Douglas Wolk, All Of The Marvels

 All of the Marvels: A Journey to the End of the Biggest Story Ever Told is quite the title, no?

Basically, Douglas Wolk set himself the task of reading as many things from the Marvel Comics Universe as possible. He had to delimit the period and the universe as closely as he could, to make the task even remotely manageable, but even so, his admittedly faulty spreadsheet tells him that he wrote and noted 27,206 separate comics.

Wolk's reading spans the period 1961-2017, and this figure leaves out a fair bit of reading that turned out to be tangential. There are graphic novels, too, and the movies, but his focus here is on the comics themselves that underpin those larger events that intrude into mass culture.

But his point is that the Marvel Comics Universe is itself mass culture at this point. There's no other single coherent (mostly coherent?) story that runs for at least 500,000 pages, employs thousands of people in its telling, has an audience of millions, and generates billions of dollars in revenue annually.

I was resentful and resistant at the beginning of this book, but Strangelove-style, I came to worry less and come to love the bomb tolerate the Marvel Comics Universe.

To be clear, I'm resentful and resistant because I feel like Marvel has managed to create a parallel universe that's difficult to access or to speak to with any success, unless you're fully immersed there. The cost of being fully immersed there is that you maybe can't be fully immersed here, except for extremely rare individuals, and the non-Marvel universe is in SUCH desperate NEED of care and attention that I resent the theft of energies.

But after reading this book, I think I could read some comics with much more comfort than I would've before. It's more of a guide, All of the Marvels, than a coherent book as such, and it's perfectly reasonable to jump between chapters.

Long story short: immense fun for Marvel fans, obviously, but intended to be accessible for non-fans, except most accessible only for someone prepared to put in the time and energy to make sense of the outline. Once you do that, then it becomes clear that you don't need to understand it all.

In other words, those comics fans who insist on canon, and on authority, are exactly as wrong as you'd wish they were. Immersion is optional, and I think I'm maybe still allowed to think it's toxic?

Fun read, mostly!


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