The Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Watching Order

One of my favorite things to see since starting Comic Book Herald has been how many new fans are getting into Marvel Comics due to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The success of Marvel’s movies means a lot of new interest in the comics that inspired them, although it’s often difficult to navigate that central question: Where the heck do I start?

Now, I’ve got all sorts of answers to that question across CBH, including the best 100 Marvel stories of the millennium, the best comics to start with in 2015, and the best comics available digitally on Marvel Unlimited. I don’t yet have a guide straight for the movie lover, though, which can only mean it’s time for…

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Watching & Reading Order

Before you get rolling, I have to make one note: This is not the same thing as my chronological Marvel reading order. It’s a guide of suggested reads based on the plots of each movie, and the order the movies and tvs shows should be watched. Consider it a “Read if you liked,” as well as a Marvel Movie watching order, and then when you want to put every read in order, check out the Complete Marvel Reading Order!

Marvel Phase 1

1) Iron Man

I remember where I was when I first saw the trailer for Iron Man, and let me tell you, I was not excited. Hot on the heels of Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, and Fantastic Four 2, comic book movies were truly not in a good place.

And now here was Iron Man, flying around to – I kid you not – Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”

Oh no.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Iron Man represented the first offering from Marvel Studios, and would go on to set up the Marvel Cinematic Universe we know and love today. There’s an alternate reality where Iron Man was a dud, and the MCU was never allowed to expand. Fortunately, that is not our reality, and we got an excellent Iron Man origin.

Best Comics to Read With Iron Man

Extremis  – While many of you will associate Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s “Extremis” story arc (Iron Man #1 to #6 beginning in 2004) with Iron Man 3, and rightly so, I prefer this story alongside Iron Man’s origin. Ellis reimagined Tony Stark for the 2000’s, suavely updating his origins in an organic way the film would adopt.

Own Extremis

Extremis on Marvel Unlimited

Iron Man’s Original Origins – Now, if you really want to start at the beginning, you can go all the way back to Iron Man’s Stan Lee and Jack Kirby origins. This was one of the first Marvel Essentials collections that black hole warped me back into reading comics, and as tribute, I recommend every issue from that first Essential collection.

Own Essential Iron Man: Volume 1

Iron Man Origins on Marvel Unlimited

Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares – Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca had a good long run on The Invincible Iron Man, starting here with a story involving the son of Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges character in the film).

Own Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares

Invincible Iron Man on Marvel Unlimited

2) The Incredible Hulk

It’s strangely easy to forget that The Incredible Hulk is a film within the MCU (and even stranger to consider this was the second attempt at the character inside of a decade). Hulk is easily Marvel Studio’s biggest misfire, which is a shame because it likely deprived us of a proper Planet Hulk movie (come on Phase IV!).

Hulk isn’t really offensive in any particular way, which is part of the problem. This is a real vanilla retelling of the Hulk’s origins (unlike the wackadoo Ang Lee directed 2003 Hulk movie) that just fails to grab any compelling storyline. It also continues the unfortunate trend of villains that are literally the same as the hero (but eeeeeevil!!!), although in this case Eli Roth’s Abomination is quietly one of the better Marvel villains of the entire MCU (not a good sign for the villains of the MCU, but hey!).

Bonus: One of my favorite fan-fiction ideas with the MCU is to imagine that Ed Norton’s Bruce Banner actually still exists within the universe and is either A) Working as a bouncer in Las Vegas or B) was captured by Tony Stark and General Ross following their clandestine bar meeting and shot into space. All I’m saying is you can’t rule it out.

Best Comics to Read With The Incredible Hulk

Hulk Origins – The first Incredible Hulk issues from 1962 (created by Stanly the Manly & Jack Kirby) are pretty fascinating, jumping from Hulk origins, to the army shooting Hulk into space (really), to Hulk fighting underground terrorists in completely baller hats.

Own Hulk Masterworks Volume One

Incredible Hulk Origins on Marvel Unlimited

Incredible Hulk vs. Abomination – There have plenty of earth-shaking brouhaha’s between the Hulk and Abomination throughout the years, but one of my personal favorites is in Incredible Hulk #137 from 1971. If you like unbridled cosmic imagination (the 70’s were a different time), then you’ll have a lot of fun with the Hulk encountering the Abomination… in space!

Incredible Hulk #137 on Marvel Unlimited

Planet Hulk  – Ok… Planet Hulk has nothing to do with Marvel’s the Incredible Hulk. That said, this movie is super vanilla and it’s our only chance at suggesting Hulk comics, which means we need a Hulk story that convinces us Hulk is strongest there is. Peter David’s issues above are a great start, but Planet Hulk is my all-time favorite pick for new comic readers. If you don’t dig Planet Hulk, well, you probably don’t like Hulk. Just don’t let him hear you say it.

