stand by Bliss, although the little boy is now contained within the frame of a man whose public words and deeds repudiate Hickman’s acts of kinship and fatherhood.”

It’s tough reading and maybe there are or should be better novels to capture this idea of liberty for all of us, but I’d sooner say I’m just not the right reader for this novel at this time.

Avengers: Time Runs Out series, by Jonathan HIckman

Great! Walk away! It doesn’t matter. You’ll be back.

But make sure when you do come back–because you need me–that it’s on your knees. Both of you! Repentant!

Because I can’t save any of you, unless you realize that you need saving! And that I’m the only one on this entire planet who can do it!

In my last post on this apocalyptic Avengers series, Captain America went on a series of time jumps that appeared to clarify his moral compass. “I rescue the helpless. I raise up the hopeless.” That’s what he said. That’s what Captain America said.

And someone said to him that Tony Stark had caused a universal load of trouble for everyone and needs to be stopped.

The next set of issues, Avengers: Time Runs Out, Volume One, the story picks up eight months later, so yeah, a few gaps in the story would be fine. But why does Steve Rogers look thirty or forty years older and appear to have handed the mantle of Captain America to Sam Wilson (who is seen more on the character list page than any panel)? How did Thor lose his arm and what is this about being unworthy to wield Mjölnir? Did Bruce Banner take his own multiverse trip and bring back an alternate version of himself? As a casual comics reader, this is off-putting (there are other off-putting things I won’t mention).

The story told over this four volume collection doesn’t follow a linear pattern, which is mostly good. When you have so many characters doing so many things, it’s normal to tell the story slant with some flashbacks and revelations from conversations you didn’t see the first run through the timeline. Threats are reexamined and mysteries explored by characters revisiting what they understand and seeing it in new light. Hickman has an interesting, spralling story here.

But Steve Rogers is labeled the good man and life; Tony Stark is labeled the monster, death. And Rogers spends 90% of his time hunting his former friends and wanting to beat an apology out of Stark for lying about the end of the world. Stark is blamed for corrupting all reality and lying to the other Avengers that they had a chance to save Earth. “You knew we were all going to die!” Rogers charges him. “Say it! You lied about that and everything.” At one point, Rogers says that bringing the Illuminati team to justice was more important than anything else, completely forgetting that they would need to act when another planetary incursion comes. A little later he accused them of doing nothing over the last eight months to save the planet.

Of course, they had been knocking out various impossible things every day before taking an early lunch. That and running from their friends.

The story doesn’t run out at the end of Time Runs Out, Volume Four. No, sir. It just keeps going. Which is good in one sense, because the heroes had run out of options and everything actually dies. But I was left asking where was the man would not entertain necessary evils, who was committed to saving as many people as he could? When they learned of great cosmic destroyers–Rabum Alal, the Ivory Kings, the Mapmakers, and the Black Priests–how could they set that aside to blame everything on Tony Stark?

Hard America, Soft America by Michael Barone

Talent pushed us toward Softness. Genius pushed us toward Hardness. John Dewey and the first progressive educators, the apparat of men and women who put together and extended the Social Security program, were people of talent who persistently and effectively Softened the Hard America of Theodore Dreiser.

I read an interview with Michael Barone in World magazine, focused on his latest book on party politics. I’ve wanted to learn more about the shifting history of U.S. political parties. It’s commonly said that Lincoln was a Republican, and the GOP has been holding a stained but righteous banner ever since, that Democrats don’t care for civil rights unless they can make political hay out of it (Bull Connor and his ilk were the ones opposing Martin Luther King way back when).

But it’s also common to hear that the parties have shifted, so I wanted to read a solid overview about some of that history. How America’s Political Parties Change (and How They Don’t) sounds like a good bet. I have yet to read yet, however, because my library system doesn’t have it. They had another book that was not about politics but about the character of our nation, which I put on hold many long, COVID-ridden weeks ago.

Hard America, Soft America by Michael Barone

Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation’s Future asks how a country that expects so little from its teenagers can send young men and women who are barely older into battlefields as hardened soldiers. The troops in Iraq, he says, were impressively well-trained and equipped to handle the dangers around them. How could American schools produce people like that?

