Best handbook to date
A few years back, Marvel had begun releasing the new handbooks with a handy scale of 1 to 10 rating the heroes. Not bad for an update, but if you really want to know the powers of Thor's hammer, the details on how Ant-Man's helmet works, the mechanics behind Quin Jet, then check out this book. The first version, published in 1984, missed some of the primary heroes and villains. The deluxe version gives a detailed account of the heroes history, abilities, powers, weaknesses, and even a detailed view of their weapons or gear. Keep in mind, this version, which came out over 20 years ago, is outdated. Thantos, Bucky, the original Green Goblin, and others are among the many in the last 3 books (books of the dead) who have come back in recent years. These books cover just before the marriage of Johnny Storm and Alicia Masters (I know, the skrull). It is a great reference guide for any collector. I've seen in local book stores, that it's been reprinted in a black and white format.
The only problem with the series is, for those who are into details, the first appearances only start with the silver age. Where as Captain America's first "modern" apperance is listed as Avengers issue 4 instead of Captain America issue 1. The british books are all but ignored, but still, a great reference for fans.