Own Planet Hulk

Planet Hulk (Incredible Hulk #92 to #105) on Marvel Unlimited

3) Iron Man 2

While Hulk is likely at the bottom of the most ranked MCU lists, Iron Man 2 is the movie that disappointed me the most. Heading into the movie: We were coming off a great origin movie, Mickey Rourke was coming off a career resurgence in The Wrestler, and Robert Downey Jr. had showed up after the Hulk credits to talk Avengers with General Thunderbolt Ross.

Oh, and the Iron Man 2 soundtrack was, like, 85% AC/DC.

What could go wrong?

Turns out a lot, and while I won’t out and out call Iron Man 2 bad, it’s definitely my least favorite MCU movie. Rourke’s Whiplash was entirely forgettable, Downey Jr and Gwenyth Paltrow were given way too many “Oh just improvise” scenes, and the always awesome Sam Rockwell was wasted as Justin Hammer (and sadly was not forced to do a push-up to verify the Marvel Universe strength Wiki).

I can say with more confidence than usual that the comic book inspiration for Iron Man 2 is much stronger than the film.

Best Comics to Read With The Iron Man 2

Armor Wars – From Iron Man #225 to #232. Undoubtedly one of the most famous Iron Man stories (right up there with Demon in a Bottle or Doomquest), and some very loose inspiration for the tepid Iron Man 2. While Iron Man 2 only parked across the street from what would happen if Tony Stark’s weaponized armor fell into the wrong hands, Armor Wars kicks in the door, runs upstairs, and rearranges your furniture.

Own Armor Wars

Armor Wars on Marvel Unlimited

4) Thor

Thor is a tight film, delivering Asgard, Mjolnir, Loki and a whole host of mythology with an impressive economy. The film doesn’t shatter any artistic boundaries, but it does get credit for the first fully established MCU hero after Iron Man. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is a spot-on cinematic representation of the God of Thunder, pulling off a character that could easily have become a laughing stock.

Best Comics to Read With Thor

Thor’s Origins – Thor’s origins in Journey into Mystery might be the first time I realized just how much fun Stanly the Manly and Jack Kirby could have with these iconic creations. Removed from the shackles of Earth-bound life, Lee and Kirby deliver an Asgard full of god-sized myth and joyous imagination. It’s far from their best work, but Lee & Kirby never quite tackled medieval fantasy like this again. So be it!

Own Marvel Masterworks: Thor

Journey Into Mystery on Marvel Unlimited

Walt Simonson Thor  – In truth, Walt Simonson’s Thor is the greatest take on the character, Asgard, and Norse mythology. It’s also one of my all-time favorite sustained creative runs in Marvel history. That said, it isn’t necessarily an easy entry point, as it’s semi-mired in mid-80’s continuity, and assumes a fair amount of Thor knowledge. But since I have faith in your capacity to dive in and go with the flow (swim, dear reader! Kick your legs!), I recommend the run in its entirety. Give Thor #337 to #344 a shot.

Own Walt Simonson’s Thor

Thor on Marvel Unlimited

5) Captain America: The First Avenger

The first Captain America is actually a bit underrated as time goes on. I thought the film was just fine initially, but was surprised how much I enjoyed rewatching it. As is the case with many of our Marvel movies so far, I could have gone for a much more villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving’s generic Nazi doesn’t represent the true face of pure evil for me). Nonetheless, Cap gives us a solid wartime movie, solidifies Chris Evans as Steve Rogers personified, and keeps the Avengers train rolling.

You could also get fancy here and suggest that Captain America 1 should be watched first, since it’s chronologically before the rest of these movies. Personally, I prefer the release order as the post-credits Cap scene is all about setting up the Avengers.

Best Comics to Read With Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America & Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes – Criminally overlooked Captain America story (I’m just now realizing I forgot it on my best 100 Marvel stories list) that explores the war effort contributions of Bucky Barnes, Cap’s best friend.

Own The Life Story of Bucky Barnes

Bucky Barnes on Marvel Unlimited

Red Skull’s Cosmic Cube Origins – The Cosmic Cube is my favorite Marvel artifact, and its origins with the Red Skull and Captain America are filled with wide-eyed possibility. Let’s be real: the Red Skull choosing to reshape reality so that he’s wearing ornate Spanish conquistador armor is way more fun than making laser canons in World War Two.

Tales of Suspense #79 on Marvel Unlimited

6) Agent Carter Season One + Agent Carter Season Two

ABC’s Agent Carter miniseries begins as a functional epilogue to Captain America: The First Avenger, and fortunately creates its own identity for Peggy Carter as the eight episodes progress.

Best Comics to Read With Agent Carter

Operation S.I.N. – It’s a strangely well kept secret that there’s actually an ongoing Peggy Carter comic in Marvel’s stable in 2015.

Maybe even more unexpectedly, Operation S.I.N. is an Original Sin epilogue tie-in. Nonetheless, if you want some more Peggy Carter and Howard Stark in your life, this is the way to do it.

