All Of the Marvels by Douglas Wolk – A Book Review

As I strolled through the Normal Public Library, the above cover caught my eye primarily because of the little box in the corner depicting two heroic people, just like the comic books I enjoyed as a kid.

I picked it up, read the inside jacket, and–yep!–this book was written specifically for me.

With All Of the Marvels, Douglas Wolk, the author, took it upon himself to read every super hero comic book published by Marvel Comics. Every. Last. One.

We won’t get into the semantics as to how he did this, just accept the fact that he did. From there, Wolk breaks the book into categories dealing with prevalent themes. Some chapter titles include: “The Junction To Everywhere,” “The Mutant Metaphor,” and “The Iron Patriot Acts.” He also provides interesting interludes between chapters like “Diamonds Made of Sound,” “March, 1965,” and “Linda Carter.” Finally, the book finishes with an appendix zipping through Marvel’s overarching eras.

The truth is, the book gets off to a slow start because Wolk spends a lot of time setting the table, so to speak. About three chapters, if I’m not mistaken. However, once he actually dives into the comics and characters, the book flies. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Does Wolk address every single character and event that ever took place in Marvel Comics? No, that would be impossible to do in a work that you actually want people to read. But he finds captivating through lines, amazing coincidences, unintentional connections, and life-imitates-art moments. He also delves into the creators themselves with names such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, and Walter Simonson.

In a book around 350 pages, Wolk successfully provides a substantive, thorough, analytical overview of Marvel Comics history, and he does so in an engaging, informal way. For die-hard Marvel fans, this is a must-read. For those casually interested in Marvel, the comics medium, or expansive storytelling, you will also be greatly rewarded for your time. Needless to say, I highly recommend All Of the Marvels by Douglas Wolk.

Netflix’s The Sandman – A Few Thoughts

I had my doubts when news broke that Netflix would release a series featuring The Sandman. This particular piece of literary greatness has been the focus of many, many would-be screen adaptations over the years, and none quite reached fruition. Furthermore, of late, Netflix has not bolstered my confidence in its overall quality.

Honestly, even the trailers did not stir any excitement in me. I loved this comic book series, I love Neil Gaiman, and I really, really didn’t want The Sandman to flop. If the show proved terrible, I didn’t want people to assume the books are also terrible, and the creator is also terrible, and all of the people who have been devoted to Dream and his siblings are also terrible. I didn’t want Netflix to taint something so special to so many people.

Fortunately for everyone, The Sandman is absolutely fantastic.

I found myself hooked within the first fifteen minutes. And once that initial episode ended, I couldn’t wait for the next. I haven’t felt that enthusiastic for a show in quite awhile.

When I describe the show to people, I say it has a “mood,” which is one of the things I love most about it. Morpheus, the main character, also know as Dream, is not necessarily nice, but he is good. He is honorable. He is even royal. But he’s also stubborn, and sometimes off-putting, and very often passive aggressive. (Though he can certainly be active aggressive when necessary.) In other words, despite Morpheus’ stoicism, he’s always in a mood, and so the show is as well. (The exquisite soundtrack definitely assists with this.)

Netflix’s The Sandman encapsulates everything I loved most about the comic book series while modernizing elements both appropriately and to the show’s benefit. It truly found a way to stay loyal to the source material while also feeling fresh and in the “now.” The world is no longer the same as it was when the comic book came out, and I’m personally glad the show adapted accordingly. Of course, if you know anything at all about The Sandman’s creator, Neil Gaiman, this should come as no surprise.

I’ll admit that the last half of the season didn’t exhilarate me as much as the first, but know that the latter half laid the groundwork for numerous stories to come. Everything is important–everything is connected.

If you enjoy epic storylines full of mythology, literary references, high-brow concepts, good old fashioned horror, and a huge touch of magic, I highly recommend The Sandman.

Grit by Angela Duckworth – A Book Review

I first discovered research psychologist Angela Duckworth on a podcast called No Stupid Questions. During this podcast, Duckworth’s book, Grit, is often mentioned. I happen to thoroughly enjoy Duckworth’s personality and expertise, and so I finally got the book through my local library.

Grit explores, as the subtitle would suggest, the power of passion and perseverance. It dives into why some people simply have no quit in them. It spends time defining the quality, advising how to grow it from the inside out, and describing how some people grew it from the outside in.

It relies heavily on anecdotes with example after example after example. Like a lot of similar nonfiction, it perhaps overindulges in these narratives. For me, there always comes a point with these kinds of books where I say, “All right, already–I get it!” Of course, quitting a book called Grit would be embarrassing.

The best moments, as one would expect, arrive when Duckworth refers to research, data, and other psychologists. Furthermore, Duckworth also reveals quite a bit about her own story and the story of her family in relation to grit. I knew much of it already from the podcast, but I nonetheless found her candor refreshing. If anything, this aspect set her apart from other authors.

I absolutely found Grit inspiring. I also found it insightful in how to instill grit in one’s own children. While the page count was a bit too robust, the core of it proved fascinating. If this is a topic you find interesting, I highly recommend you give it a try.