Marvel Master Reading Order
Welcome to the Marvel Master Reading Order. This is a reading order for all Marvel comics that are deemed important or are just enjoyable comics to read. Starting around 2004 and the Avengers Disassembled crossover this order becomes more comprehensive and includes all major comic series. Starting with the Marvel NOW! event the reading order includes all in-continuity Marvel comics.
Comics from the Golden and Silver Ages can be tough to read as the plots rely on staggering amounts of coincidence and the characters tend to hammer home their personality traits issue after issue. If you aren’t enjoying reading the earliest issues it is recommended you skip forward a bit, into the 70’s at least.
First appearances are marked by the earliest issue the character appeared in, not necessarily their earliest chronological appearance.
Issues: Thor: Son of Asgard #1 to Astonishing Tales #13
Years: 1961-1972 (plus many later series that take place near the beginning of the Marvel timeline)
First Appearances: Abomination, AIM, Alex Summers, Angel, Annihilus, Asgardians, Banshee, Beast, Betty Ross, Black Bolt, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, Cyclops, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, Doctor Strange, Dormammu, Ego the Living Planet, Electro, Enchantress, Eternity, Falcon, Fantastic Four, Flash Thompson, Galactus, General Ross, Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy, High Evolutionary, Harry Osborne, Hulk, Iceman, Inhumans, Iron Man, J. Jonah Jameson, Jane Foster, Jean Grey, Kingpin, Kraven the Hunter, the Kree, The Leader, Living Laser, Living Tribunal, The Lizard, Loki, Magneto, Man-Thing, Mary Jane Watson, Morbius, Mysterio, Professor X, Rhino, Rick Jones, S.H.I.E.L.D., The Sandman, Shocker, Sif, Silver Surfer, Sinister Six, Skrulls, Super-Skrull, Surtur, Thor, Uatu the Watcher, Ultron, Vision, The Vulture, Yellowjacket
Containing by far the most first appearances of significant characters of any Marvel era. You will see how the biggest superheroes in the Marvel Universe received their superpowers and witness the foundation that decades of comics will be built on. Witness the formation of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Avengers. Like most Silver Age comics there are numerous guest appearances but few actual crossovers. The beginning of the reading order features numerous limited series that take place chronologically before, as well as during, the earliest published Marvel comics.
Issues: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 to Rom #24
Events: Avengers/Defenders War
First Appearances: Alpha Flight, Arcade, Arnim Zola, Black Cat, Cassie Lang, Colossus, Dazzler, Elektra, Emma Frost, Gamora, Ghost Rider, Heroes for Hire, Howard the Duck, Illyana Rasputin, In-Betweener, Iron Fist, James Rhodes, Kitty Pryde, Korvac, Luke Cage, Machine Man, Mariko, Nightcrawler, Nova, The Punisher, Pyro, Rachel Summers, Rogue, Sabretooth, Scarlet Spider, Scott Lang, Storm, Taskmaster, Wolverine
Containing the second most first appearances of significant characters, we see the introduction of some extremely popular heroes, especially among the X-Men. We also see the first significant crossover when the Avengers battle the Defenders. This part of the reading order also contains some of the most popular X-Men storylines of all time; the Phoenix Saga, Dark Phoenix Saga, and Days of Future Past.
Issues: Moon Knight #1 to Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21
Here we see the birth of large scale crossover events. Contest of Champions is Marvel’s first Limited Series and serves as a sort of prototype for the line-wide crossovers to follow. The original Secret Wars event is wildly successful and its less successful sequel comes out a year later. The X-Men line expands with the introduction of X-Factor and the New Mutants. The popular villain Apocalypse is introduced and we see the beginnings of the symbiote that will go one to become Venom.
Issues: Avengers #267 to Mys-Tech Wars #4
Events: Kraven’s Last Hunt, Fall of the Mutants, Evolutionary War, Inferno, Atlantis Attacks, Acts of Vengeance, Days of Future Present, X-Tinction Agenda, Muir Island Saga, Infinity Gauntlet, Operation: Galactic Storm, Infinity War, Dead Man’s Hand, Rise of the Midnight Sons, X-Cutioner’s Song
Now we really see the crossover events swing into high gear. The Infinity Gauntlet event takes place, one of the greatest comic events ever. Venom, Gambit, and the mutant group X-Force are introduced and prove to be immensely popular. In the comic book business the speculator market is in full swing but its end is already in sight.