Own Operation S.I.N. starring Agent Carter

Operation S.I.N. on Marvel Unlimited 

7) The Avengers

10.0 on the landing, and aside from the bitter Russian judge, it’s a unanimous score. This was the movie that guaranteed we’d have Marvel movies through the 3000’s, and I still can’t believe just how well Joss Whedon and co. pulled off the assembling. The build from 2007 to 2012 finally paid off, and man is it a beautiful payoff.

Best Comics to Read With The Avengers

Deconnick’s Avengers Assemble – No comic has more accurately captured the spirit of Whedon’s on screen Avengers than Kelly Sue Deconnick’s first run on Avengers Assemble.

Own Avengers Assemble: Science Bros

Avengers Assemble on Marvel Unlimited 

The Ultimates – While Deconnick’s Avengers Assemble draws inspiration from the movie, Whedon’s Avengers drew a wealth of inspiration from The Ultimates. There are plenty of arguments against Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate Universe linchpin, but there’s no denying the cinematic scope gave us everything from super-snarky Stark to Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury to leather-largely-no-fun Hawkeye.

Own The Ultimates

Ultimates on Marvel Unlimited

Avengers Origins – I maintain that the original formation of the Avengers would have worked reasonably well as a film, although by 2012 it was undeniably predictable. I’m happy with the movie we got, but this is still a fun way to see how the comics brought the Avengers together in the first place.

Own Marvel Masterworks: Avengers

Avengers Origins on Marvel Unlimited

Marvel Phase 2

8) Iron Man 3

I love Iron Man 3. It’s hilarious and takes bold chances with the Iron Man universe. The War Machine and Iron Man buddy team-up was a questionable proposition until Iron Man 3. On the other side of the coin, any movie with the guts to go from “Huh that’s a really interesting interpretation of the Mandarin” to “Wait, where’s the Mandarin?” in half a movie is worthy of my eternal respect.

Note that Extremis could also be listed as a relevant read here, but we already covered it with Iron Man 1.

Best Comics to Read With Iron Man 3

Origin of the Mandarin – The Mandarin’s first appearance came eleven issues into Iron Man’s debut run, back when the comic was still called Tales of Suspense. From there the Mandarin quickly became an Iron Man regular rogue, even getting his own origin issue in Tales of Suspense #62.

There have been plenty of origin twists since then, but Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 is the most recent. The story focuses on the sinister Mandarin developing the movie version of his own life, and just like the actual comic book history, a lot of the details are simply what you choose them to be.

Own Mandarin Origins

Mandarin Origins on Marvel Unlimited

Iron Man: Haunted – The modern return of the Mandarin, following the events of Iron Man: Extremis. Note that this is a post-Civil War comic in Marvel continuity.

Own Iron Man: Haunted

Modern Mandarin on Marvel Unlimited

9) Agents of SHIELD (ABC) Season One – Episodes 1 to 7

Ugh. Just… ugh. I had such high hopes, and the show had such potential, and then… ugh.

I’ve spent plenty of time lamenting what could be, but the important lesson from Agents of SHIELD is there are a lot of really great comics that do this sort of SHIELD story much better.

Best Comics to Read With Agents of SHIELD S1

Secret Warriors – Perpetually the grand standard in superhero spy stories until proven otherwise. Jonathan Hickman – at the time a relative newcomer to Marvel Comics – crafts Nick Fury’s underground secret spy organization during Secret Invasion and Dark Reign. It’s a brilliant use of lesser known powered agents, and immersed so thick in Marvel Universe espionage, you might never come up for air. Wheels within wheels my friends.

Own Secret Warriors

Secret Warriors on Marvel Unlimited

Secret Avengers – Before SHIELD, Marvel inserted Coulson into their comic book continuity within the pages of Secret Avengers.

Own Secret Avengers

Secret Avengers on Marvel Unlimited

10) Thor 2: The Dark World

I haven’t decided if The Dark World is underrated or just sort of properly ignored. I’ve said it before, but this is my favorite Loki movie since it’s the first movie his ambition and cunning result in his ultimate desire. Loki should always have a trick up his sleeve, and then a trick up that’s trick sleeve. He’s the god of tricks! In that way, The Dark World delivers.

Otherwise, well, I didn’t need Star Wars Dark Elves (they have laser guns and can’t beat bearded guys with swords?) and Malekith falls victim to the MCU’s tragic uninteresting villain curse. Also it’s a Thor movie and I can’t remember a single Thor moment I enjoyed outside of his adventures with Loki. Ok fine, probably no reason to worry this movie is underrated.

Best Comics to Read With Thor 2: The Dark World

Thor: God of Thunder – The Accursed – Since Thor 2 gave us little to no reason to think anything of Malekith the Accursed, I offer you this excellent take on the Dark Elf Lord from Jason Aaron and Ron Garney. Take note, that you’d be well served to read the first 11 issues of God of Thunder as well.

