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Full Marvel Read-Through - 50 Reviews In

Since May 6th I've written fifty reviews as part of my frankly impossible attempt to read and review every Marvel Universe comic from 1963 onwards. I figured I'd take a little time to summarise some of my thoughts thus far and pick out some high points.

Then vs Now

One of the best parts of the reading order I'm using is that it takes canonical ordering quite seriously meaning there are modern comics scattered amongst the many monthly issues of the sixties, especially around the birth of The Avengers. The contrast between story telling methods of the sixties tell all and moderns comics show all is fairly profound. Sixties comics take significantly longer to read and usually pack in a lot of story details, but they tell less story and are usually entirely bereft of character development. The focus is usually on building up the threat of the week until the hero beats them, month in and month out. It's a far cry from the events that modern readers are used to, but you see certain moments here and there that hint at the changes coming to comic book writing.

The Terrible Villains Of The Week

Is there anything worse than the terrible terrible villains that permeate Marvel during this period. Every month we are introduced to new villains and more than half the time they are utter garbage. Some of them are doomed concepts from the start, many of them have terrible motivations and some of their powers just make them seem like a joke. Here in no particular order are my top ten terrible villains:

  • The Mad Thinker
  • Radio-Active-Man
  • Asbestos Man
  • The Conquistador
  • Merlin
  • Wilhelm Von Vile (The Painter of A Thousand Perils)
  • The Red Ghost and The Super Apes
  • The Metal Master
  • Gargantus ( The Alien Hypnosis Robot )
  • The Eel

Different Times

Certain issues have presented very troubling depictions of minorities. One of the worst offenders Journey Into Mystery 93 contained borderline racist drawings of the Chinese and Thor made some very sweeping statements about Indians that made me feel really quite uncomfortable. Depictions of women are usually poor as well, especially Susan Storm who is very often cast as little more than a damsel in distress. Things have been improving somewhat on the Fantastic Four front but there is still work that needs to be done. I will say that The Wasp is one exception here as she has been key to important moments, both suggesting the formation of and naming The Avengers, and she rescues Ant-Man from trouble as often as he does her. Honestly it is this area that I hope to see the most improvement in, as more female characters are introduced and characters such as Black Panther arrive on the scene.

Three Of The Best

The Amazing Spider-Man #3 - Spider-Man Versus Doctor Octopus

The best issue of Amazing Spider-Man thus far introducing one of the most iconic and visually striking villains of the Marvel Universe. This was also the first issue that would hand Peter Parker a defeat that he would have to overcome to beat this dangerous foe.

Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & The Wasp

The biggest criticism I've regularly levelled at 1963 era Marvel comics is a lack of character development. Each story arc tends to play out in a single week and it is rare indeed that characters or their relationship's actually develop. That's why this modern retelling of the meeting of Ant-Man and The Wasp is so welcome. The writing is great and perfectly establishes why both heroes fight injustice and the many barriers that stand between them becoming an actual couple.

Strange Tales #112 - The Living Bomb!

This is the first comic I've come across from 1963 that attempts to explore a narrative theme; in this case that of sacrifice. Throughout Human Torch suffers as a result of his heroic activities and in the end he very nearly has to make the final sacrifice. It's a remarkably well told story for its time and is all done and old in a single issue.


It's been a good start to my Marvel read through, I've been enjoying the challenge of trying to write interesting reviews about each of the comics, especially as many of them adhere to a very basic template. I am relishing the improvements that will be made eventually, month to month character development, multi-issue arcs and better dialogue. But it's been fun finding the hidden gems in these very early comic books, and seeing the writers slowly shape all of these characters from their nascent forms into people possessing the powers and characterisations we recognise today.

Here's to fifty more reviews!


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