To be more accurate it is the history of Timely, Atlas and Marvel Comics. It's a solid, well illustrated month by month history of the key moments that made Marvel Comics what they are today. It comes inside a hard storage box illustrated with Marvel characters from across the ages, a couple of smaller copies of the artwork one in b&w and one in full colour are in a pouch inside the box as nice extras.
As a Marvel fan from the mid 1960's to late 1970's I was around to read some of the greatest issues of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Avengers, Thor, Defenders and many more as they came out as well as the black & white magazine titles like Dracula Lives and Monsters Unleashed.
I have started catching up on many of the stories I missed with reprints and this book filled in lots of the gaps that I was missing.
The early years from its creation by Martin Goodman in 1939 up to 1960 are covered largely by a couple of pages for each year. This still manages to show how many super-hero, horror, romance, war and western titles they published and how quick they were to change themes and title names in mid-stream and how outside distribution changes affected them.
1961 saw Stan Lee and Jack Kirby create the Fantastic Four and the rest is history. From the fertile mind of Stan Lee came The Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron-Man, The Avengers, X-Men and many more, illustrated with artwork from Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Everett, Colan etc. From 1961 onward each years gets 4 or 6 pages depending on the events of that year and familiar names start to appear Roy Thomas, Sal and John Buscema, John Romita senior and junior, Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont, Barry Windsor-Smith, Gil Kane, Ross Andru, Herb Trimpe, John Byrne, Frank Robbins and countless others, it would be futile to try to name them all but together they produced many memorable tales that have stayed with me over the decades.
This volume takes us from the early stand alone tales to Team-Ups and title crossovers, from the Kree-Skrull War to major epics that cut across many titles like the recent Civil War and Secret Invasion. There have been tales that changed comic history, deaths and re-births, marriages and divorces and even crossovers with rival DC Comics. There were arguments over the comics code authority's restrictions, titles that failed some miserably so; TV shows, movies and financial issues, and there were decisions made that many fans disliked and major characters have been killed off, none more so than the original Captain America who was killed last year.
Only two minor points, the first black character to star in his own title was Luke Cage and not The Black Panther and some of the writing printed over coloured panels could have been made clearer but certainly does not detract from the book's impact as a whole.
Throughout it all the words of Stan Lee in the introduction ring through as Marvel's mission statement "Everything we've done has been for just one purpose-to guarantee you hours of reading enjoyment" and it certainly has.
Happy 70th Birthday Marvel...Excelsior!