Own Thor: God of Thunder – The Accursed

Thor: God of Thunder on Marvel Unlimited

Loki Triumphant – I’m a huge fan of a Loki that desires nothing more than ruling Asgard, and this 4 issue miniseries is a great example of his greed made real.

Own Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

Loki on Marvel Unlimited

10a) Agents of SHIELD (ABC) Season One – Episodes 8 to 15

11) Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

One of the smartest entries in the MCU, and exactly what the post-Avengers cinematic universe needed. To date, Captain America 2 is the only sequel that surpasses the origin, and it does so with flying, paranoid colors.

Intriguingly, Cap 2 is also the most faithfully adapted straight from a 2000’s era comic book story, although both the comic and film go in pleasantly different directions. My money’s on the comic, but that’s like picking between apples and other, similarly tasty apples.

Best Comics to Read With Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier – Easiest choice on the menu, as Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Captain America is not only the source material for the film, but also the best Captain America run of my lifetime. Note here that if you keep reading this series, you’ll be crossing into the likely inspiration for Captain America 3.

Own Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America on Marvel Unlimited

Captain America: Man out of Time – Surprisingly great look back at the life of Steve Rogers and what it would have been like for him as a man pulled out of time. We see strong glimpses of that in ‘The Winter Soldier’ with Cap saying goodbye to old loves and catching up on Marvin Gaye.

Own Captain America: Man out of Time

Cap: Man out of Time on Marvel Unlimited

11a) Agents of SHIELD (ABC) Season One – Episodes 16 to 22

12) Guardians of the Galaxy

I suspect time will make it easier and easier to call Guardians of the Galaxy the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers will always be the most impressive and most important (unless Infinity War somehow manages to stick the two part landing in a way that doesn’t feel cash-grabby). But Guardians of the Galaxy is so much fun, so funny, and so easy to like for people who wouldn’t be caught dead with a flarkin’ comic book.

Plus, Guardians is the film that proved Marvel stories outside of the core Avengers unit could succeed in theaters. This doesn’t get enough attention.

Best Comics to Read With Guardians of the Galaxy

Abnett & Lanning GoTG – I’ve written more about where you should start with Guardians of the Galaxy, but the short and sweet answer is Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s series spiraling out of Annihilation: Conquest. If you really want to enjoy a sweet ride, I’d recommend you actually ride the Marvel Cosmic shuttle all the way back to Annihilation. Just be prepared for a significantly different Peter Quill in the early going.

Own Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy

Guardians of the Galaxy on Marvel Unlimited

Howard the Duck  – You certainly don’t need to read Howard the Duck to enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy, but that post-credits tease ain’t worth a darn without some Howard in your life.

Own Essential Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck on Marvel Unlimited

13) Daredevil (Netflix)

It would be near impossible for Daredevil to have been more perfect. The Netflix-only release surpassed all my expectations, shattered the 2003 Ben Affleck Daredevil memory, and nailed every aspect of the Man without Fear!

Yes, Daredevil is off-the-charts violent, but it’s also funny, charming, sad, and hopeful. I can’t wait for more Matt Murdock on screen. In the meantime, Daredevil has some of Marvel’s best comics.

Best Comics to Read With Netflix Daredevil

Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Daredevil #168 to #182 – Before he was creating one of the 3 greatest graphic novels in comic book history in “The Dark Knight Returns,” Frank Miller was doing amazing work in Daredevil’s ongoing series. So much of the Daredevil mythos we know and love today was established in the Miller and Janson comics.

Own Daredevil Visionaries Volume 2

Daredevil on Marvel Unlimited

Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock– The Netflix series did an impressively selective origin for Daredevil, most notably utilizing touching father/ son scenes to offer glimpses into Matt Murdock’s early life.

Own Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock

Battlin’ Jack Murdock on Marvel Unlimited

13a) Jessica Jones (Netflix)

While Jessica Jones was released in November of 2015 (after Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man), the second original Netflix series can be slotted right behind Daredevil. It’s a post-Avengers world we find for Jessica Jones, private eye, but there’s nothing in this series that indicates it’s a post-Ultron world.

This largely works in Jesssica Jones’ benefit, as the story of Jessica’s hunt for David Tennant’s Purple Man (not to mention a hunt for redemption and peace) is one of the most self-contained entries in the entire MCU. Simply put, it’s one of the best entries in Marvel’s catalog, and certainly the most thematically resonant, as Jessica deals with PTSD from her abduction, mind-control, and rape at the mercy of the evil Kilgrave.

In addition to the smart and empathetic handling of serious real world horror, Jessica Jones gives us the finest Marvel villain performance in the entire stable, and cements Netflix as Marvel’s premier villains cabal. First Kingpin and now Kilgrave, if you want a dynamic, complex Marvel Villain, you turn to Netflix.

Best Comics to Read With Jessica Jones

Alias – Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos created Jessica Jones in the early 2000’s, and it’s one of the best Marvel comics in this modern era. The build to Kilgrave here – in his true Marvel Comics form – is fantastic, and there are a lot more cases for Jessica to solve than we see on the TV series.

