... [a] brilliant, eccentric, moving and wholly wonderful attempt to distill it all into a coherent narrative ... If you grew up on Marvel comics like I did, All of the Marvels will be a gift. If your relationship with the monthly books is at best spotty — if, for example, you can’t tell your Heralds of Galactus from your Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, or your Jack Kirby from your Steve Ditko — All of the Marvels will be an eye-opener, and Wolk’s learned enthusiasm will have you dropping coin at your local comic book shop before you turn the last page ... A small warning, though: For a book that moves with the kineticism of a Kirby double-page spread, All of the Marvels kicks off on the square side, with Wolk explaining his methodology, laying out which comics he read, and the ones he did not, taking time to address the questions he imagines his readers will have. All necessary, I’m sure, but I won’t lie — the opening few chapters are a bit of a slog, and not at all indicative of what is to come...Trust me: Once Wolk finishes the preliminaries, All of the Marvels rips off its stuffed shirt, and soars ... It’s heady, thrilling stuff, and Wolk proves to be the perfect guide for this type of adventure: nimble, learned, funny and sincere ... impossibly invaluable. Wolk illuminates much that is important about our strange mutant Marvel century, proving, to borrow from Claude Lévi-Strauss, that Marvel is not only good to think with but also perhaps, in our culture, essential ... magnificently marvelous. Wolk’s work will invite many more alliterative superlatives. It deserves them all.
Rather than take a linear approach, listing who appeared when and what everyone was up to, chapters follow individual characters through time ... Wolk succeeds in a fascinating pop culture journey ... Wolk gets a tad carried away ... Still, when you’ve been brought up on the words of legendary Marvel architect and hype merchant Stan Lee, it’s forgiveable. Wolk is a knowledgeable, generous guide, lighting the potentially more confusing corners of the Marvel Universe with enthusiasm, humour and humility ... Existing comic fans will get the most out of All of the Marvels – the trivia-laden footnotes are almost a book in themselves – but if you’re at all curious about how Spider-Man and his amazing friends spent the last 60 years and why so many of us love them, this is the handbook you need.
Mr. Wolk is quick to point out that his book is not a syllabus—one of the many charms of this highly enjoyable volume is its spirit of inclusivity: He is against the idea of Marvel as the special province of some grizzled, in-the-know crowd who have followed Marvel stories for most of their lives (a crowd that includes Mr. Wolk himself, who worked in a comic-book shop in the mid-1980s) ... He tells readers, 'Skip around! Trust your taste!' His book is helpful for doing just that, with most chapters citing specific issues of magazines, complete with their publication dates and the names of artists and writers, as jumping-off points to reflect on developments in the series ... Mr. Wolk brings to his task insight, humor and a deep love of Marvel that does not blind him to the occasional inanity.