When most Marvel readers nowadays talk about Marvel Cosmic, they tend to focus on the creative explosion starting with Annihilation in the mid-2000’s extending through the Thanos Imperative and Annihilators around 2010.
There’s ample reason for this focus – the period generated several of my favorite Marvel Comics of the 2000’s, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova – but it should come as little surprise that Marvel’s Cosmic universe extends all the way back to Fantastic Four #2 in 1963!
Below you’ll find a mega Marvel Cosmic guide, from the origins of the Skrulls through more recent events like Infinity and the 2017 solo Thanos series. I would highly recommend readers (new, lapsed, or long-time) use Marvel Unlimited for the older issues, especially if the stories aren’t collected in their old trades. I’ll link to where you can find copies of these comics below, but MU is the cheaper digital option for most.
If you have questions or feedback, do what feels right to you in the comments below, or let me hear about it @ComicBookHerald on Twitter. Otherwise, enjoy the comics!
Related Reading Orders:
Marvel Cosmic All Time Reading Order
The Origins of Marvel Cosmic
Issues: Fantastic Four #2, #37
The coming of the Skrulls! Note that Fantastic Four #37 is available in later Masterworks volumes (or, of course, Marvel Unlimited) and shows the Fantastic Four actually visiting a planet of Skrulls.
Issues: Strange Tales #130 To #141, #146
Steve Ditko and Stan Lee with Dr. Strange in “The Search for Eternity!”
Issues: Fantastic Four #48 To #50, Fantastic Four #57 To #60
Jack Kirby and Stan Lee with “The Coming of Galactus.” These three issues (really two and a half) define so much of Marvel Comics to come, and introduce cosmic characters like Galactus and the Silver Surfer, along with the biggest Watcher appearance of all time! Then, in FF #57 to #60, it’s Doctor Doom vs. the Silver Surfer in one of my favorite Lee and Kirby productions.
Issues: Thor #131 To #133
Thor meets a Recorder and Ego the Living Planet!
Issues: Silver Surfer #1 To #18
Silver Surfer gets his own, relatively short lived solo series from Stan Lee and John Buscema. He is Shakespearean and mopey as heck.
Issues: Fantastic Four #62 To #63, #65 + Annual #5 & #6
Reed in the Negative Zone, where he meets Blastaar for the first time. In Fantastic Four Annual #5 Ronan the Accuser makes his debut in Fantastic Four! In Fantastic Four Annual #6 Annihilus makes his official comics debut and turns out he’s great with kids.
Issues: Tales To Astonish, Incredible Hulk – #101 To #102
A Hulk in Asgard
Issues: Avengers #51
“In the Clutches of… The Collector!”
Issues: Thor #160 To #162, #168 To #169
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Thor, Galactus and Ego the Living Planet walk into a bar…
Issues: Marvel Super-Heroes #12 To #13, Captian Marvel #1 To #21
The Kree-born Mar-vell launches the first solo Marvel Cosmic series, largely penned by Roy Thomas.
Issues: Marvel Super-Heroes #18
Classic Guardians of the Galaxy origin. Earth shall overcome!
Issues: Fantastic Four #110
A negative zone Annihilus story
Issues: Avengers #89 To #97
Roy Thomas and Neal Adams with an all-time classic Avengers event: The Kree vs. Skrull war.
Issues: Marvel Premiere #1 To #2, Warlock #1 To #8, Incredible Hulk #176 To #178
The original Adam Warlock comics before Jim Starlin made Warlock the “good” centerpience in his Marvel Cosmic epic.
Issues: Fantastic Four #122 To #123
Issues: Iron Man #55, Captain Marvel #26 To #32, Avengers #125, Captain Marvel #33
The Jim Starlin 70’s Marvel Cosmic era takes off, and defines much of what’s to come. Iron Man #55 is the official first appearance of Thanos and Drax the Destroyer, and Captain Marvel reaches new heights, crossing over with the Avengers in a quest to stop Thanos with a cosmic cube.
Issues: Thor #226 To #228
So Thor, Firelord, and Galactus walk into Starlin’s…
Issues: Giant-Size Defenders #3
Defenders vs. Grandmaster
Enter Thanos and the Phoenix Saga!
Issues: Strange Tales #178 To #181, Warlock #9 To #15, Marvel Team-Up #55, Avengers Annual #7, Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2
Starlin’s Warlock War and The Magus begin, concludes with Thanos vs. the Avengers!
Issues: Nova #1 To #26
Debut of Nova in 1976
Issues: Uncanny X-Men #98 To #108
Issues: Eternals #1 To #19
Jack Kirby’s limited series introduces Eternals and more importantly, Celestials
Issues: Ms. Marvel #1
Carol Danvers cosmic powerset origins.