Issues: Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #48 to X-Men Unlimited #24
Events: For Love Nor Money, Maximum Carnage, Infinity Crusade, Fatal Attractions, Bloodties, Marvel 2099, Midnight Massacre, Road to Vengeance: Missing Link, Siege of Darkness, Child’s Play, Time and Time Again, Phalanx Covenant, Countdown, Age of Apocalypse, Second Clone Saga, Over the Edge, Onslaught Saga, Operation: Zero Tolerance, Heroes Reborn, Spider-Man: Identity Crisis, MC2, Eighth Day, The Hunt for Xavier, Magneto War
The 90’s “Dark Age of Comics” is in full swing. If you are a fan of pouches you are in luck. We see the seminal X-Men event Age of Apocalypse as well as the will-it-every-end Spider-Man event Second Clone Saga. The first of several Marvel Alternate Universes are printed in this era; the futuristic Marvel 2099 and the MC2 universe, which mainly featured Spider-Girl. Near the end of this section we see many of the most popular and long-running Marvel series relaunched with new #1 issues that will serve as a good jumping on point for new readers. In the comic business world the market crashes and the industry is devastated.
Issues: Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #1 to Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 #14
Here we see the start of Grant Morrison’s work on the X-Men with New X-Men #114 which can be seen as the start of the “Modern Age of Marvel” and serves as an excellent point to begin reading Marvel comics as it forms the basis for the X-Men moving forward and the beginning of the modern mega events is just around the corner.
Issues: Fantastic Four Vol. 3 #60 to Mary Jane Loves Spider-Man #24
The era of Marvel mega events starts here with the Avengers Disassembled event and the beginning of the New Avengers series. Following that we have House of M which will have repercussions through the various X-Men books for years to come. Garth Ennis’ fantastic run on Punisher continues with Punisher Vol. 6 under the MAX imprint.
Issues: Araña: Heart of the Spider #1 to Punisher War Journal Vol. 2 #26
Events: Civil War, One More Day, Planet Hulk, The Initiative, World War Hulk, Annihilation, X-Men: Endangered Species, X-Men: Messiah Complex, X-Men: Divided We Stand, X-Men: Manifest Destiny, X-Men: Original Sin, Messiah War, Annihilation: Conquest, Secret Invasion
First Appearances: Agents of Atlas, Hope Summers, Lyra, Red Hulk, Skaar
Start off with Civil War, one of the biggest Marvel events ever, and follow that with the excellent Planet Hulk and Annihilation events, a string of X-Men events, the Wolverine storyline Old Man Logan, and then finish it all off with the massive Secret Invasion event and you have a packed reading order. Unfortunately One More Day also takes place during this time.
Issues: Ghost Rider Vol. 6 #33 to Generation Hope #9
Events: War of Kings, Dark Reign, Utopia, X-Men: Nation X, Necrosha, Siege, Realm of Kings, The Thanos Imperative, Fall of the Hulks, World War Hulks, X-Men: Second Coming, Heroic Age, Shadowland, Curse of the Mutants, Wolverine Goes to Hell, Chaos War, Age of X
First Appearances: Red She-Hulk
The tightly packed events continue. The cosmic saga of Marvel, which is one of the highlights of recent Marvel history, continues with War of Kings, Realm of Kings, and The Thanos Imperative. The status quo after Secret Invasion is explored in the 300!? issue Dark Reign era. Siege marks the culmination of events that started with Avengers Disassembled.
Issues: Herc #1 to Secret Wars Too #1
Events: Fear Itself, Shattered Heroes, X-Men: Schism, X-Men: Regenesis, Spider-Island, Avengers vs. X-Men, Minimum Carnage, X-Termination, Age of Ultron, Infinity, Inhumanity, Battle of the Atom, The Trial of Jean Grey, Goblin Nation, Original Sin, Death of Wolverine, Avengers & X-Men: AXIS, Spider-Verse, The Black Vortex, Secret Wars (2015)
First Appearances: Angela, Kamala Khan, Silk, Spider-Gwen
The final part of the reading order sees the X-Men split apart and then battle the Avengers. In 2012 Marvel NOW! starts and provides an excellent starting point for readers new to Marvel comics. Years of storylines culminate in the Secret Wars (2015) event which makes way for an All-New All-Different Marvel.