Marvel Fanfare #40 (1988)

David Mazzucchelli had a short but illustrious career drawing for mainstream comics. After a run drawing Daredevil with Denny O’Neil writing, Frank Miller took the title over, and Mazzucchelli illustrated Miller’s epochal "Born Again" story. Miller and Mazz then moved over to DC, where the pair worked on "Batman: Year One", which was, in part, the basis for Batman Begins. Mazzucchelli then left mainstream comics, putting out out his own self-published comic before he most likely moved to bigger and better things. (There’s a short bibliography of him here.)
Marvel Fanfare was an anthology title that Marvel released in the early ’80s. Most of the issues included typical super-hero stuff, but occassionally, the stories went outside the box. There was a very nice Thing story by Barry Windsor-Smith in one issue, some fun Ken Steacy work in another. But perhaps the highlight of the series was the 14-page piece starring the X-Men’s Angel in this issue.
The X-Men’s Angel is a perfectly handsome and blonde man with wings on his back. As drawn by Mazzucchelli in this issue, he literally looks like an angel, who has fallen from the heavens after a horrible battle. The Angel crashes into the back yard of an old grandma who’s been feeling used up, like time has passed her by. But the presence of the Angel and the blessings he brings helps to revive the woman and bring new joy to her life.
The story, by Ann Nocenti, is sweet and charming. More than that, though, it hints at the power of faith to help one gain new joy in their life. In the presence of a miracle, the grandma finds her faith confirmed and gains tremendous joy and energy from the experience.
The story wouldn’t have worked without an artist of the caliber of Mazzucchelli. As he notes, the art seems influenced by the minimalistic power of Harvey Kurtzman’s work – all simple lines of varying depths, conveying a mood and emotion more than a specific image. When the Angel appears he really does look blessed. Mazzucchelli shows the Angel’s face from dramatic angles, posing him like an angel in a Renaissance painting and making him appear literally beatific. Readers believe the parable of the story because Mazzucchelli’s art somehow makes it transcend its comic book roots.

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