If you want more than just Jessica’s peak, I’d recommend my Jessica Jones reading order.

13b) Daredevil Season Two

Much like Jessica Jones, I think Marvel’s Netflix presence makes sense as a post-Avengers MCU whole. These stories are pretty self-contained within Hell’s Kitchen, and for the time being that’s playing to Daredevil’s advantage.

You can see my full review of Daredevil Season Two, but the short version is basically Marvel is CRUSHING their Netflix game.

Best Comics to Read With Daredevil Season Two

Well since we already covered the excellent Frank Miller run that is inspiring this take on ol’ hornhead, let’s go with the supporting characters who make season two a standout:

Elektra by Greg Rucka

Punisher: Circle of Blood

13c) Luke Cage

Even though Luke Cage was released after Marvel’s Captain America 3: Civil War, it makes the most sense to watch Cage in sequence with the other Marvel Netflix properties to date.

You can read my full review of Luke Cage here.

Best Comics to Read With Luke Cage

Luke Cage Reading Order

Best Luke Cage Comics To Read

14) Agents of SHIELD (ABC) Season Two – Episodes 1 to 19

I can’t write again about Agents of SHIELD for too long without biting a hole through my tongue, but I will acknowledge that season two made improvements.

Most importantly, season two gave us our first strong look at the Inhumans, giving Agents of SHIELD a potentially enormous role in the MCU as a whole.

Best Comics to Read With Agents of SHIELD S2

Young Inhumans – So far, Agents of SHIELD hasn’t dealt with the royal Inhumans Marvel fans know and love. As such, I recommend reading the lesser known Young Inhumans miniseries, which features, well, young… Inhumans. Not Skye… but like Skye!

Own Young Inhumans

Young Inhumans on Marvel Unlimited

15) Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

Although Avengers 2 liked the name of 2013’s comic book event “Age of Ultron,” Marvel Studios quite understandably was not prepared to commit to the dystopian, Ultron-triumphant universe. Personally, I think this would have made a fascinating movie, but it also would have been a remarkably odd direction for the MCU.

Instead we got the MCU’s version of an Ultron origin story, meaning those reads are a lot more applicable than “Age of Ultron” itself.

Best Comics to Read With Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

Avengers Ultron / Vision Origins – The first appearance of Ultron and the debut of the Vision in the Avengers! In Avengers #51 to #58.

Own Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume 6

Avengers on Marvel Unlimited

Ultron Unlimited – One of the best stories from Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s 60+ issue run on Avengers at the turn of the millennium, not to mention one of my favorite Ultron stories. In Avengers (1998 series) #19 to #22.

Own Avengers: Ultron Unlimited

Avengers on Marvel Unlimited

Rage of Ultron – I’m throwing an oddball, modern Ultron graphic novel into the mix for two reasons. 1) Rage of Ultron is a gorgeous Marvel OGN that explores some of writer Rick Remender’s favorite concepts and 2) Sometimes diving headfirst into modern Marvel continuity is the best way to get acquainted. And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Sokovia for sale.

Own Avengers: Rage of Ultron

15a) Agents of SHIELD (ABC) Season Two – Episodes 20 to 22

16) Ant-Man

Ant-Man is a soft, relatively light-hearted comedown from a run of dark, serious threats in the Marvel Universe. Sure they play up the power of the Pym Particles, but let’s be real, a bunch of people turning really small isn’t quite as threatening as an artificial mass murderer dropping a city from heaven to earth.

Nonetheless, Ant-Man is mostly fun, if a mid-tier Marvel movie. Ant-Man does a nice job introducing the Pyms, Janet Van Dyne, and Scott Lang to the Marvel U, and features an excellent Ant-Man vs. Falcon fight scene!

Best Comics To Read With Ant-Man

Ant-Man by Nick Spencer – Marvel’s latest relaunch of an Ant-Man solo title starring Scott Lang is exactly what the tiny doctor ordered. This is a clever, funny, and heart-warming addition to the Paul Rudd Lang we see onscreen in Ant-Man.

If you want more Ant-Man you can also, try my Ant-Man reading order.

17) Agents of SHIELD (ABC) Season Three

Rather than say something mean, I’ll just direct you to this Czarface track from my favorite rap album of 2015. Note the casual Agents of SHIELD diss!

Marvel Phase 3

18)  Captain America 3: Civil War – Release May 6, 2016

Captain America 3: Civil War is a small miracle, coordinating more moving parts per minute than Olympic synchronized swimming (hint: not an engineer).

I’ve written in detail why I think so highly of the MCU’s Civil War. Suffice it to say, the Russo Brothers and all associated creators crafted one of the MCU’s best films, and effortlessly introduced Black Panther and Spider-Man to the universe.

Best Comics To Read With Captain America 3: Civil War

Civil War – Shock of shockers… Marvel’s 2006-2007 mega event is about as close as you can get to the movie. Sure there are all sorts of differences, but rather than tell you them, you can explore for yourself using Comic Book Herald’s Civil War reading order.