He explores this idea over 150 pages, describing conditions in twentieth century America and how leaders acted and reacted to make life harder or easier on Their people. The quote above refers to life in Chicago as depicted in Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. That was Hard America; eighteen year olds had to get a job and pay the rent or lose themselves in a gutter. There was little margin for idleness. It was arguably too hard. Men who made their fortunes building railroads and industries did so by grinding up men who had few choices. They paid their communities back with great philanthropy from which we still benefit today: medical research, libraries, and museums. “These men felt a responsibility to use a large part of their wealth to benefit their fellow citizens, but they wanted to maintain the Hardness of America, which they believed was responsible for the countries great economic growth and creativity.”

Barone describes hardening or softening of different segments in our society, the intent of these efforts, and whether they paid off. Hardening generally means accountability and potential for achievement, the hard work and risk that goes into the wheel of progress to make a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Softness means the lack of accountability, which may be the security to enjoy simple life but could also mean low standards and few achievements.

For example, at one point, economists believed three big players could drive the U.S. economy forward indefinitely. Business would do the work, Labor would oversee the prosperity of the workers, and Government would regulate and protect the field where all of this could take place. Competition? Who needs it? When the free market eventually found paths to American consumers, the big three were shocked (and slipping into bankruptcy).

With nationwide protests taking over our news channels, you may have seen images of George Romney at a civil rights march in Detroit in 1967. Barone touches on that time in his book; he was an intern with the mayor. Romney was governor of Michigan in July 1967 when Detroit suffered a week of riots. The local police couldn’t handle it, but the mayor feared the National Guard would make things worse. Romney and everyone with him were reluctant to call President Johnson for federal troops. What can of worms would be opened by inviting the U.S. military to handle local problems? So they tried the softer approach, just one act among many at a time when Americans all over the country “no longer felt morally justified in imposing hard penalties on crime.”

“But while the civil rights movement had sought to allow blacks into Hard America, the new public policies actually confined more Americans, black and non-black, into a Soft America where poverty and crime were chronic.”

Now we have much harder responses to crime and in some ways harsh reactions. We’ve condoned the brutal treatment and killing of civilians who have been merely accused minor offenses. The other day four officers stood on the edge of a lawn next to their cars, pistols drawn, confronting a pleading young man who had rolled through a traffic light. George Floyd was killed while being arrested for using a fake 20. Breonna Taylor was killed when officers raided the wrong apartment to conduct a warranted search at 12:30 a.m. These are serious problems, but perhaps more serious is the reluctance to reform from public officials.

Barone’s book shows that time and again methods for handling problems have unintended results, sometimes saving us from bad ideas, sometimes rolling in a new wave of grief.

“Lies Women Believe” and “Get Lost” – Guest Reviews

One of my daughters, still a teenager, has begun to write reviews of the books she reads. She has been collecting books from my and my parents’ shelves for a couple years now. Her to-read pile is intimidating (picture below). Recently she wrote these reviews.

I finally finished Lies Women Believe and The Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Now I’ve wanted to read this book for several years and was thrilled to find on McKay’s shelves sometime last year. However, this book isn’t the most compelling, which is the main reason why I finished it today.

I do like the way the chapters are written. Nancy presents a lie which flies under most radars, explains why it is a lie, and explains the gospel truth that contradicts it. Some of the most interesting lies I discovered were the lies about priorities, emotions, and circumstances. Nancy’s explanations were simple and practical.

What I did not enjoy about this book, the fantasy “diary” of Eve. Every chapter opens with a segment of Eve’s diary, recounting The Fall along with Cain and Abel’s episode. Having Eve narrated by the stereotypical twenty-first century woman was pretty annoying to read. Debates about the historical accuracy of her complaints aside, Eve’s personality was rather whiny and depressed. I get that Nancy opened her chapters like this to give us an example of the lies we were going to bust in action, however, she these diary segments would have done better written from the perspective of some distressed, fictional mother of a twenty-first century family. If that was the case, the diary would have been a bit more relatable, and Nancy could have made her characters as annoying as she liked instead of putting words in the mouths of people who actually lived.

All in all, Lies Women Believe and The Truth That Sets Them Free isn’t a terrible book. I might read it again in ten years, once I finish the three foot stack of books on my dresser.

large stack of book
Continue reading “Lies Women Believe” and “Get Lost” – Guest Reviews

Imagine No Bad Songs

Inspired by the mayor of New York City, who said the song “Imagine” was an inspirational song about treating each other better, writer Matthew Walther suggests that the unifying banner under which we can all gather could be disdain for this song.

