For three days, Dr. William Watts has lain in a coma,
dreaming. In his sleeping fantasies, marvels stride the
streets of Manhattan, colorfully-clad characters in constant
clashes over good and evil. But these are only illusions,
and the world Watts wakes to is one quite a bit more mundane.
Still, everywhere Watts goes, something reminds him of
his dreams. In the hospital, a husband and wife team of
doctors by the name of Richards spur a vision of a giant
warrior in purple here to eat the planet. Though in his
psychiatric practice a self-absorbed socialite named Emma
Frost does nothing but bore Watts, first-time patient Peter
Parker seems to co-exist with a naggingly familiar masked
hero. But that couldn't be, for one of Parker's issues is
an arm withered by a radioactive spider bite. Nothing heroic
about this guy.
Something just doesn't add up for William Watts, and the
beauty of Matt Cherniss and Peter Johnson's story is that
we don't know which way it's supposed to go. Did the Marvel
Universe somehow get changed into a more realistic world,
and only Watts remembers how it should have been, or did
he just get a glimpse of a shining reality better than his
Either way, evil still exists. Two major villains lurk
in these pages, one identical to his more marvelous identity.
Unfortunately, it seems that the heroes are the ones who
have come out short-changed, as witnessed by Parker's arm
and blind attorney Matt Murdock's difficulty navigating
the furniture of an unfamiliar courtroom. Thankfully, James
Howlett didn't become a gay nightclub entertainer.
Years ago, Marvel Comics offered another mini-series that
looked at a world where heroes never really developed (yes,
my memory fails me on the title - anyone?), but it was brutish
and best forgotten. Cherniss and Johnson present the subject
soberly, but Watts clearly has a confused sort of hope.
If he cannot find his way back to the world of Marvels,
he may at least be on a journey of discovery in which he
will find his own strength and bravery.
On the art chores, Michael Gaydos makes sense. Used for
the same effect on the late Alias series, he has
a style that kind of sucks the wonder out of superheroes.
Gaydos brushes thick inks and blocks of shadow that bring
out the flaws in his characters' appearances. Even Galactus
looks like a thug - one fifty feet tall, but thuggish nonetheless.
Still, the scenes set in the Marvel Universe proper look
brighter than those in the "real" world. Thor may look a
bit baggy, but he's still a better sight than the deranged
street magician that harangues Dr. Watts. If they're not
exactly the brightly colored eye candy we think we often
get, those panels at least make it clear why Watts would
rather live in that world.