The profitable Mr. Millar is one of the biggest horses in the Marvel stable and a prince of the modern British invasion. Still, he hasn't done very well in Pornokitsch reviews. I like to imagine that he's furious about this. However, this little daydream has come to an end: Millar's 1985 is almost - but not quite - a work of brilliance.
Like Wanted or The Ultimates, 1985 takes place at the meta-intersection of comic books and reality. However, whereas the previous two take place in the Marvel, comic book world, 1985 takes place in our own.
Happily, Millar never gives in to the temptation to explain anything. There's a big portally thing (a glowing plothole, essentially) and a bunch of Marvel villains dive through it. Ostensibly there to 'take over', the villains immediately devote themselves to acts of senseless and horrifying destruction.
Our hero is a kid who, alongside his deadbeat dad, realize that there's something very wrong going on (First hint: Ultron blowing up the mall). Thanks to their geeky knowledge of the Marvel universe (plus some courage + purity of heart stuff), they save the day.
1985 probably isn't the best juxtaposition of comics and reality - but there aren't many better. (Does the Wild Cards series count?) By setting aside his need for 'big sweeping plot arcs' and world-building and focusing on the minutiae of life, Millar has actually written a solid piece of horror fiction. Not only does he use many of the genre tropes (little kid, estranged family, nobody who believes, creepy house in the woods), but he also successfully channels the fanboy wantonness of Wanted to create some fairly terrifying bad guys.
As Millar says in an interview with Comics Bulletin:
In the Marvel Universe a guy like Stilt Man is a joke, but here in the real world he would be terrifying. He could take on an entire police precinct. Somebody like Sandman could take on the US Army. We all kind of forget how scary these guys could be in the real world. That’s the origin of the series: the real world vs. the Marvel Universe.
In other words, in real life, the Lizard would be pretty goddamn scary and, to his credit, Millar gets that point across in a hurry.
Millar also compares his work to Stephen King, and the comparison is probably more apt than he intended. The young protagonist goes through a test - a travel into his own mind and that of his childhood fantasy - a conflict that's familiar through Stephen King's work. Similarly, Millar ends the series with a King-like reliance on cosmic goodity. However realistic the world - and overwhelming the evil - there's always some sort of supernatural rabbit-in-a-hat in the closing pages.
Tommy Lee Edwards does a very good job with the art - giving it an eerie and nostalgic feel. The covers, by the phenomenal Olivier Coipel, are worthy of framing.
Overall, a pleasant surprise from Mark Millar, who can now go to sleep at night (on top of his massive stack of money and awards) knowing that he's finally managed to impress this blog.