Since late 2017, writer and comic book creator Donny Cates has been one of the fastest rising talents at Marvel Comics, making particularly strong Infinity War infused waves with the story “Thanos Wins.” With big, bold fearless approaches to the Marvel Universe (and all the coolest toys in the toolbox), Cates is quickly one of the most recognizable young voices at Marvel.
Comic by Cates have also spanned a wide variety of series and miniseries, sometimes lasting no more than five issues at a time. What I’ve found exploring his vision, though, is that there’s frequently connective tissue between nearly all of these series, often building to much larger events in the Marvel Comics landscape.
To help keep tabs on it all, and the proper chronology, I’ve put together a reading order guide to the Marvel Universe of Donny Cates. It’s well worth noting that Cates also has a variety of creator-owned series worth reading including the following favorites of mine:
Related Reading Orders:
The Marvel Universe of Donny Cates – Secret Empire & Doctor Strange
In addition to comics that feature the artistic prowess of Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Niko Henrichon (legitimately two of my favorite comic book artists working today), Cates’ writing on Doctor Strange kicks off with the type of big hook he’ll consistently nail: Loki is the new Sorcerer Supreme!
Amazingly, Cates, Walta and company spice up this hook with unexpected developments (and by dusting off some Marvel characters locked away in storage), and quickly cement their own brand of Doctor Strange story hot on the heels of a lengthy run by writer Jason Aaron.
Right in the middle, Cates teams back up with writer Nick Spencer (Cates and Spencer co-wrote a handful of Secret Empire tie-ins) to follow up on the impact of Secret Empire in another Marvel crossover titled “Damnation.”
Collects: Doctor Strange 381-390, Doctor Strange: Damnation 1-4
This complete collection gets the entire “Marvel Legacy” Cates written era of Doctor Strange in one package. The proper order for these issues is as follows:
Doctor Strange #381 to #385 – “The God of Magic”
See here for Comic Book Herald’s complete Marvel Damnation reading order!
Doctor Strange #386
Doctor Strange #387
Doctor Strange #388
Doctor Strange #389
Doctor Strange #390
Donny Cates’ Thanos Saga
It’s a testament to the strength and mass appeal of “Thanos Wins” that the story by Cates and artist Geoff Shaw became the modern Thanos comic right as the mad Titan was peaking in pop culture awareness due to the MCU. As you’ll note from the start at issue #13, the story actually follows a very strong run by Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato, and is published simultaneously with a notably similar graphic novel by Thanos creator Jim Starlin and artist Alan Davis.
Nonetheless, it’s the legacy of “Thanos Wins” that stands tall, and drives much of what’s to come in the Cates cosmic-verse.
Collects: Thanos #13 to #18, Thanos Annual #1
#1 to #5
Infinity Wars Prime #1 / Thanos Legacy #1
The kick off to Marvel’s Infinity Wars event (hot on the heels of Infinity Countdown) means major changes for Thanos. Cates doesn’t write Infinity Wars Prime #1 but it’s essential background for the story he adds to Thanos Legacy #1, as well as some of his future works!
Cates on Venom, Inhumans, and Marvel Knights
Venom is the longest ongoing comic book written by Donny Cates at Marvel to date, and in many ways the most essential to understanding the themes and characters in Cates’ work. Alongside longtime Spider-Man savant Ryan Stegman, Cates crafts a new symbiote mythology in the pages of Venom full of supergods like Knull and lots of metal-as-hell dragons.
Venom not only builds to the event Absolute Carnage but also plants seeds of cosmic proportions to be found in the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy, War of the Realms, and Silver Surfer: Black.
The five issue destruction of Marvel’s Inhumans (which sure feels symbolic in the aftermath of their almost impossibly failed attempt at a TV debut) is my vote for Cates’ biggest miss to date, although it does have roots in some comics to come.
Even in a rare miss, though, I’d argue that the ambitions of Cates and artist Ariel Olivetti are worth the price of admission.
Collects: Venom (2018) 1-5
I’d recommend reading Web Of Venom: Ve’Nam #1 and Venom Annual #1 after Venom #5.
Read the two collections above in the following order:
- Venom #6-8
- Web Of Venom: Carnage Born #1
- Venom #9
- Web Of Venom: Unleashed #1
- Venom #10 to #12
- Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage #1
Collects: Marvel Knights 20th #1 to #6
This celebration of the Marvel Knights’ era’s 20th anniversary is the least essential comic in the Cates-verse (it’s enthusiastically out of continuity) but it’s an interesting experiment.
Donny Cates Cosmic Comics
The legacy of Thanos Wins comes full circle with Donny Cates taking over a relaunched Guardians of the Galaxy, and seemingly laying claim to the dominant voice of the new Marvel Cosmic.
You can see a ton of self-referential moments throughout these books, with Death of the Inhumans connecting to Guardians, Venom connecting to Silver Surfer: Black, and Cosmic Ghost Rider at the heart of practically everything.
The kickoff to Cates’ ongoing Marvel cosmic landscape (with incredible art by Geoff Shaw and Tradd Moore respectively) should be read in the following order:
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 to #5
Silver Surfer Black #1
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1
Guardians of the Galaxy #6
Silver Surfer Black #2 to #5
Marvel Events by Donny Cates
Collects: Venom #13 to #16
Confusingly, Cates (and artist Ryan Stegman) actually take a break from Venom during the War of the Realms tie-ins, making these crossover issues exceedingly peripheral.
That said, Venom plays a minor influence on the core War of the Realms series by Jason Aaron, Russell Dautermann, and Matt Wilson. These connections are arguably for die-hards only, but given that Cates references Aaron’s work in Thor: God of Thunder throughout Venom, it’s worthwhile to note that’s reciprocated in Marvel’s first big event of 2019.
Stegman and Cates bring Absolute Carnage to the entire Marvel Universe in one of the biggest stories of 2019!
For the full reading order and all tie-ins, check out Comic Book Herald’s guide to Absolute Carnage.
Cosmic Thor & Venom Island
Collects: Guardians of the Galaxy #7 to #12
Collects: Venom #21 to #25
Collects: Thor #1 to #5