AUTHOR: ADAM BRAY / PUBLISHER: DK / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2ND
The Marvel Studios Character Encyclopedia couldn't arrive at a more opportune time. With the 22nd Marvel Cinematic Universe film just weeks away in the form of Avengers: Endgame, Adam Bray once again collates all of the pertinent information surrounding the key characters of the MCU, updating it and cross-referencing them for a handy, tidy guide to the Marvel Universe.
As with all DK releases, the design is on point, and kudos should be given to the team of Robert Perry, Jess Tapolcai and Vicky Short for adding even more flair to these colourful characters. Bray breaks down each character into concise and organised files, introducing each with an introductory paragraph, a data file including insight into their affiliations, strengths and MCU appearances and what makes them unique. Further to that, the book breaks these into brackets of affiliation, introducing the characters of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and, in a most welcome late addition, Captain Marvel, who gets entries for Cap herself and the Skrull Talos. There are a couple of notable omissions from the contents, with no entries for the characters of The Incredible Hulk (the second MCU entry don’t forget) other than Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, and Spider-Man: Homecoming’s vibrant cast of characters. The likelihood is that Sony licensing issues put the kibosh on Spidey being involved, and perhaps licensing concerns with Universal similarly put a halt to the non-Avengers Hulk entries, but whatever the reasoning they are missed as a part of the MCU’s rich tapestry.
As Phase Three comes to a close with Endgame, collections like this become even more important. By the time Endgame arrives there will be 22 films in the MCU, with the first chapter of Phase Four - Spider-Man: Far From Home – arriving in July. We have a third Guardians of the Galaxy entry from the returning James Gunn on the horizon, sequels to Doctor Strange and Black Panther, and the first Black Widow, Shang-Chi and Eternals films on the way, as well as the delicious thought of the 20th Century Fox properties being folded into the wider MCU with the X-Men, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four ripe for exploitation. Fingers crossed DK and Bray are able to expand upon releases like this as the characters continue to develop and cross-pollinate. A handy reference guide to the who, what and when of the MCU is a useful tool to have on the coffee table.