Comic book universes are big. Really big. Hugely, mind-boggling, big no matter how well versed you are in their layouts and histories. There is no possible way any one person can keep track of every facet of a multiverse, let alone whatever the heck is happening by the second star on the right or inside that giant disembodied head half a galaxy over.
Never fear! Insight Editions has published a new entry in their Hidden Universe Travel Guide series which means you don’t even have to try!
I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when I pounced on (a free in exchange for an honest review copy of) Marc Sumerak’s Hidden Universe Travel Guides: The Complete Marvel Cosmos. It’s Marvel stuff so no brainer on my end. I love Marvel stuff. I also found the concept of a cosmic travel guide that wasn’t the Hitchhikers Guide intriguing. Also, Marvel stuff.
What I got is a really excellent breakdown of the locations and “historical” significances of the most important parts of the Marvel Cosmos, reminders of the connections between them, some excellent trivia, and annotations by the Guardians of the Galaxy which are absolutely, positively some of the funniest stuff I’ve read in a while. Fair point, I’m relatively easy to amuse, especially where talking raccoons and sentient trees are concerned, but Sumerak manages to capture each character’s voice, including Gamora’s dry wit, Drax’s literality, and Star Lord’s goofiness perfectly, personalizing what might otherwise be dry and distant for readers who aren’t already invested in the universe and keeping the information fresh for those who are.
Some of the entries, such as those focusing on Chitauri Prime and Knowhere, expand on elements introduced to less comic immersed folks via the MCU (the Chitauri are the aliens who invaded New York during the first Avengers film and Knowhere is the giant, floating space-head where the Guardians put in at one point; both have also featured prominently in the comics over the years).
Other entries detail locations such as Ego, the Kree Empire, K’un Lun, and Alpha Flight Space Station, which have also been important in comics for some time and are likely to be featured in upcoming films and Netflix projects, forming a sort of bridge between the two going forward which hasn’t existed in organized form in the past.
The entires in the “Earth” section help to provide a distribution map for various characters and the connections between them (Daredevil, Doctor Strange, T’Challa, and Doom are all denizens of the same planet, for example, but they each have their own corner in which they focus and work) and also helps explain the divide between the MCU and the Marvel Small Screen Universe, how they can be adjacent but separate even in the same city, and the ways in which they may cross paths in the future.
There’s also some super obscure stuff that will allow you to stun your friends with your Marvel Cosmos prowess or maybe win a trivia night of some sort.
I’m impressed by how up to date the guide is considering the lengthy process involved in bringing a print book to press; it includes stuff that happened in The Mighty Thor just a couple of months ago. Even allowing for the fact that comic arcs are laid out well in advance, meaning Sumerak would have had access to outlines if not to the issues themselves, the newer information is exceptionally well integrated with longer-standing histories in the pertinent entires.
A great book to grab for those of us who read enough comics to be confused, and equally useful for those just entering the Marvel Cosmos via the MCU, Hidden Universe Travel Guides: The Complete Marvel Cosmos will make an excellent addition to your reference library. And no, I’m not kidding. It’s about 97% kid-appropriate in terms of subject matter and art selection, with 2% Guardians innuendo that will probably skate right by younger kids but may ping the inappropriate radar of older kids and teens and 1% drawings of scary monsters, symbiotes, and the dark elf Malekith, who definitely creeps me out.
Hidden University Travel Guides: The Complete Marvel Cosmos by Marc Sumerak (Insight Editions) is scheduled for release on October 25th. Which should give you plenty of time to peruse before you go see Doctor Strange