THE MARVEL BOOK: EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF A VAST COMICS UNIVERSE / AUTHOR: STEPHEN WIACEK / PUBLISHER: DK / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 3RD
Over the last few years, it seems that the good folk at Dorling Kindersley (DK) have become the go-to resource for guides to the labyrinthine and convoluted continuities of the big two comics publishers DC and Marvel. The mere fact that both companies have ongoing characters, multiverses and story arcs which have resonated for literally decades makes it nigh impossible to find a jumping in spot where any story would make sense without knowing a backstory that goes back several years - certainly without having to spend a small fortune on trade paperbacks or back issues.
And it must be said that DK is very, very good at providing this resource in a series of books that have spotlighted individual characters in books as well as company-wide overviews. But with the increasing number of these types of books they have published over the past few years, you could be forgiven for assuming they’ve reached a saturation point of tedious repetition. But they keep finding new authors, new perspectives and fresh insights for their books – case in point, The Marvel Book.
The first question anybody would have is obviously what makes this different from any number of encyclopaedias, chronicles, who’s who guides or single character reference books. Well, this book takes in the whole of Marvel’s astoundingly complex comics universe and presents it to us in a chronological format, beginning with a time before time in a region beyond space, introducing us to the bewildering concept of the Omniverse, which is, and we quote; “comprised of endlessly proliferating Multiverses and constituent universes that are kept apart by a highly reactive form of informational space called the Superflow”. Well THAT surely kills off the mainstream concept of comic books being for twelve-year olds and containing nothing but ‘Pow’, ‘Splat’ and ‘Wham’ in their vocabulary.
From that intriguing high concept beginning, the book takes us on a breath-taking tour of literally every concept that forms the gloriously bewildering and expansive Marvel Multiverse from the birth of the Watchers to Galactus, Devourer of Worlds, to the Norse and Greek Gods before coming to the wartime Age of Marvels with the likes of Captain America, Namor, and the original Human Torch.
From there, it’s a short step to the real meat of the book with insightful double page spreads on just about every main Marvel character, organisation, team and alliance that has appeared since the Silver Age and the first issue of The Fantastic Four, bringing us right up to the present day. So, if you’re looking for a point to start reading up on your Marvels before the start of Phase IV at the cinema, then this is going to be an indispensable guide to what’s gone on before.