Issues: Marvel Preview #11
True origins of Star-Lord
Issues: Avengers #170 To #177
The Korvac Saga as Avengers team with original Guardians of the Galaxy
Issues: Marvel Two-In-One #53 To #58
Project Pegasus narrative introduces Quasar
Issues: Fantastic Four #210 To #213
Fighting Galactus in space, the Fantastic Four story.
The Dark Phoenix Saga & Original Secret Wars!
Issues: Uncanny X-Men #129 To #137
Dark Phoenix Saga
Issues: Thor #314
Thor fights Drax.
Issues: The Contest #1 To #4
Marvel’s 1982 event, Contest of Champions, starring the Grandmaster.
Jim Starlin’s “The Death of Captain Marvel” is Marvel’s first original graphic novel from the 80’s and concludes the Captain Marvel saga Starlin began back in 1973.
Issues: Uncanny X-Men #160 To #167
The alien Brood saga.
Issues: Fantastic Four #251 To #255, Avengers #233, Fantastic Four #256, Fantastic Four #257 To #260
The Annihilation Gambit, then “The Trial of Reed Ricards” in space!
Issues: Thor #337 To #339
Walt Simonson starts his Thor run with Beta Ray Bill! The entire Simonson Thor run is essential Marvel reading.
Issues: Secret Wars #1 To #12
I AM FROM… BEYOND!
Issues: Rocket Raccoon #1 To #4
The 1985 half-world Rocket origins by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy!)
Issues: Avengers #263, Fantastic Four #286
Return of the Phoenix
Rebirth of Thanos & 90’s Guardians of the Galaxy!
Issues: New Universe Star Brand #1 To #3
Marvel’s 1986 ‘New Universe’
Issues: Silver Surfer #1 To #14
Issues: Silver Surfer: Parable #1 To #2
Stan Lee teams up with art legend Moebius for this elseworlds style battle between Silver Surfer and Galactus.
Issues: Avengers #255 To #261
The legacy of Thanos!
Issues: Avengers #295 To #297
Kross Time Kangs by Walt Simonson, with a healthy helping of Nebula.
Issues: Fantastic Four #318 To #319
Unofficially known as Secret Wars III
Issues: Quasar 1-9; Material From Avengers Annual 18, Marvel Comics Presents (1988) 29
1989 series launch for Wendell Vaughn.
Issues: Silver Surfer: Homecoming
OGN by Jim Starlin.
Issues: Silver Surfer #34 To #38, Thanos Quest #1 To #2
Starlin’s back, baby! Quite likely my favorite Thanos comics ever.
Issues: Guardians Of The Galaxy (1990) 1-29, Annual 1-2; Marvel Super-Heroes (1967) 18; Material From Fantastic Four Annual 24, Thor Annual 16, Silver Surfer Annual 4
1990 new series launch for the classic Guardians roster.
Jim Starlin & Ron Lim’s 1990’s Infinity Trilogy!
Issues: Infinity Gauntlet
Still the standard bearer for universe-wide cosmic events.
You can quite comfortably keep your reading to the core six event issues of Infinity Gauntlet, but if you want all the tie-ins (Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange particularly add to the narrative), I have an Infinity Gauntlet reading order here.
Issues: Infinity Gauntlet Aftermath
Warlock and the Infinity Watch begins here.
Issues: Avengers: Galactic Storm
1992 mega crossover event
Issues: Infinity War
Again, if you want all the tie-ins for Infinity War, I’ve listed out a reading order on the Thanos comics guide page.
Issues: Infinity War Aftermath
Issues: Infinity Crusade Vol. 1 + Vol. 2
Issues: Warlock And The Infinity Watch #1 To #22.
Issues: Thor #468 To #471, Silver Surfer #86 To #88, Warlock Chronicles #6 To #8, Warlock And The Infinity Watch #23 To #25
And the order is:
Silver Surfer #86
Warlock Chronicles #6
Warlock and the Infinity Watch #23
Silver Surfer #87
Warlock Chronicles #7
Warlock and the Infinity Warch #24
Silver Surfer #88
Warlock Chronicles #8
Warlock and the Infinity Watch #25
Issues: Warlock And The Infinity Watch #26 To #42
Marvel Cosmic in the Mid-90’s through Early 2000’s
Issues: Uncanny X-Men #316, X-Men #36, Uxm #317, X-Men #37
The mini X-crossover ultimately leads to the start of the 90’s Generation X.
