There are just about as many ways to read Marvel comics as there are comics. Currently, there are 235 established Marvel reading orders (and five bonus alternate universe series as well) depending on if you’re reading through in event order or character order. While there is no way we can cover all of your options on where to start reading Marvel comics, the goal here is to narrow down a reading path. We go through three possible options for reading paths in this piece, though it’s important to know there are tons more.
Note: Due to the a dearth of comics on this topic by authors of color and women, some of these lists lack diversity.
Option 1: Reading the Familiar Characters
If you are interested in reading about the characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the X-Men movies, you can find all of these beloved characters in the comic run Ultimate Marvel Universe. Below are the first five comics for that run.
Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
Ultimate X-Men by Mark Millar and Adam Kubert
The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
Ultimate Galactus Trilogy by Warren Ellis, Trevor Hairsine, and Steve Epting
Ultimate Doomsday Trilogy by Brian Michael Bendis and Rafa Sandoval
Option 2: Picking an Event to follow
Another way to read the comics is by picking some big events and powerful Marvel characters in the comics that you have always wanted to read about. If you want to read comics that follow events that take place in the MCU there are several to choose from; the big three are Civil War, The Secret Invasion, and the Infinity Gauntlet.
Road to Civil War
If you want to read the Civil War Event storyline, the first six in the series are all called Road to Civil War and are:
Amazing Spider-man(1999) #529 by J.Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney
Amazing Spider-Man(1999) #530 by J. Michael Straczynski, Tyler Kirkham
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #531 by J.Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney
Fantastic Four (1998) #536 by Stan Lee, Michael Mckone, and Jim Calafiore
Fantastic Four (1998) #537 by Stan Lee, Michael Mckone, and Jim Calafiore
The New Avengers Illuminati (2006) by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev
From this point on, most of the comics are called Civil War even as they pass through the Avengers, X-men, and individual heroes.
If you are interested in reading more about the Skrulls and the Secret Invasion, here are the first five comics in the event.
Secret Invasion #1 by Brian Michael Bendis
Secret Invasion: Home Invasion #1 by Ivan Brandon
Mighty Avengers (2007 series) #12 by Brian Michael Bendis
New Avengers (2004 series) #40 by Brian Michael Bendis
Secret Invasion #2 by Brian Michael Bendis
Note: There are some comics leading up to the event, but they are by no means required reading for the event itself.
And if you are interested in reading more about Thanos, and the infinity stones, you can read the Infinity Gauntlet Event. Similar to Civil War, the first comics are a prelude to the main event.
New Avengers (2013) #7 by Jonathan Hickman
Avengers (2012) #14 by Jonathan Hickman
Avengers (2012) #15 by Jonathan Hickman
Avengers (2012) #16 by Jonathan Hickman
Avengers (2012) #17 by Jonathan Hickman
From that point on all most comics in the event are called Infinity.
Option 3: Reading a Specific Character
If you are more interested in focusing on specific characters, there are tons of different paths. If you are reading comics for the first time I recommend getting a hold of collections of the character you choose. Here are some good ones if you want to learn more about some of the characters we will meet in the next phase of the MCU.
She-hulk by Javier Pulido, Ron Wimberly, and Jason Masters
“Writer Charles Soule brings his legal expertise to Jennifer Walters, attorney-at-law — AKA the sensational She-Hulk! With a solo law practice, a new paralegal who is far more than she seems, and a mounting number of personal enemies, Jen might have bitten off more than she can chew! Especially with clients like Kristoff Vernard, son of Doctor Doom — and Captain America himself! Meanwhile, She-Hulk and Hellcat must uncover the deeply buried conspiracy found in the mysterious Blue File! And when someone important to Jen is killed, she won’t let it stand – but who can she trust? Giant-Man lends a big hand – and Jennifer Walters takes on Matt Murdock in the Marvel trial of the century! Plus: Titania! Deadpool! And will She-Hulk’s holiday party spell the end of her practice?”
Hawkeye by David Aja, Javier Pulido, and Matt Fraction
“The breakout star of this summer’s blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton — AKA the self-made hero Hawkeye — fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he’s out to prove himself as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence – before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. You won’t believe what is on The Tape! What is the Vagabond Code? Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe…and the darkest parts of Hawkeye’s mind. Barton and Bishop mean double the Hawkeye and double the trouble…and stealing from the rich never looked so good.”
Eternals by Neil Gaiman
“During the 1970s, comics legend Jack ‘King’ Kirby returned to the House of Ideas with perhaps his biggest idea of all: the universe of the Eternals! Their creation was the result of Kirby’s ceaseless curiosity about the origin of man and his mythologies — but like many of the King’s concepts, it was definitely ahead of its time. Flash forward to 2006: Superstar creators Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. have boldly taken on these concepts with a loving hand, in the process telling a fresh and crackling fun yarn full of mystery, suspense, and majestic power — all with an eye on helping establish Kirby’s creations as a vital part of the Marvel Universe once and for all. Against the backdrop of Marvel’s Civil War, the Eternals are awakening one by one from a strange, waking dream, at once coming to terms with the fact that they are far more than the normal people they have thought themselves to be. They find there is little time to commiserate about such things, however, as they are thrust into a life and death struggle that spans both time and space!”
Shang-Chi by Gene Yang, Dike Ruan, and Philip Tan
“THE MASTER RETURNS! An ancient and evil secret society has stayed in hiding since the death of their leader, Zheng Zhu. But now his successor has been chosen to shift the balance of power in the world…Zheng Zhu’s son, Shang-Chi! Witness the Marvel Universe’s greatest fighter return to a world of death and destruction he thought he left behind long ago…and discover the secrets to Shang-Chi’s past that will change his world forever Don’t miss out on this epic tale of family, betrayal, and justice as the incredible team of Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese), Dike Ruan (SPIDER-VERSE, BLACK CAT) and Philip Tan (UNCANNY X-MEN) launch a new chapter in the legend of Shang-Chi!”
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
“Marvel Comics presents the all-new Ms. Marvel, the groundbreaking heroine that has become an international sensation! Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! As Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to handle? Kamala has no idea either. But she’s comin’ for you, New York! It’s history in the making from acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo) and beloved artist Adrian Alphona (Runaways)!”
From looking at these lists, I know that reading comics can be intimidating, but once you pick a path to read through everything kind of falls into place. The best advice I can give you is to not think of reading order in comics the same way you would think of reading order for a book series. Events and characters guest star and pop up across tons of comics, and it can be hard to keep track of. There are about a million and a half lists out there to help you with whatever reading order you want. You got this.