Monday, January 15, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Essential OHOTMU Update '89

Writer: Peter Sanderson
Artists: Various
Company: Marvel Comics
Price: $16.99 ($12.06 at Amazon)

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Deluxe Edition (or OHOTMU, as it's been lovingly abbreviated by me and some friends) is basically the bible of my Marvel Universe. It captures my favorite era, the mid-'80s, and is overseen by the best steward the Marvel Universe has ever seen, Mark Gruenwald. I wondered, when they did this Essential Volume of the '89 Update, why it was a Volume 1, not Volume 4 of the Essential OHOTMUs. Having reread, now I know why. This bears more resemblance to Marvel's modern pretender to the Handbook throne than the classic that they produced in the '80s. Gruenwald is gone, replaced by Gregory Wright and then Terry Kavanaugh, neither of whom lit the world on fire with their Marvel comics writing. The all-star line-up of artists from the OHOTMU is gone, and while big names like Walt Simonson and John Byrne do make appearances, and there's some solid art throughout, there's also some godawful art. Rob Liefeld does some art, to give you an indication. In addition, for the most part, there wasn't a need for this update. If you needed a snapshot for when Marvel went on the decline during the Tom DeFalco era, the '89 Handbook offers that. Fallen Angels? SHIELD II? Goblyn and Manikin and the rest of the late era Mantlo Alpha Flight? Artie and Leech, for God's sake! Add in some fairly weak reproduction, with lettering becoming faded and tough to read, and this is a big comedown from Marvel's three volume reprint of the original OHOTMU Deluxe.

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