Black Panther by Christopher Priest – Our introduction to Black Panther in the MCU means this is a great time to get to know one of the best Black Panther comic runs.

Ultimate Spider-Man – So much of the MCU is based on Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, and the introduction of Spider-Man here is no exception. There are few long runs I enjoy more than Bendis and Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man.

19) Agents of SHIELD (ABC) Season Four: Ghost Rider

Agents of SHIELD season four picks up in the aftermath of Cap 3’s Sokovia Accords, and introduces Ghost Rider to the MCU!

Best Comics To Read With Agents of SHIELD Season Four

All-New Ghost Rider – While my go-to Ghost Rider recommendation has been Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider run for a good long time, the choice to feature Robbie Reyes in AoS makes All-New Ghost Rider your best bet.

Agents of SHIELD Vol. 1 – Sure it took approximately three full seasons, but Agents of SHIELD are fully integrated into the Marvel Comics world at large. You can read all about the team from TV as they ramp up for a tie-in role in Marvel’s 2016 event, Civil War II.

21) Dr. Strange

You can get strange with the Comic Book Herald Dr. Strange reading order!

Check out the full Doctor Strange movie review!

Note that all the below entries are yet to be released (or updated on this list)! Here’s what’s to come:

22) Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – Release May 5, 2017

23) Spider-Man – July 18, 2017

24) Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017

19 Replies to “The Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Watching Order”

  1. I like Black Sab’s “Iron Man”. Is there a song that would have fit better? No. Is there a song that fit in more predictably? No. But is there a song that would have been more missed if they hadn’t used it? YMMV, but I think not.

    But then again, I liked Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 1, too. Especially Skye.

    I’m waiting for AOS S2, Sharon Carter & Netflix’s DD to come out on DVD. Hurry up, dang it!

    1. I like the song fine, it was just way too on the nose for me at the time. It’s kind of funny in retrospect, especially now that we know the movie is good 🙂

  2. I think with the Incredible Hulk movie I would recommend reading Bruce Jones’ run on the comic. I know a lot of people don’t care for it but it’s where the whole Mr Blue and Mr Green thing came from. Plus it really has the same feel as the movie with it being based on Banner being on the run. Just my two cents.

      1. For whatever reason the story arc that followed it was pretty much a retcon of the whole thing and it kind of gave it a bad rap. I’m a huge fan of the run for the most part, it had some slow arcs and some that strayed a bit, but overall it’s one of my favorite Hulk runs of all time.

  3. I noticed something about you reading this, Dave, you take advantange of every moment to encourage someoeno to reading the classic Howard the Duck and Planet Hulk. I’m not saying that to be a bad thing, I’m very anxious about reading them, indeed 😛

  4. About cap 1, you say that it’s chronologically before the rest of the movies. I think that isn’t the case, I always think of the ww2 story as an intro like you also see in iron man with the story before tony got hit by the bomb. And like Thor before he got hit by the car.

  5. If you want to just go with the Cinematic Universe, the various prelude comics should be read instead. They fill in some of the blank spaces or set up characters before their film appearances.

  6. Updates:

    Luke Cage Netflix release date is September 30, 2016

    Spider-man: Homecoming is the announced title. It’s release date was pushed up to July 7, 2017