Issues: Secret Defenders #12 To #14, Cosmic Powers #1 To #6
Issues: Starjammers #1 To #4
Corsair and crew get their own space pirate miniseries (1995).
Issues: Skrull Kill Krew #1 To #5
Morrison and Millar 1995 miniseries taking Fantastic Four #2 to its fast food conclusion.
Issues: Galactus: The Devourer #1 To #6
Louise Simonson limited series
Issues: Marvel Boy #1 To #6
Grant Morrison and JG Jones miniseries introducing new Kree hero.
Issues: Captain Marvel #1 To #35, Captain Marvel #1 To #25
Peter David’s 2000 to 2004 era. I’ve written in detail how to navigate the series in trades and on Marvel Unlimited.
Issues: Fantastic Four (1998) #46-50, Fantastic Four Annual 2001
A veritable who’s who of cosmic cameos, including Moondragon, Quasar, Captain Marvel, the Watcher, and of course, Galactus.
Issues: Inhumans #1-4 And Fantastic Four #51-54
Pegged as an Annihilation prelude by Marvel retroactive marketing, the Inhumans take to space and do help set the stage for some of the developments of the later War of Kings event.
Early 2000’s take on a Marvel Cosmic event.
Issues: Thor #18 To #25
Thanos vs. Thor and a story so unacceptable to my love for the Mad Titan that I wrote a headline implying it made me cry (bah! Tears are for the weak!).
Jim Starlin Returns to Thanos & Drax Reinvented!
Issues: Infinity Abyss #1 to #6
Jim Starlin’s 2000’s return to Thanos and Adam Warlock, and his savage retcon of basically any use of Thanos that he didn’t author.
Issues: Fantastic Four #519 To #523
Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo bring you that time Johnny Storm was a herald of Galactus.
Issues: Marvel Universe: The End #1 to #6
Since the Infinity Gauntlet only wiped out half the Marvel Universe (half!), Starlin goes for it all with Thanos in “The End.”
Issues: Thanos #1 To #12
Thanos first ongoing solo series, as the all-time great Marvel villain seeks some sense of purpose.
Issues: Warlock #1 To #4
Warlock by Pak and Adlard
Issues: X-Men: Phoenix -Endsong 1-5, X-Men: Phoenix – Warsong 1-5
What happens to the Phoenix force when Jean Grey isn’t around?
Issues: Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill #1-6
You’re going to want to read the Beta Ray Bill saga after the events of Thor: Disassembled.
Issues: Drax The Destroyer #1 To #4
Miniseries redefining Drax the Destroyer for the 2000’s.
Annihilation Through Annihilators
Modern Marvel Cosmic
For the full guide to the 2004 to 2011 run of “modern” Marvel Cosmic, you can check out my original Comic Book Herald guide.
Otherwise, the general flow of events, with complete reading orders linked, is as follows:
Nova by Abnett & Lanning starts here
Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning starts here
Issues: New Avengers: Illuminati #1 To #4
Not purely cosmic, but the Illuminati (a who’s who of Marvel power players composed of Black Bolt, Professor X, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Reed Richards and Namor) deal with the likes of infinity gems, Beyonders, and Skrulls. It’s almost entirely cosmic.
Greg Pak brings the Hulk to space and introduces a whole new realm of hugely important Marvel Cosmic players.
Issues: New Avengers: Illuminati #5
Finishing the Bendis and Cheung Illuminati sets up the next mega Marvel event…
Issues: Secret Invasion reading order.
Marvel’s 2007 to 2008 mega event.
Issues: Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #1-3 and Secret Invasion Aftermath: Beta Ray Bill
Issues: X-Men Deadly Genesis #1 to #6, Uncanny X-Men #475 to #486
The previous two trades will help explain Emperor Vulcan, while the latter two trades will help explain the state of the Inhumans. Not required reading, but a good bit of “what the heck’s going on here?” history setting up War of Kings.
Issues: SWORD #1 to #5
S.W.O.R.D is an incredibly underrated miniseries from Kieron Gillen and Steve Sanders, giving the extraterrestial agency introduced during Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men it’s own solo narrative.
Issues: Silver Surfer: Requiem #1 To #4
Out of continuity, beautiful look at the Silver Surfer’s last days.
Issues: Annihilators #1 To #4, Annihilators: Earthfall #1 To #4
The Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning cosmic era officially concludes with their boss-level team-up between the likes of Silver Surfer, Ronan the Accuser, Beta Ray Bill, and Gladiator.
