Reviews for All of the marvels : a journey to the ends of the biggest story ever told

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The superhero comic books released by Marvel Comics since 1961 constitute over a half million pages and have inspired 18 of the 100 highest-grossing movies of all time. How to assess their impact on popular culture and provide an overview? Read all 27,000+ Marvel superhero comics, which is exactly what Eisner Award-winning Wolk (Reading Comics) did.


Publishers Weekly
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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.)


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Spanning six decades and tens of thousands of issues, Marvel Comics is a uniquely durable, meandering, and resonant set of stories. Comics and music critic Wolk (Reading Comics) brings an insightful and affectionate eye to this cultural behemoth as he catalogs the long and winding road Marvel superheroes have followed over the years. Wolk makes no attempt to capture the full breadth and depth of the Marvel comics universe, a task that would be both impossible (for Wolk) and near incomprehensible (for readers). Instead, he dedicates chapters to the superheroes, creative partnerships, events, and idiosyncrasies that have made Marvel what it is, from the familiar (Black Panther, the X-Men) and the justly or unjustly forgotten (Master of Kung-Fu, Linda Carter). The result is an affectionate, lively, charmingly footnoted whistle-stop tour through Marvel Comics that acknowledges the many places where the comics stumble as well as the many where they shine. Wolk is unwavering in his belief that comics are for everyone, and he offers numerous jumping-on points for new readers. Every comics fan needs this book.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A deep dive into the overarching, decadeslong narrative of Marvel superhero comics. Wolk, author of the Eisner Award–winning Reading Comics, writes effusively about “the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages to date, and growing,” and he delivers an interpretive guide to the thousands of comics that Marvel has published since 1961. The author moves between this multilayered comic-world narrative and the behind-the-scenes timeline of the once-marginal company and its pop-culture DNA, forged by brilliant eccentrics Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and Mike Ditko. Kirby and Ditko eventually parted acrimoniously from wordsmith and showman Lee, though not before establishing bold visual and textual templates that later artists acknowledged. “Stan Lee’s words,” writes Wolk, “from early Marvel comics became the toys of the writers who followed in his path.” In most chapters, the author focuses on prominent tentpoles like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the Avengers. He assembles a critical narrative by linking contemporary issues to earlier decades and tracking the shuffles of artists and writers, recently emphasizing diverse younger talents. As one writer noted about collaboration on X-Men as it gained prominence, “such sparks as there were came about largely from us banging into each other.” In the 1970s, writes Wolk, “Marvel’s second-tier titles were subject to constant creative shuffling,” a process that produced complex crossovers between series amid larger patterns of “retroactive continuity.” But crossovers aren’t always welcome: “There’s a popular conception among irritable mainstream comics readers that crossovers wreck the flow of ongoing series.” Wolk breaks up his narrative analysis with “Interlude” chapters regarding business and cultural issues, noting how comics have pinballed among a variety of audiences: adolescents, comic collectors, film buffs, and more. The author’s exhaustive and mostly uncritical approach will appeal to those who share his passion for this self-sustaining superhero culture, understanding that “in a story as big as Marvel’s, everything can be a reference to the past.” A simultaneously wide-ranging and engagingly specific guide to the sprawling realm of comics culture. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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.—Steve Dixon, State Univ. of New York, Delhi


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Spanning six decades and tens of thousands of issues, Marvel Comics is a uniquely durable, meandering, and resonant set of stories. Comics and music critic Wolk (Reading Comics) brings an insightful and affectionate eye to this cultural behemoth as he catalogs the long and winding road Marvel superheroes have followed over the years. Wolk makes no attempt to capture the full breadth and depth of the Marvel comics universe, a task that would be both impossible (for Wolk) and near incomprehensible (for readers). Instead, he dedicates chapters to the superheroes, creative partnerships, events, and idiosyncrasies that have made Marvel what it is, from the familiar (Black Panther, the X-Men) and the justly or unjustly forgotten (Master of Kung-Fu, Linda Carter). The result is an affectionate, lively, charmingly footnoted whistle-stop tour through Marvel Comics that acknowledges the many places where the comics stumble as well as the many where they shine. Wolk is unwavering in his belief that comics are for everyone, and he offers numerous jumping-on points for new readers. Every comics fan needs this book.

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