  7. Great comic suggestions as ever! However, I do not agree with the viewing list here. While a good shot, continuity doesn’t work out. Here’s my MCU viewing list.
    1. Iron Man: Started it all off. A no brainer.
    2. The Incredible Hulk: I actually like this movie. Note that up to The Avengers this all takes place in one week, if the canon comic “Nick Fury’s Big Week” is to be believed.
    3. Iron Man 2: You could read the in canon tie in’s “Iron Man 2: Public Identity” and “Iron Man 2: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
    3a. Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer: Follows up to the after credits scene of “Iron Man 2”. You can find it on the “Captain America: The First Avenger” Blu-ray.
    4. Thor: Fun fact, in the alternate ending of this movie S.W.O.R.D. gets a mention.
    4a. Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant: Gives more context to the credits scene of “The Incredible Hulk”. You can find it on the “Thor” Blu-ray.
    5. Captain America: The First Avenger: Some would put this first, but that wouldn’t really make sense, would it? You can read the tie in comic “Captain America: First Vengeance.”
    6. The Avengers: The accumulation of all previous movies! Earlier mentioned tie in comic “Nick Fury’s Big Week” makes it clear that all movies from “The Incredible Hulk” to this point have taken place in one week. You can also read “Black Widow Strikes.”
    6a. Marvel One-Shot: Item 47: Follows up on “The Avengers” and can be found on it’s Blu-ray. I for one really want to know what happened to the couple once they where taken in by S.H.I.E.L.D. In “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” Von Strucker uses Chitauri tech, possibly based upon the couple’s work. So maybe they are in HYDRA hands? Also, according to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” episode “The Hub” Damage Control is a S.H.I.E.L.D. division (signs are information gold!), so maybe we will find out more in the proposed “Damage Control” TV show.
    7. Iron Man 3: You can read the “Iron Man 3 Prelude” tie in comic.
    8. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episodes 1-7: Most notable episode? “The Hub”! Why? Because if you look closely it confirms to us that not only Damage Control is a S.H.I.E.L.D. division (which might be the division that mopped up Manhattan quite quickly if Skye is to be believed) but also H.A.M.M.E.R.!
    9. Thor: The Dark World: You can read the “Thor: The Dark World Prelude” comic. Also, am I the only one that wonders what happened to that Jotun Beast?
    9a. Marvel One-Shot: All Hail The King: Now, I know most will watch this right after “Iron Man 3” (on which Blu-ray you can find it), but hear me out. Trevor is in Seagate Prison (in the comics Luke Cage’s prison) for some time now, also before that there should have been a trail. Those are the reasons I put it here.
    10. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 8-16: This is where the show starts picking up. Episode 8 “The Well” is kind of a tie in to “Thor: The Dark World”, also is S.H.I.E.L.D. division Damage Control at work here? There is also a tie in comic “The Chase”, which takes places around the “T.R.A.C.K.S.” episode.
    9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: This movies changed everything! It puts the previous movies in a different light. It also has huge repercussions to “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” You can also read the “Captain America: The Winter Soldier Infinite Comic.”
    10. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 17-22: For the nay sayers, here is where things get pretty great!
    11. Guardians Of The Galaxy: Introduces us to Marvel Cosmic in the MCU. Note: this probably doesn’t take place in out Milky Way Galaxy, but in the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy. You can read the “Infite Comic – Dangerous Prey” and “Prelude” tie ins.
    12. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 1-10: Some time has past since the Season 1 finale.
    13. Agent Carter Season 1: Why not right behind “Captain America: The First Avenger”? Well, where do you think was the point of all those Agent Carter flashbacks in the previous episodes of “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”?
    14. Daredevil Season 1: Takes place after “The Avengers”, but later than “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1” as Ben Urich has written about it in the New York Bulletin some time ago. (The article can be seen in a frame in his office, and also gives us an death toll indication.) Also, buildings have been rebuild, so that must have taken some time.
    15. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 11-19: Episode 19 “The Dirty Half Dozen” is a prelude to “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” explaining the opening scene in that movie.
    16. Avengers: Age Of Ultron: You can read the tie in “Prelude – This Scepter’d Isle.”
    17. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 20-22: Episode 20 “Scars” opening scene reveals where the heck that Helicarrier came from in “Avengers: Age Of Ultron.” (Also, can someone tell me who all those people are on the new Avengers base?)
    18. Ant-Man: Takes place, of course, after “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” as halfway into the movie will explain. Also, watch the prelude WHIH YouTube videos that gives the return of “Iron Man” reporter Christine Everhart. (Interesting ticker, setting up “Civil War” and a possible Spider-Man hint about Stark scholarships for gifted New York students.) And read the tie ins “Prelude” and “Scott Lang: Small Time.”
    19. Jessica Jones Season 1: Doesn’t fit in later, so it has to be here. Also, read the tie in prelude comic “Jessica Jones.”
    20. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 1-10: Time has again past since the Season 2 finale. Secret Warrior is becoming a thing, also the return of a certain World Council member and the surprising origin of HYDRA.
    21. Agent Carter Season 2: Why here? One of the old HYDRA logo’s, shown in “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” that looks like an “A”, returns. Keep your eyes open for it in Episode 1 “The Lady in the Lake.”
    21a. Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter: Not exactly canon anymore. It can still happen, but I move it up with each “Agent Carter” season. Gives us the birth of S.H.I.E.L.D., and mentions S.W.O.R.D. on a piece of paper on a desk! (That’s two, people!)
    22. Daredevil Season 2: Why here? Explanation incoming!
    23. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 11-19: So what’s the “Daredevil Season 2” connection? In episode 14 “Watchdogs” news channel WZTM has a ticker saying “Gang war rages in Hell’s Kitchen. Authorities searching for solution.” The first steps to reinstatement of S.H.I.E.L.D. by the US government!
    24. Captain America: Civil War: The big one coming! You can read the prelude tie in comics. It’s rumored to have a character that will show up in “Luke Cage Season 1.”
    25. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 20-22: The people behind it have said there won’t be a direct prelude or epilogue to “Civil War”, but it sure will have effects.
    26. Luke Cage Season 1: The first season will premiere on Netflix August 30th!
    27. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 1-10: The show was renewed for a fourth season! As the syndication gods demanded! (It’s commonly know that 20-24 episode shows who get a third season, will also get a fourth to get to syndication package numbers.) One of the last episodes before the end of 2016 might involve a nod to “Doctor Strange.”
    28. Doctor Strange: Premiers in November 2016! Around that time you’ll be able to read the tie in prelude comic.
    29. Most Wanted Season 1: A proposed spin off to “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” details are foggy, but it involves Mockingbird. We’ll know more in May when network ABC will announce if the show is picked up during the upfronts.
    30. Damage Control Season 1: Proposed comedy show around, according to “The Hub” episode, the S.H.I.E.L.D. division. Might be privatized now? We’ll know if it’s picked up by ABC in May.
    31. Agent Carter Season 3: Ratings where not great for Season 2. A third season might be decided on multiple factor, like what power Disney/Marvel have (Disney owns ABC) and if ABC picks up Hayley Atwell’s new show. We’ll know in May.
    32. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 11-22: Probably comes back in March.
    33. Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2: Premieres in May 2017! Tie in comic probable, “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” possible.
    34. Cloak And Dagger Season 1: The show got picked up by Freeform (that’s ABC Family these days). Probably our first superhero Summer show!
    35. Spider-Man: Homecoming: Premiers July 2017!
    36. Iron Fist Season 1: Should premiere around this time.
    37. Thor: Ragnarok: Premieres November 2017!
    38. The Defenders Season 1: According to Netflix this show contractually needs to be made before 2018. Why’s that? My guess is that The Defenders will have something to do with “Avengers: Infinity War.”
    39. Black Panther: This bad@$$ will premiere in 2018!
    40. Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1: Premieres 2018!
    41. Ant-Man And The Wasp: Premieres 2018!
    42. Captain Marvel: Premieres 2019!
    43. Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2: Premieres 2019!
    44. Inhumans: Premiere date missing in action.

