In All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told, Douglas Wolk distills 60 years and 27,000 issues of Marvel Comics (“the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created”) into a fascinating guide that will resonate with true believers and neophytes alike. 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. 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.

Marvel has been publishing comic books since 1939, but it was only in the late '80s that they hit upon the idea of collecting recent issues into books that could stay in print indefinitely. Some of their books are perennial backlist items—for instance, Infinity Gauntlet, Civil War, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Ms. Marvel: No Normal, and, more recently, House of X/Powers of X. Others disappear quickly or are perpetually repackaged in new forms.

Since I read 27,000 issues for All of the Marvels, I know all the deep cuts—so I've pulled out some lesser-known jewels from the Marvel catalogue for this list. (Note that Marvel's book catalogue is currently in flux, thanks to their recent distribution shift; the titles I've listed here appear to be in print at the moment, at any rate.)

1.Warlock by Jim Starlin: The Complete Collection

Writer/artist Jim Starlin's original Adam Warlock sequence, serialized between 1975 and 1977, is a heady, trippy sci-fi epic about what happens when a lab-created "perfect man" discovers that the evil messiah of the cruel intergalactic church he's been battling is, in fact, his own future self. A number of Starlin's creations who appear here, including Thanos and Gamora, went on to prominent roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; so did the mysterious green gem on Warlock's forehead. 

2. Marvel Masters of Suspense, Vol. 2

Before writer/editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko collaborated on the earliest Spider-Man and Doctor Strange stories, they specialized in three-to-five page twist-ending tales that appeared in nearly every issue of Marvel's sci-fi/horror anthologies for years. The two Masters of Suspense hardcovers collect them all; the second volume (covering 1961–1963), in particular, shows off Ditko at his assured, grotesque peak, opening every story with an utterly uncanny full-page image. 

3. Master of Kung Fu Epic Collection: Fight Without Pity

Shang-Chi's original stomping ground was Master of Kung Fu, a thoughtful, thrilling martial-arts/espionage series that has aged much better in some ways than in others (its recurring antagonist is literally Fu Manchu). This 1975–1977 sequence is one of its peaks, featuring superb artwork by Paul Gulacy, some of Shang-Chi's weirdest and most indelible adversaries, and a spectacular sequence set in Hong Kong.  

4. The Ultimates by Al Ewing: The Complete Collection

There have been various series called The Ultimates, but this 2016–2017 incarnation concerns a team of heroes (including Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Monica Rambeau) who address problems so cosmic and abstract they're essentially metaphysical. The wild, psychedelic artwork is by a rotating crew including Travel Foreman, Christian Ward, Kenneth Rocafort, and Aud Koch; the plot involves, among other things, the personifications of multiple instances of the multiverse. 

5. Omega: The Unknown

The original Omega the Unknown, from 1976, was a weird, not entirely successful, abruptly truncated experimental superhero series by writers Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes and artist Jim Mooney. Novelist Jonathan Lethem and artist Farel Dalrymple's superb 2007 take on Omega begins as a surreal, wobbly remake of the original version's opening—involving an alienated young boy's mysterious connection to a mute, caped hero from outer space—and then speeds off in a direction of its own. 

6. You Are Deadpool

Deadpool's got his own legion of Deadpool-specific fans, and stars in a ton of books, but this one, from 2018, is a bit different. It's a grandly silly choose-your-own-path adventure that's also a tabletop role-playing game—and spirals from the character's usual fourth-wall breaking into a head-spinning piece of metafiction, incorporating dead-on parodies of Marvel's comics from decades past. (Personal to Loki fans: the T.V.A. is involved.)

7. Nick Fury: Deep-Cover Capers

Jim Steranko's visually groundbreaking 1960s run as writer/artist of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be out of print right now. This 2017 project by writer James Robinson and artists ACO and Hugo Petrus, starring the original Fury's son (who conveniently looks just like Samuel L. Jackson), is both an extended tribute to Steranko's design innovations and a feast for the eyes in its own right. 

8. Untold Tales of Spider-Man Omnibus

Kurt Busiek and Pat Olliffe's 1995 series Untold Tales of Spider-Man was an incredibly clever feat of storytelling: a set of self-contained, single-issue stories about Peter Parker's high school days that not only flowed into a complete, continuous narrative on their own but were set between issues (and sometimes between pages) of the first few dozen issues of Amazing Spider-Man, from three decades earlier. 

9. Captain America and the Falcon: Secret Empire

Steve Englehart's sharply satirical early-1970s run as the writer of Captain America peaked with the sequence collected here. "I was writing a man who believed in America's highest ideals at a time when America's president was a crook," Englehart has noted. The climax of Secret Empire is the head of a villainous conspiracy being unmasked as (a very thinly disguised) Richard Nixon, who then kills himself in the Oval Office—in an issue published three months before Nixon resigned. 

10. Marvel Action Avengers: Off the Clock

Not, strictly speaking, a Marvel book: this one was published by IDW, as part of their recently concluded Marvel Action line, comics aimed at middle-grade readers for which they licensed Marvel characters. The delightful sequence collected here, written by Katie Cook and drawn by Butch Mapa, concerns what the Avengers do on their day off. It's gaspingly funny, crammed with comics-nerd in-jokes (Paste-Pot Pete!), and built around some of the lowest-stakes conflicts ever seen in a superhero story.