All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told

Penguin Pr. Oct. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780735222168. $28. LIT
For this survey of Marvel Comics’ output since 1961, Wolk (Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean) read every Marvel comic book—some 27,000 publications, or half a million pages containing thousands of interrelated stories and hundreds of characters (Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, the X-Men) that were the basis for some of the 21st century’s highest-grossing movies worldwide. This volume condenses the comic books’ stories and major themes into 21 chapters; they’re grouped by time periods that correspond to defining events of the past six decades of United States history (the Cold War; technocracy; 21st-century political polarization). Wolk leaves out Marvel comics published before 1961, having made the case that Marvel’s 1939–60 output wasn’t as noticeable or impactful in American society. The book includes an appendix that details plotlines and images of noteworthy comics, such as the volume that introduced Miles Morales.
VERDICT Wolk’s light and humorous style appeals, and this work would be a marvelous addition to any library’s collection. It will likely become a bible for serious comics fans and a useful introduction and reference guide for all others. Highly recommended.
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