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

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

Douglas Wolk. Penguin Press, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2216-8

Journalist Wolk (Reading Comics) pulls off an extraordinary feat in this tour-de-force, distilling over 60 years of Marvel Comics stories into a fascinating guide that will resonate with true believers and neophytes alike. The challenge Wolk set for himself is truly daunting: to read the 27,000-plus issues Marvel has produced since 1961, “the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created.” Apart from the sheer volume of stories involved, Wolk notes how, by design, most of the issues reference events that sometimes go back decades. Even so, he assuages those intimidated by the complex narrative by pointing out that the fear of missing important details is “just how things are when you read superhero comics.” His infectious zeal for the Marvel universe shines in his insightful analysis of everything from the genre’s cultural impact and symbolism—examining, for instance, how the X-Men have served as proxies for those ostracized by society—to the saga of the Black Panther’s creation, which spanned years and writers. In Wolk’s thorough handling of his subject, no page is left unturned or character left behind—even the radical Squirrel Girl, who values compassion over violence, gets an honorable mention. Comic fans will be riveted. Agent: Sarah Lazin, Sarah Lazin Books. (Oct.)