Issues: Tales To Astonish (1959) 13 (Groot Story ), Incredible Hulk (1968) 271, Rocket Raccoon 1-4, Marvel Preview 7 (Sword In The Star Story ), Annihilators 1-4 (Rocket Raccoon & Groot Stories ), Annihilators : Earthfall 1-4 (Rocket Raccoon & Groot Stories )
AvX through Marvel NOW! Cosmic
For readers particularly interested in the Marvel NOW! era of Marvel Comics, I’d recommend the complete Comic Book Herald guide to Marvel NOW!, which includes sections specifically for cosmic books.
Issues: Avengers Vs. X-Men reading order
The Phoenix Force returns and splits the Avengers and X-Men into warring factions.
Issues: Thanos Rising
In my humble moderate opinion, the worst Thanos comic ever conceived.
Issues: Iron Man #1 To #11
Kieron Gillen’s Marvel NOW! run on Iron Man takes ol’ Tony to space!
Issues: Marvel Now! Nova
Jeph Loeb launches an all-new Nova for Marvel NOW! in the distant wake of Thanos Imperative.
Issues: Thor: God Of Thunder #1 To #25
Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: GoT is one of my absolute favorite Marvel NOW! runs, and it invents new cosmic aspects of the Marvel Universe at nearly every turn. Highly recommended.
Issues: Fantastic Four (2012) 1-16, 5Au ; Ff (2012) 1-16; Marvel Now! Point One 1
The Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley run is semi-underrated (albeit entirely inferior to the Fraction and Allred simultaneous FF) and mostly occurs in space.
Issues: Hunger #1 To #4
While Age of Ultron is not necessarily a cosmic event, its timey-wimey narrative does lead to this epilogue series with the one and only world devourer, Galactus!
Hickman’s Infinity through Guardians / X-Men in The Black Vortex
Issues: Infinity reading order
God Emperor Jonathan Hickman takes on Starlin’s Thanos/Infinity mantle and somehow wields the power with sufficient control and skill. In all honesty, Infinity will really only make sense if you read the entire Hickman Avengers run to this point, and it’s quite cosmic (and awesome) in its own right.
Issues: Thanos: A God Up There
Quality digital exclusive follow-up to Thanos’ role in Infinity.
Issues: Guardians Of The Galaxy 11-13, All-New X-Men 22-24
The Trial of Jean Grey
Issues: Original Sin reading order
Biggest developments for Uatu the Watcher since 1966.
Issues: Rocket Raccoon 1-6
Issues: Rocket Raccoon 7-11
Issues: Captain Marvel #1 To #15
Carol Danvers makes her way to space before joining up with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Issues: Groot #1 To #6, Rocket Raccoon #1 To #11
Issues: Legendary Star-Lord 1-5
Jim Starlin Returns For A New Thanos Infinity Saga
Issues: Thanos Annual #1
Issues: Deadpool Vs. Thanos #1 to #4
Deadpool and Thanos throwdown (well mostly, Thanos throws Deadpool down) for the love of Lady Death.
Issues: The Infinity Revelation OGN
Issues: Thanos Vs. Hulk #1 To #4
Issues: The Infinity Relativity OGN
Issues: The Infinity Entity
Issues: The Infinity Finale
The End of Marvel NOW! & Secret Wars (2015)
Issues: Silver Surfer #1 To #14
Dan Slott and Mike Allred Run (last days tie-ins)
Issues: Avengers 35-44, New Avengers 24-33
Time Runs Out! Here’s the Hickman reading order as I’ve laid out elsewhere:
Avengers #34.1, #34.2, #35
New Avengers #24
New Avengers #25
New Avengers #26
New Avengers #27
New Avengers #28
New Avengers #29
New Avengers #30
New Avengers #31
New Avengers #32
New Avengers #33
Issues: Secret Wars (2015) reading order
Man, I love me some Secret Wars. I’ve listed out the most cosmic tie-ins below as well.
All-New All-Different Marvel Cosmic
Issues: Contest Of Champions #1 To #10
Forgettable but cosmic follow-up to Secret Wars (2015). Yes, it’s largely based on the Marvel mobile app (ugh).
Issues: All-New, All-Different Avengers 1-6
The first volume of Mark Waid’s All-New Avengers pits the team against cosmic threats.
Issues: Nova 1-6
Issues: Ultimates #1 To #12
Ultimates is my favorite Marvel Comic of 2016, and one of the best Marvel cosmic books in years, even through Civil War 2 tie-ins!
Issues: Rocket Raccoon & Groot #1 To #10
Issues: Gamora #1 To #5
Issues: Drax #1 To #11
Issues: Thanos #1 To #6
Issues: Nova 1-5
Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez team-up to tell a Richard Rider Nova story.
Issues: Star-Lord 1-6