Start with the word salad of Marxism, anarchism, and existentialism. Nowhere is there even the faintest hint of how any of the hypotheticals we are being asked to consider might be realized. Instead Lennon does the political equivalent of telling us that the real magic was inside us all along.

This terrible song offers “a vision of a reality in which ‘lol nothing matters’ is elevated to a first-order principle.”

I’ve always hated “Imagine.” It’s as silly a song as “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime.” It’s abyssmal. I can barely listen to Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and “Bewitched, bothered and bewildered” has to be about singing under the influence–does anyone like that one?

Let’s unite in our disdain for overly popular songs. What’s your pick? (via Prufrock)

He Thinks Himself Immortal

Of man’s miraculous mistakes, this bears
The palm, “That all men are about to live,”
For ever on the brink of being born.
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel; and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise,
At least their own; their future selves applauds;
How excellent that life they ne’er will lead!
Time lodged in their own hands is folly’s vails;
That lodged in Fate’s, to wisdom they consign;
The thing they can’t but purpose they postpone.
‘T is not in folly not to scorn a fool;
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage: when young, indeed,
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty, man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty, chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves; then dies the same.

And why? Because he thinks himself immortal.
All men think all men mortal but themselves;

A few lines from the international bestseller, The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality. Night I. On life, death, and immortality, by Edward Young, published in nine parts 1742-45.

Michael Connelly vs. Raymond Chandler


Below the title on the front cover of Michael Connelly’s new novel is a quote: “‘Connelly is the Raymond Chandler of this generation’—Associated Press.” This is unfair to Chandler and Connelly both. Chandler wrote like “a slumming angel,” as Ross Macdonald said. The  bravura style of The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and the other titles on the Chandler shelf is one of the glories of American literature, influential worldwide. Connelly’s sentences are workmanlike, unremarkable. But Chandler couldn’t plot to save his life, whereas Connelly is a master of the art. Chandler was brilliant, undisciplined, alcoholic, demon-ridden, quick to take offense and quick to sneer; he wrote only a handful of novels. Connelly is disciplined and generous, and he excels at collaborative work (for instance, the Bosch TV series produced by Amazon) as well as solo writing; Fair Warning is his thirty-fourth novel. Chandler’s moral sense, in some ways acute, was often unreliable; Connelly’s is sounder.

John Wilson on Michael Connelly and Fair Warning

Infinite Avengers by Hickman and Yu

“I rescue the helpless. I raise up the hopeless.
“I don’t measure people’s lives. . . I save them.”

In this set of issues we reach the pivot point for the whole Infinity-Everything Dies series. The cover intends to remind readers of a scene I didn’t mention in my post New Avengers: Everything Dies, because a guy doesn’t want to give a whole story away. But I guess we have to go there now.

Captain America was one of the Illuminati faced with saving Earth from incursions from alternate Earths in other universes (see first post for more). He suggested using the Infinity Gauntlet, and when that didn’t work, he argued against considering necessarily evil options. “I know you,” he said. “You’ll create a doomsday weapon on the possibility of needing it, and then, one by one, you’ll talk yourselves into using it.”

At the other members’ consent, Dr. Strange wiped his memory and sent him away.

The timeline of these issues falls at the end of the middle of the fourth set of New Avengers issues, A Perfect World. There we see Tony Stark working with bruises and a bandaged nose. He tries to roll it off as wounds from the crisis they have just been through, but the truth is Hawkeye pummeled him for getting the everyone into this cosmic mess. That fight occurred as a result of Cap remembering everything he had been encouraged to forget and accusing Stark of working with Reed Richards and the others to destroy parallel Earths in order to save ours.

And they hash it out with their fists. Boy! These supers can’t resist flexing on each other. “You know I’m right! Look at my muscles!” I guess they know the fans are watching. It isn’t any better than the argument clichés that were used here and in other issues that escalate the tension without following an argument.

But maybe that flows with the sci-fi philosophical reasoning or leaping that abounds in this story. In the midst of Avengers flexing on Iron Man, the Time Gem reappears in Cap’s hand, and in blazing light they jump forward in time to meet new, future Avengers. They start talking about timelines, traveling between space and time, time as an organism not a measurable concept — it can make you ask questions. And everyone else seems to know all about it, but hey, this is just a comic book. You need to be moving on. [Flash!]

