cover image The Super Hero’s Journey

The Super Hero’s Journey

Patrick McDonnell and Marvel Entertainment. Abrams ComicArts, $29.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-4197-6910-8

Syndicated cartoonist McDonnell (Mutts) celebrates in this joyous and invigorating blend of memoir and homage the Marvel Comics superhero saga, whose adventures have interconnected over the past 80+ years and formed a single, expansive fictional history. Opening with his childhood fascination with the classic Marvel comics, whose altar he worshipped at after church in the back comics rack at the local soda fountain, McDonnell seamlessly integrates his own fresh designs with original panels from classic comics by Marvel artists—Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others. His remixed Marvel plot sends Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four on a colorful odyssey of self-discovery. McDonnell’s renderings of the Watcher (an omnipotent alien who observes every incident in Marvel’s history) are inserted to create a narrative where the Marvel heroes must fight against villains Dr. Doom and Galactus to define their own existence, which McDonnell parallels to an autobiographical chronicle of how he came to love drawing. The result honors not only the characters but the mythos of Marvel. In a final-act twist, it’s the myriad aspects of love—romantic, familial, companionable, the love of a creator for their creations, of a reader for a story and its characters—that save the day. In these simple stories where right triumphs over might, McDonnell suggests, fans’ appreciation for all creation grows. “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart,” says McDonnell’s Watcher. “Become like a child, see everything with awe.” McDonnell’s unexpected conceit flies high and makes a perfect landing. (Sept.)