All of the Marvels: An Amazing Voyage into Marvel’s Universe and 27,000 Superhero Comics by Douglas Wolk – Review

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By Roger Crow

As someone who has been hooked on Marvel comics for decades, it’s nice to see how others have been affected by Stan Lee’s universe. I still recall being ill in bed and getting a copy of Daredevil comic circa 1978. This wasn’t a British black and white reprint, but a colour American version for the princely sum of 12p. I was hooked on the adventures of blind lawyer Matt Murdock, so when relatively unknown Frank Miller crafted the tale Night Stalker in 1979, I snapped that up. And when Moon Knight debuted a year later, I bought the first few issues, and was hooked on that too.

Of course in recent years the explosion of blockbuster MCU movies and gripping TV shows has been a treat for those of us weaned on Marvel tales, so reading about Douglas Wolf’s epic quest to read thousands of Marvel comics has been heartening.

The superhero comics that Marvel has published since 1961 make up the biggest self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages and counting.

Eighteen of the 100 highest-grossing movies of all time are based on it. And not even the people telling the story have read the whole thing – nobody’s supposed to.

all of the marvels book review coverBut Douglas Wolk did.

“Vast and interlinked”

This could have been a huge folly, but given the fact that the more you put into a piece of art the more you get out of it, little wonder Wolk’s quest became so interesting. If you’ve been hooked on the Marvel movies since 2008’s Iron Man, you’ll have had a great time spotting the in-jokes, the cross references and the suggestions of whatever big franchise is to come.

The joy of Wolk’s writing is it’s so inclusive. There’s never a feeling that he’s one of those super fans talking down to an audience, or referencing something without clarification. Some of the footnotes are so in-depth they fill most of a page.

Though my comic-buying days have been on hold for some years, this book makes me want to track down those glorious tales from my youth. And of course everything is online, so I don’t have to spend ages in some musty smelling comic shop.

If this book does nothing else it will rekindle a passion for a beloved collection of stories so vast and interlinked, it defies belief. And of course for this MCU addict, it makes that cinematic world so much richer.

As a lavish coffee table volume with colour pictures it would have been more appealing, but this simpler volume works just fine. It also has one of the greatest descriptions of joy ever: “Kermit-armed enthusiasm”.

And like said frog, this is a genuine pleasure.

‘All of the Marvels: An Amazing Voyage into Marvel’s Universe and 27,000 Superhero Comics’ by Douglas Wolk is published by Profile Books, £20


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