Now that I’m writing about it, I remember that I usually dislike stories with narrating characters who calmly explain what that freak of nature actually is and why it happened to you and maybe something about purpose; if they mention a prophecy, I’m out. It’s ugly, unnatural exposition. Am I reading or watching the annotated edition of this story? But with all of the exposition in these issues, I didn’t mind it. I wanted an explanation.

Pretty sure I didn’t get one.

What Cap gets is moral clarity of a sort. He remembers who he is now, and he’s going to take his righteous standard back to that shadowy group who think they can act alone.

8 Lies about God that Sound Like the Truth

  1. God just wants you to be happy.
  2. You only live once.
  3. You need to live your truth.
  4. Your feelings are reality.

Sound familiar? That’s four of the eight statements that sound true enough but are actually lies that author Jared C. Wilson lays out in his latest book, The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like the Truth. The gospel-saturated author of many books explains the intent of each lie and how they undermine God’s will in our lives.

Kudos on the cover design that pushes me to turn the book on its face whenever I have it out. You could call that a drawback, but wouldn’t this be a great book to leave on top of the Gideon Bible in hotel room drawers?

Some of the points touched in the book:

  • Does God just want you to be happy or is your unhappiness a symptom of misplaced priorities or even a difficult calling? Could your happiness be the main thing drawing you away from him?
  • What do you justify with #YOLO? Is it godly living or self-indulgence?
  • What you call your truth may be relative, but the truth is not. Unfashionable? Sometimes. Reliable? Definitely.
  • Your feelings may not mean what you think they mean. They need biblical interpretation

Jared writes with light-hearted quips from our culture, quotes from contemporary and classic authors, and vulnerable illustrations from his own life.

When I’m not priding myself on being more whatever than others, I hate myself for not being whatever enough. The weird thing about humility is that the more you think about it, the more it goes away. That’s me.

The other lies he tackles:

  1. Your life is what you make it.
  2. You need to let go and let God.
  3. The Cross is not about wrath.
  4. God helps those who help themselves.

I found his exploration of problems with the clichic “let go and let God” eye-opening, and the next chapter on substitutionary atonement should be understood by everyone. Heartily recommended.

Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

Artist Scott McCloud writes of his friend Kurt Busiek and their enjoyment of comics as teenagers. He says they wrote a series together of an epic battle that destroyed their high school and many landmarks of their Lexington, Mass, hometown. He and Busiek had an agreement, he says, that he would write critically acclaimed comics and Busiek would write the popular stuff that made money, but with Marvels Busiek has produced an award-winning, fan-loving hit that has sold like lemonade on hot day in a freedom-loving town in these blessed states of America.

Marvels tells the human side of living in New York City with superheroes, aliens, and mutants emerging in the world. Photographer Phil Sheldon hopes to land a gig as a war correspondent, but when the offer comes, he declines because The Human Torch and The Sub-Mariner have begun to fight through the skies of their city.

“… repeat the latest developments: The Human Torch had imprisoned The Sub-Mariner beneath a sheet of flame in an update reservoir, but the undersea dynamo freed himself — even as the Army bombed his fiery prison!”

Phil: “Blast them! Look at us — just sitting here waiting! There isn’t a thing we can do — and this is our city! Our world! Who gave them the right to just come in and take it away from us?!”

Over four collected issues, Phil works through varying emotions about the “Marvels,” his term: who or what they are, public reaction, and his own responsibilities. He doubts, he fears, he falls into public outrage at the mutant X-men and hurls a brick at Ice-Man. Then he rallies and writes a book about them that features his photography.

I looked up this series collection after listening to a Stitcher podcast based on it. Marvels reads a bit like the story of a Frenchman who survives WWII rolling overtop of him. It doesn’t tell much of the many stories it references. We just see something blow up down the street and empowered people we may or may not recognize rushing toward it.

In one conflict between Galactus and The Fantastic Four that appears to spell the end of the world, Phil runs home to spend whatever minutes he has left with his wife and kids. But the world doesn’t end, because the Marvels save it with every ounce of skill and luck they have.

The book doesn’t end on that note, because not every hero’s story moves from victory to victory, and Phil’s emotional turns flow naturally as he and the world react to many fantastic events. Fans of golden age comic book superheroes will love this gorgeously produced tale of a photographer who fights to see to wonder in the age of supers.