Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The Marvellous Marvel Atlas

Let's talk geography true believers. Not physical geography, not human geography, not political geography, not even environmental geography. No, when it comes to comics, there's only one branch of geography worth discussing: Marvel geography.

Yes, Marvel geography, the mightiest form of geography known to man. A geography that takes in every nation on the face of the planet and a fair few that don't really exist. A geography that effortlessly combines the real and the imaginary in the merry way that only Marvel can. A geography that has it's own cartography, currencies and systems of government and now, thank goodness, a geography that has it's own Atlas...

The Marvel Atlas, a two part guide to every nation ever featured in the Marvel Universe, complete with maps, flags, languages, population figures, places of interest and, most importantly, extraterrestrial, superhuman and nonhuman inhabitants.

It's meticulously researched, well written and at times downright surreal. The descriptions of imaginary nations like Madripoor and Morvania are brilliant, but it's the crazy collage of fact and fiction that have gone into the entries on real nations that makes the Marvel Atlas such a thing of wonder.

Take for example this little sample from the entry on Belgium...

All interesting stuff.

chocolate and beer you say? Fascinating.

Wait a minute. Were-borgs!?! Commander Courage!?! human corpses?!? Oh baby! Now that's what I call edutainment! And it doesn't stop at Belgium either. There are literally a dozen examples of pure genius on every page. Whether it be this typical shot of everyday Hungarian life...

"Not really, but I could eat some more goulash"

Or this quite lovely satellite image of Latveria's capital, Doomstadt.

Click to ramp up the Doom

The Marvel Atlas is a delight from start to finish. It's a tome that dares to give us a dry as you like factual account of the Nazis rise to power in Germany...

And then, just when you think you're in the real world, hits you with this...

I'm willing to bet that there's some impressionable kid out there who now thinks that Hitler really was killed by a superhero. Ha Ha, I hope Jim Hammond finds his way onto an exam paper.

It's this level of detailed craziness told with straight face that puts the Marvel Atlas above any of it's recent forerunners. It's a much more scholarly and infinitely stranger reference work than any of the recent Handbook revamps and frankly I'd go as far as to put it ahead of the classic 1980's Handbooks which still hold pride of place in my long boxes.

Issue two which will cover North, South and Central America as well as the likes of Atlantis and The Savage Land won't be out until March. No doubt there will be a nice little collected copy to pick up soon after that.

Whichever version you go for, this is a truly essential comic for fans of the Marvel Universe, lovers of alternate histories and anyone who likes kooky comics. I give it a straight up not to be missed: A.

1 comment:

Michael Hoskin said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed the Marvel Atlas! I hope the second half entertains you as well!