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Tuesday, June 14, 2022 

Valdosta Daily Times' superficial review of Douglas Wolk's All of the Marvels

The Valdosta Daily Times posted a fluff-coated review of propagandist Wolk's history book "All of the Marvels", which didn't know when to quit in terms of how far it goes:
Douglas Wolk read all of the Marvels then wrote a book called "All of the Marvels."

By all of the Marvels, he's referring to having read all of the Marvel comic books that are interrelated between the introduction of "The Fantastic Four" in 1961 through the company's comics published through roughly 2017. That's approximately 27,000-plus comic books. At roughly a half-million pages, Wolk makes the argument that Marvel Comics has created the "biggest story ever told," according to the book's subtitle.
If he really wanted his book to have meaning, Wolk would've stopped around 2003, which was pretty much when Marvel's books lost direction. They may have told the biggest story you could expect, but it was really in 1939 where it all began, and past the early 2000s, Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas ruined everything. Why, soon after Jemas left, Quesada made sure they boomeranged back on company wide crossovers, which they'd mostly refrained from for nearly 3 years, bringing us insults to the intellect like House of M, and Civil War. None of which Wolk ever asked caused harm to Marvel's storytelling, self-contained or otherwise.
It's a compelling argument. True, many of the comic books are self-contained adventures, or two- to three- to six-issue story arcs. But each of those issues are and can be interrelated. Some small element introduced as far back as that first issue of "Fantastic Four" 61 years ago can be a story-telling point in an issue of any other Marvel title today. No character or story element is too small, everything has potential for a story in any number of Marvel Comics books – depending on the creativity of the writers and artists.
What about what comes after 2003? By then, Brian Bendis had influenced Marvel for the worse, along with Joe Quesada, mandating nearly ever comic they published had to be written for trade collections, at least 6 issues in length, and often resulted in padded out storytelling that made it a drag to read through. And did Wolk ever criticize Quesada for mistreatment of Mary Jane Watson? Apparently not, if he kept on reading their output a decade after she was kicked to the curb.
Wolk established some rules for his journey through all of the Marvel Comics. He excluded some titles such as "Conan the Barbarian," for example, since the character's stories did not relate to the overall Marvel Comics Universe (at least it didn't during the time period of Wolk's experiment; Conan has since been introduced to the rest of the Marvel Universe via mystical time travel and "Savage Avengers").
And Conan's now exiting the MCU again, their having lost the license due to the politically correct cowardice of Jason Aaron, and for all we know, it may be difficult to publish Savage Avengers in trades as a result. But it's surely better if Wolk had nothing to say about Conan (or even Red Sonja and Kull the Conqueror, which all saw Marvel adaptations in the Bronze Age), because I'm sure he would've taken a woke approach to comment on their content, much like he did with the following:
Yet, Wolk gives full chapters to works such as "Master of Kung Fu," a martial arts comic book that ran from the mid-1970s through mid-1980s. It featured few connections with the Marvel Universe but developed a cult following through the years. While its connections to the rest of the Marvel Universe are tenuous, the chapter explores the handling of race and culture in past comic books, the copyright entanglements of combining Marvel-created characters with characters from other characters whose licensing has since lapsed, and groundbreaking creative work.
I seem to recall Wolk made a politically correct fuss over the racial stereotyping in MOKF, and based on his leftist politics, that's why I'd rather not hear somebody like him tell what he thinks, because people like him often mess up based on their approach these days.
He lays out his ground rules for readers then digs into his research and advice. He implores readers not to start at the beginning with "FF" No. 1, not to read specific titles from the first issue all the way through, to not seek only the "big" story arcs without reading some of the "filler" stuff for a given title – how can the "big" stuff have any impact on a reader unfamiliar with the status quo of a character or a title prior to the "big" thing happening? ... He recommends readers jump in anywhere, on any title, at any time, though he gives some recommendations of good starting points in several titles.
Sorry, but I'm not taking "research and advice" like that at face value, seeing how he went out of his way to sugarcoat some of Marvel's most overrated crossover events, in example. Besides, I firmly believe it's recommended to read Captain America's Golden Age origins to understand how these stories began, what they could allude to from the times, and why even the early origins matter. I remember once reading some excerpts from the Golden Age Human Torch stories, and noticed that in the premiere, the titular android was wearing a blue-colored outfit, and realized Stan Lee must've gotten the idea to give the FF blue costumes based on that. If you want specific understandings of how Marvel history began, that's why the Golden Age matters, and too bad if Wolk doesn't comprehend that.
Wolk looks at the expected things – chapters devoted to the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, for example – as well as the unexpected – the chapter devoted to "Master of Kung Fu," as example again.

"All of the Marvels" is fun to read for long-time fans who may be deeply familiar with some Marvel titles but not others, or who believe they are familiar with all of the titles, or ones who have never picked up a comic, or those who've only seen the Marvel movies but want to know more.

Wolk is welcoming to life-long Marvel "true believers" as well as newcomers.
I'd think this is more like "welcoming" to anybody naive enough to buy into his PC narrative that doesn't make distinctions between what's good or bad, or doesn't admit things went downhill somewhere along the way. Not that you could expect these mainstream papers to admit it, sadly. I may be a true believer, but of the stories published up to a certain point, and all based on merit, which the garbage that came out since lacks, no thanks to Quesada and Axel Alonso. Maybe what's really a shame is how till this day, there's still no authors willing to write an objective history book that doesn't follow a PC narrative in what's good or bad in the history of the MCU's stories, self-contained or otherwise. No wonder MSM coverage of these books remains so farcical.

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Marvel Continuity ended with Fantastic Four # 322 1989 see https://zak-site.com/Great-American-Novel/ff_end.html

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