*Ah, late night, swell night. Little going on.

Marvel Boy

Here we have some of Grant Morrison’s pre-”New X-Men” Marvel work, arriving just around the time “The Invisibles” finished up at Vertigo. He’d done “Skrull Kill Krew” with Mark Millar a few years prior, but this six-issue series marked the beginning of Morrison’s extended end-of-millennium run at the House of Ideas. It’s an infectiously fun and frenzied series, comparable to “Seaguy” in its rush to cram in as many ideas as possible before time is up, with the added distraction of constant riffing on Marvel history.

Noh-Varr is a young Kree officer on a parallel-reality skimming starship that’s shot down in an alternate Marvel Universe; Noh-Varr is the only survivor, and he’s kept prisoner by the wicked Dr. Midas, an ultra-rich technology scavenger who aims to strip the ship down for valuable weapons and items to salvage and patent as his own. Dr. Midas is also quite obviously the Silver-Age Iron Man (or at least he’s wearing his armor). There will be more alternate Marvels to come, as Noh-Varr breaks free from captivity, and decides to take his revenge by causing a whole lot of casualty-free property damage in New York. S.H.I.E.L.D. (in this world a space-based enclave of psychic operatives) decides to rent clones of Captain America from the UN to stop the teenage terror. And on top of that, a ridiculously dangerous life-form called Hexus managed to escape the wreckage of Noh-Varr’s ship, and now plans to spread its influence throughout the universe in the way it born to do: through corporate branding! And what of Dr. Midas’ bondage-gear clad daughter Oubliette? How do the Fantastic Four fit into all this? If a cosmic jihad is declared on DisneyWorld, how will President Clinton react? All of these questions will be answered, don’t you worry your head.

It’s a lot of gratuitous fun, though it might be a little more fun (and a lot more gratuitous) to those already steeped in Marvel lore. Sure, there’s some social satire (mostly in relation to Dr. Midas and Hexus, who can be viewed as differing aspects of the same idea: total capitalist control of humankind) mixed in with the explosions and beatings, but the most potential that’s realized is the potential freedom of the alternate universe; when it’s not the real (Marvel) world, you can temporarily enslave everyone to alien corporate interests, or tattoo obscenities onto the Earth’s surface, or have the shit beaten out of what looks like Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes, or just have the book’s protagonist act like an asshole, as does our perpetually (if understandably) pissed-off Marvel Boy, oh so annoyed to be saving those stupid humans! Aiding and abetting is J.G. Jones (currently on Millar’s “Wanted”), offering up some smooth superhero visuals; the emphasis on big action and bright science plays to Jones’ strengths, every page revealing new baubles and delights and striking kicks (hah).

There’s another similarity to “Seaguy” by the way: the book was planned as the first in a trilogy. And while “Seaguy” managed to form a highly satisfying little story in its first volume, something that can stand alone even if the rest of the saga never shows up, “Marvel Boy” simply stops, and the remainder of the adventure has yet to appear. It even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. “Seaguy” also ended on a wonderfully ambiguous note of 'what happens next?!' though, without much damage done to the feel of the story as a stand-alone work. “Marvel Boy” is a more episodic book in its structure, with one adventure directly following another, but not all of them quite hooking together. This story feels unfinished, although a heroic attempt is made at tying up as many potentially nagging loose ends as possible before the final uncertain sequence. It’s nothing to dissuade anybody from checking out the book. Smart, irresponsible superhero thrills don’t always require a satisfying finale for their more immediate charms to register, and there is much immediacy in these pages.