      1. Ah, thanks, mate! Read it again and I’m sorry about some typos. I kind of did it on the fly. Let me also argument some stuff that I didn’t above because of possible spoilers for people who read along.
        – The first two Coulson starring one-shots: they are switched in comparison to their release. I can’t give you any sources, but I’ve looked into it some time ago, and this is the most logic order.
        – Nick Fury’s Big Week includes “The Incredible Hulk”, “Iron Man 2”, “Thor” and “Captain America.” There is a time gap towards “The Avengers” to be clear. Oh, might I add my theory on the change in appearance of the Hulk: Norton’s and Ruffalo’s Hulk both have the same broad face. Norton, of course, has a slim face. What if Banner and Hulk get mixed more and more, and that’s how Banner gets Ruffalo’s broad face? That also might be why Hulk speaks a lot more now than in his first MCU appearance.
        – Iron Man 3: Doesn’t have any impact on continuity, but my theory is that that “gap in the brain” that was shown, is the slot for the Terrigen Mists to fill in, and that that’s why Extremis doesn’t work on some people.
        – Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 is after “Guardians Of The Galaxy” because of Inhumans and Kree appearances.
        – Jessica Jones Season 1: I have to confess I haven’t finished the series yet. The tie in comic definitely puts it behind “Daredevil” Season 1, though, as Daredevil gets a cameo in his proper suit. The show also mentions the Battle Of New York as “the incident.”
        – Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Ep. 1-10: World Council member Gideon Malick returns and is revealed to be a head of HYDRA. The ancient origin of HYDRA apparently is to bring Hive (you know, “tentacle head”) back to Earth. The ancient HYDRA logo returns in “Agent Carter” Season 2 as the logo of the Arena Club, meaning that they are HYDRA.
        – Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Ep. 11-19: Mockingbird and Hunter are disavowed, setting up “Marvel’s Most Wanted.” Next to that the “Watchdogs” episode not only mentions the events of “Daredevil” Season 2, but also features the implosion stuff seen in “Ant-Man” and “Agent Carter” Season 1, and Daisy mentions that Damage Control will come patch this up. This is said as a name! Next to all that, the S.H.I.E.L.D. guys are getting the impression Malick is reporting to a bigger head -> Baron Zemo.
        That’ll do it, as I have the feeling I’m portraying myself as some kind of Rain Man. I’m just a fan.

        If you like an up to date DC TV Arrow-The Flash-Vixen-Constantine-Legends Of Tomorrow-Supergirl watch order (there are also a bunch of in universe tie in comics), visit this IMDb page: imdb.com/list/ls074499769/ It gets updated regularly.
        It’s my believe that the Gotham show might be in the previously mentioned shows’ past, as in one of the early episodes you can see a building with a green “Q” logo, indicating it’s a Queen building. They also use phone boots, VHS tapes, and typewriters! “Lucifer” might also be in the same universe, but that’s just because the comic was a spin off from “Hellblazer.”

      1. That holistic guy? Haha, no. I’m just a fan of all this. I could give you this watch order, but I before I found this site I really wouldn’t know how to tackle comics. I just wanted to share my live action knowledge here. 😉

  8. “although in this case Eli Roth’s Abomination is quietly one of the better Marvel villains of the entire MCU”

    Hey man, you confused the director Eli Roth (does horror movies) with actor Tim Roth :D.

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