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Marvels Project, The #1: Review

Oct 2009
Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting

Story Name:

(No title given)

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

Marvels Project, The #1 Review by (March 15, 2011)
The inclusion of Steve Rogers watching the newsreel of the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 opens an interesting can of worms if this is supposed to be *the* newsreel that makes frail Rogers determined to enlist. The idea of newsreels fueling Steve's anger was introduced in CA#176. Most retellings of Captain America's origin place the newsreel in late (usually November) 1940. (Adventures of CA limited series agrees with this date, but tellingly has the newsreel contents being the invasion of Poland.) Sources like the Official Index to the Marvel Universe then have to squeeze SR's recruitment, conversion to CA and his training, not to mention some early exploits and the introduction and training of Bucky, all before Captain America Comics #1's cover date of March 1941. I prefer the dating system introduced in the All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update 2007, whose bibliographies are available online in the Marvel Universe. The entries for CA and Sub-Mariner place the events in Timely issues in general 3 months before their cover date, coinciding more closely with their real publication date. This scheme is modified in detail to cater for e.g. continued stories. It also allows references to e.g. Pearl Harbor to be made more timely with minimal extra fudging. This scheme for CA in particular includes an even bigger allowance for the contents of his origin story. It pushes SR's newsreel experience back to early 1940. It is only a small further stretch to bring it back to late 1939, Thomas Halloway and the invasion of Poland.

The earliest versions of Cap's origin didn't say that Erskine previously worked for the Nazis, although his assassin in the Adventures of CA limited series does refer to him as a traitor to the Reich. But there were a flurry of mentions of it in the years immediately before Marvels Project, starting I believe with Thunderbolts Presents: Baron Zemo - Born Better #4. The government's direct control of Lt Sawyer is invented for this series. The mission Sawyer recruits Fury and Hargrove for is similar to one in SFHC#34. But in that story the man they rescued wasn't Erskine, they met Dum-Dum Dugan a future Howler, and it took place later than this issue is set, during the Invasion of Holland. Also Sawyer already knew them in that story because he was actually working with the paratroopers that Fury and Hargrove were training. Project Nietzsche is also new:- a Nazi project to create superhumans which is where Erskine begins developing the process that will result in CA. It also gives the Germans a basis for their own later superhumans such as Master Man in Giant-Size Invaders #1, who was created using a version of Erskine's formula. But Erskine presumably hadn't got very far before he defects next issue, or didn't leave many notes (something of a habit), because the Nazis will need to steal his formula later in this series.

Matt Hawk was the 2nd Timely/Marvel western hero with the name Two-Gun Kid, superceding the original Clay Harder in TGK#60. He really has been to the Marvel present, between Avengers #144 and 175. Then he returned to his own time for further adventures, eventually dying in the Blaze of Glory limited series. But She-Hulk brought him back from comic-book limbo in She-Hulk v2#3, and he continues to live in the present. She-Hulk's breaking-the-4th-wall reference to comic-book limbo can be interpreted as this Kid being an alternate version to the one that died in Blaze of Glory. It is presumably this version that has gone back to die (again) in this issue. The images of current Marvel characters in Hawk's tale of the future contain some anomalies, like Mr Fantastic with a mask and Iron Man with what looks like pneumatic parts. These may be intended as Halloway's misinterpretation of Hawk's descriptions.



 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Marvels Project, The #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This series covers the first 2+ years of Timely history, leading up to the formation of the Invaders after Pearl Harbor. Its first 3 issues centre on the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, but they include a thread following the build-up to Project Super-Soldier which will create Captain America.

The series is narrated by Thomas Halloway, the Angel, in a journal that will surface in modern times in the last issue. It will include cameos by many other Timely heroes created in the first year. As such this series is a companion to the Marvel Mystery Handbook which describes the first year's crop of characters.

Angel was introduced in the first Timely comic Marvel Comics #1, which became Marvel Mystery Comics from #2, along with Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. He racked up the most 1940's appearances after the big 3 (HT, SM and CA), mainly in most issues of MMC and the 1940's Sub-Mariner Comics.

This issue opens in New York in 1938 where Dr Halloway is treating an old man Matt Hawk, who claims to have been to the future, and seen a world of super-heroes. When he dies he leaves Halloway a domino mask and two guns, revealing that he used to be the Two-Gun Kid. The story hints that Hawk knew the day he would die, and that Halloway will become the Angel. We get a glimpse of Halloway's upbringing, absorbing knowledge from books in the prison library, where his father was warden. For some reason he lives in an unused cell. This glimpse of Halloway's early life comes from Angel's origin text story in MMC#20.

We now skip forward to 1939 where we learn that the US government is funding the experiment of Prof Horton, whose creation unfortunately keeps catching fire when exposed to oxygen. They are concerned about a Nazi Project Nietzsche to develop superior humans, and detail Lt Sawyer to do something about it. They also wonder what the Germans are doing in the Sargasso Sea. In fact they are killing Atlanteans with depth charges and sending their bodies to Project Nietzsche for study. Until the Sub-Mariner stops them. Namor's appearance here is non-canonical. It provides a more immediate reason for his subsequent attacks on mankind. And explains why he eventually sides with the US against Germany.

The government tells Horton to display his combustible synthetic man, the Human Torch, in order to worry the Germans. The government's involvement with HT's creation is invented here. Horton's partner Dr James Bradley quits in disgust. Dr Bradley is a Roy Thomas addition, from the Invaders v2 limited series. He takes another android body with him when he leaves, and they reappear as villains Dr Death and Volton in the Invaders story. There are several characters like this inserted quietly into this series. (But I can't find any other reference to Erskine's co-worker Hans Bruder, nor Rascher who is experimenting with freezing people.) After the unveiling, due to public fear, Horton is ordered to bury the Torch for safety.

News of the Torch reaches Project Nietzsche, where Prof Erskine is sickened by their experiments and sends a message to England asking to defect. Prof Abraham Erskine is of course the scientist who will turn Steve Rogers into Captain America. In London Lt Sawyer recruits Nick Fury and Red Hargrove to extract Erskine. They have been training British paratroopers. Lt Sawyer will be the c/o of Sgt Fury's Howling Commandos. Fury and Hargrove were pals since boyhood as seen in SFHC#7 and #34.

Halloway watches a newsreel of Nazi conquests in Europe sitting next to Steve Rogers, as a repeat of the scene in #4 confirms. The #4 version also suggests they are watching the invasion of Poland. Horton has been educating Torch inside his prison by wireless. A leak lets Torch flame on and escape. Halloway helps with the resulting devastation. And decides to put on Two-Gun Kid's mask.

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> Marvels Project, The: Book info and issue index

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Steve Epting
Steve Epting
Dave Stewart
Steve Epting (Cover Penciler)
Steve Epting (Cover Inker)


Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Human Torch
Human Torch

(Jim Hammond)

Plus: Angel (Tom Halloway), Atlanteans, Nazis, Two-Gun Kid.