Every time Hannibal Tabu rates another Marvel Guide issue as a must read/buy item on the stands, I can’t help but smile and shake my head. These things are barely comics, let alone the best thing on the stands. I can remember being a kid and my eldest brother had all of the trade collections of the "Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe." I loved those things because, at heart, shock/horror, I am a nerd. I love comics, I love stats, and this sort of thing melds the two perfectly. I stand beside Tabu as saying this is an awesome purchase, and value for your money with the amount of pages and content packed into the $3.99 package.
"Heroic Age: Superheroes" only gives a third of a page to each character so it’s not definitively in-depth like the OHOTMU was but it’s enough to remind of each character, of which there are over 200 catalogued. This set of profiles is framed as being written by Steve Rogers after some sort of meditation/mescaline fugue state, basically. He comes to understand his common heroes and quickly writes his thoughts down while still fresh. He categorizes each hero by their affiliations, status, a summary blurb, their pros and cons, and in doing so we don’t just get bland blurbs. Rogers reveals his own inner side as he discusses his fellow heroes and their inner traits. It’s like this is allowed to be a bunch of veiled attacks because it’s not Marvel writing it, it’s a character. It actually makes each profile just that more interesting to read.
I also love the stats in these things, even though you have to wonder how they are decided. We’re looking at power, conscience, altruism, wisdom, courage, determination, free will, and vulnerability. With so many ranked here, it’s hard not to try and compare people and their power sets. In the end, you just have to take it as a rough guide because I’m pretty sure the Night Nurse shouldn’t have the same power rating as Shang-Chi, unless it’s the power to titillate. I could spend hours going back and forth between each character and rating them against each other. This won’t settle pub arguments because anything can happen on the day, we all know that.
Steve Rogers might not be the best writer, the blurbs often feel a little flippant and not exactly soldier-like, but they are merely a summary. This isn’t a Chabon novel; This is only a third of a page and we still need to include a head shot (oh, how I miss those full body profile shots) and their stats. For all of the flaws in the profiles it actually enhances the comic, if you can handle some bias and don’t mind reading between the lines; it is interesting that Rogers regularly slams females for not having the right ‘romantic connections’ but he makes no mention of Matt Murdock’s carousel of love.
I can understand this sort of thing might not be for everyone, but if you kind of like these issues then you’ll love this one. It offers you everyone you want from Anti-Venom to Butterball to Fat Cobra to Jimmy Woo. It’s the sort of comprehensive item you could lose a day in as you flip back and forth between favorite characters and completely new people. It’s a pleasure and exposure all in the same package; I just wish they’d used the old paper stock to really hit the nostalgic experience home.
I enjoyed this comic far more than I was intending to and on the last page I even got a thrill because there’s a sneak for the next issue which will be titled, "Heroic Age: Villains." I can flat out guarantee you I’ll be there for that one as well.