The first-ever full reckoning with Marvel Comics´ interconnected, half-million-page story, a revelatory guide to the "epic of epics"-and to the past sixty years of American culture-from a beloved authority on the subject who read all 27,000+ Marvel superhero comics and lived to tell the tale
The superhero comic books that Marvel Comics has published since 1961 are, as Douglas Wolk notes, the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages to date, and still growing. The Marvel story is a gigantic mountain smack in the middle of contemporary culture. Thousands of writers and artists have contributed to it. Everyone recognizes its protagonists: Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men. Eighteen of the hundred highest-grossing movies of all time are based on parts of it. Yet not even the people telling the story have read the whole thing-nobody´s supposed to. So, of course, that´s what Wolk did: he read all 27,000+ comics that make up the Marvel Universe thus far, from Alpha Flight to Omega the Unknown.
And then he made sense of it-seeing into the ever-expanding story, in its parts and as a whole, and seeing through it, as a prism through which to view the landscape of American culture. In Wolk´s hands, the mammoth Marvel narrative becomes a fun-house-mirror history of the past sixty years, from the atomic night terrors of the Cold War to the technocracy and political division of the present day-a boisterous, tragicomic, magnificently filigreed epic about power and ethics, set in a world transformed by wonders.
As a work of cultural exegesis, this is sneakily significant, even a landmark; it´s also ludicrously fun. Wolk sees fascinating patterns-the rise and fall of particular cultural aspirations, and of the storytelling modes that conveyed them. He observes the Marvel story´s progressive visions and its painful stereotypes, its patches of woeful hackwork and stretches of luminous creativity, and the way it all feeds into a potent cosmology that echoes our deepest hopes and fears. This is a huge treat for Marvel fans, but it´s also a revelation for readers who don´t know Doctor Strange from Doctor Doom. Here, truly, are all of the marvels.