Question of the Week: Is It More Enjoyable To Jump Around Or Read Whole Series In Order?

Thanks to Dillon this week for our question of the week:

Just wanted to say first, love your site and your guides! As a new reader it has been awesome! I
have a question though. More asking for an opinion I guess. I’ve been following your Marvel reading order and I’ve been enjoying it, but I was wondering. Do you think all the jumping around is as enjoyable as reading through a whole series in order? Just trying to figure out if I should read trough a whole series I enjoy it follow a chronological order!

As a comic book reader, I can identify a handful of favorite reading experiences, and they follow different patterns.

For example, one of my absolute favorite Marvel binge-reads was the first 123 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. I didn’t pause to absorb the exterior Ultimate Universe even once, and although I have since realized I love the Ultimate Universe, this was a fantastic way to read Ultimate Spider-Man.

ultimate-comics-spider-man-miles

On the other hand, I bought and loved just about every issue of Marvel’s 2015 Secret Wars, hopping from issue to issue, month to month, as if that was even a tenable approach to life.

I think part of the reason I enjoyed reading Ultimate Spider-Man so much without hopping around for the full universe experience is that creating barriers to reading a story inhibits the story.

When you take a fuller approach to reading the Ultimate Universe narrative, suddenly there are barriers. You have to click around the Marvel Unlimited app, you have to use a Comic Book Herald reading order (he’s a hack!), you have to read issues of Daredevil & Elektra that don’t really do anything to impact USM… the list goes on.

So, when I was reading Ultimate Spider-Man, and found myself clearly enjoying the story early on, I just cut out the barriers.

It’s a tradeoff, though. In plowing ahead with Ultimate Spider-Man, I knew I’d be creating confusing experiences for myself. Why is Magneto in prison during Ultimate Six? Why is Magneto… OH GOOD GOLLY ULTIMATUM WHY??!!!??!!

All new Magneto

Now this tradeoff is exacerbated when you move over to Earth-616 proper. There are simply a lot more comics, and a lot more stories and interactions to reference.

Generally speaking, when it comes to non-event comics, I prefer to read the series in chunks, alongside similar chunks of other series from the same time period. You’ll see most of the Comic Book Herald reading orders broken out this way.

It works for some readers, but personally I find it maddening to insist on hopping from issue to issue of differing narratives. Granted, this is just what comic book readers call visiting an LCS and reading monthly, but when you’re talking about accessing a library app like MU, it’s needlessly limiting.

The size of a story chunk is largely dependent on the creators and the narrative. You can read a LOT of Exiles comics in a row during the early 2000’s because the books don’t interact with the Marvel U as a whole particularly frequently. On the other hand, good luck making it through 10 issues of New Avengers without references to other books and event crossovers.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to each reader. If you find yourself immersed in the shared universe of Marvel, and the potential for interconnected storytelling, then I highly recommend you follow the reading orders and break up series as needed to get the full picture.

But if that begins to become tedious, find the comics you like and just barrel ahead like some kind of rhino with rusty brake pads. If you’re looking for some good comics for just such an occasion, I recommend my 100 favorite Marvel stories from 1998 to 2015.

I’d also recommend you check out my guide on starting with Marvel Comics in simple terms, which helps address similar questions about approaches to reading Marvel.

Most importantly, as always, enjoy the comics!

4 Replies to “Question of the Week: Is It More Enjoyable To Jump Around Or Read Whole Series In Order?”

  1. This is something I’ve thought a lot about. Especially since I started your modern Marvel reading order back in January (love it BTW!)

    I still haven’t decided which one i like better. I spent a little over a month reading the two Deadpool ongoings. Starting with Daniel Way’s series and not stopping till the end of Posehn Duggan run. I loved doing that. I every time i saw a character or event that I didn’t understand i just wikied it real quick and moved on.

    The problem is that a lot these series have such a drastic change in tone. It was hard going from New Avengers Cap to Brubaker Cap during Civil War. If i had any advice to give someone doing a reading order it would be to let the reader keep going with a series every single chance they could get.

    If i have to choose i’d say sticking to one series is my preferred way to read. I love getting the ebb & flow that an author can create during a longer run.

  2. I’d say that it just depends on the story, the characters involved, who is writing what, and what the event is (if and when there is an event). Basically: civil war was pretty much meant to be read with frontline. But going back to brubaker’s cap-winter soldier and following, I would say u need to read civil war and frontline as they are listed in order (on this site). However, if u haven’t read the first 20 brubaker comics, it’s pretty pointless to read the cap tie ins while reading civil war. Here’s where it gets tricky: it would be OK to read civil war, then years later jump back and read all of brubakers cap.

    Now jumping around in a cosmic opera like giffen abnett/lanning is totally absurd. They need to be read in absolute order. I would only give the giffen thanos story an exception that u could read it at anytime because it technically follows Starlins cosmic shit, with a touch of the shooter. (Ridiculous sounding comic nerd talk? Check). But of course it really is a set up for annihilation (my favorite event).

    It’s also about choosing what trumps what (no political puns) like if u love Dan abnett and u are reading civil war 2, you should just choose which u are in the mood for at the time (herc or the war). I don’t know about anybody else, but I have specific comics I like reading at specific times: I only read the annihilation stuff when I’m vacationing in Florida. 70s and 80s stuff I read out in the world, like when my kids playing at the park or whatever. For some reason I only read brubaker cap at the day spa/gym, either in the sauna, or when my son has swim lessons. Maybe I am just a crazy person.

    Of course what writers are doing events can be important or terrible. Case and point: bendis civil war 2 I like, bendis iron man tie ins I like, Bendis guarding

  3. Ugh, I sent that accidentally.

    Bendis guardians: here is someone obviously putting gotg on the back burner. Why even bother with them? Also groot looks so stupid, like a white dude snowboarder with dreads from the 90s combined with ET.

    On a grand scale: read infinity gauntlet before annihilation. Read crisis on infinite earths (probably Alan moore DC universe too) before diving into any of johns stuff, especially lantern related. Then, if u are seriously wanting to jump back, u have the entire starlin thanos/warlock/captain marvel 70s stuff. Or for the latter DC stuff u have silver age lantern stuff.

    I don’t know if this helps at all, but these are some important factors in how the development works IMO.

  4. I am used to jumping around.

    When I first got into comics it was a given that you’d jump around. I had some comics and my buddies had comics, we’d trade and pass them around. That’s how every one did it.

    I would buy ASM and FF, my brother bought PPSSM, my best friend had Avengers and Iron Man, another buddy liked Marvel Two-in-One and The Hulk, etc. We all bought intermittent issues of Marvel Tales, Marvels Greatest Comics, Triple Action and the other reprints. We would pass around the issues as we bought them week by week, then as a story reached fruition we would gather up the whole set and re-read and exchange, etc.

    I have found over the years that reading a whole series in order doesn’t work much. I read Ultimate Spider-Man as it came it for the first 30 or 40 issues, so it was a month my month thing. Then later I tried to go through it all in a row, but only got to issue 70 something then lost momentum. I later did up to Ultimatum (curse you Loeb) and so on.

    Take for example the Hulk. I am a HUGE fan of Peter David’s Hulk run. I have every issue, most bought of the comic book rack as they came out. But I have never read the whole thing straight through. Indeed, I have a couple of dozen issues at the end i have never read. I have read most straight through a few times, 331 through 420 or so, but its a long read so I have never done the whole thing. Now as a part of My Marvelous Year i have been reading them all in yearly chunks and it works well. Generally speaking each yearly chunk is the best thing I read that week, and i have not fatigued myself of the Hulk.

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