Writers Jeff Christiansen & friends
Artists: Just about anyone who put pen to paper in the 90ís.
Publisher: Guess who?
Price: $4.99, (would have been $2.50 in 1990)
This handbook provides profiles and biographies for over 40 characters who debuted in the 1990s. It also describes the major events of that decade in the lives of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Avengers. A message at the beginning states this isnít meant to be a complete resource on Marvel in the 90s. Rather, itís a sampling of characters and events to give one a sense of what the Marvel Universe was like during that decade. In that respect, it succeeded. This Handbook accurately captures the chaos, violence, and gimmick-driven stories that drove away existing fans and kept away new readers. Reading this book is like looking through a box of ďglut-eraĒ books in your shopís cheap bins.
Thatís not to say itís all bad memories. I started reading comics in 1991, and I enjoyed learning more about my favorite characters from those years. Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, and Slapstick get full coverage here. So do Generation X, The Skrull Kill Krew, and Lyja, the Skrull who joined the Fantastic Four. I also learned details on characters and stories Iíve heard about but never cared to research. Like how Tony Stark was replaced with his teenage counterpart; the mysterious mutant Exodus, and the early years of Genis-Vell. I also rediscovered long-forgotten characters who could still make a comeback. Female versions of the Punisher and Dr. Octopus are still out there with unique connections to their male counterparts and great reason to get back into costume. Vengeance, one-time Ghost Rider, could return as a challenger for Hellís throne.
I canít shake the feeling that the characters here were chosen at random. I know many of them were already covered in other Handbooks. Still, for a book thatís supposed to represent the 90ís, Iím surprised there are no entries for the X-Men! Nothing on the team, Wolverine, Cable, X-Force, or even Nate ďX-ManĒ Grey. Lesser mutants like Shard and Random are included, but their profiles only remind us whatís missing. How can you have a 90s Handbook without an entry on Onslaught? And between the seeming death of Reed Richards and the creation of Fantastic Force, there was enough to fill two pages of info on Marvelís first family. Just because itís not trying to be complete doesnít mean it has to feel incomplete.
I havenít been collecting the Handbooks, so I donít know which, if any, of these characters arenít included in other volumes. I suspect the truly minor ones (Nightwatch, Stunner, Goddess, etc.) were left out of the other books. So this book can help complete your collection. Adendums are included in the back, describing what happened to these characters after the 90s, and pointing you to other Handbooks. So itís another decent entry in Marvelís Handbook series that invokes a little nostalgia.
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