Without question, the writing and vision of Jonathan Hickman across the Marvel Universe is my favorite modern run in superhero comics. Working with a roster of incredible artistic storytellers like Esad Ribic, Jerome Opena, and Dale Eaglesham (among many others), the Marvel Hickman-verse is wonderfully plotted and thematically connected from the Dark Reign era Secret Warriors through 2015’s mega-event Secret Wars.
There are a number of coherent visions mapped across the modern Marvel Universe by various creators (Rick Remender, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, etc), but none are as rewarding as Hickman’s.
Due to its expansive quality, interconnected narratives, and near decade long run time, a good reading order can seriously aid the comic book binge experience.
Below you’ll find a complete chronology and timeline for every Marvel comic book written by Jonathan Hickman, as well as background reading that can help provide context for Hickman’s entrance onto a series or set of characters. At the end of the guide, I also include picks from Jonathan Hickman’s creator-owned work so the ride never stops.
The Hickman Marvel Reading Order
0) Marvel Comics Leading Up To The Hickman-Verse
Secret Warriors Background
Shortly after Avengers Disassembled changed the status quo for Marvel’s Avengers and set up the New Avengers, another Brian Michael Bendis written event (with Gabriel Del Otto) changed the status quo for SHIELD and Nick Fury.
In a clear tie to the political environment of 2005, Nick Fury defies orders from the US government and invades the nation of Latveria. The ramifications of this decision lead to Fury’s eventual exile from SHIELD, and status as a man on the run.
The most important background for Secret Warriors comes in Mighty Avengers, with the entire team assemblage explained.
Mighty Avengers #12 – Nick Fury discovering Secret Invasion plot.
Mighty Avengers #13 – Nick puts the team together.
Mighty Avengers #18 – The Secret Warriors train under the tutelage of Nick Fury and Daisy Johnson.
While you certainly could read all of Secret Invasion with the CBH reading order, really all you need to know is that Hickman’s time with Marvel comes in the aftermath of this event.
Much like Secret Invasion, the relaunch of Thunderbolts as Marvel’s new Dark Avengers helps explain the context of Dark Reign. Particularly relevant for Secret Warriors, this series by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato sets up the character of Ares and the various “criminal” Avengers.
Fantastic Four Background
The presence of Ultimates creative team Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch was a surprisingly lackluster boost for Fantastic Four. That said, elements of their time on the book – preceding Hickman’s entrance as writer – establishes elements in play such as Nu-World and the growth of Valeria Richards.
Now, in a lot of ways, it’s going to be obvious that Hickman’s time writing Fantastic Four is playing with elements established in the 50+ years of the comic’s publication. After all, he’s starting on issue #570. Nonetheless, I found the “Nu-World” storylines manageable but particularly confusing without this background.
I don’t really recommend reading all of “Fall of the Hulks” except for the biggest comic completists out there. The big development you need to know from this series is the Intelligencia conspire to reduce Doctor Doom’s intellect, and this is the reduced state we find him in during Fantastic Four.
The cosmic elements of Black Bolt’s journey as the Inhumans “Midnight King” stem from the events of “War of Kings.” This cosmic universe event follows hot on the heels of Annihilation and Annihilation Conquest. For a full look at the Marvel cosmic landscape, check out Comic Book Herald’s Marvel Cosmic guide.
Brian Michael Bendis writes a three part event that digs the Ultimate Universe out of the wreckage of Ultimatum. Hickman will expand on the reveals in these comics to build one of the Ultimate U’s most lasting creations.
As always, for the full background, I recommend CBH’s complete Ultimate Universe reading order.
The original Illuminati concept was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Cheung during Bendis’ time writing Marvel’s flagship New Avengers series. The unit – consisting of Black Bolt, Professor X, Reed Richards, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Namor – deals with the biggest universal problems like the Infinity Gems, Beyonder, and more.
It’s a fantastic idea, one of my favorite modern Marvel miniseries, and the inspiration for Hickman’s own time with Mike Deodato on New Avengers.
A spiritual predecessor to Avengers from Warren Ellis and Salvador LaRocca. NewUniversal introduces an altered version of the “White Event” as well as a moder reintroduction to Marvel’s New Universe characters like Star Brand and Nightmask. Hickman will play with these identities – particularly Star Brand – during his time on Avengers.
The 2012 Marvel event Avengers vs. X-Men is plotted by an insanely talented group of writers including Hickman, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, and Jason Aaron.
Hickman scripts Avengers vs. X-Men #4 (art by John Romita Jr) and Avengers vs. X-Men #6 (art by Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales), but more than anything this event creates the Black Panther vs. Namor feud that plays a major part in New Avengers.
I) Secret Warriors
Hickman’s time writing Marvel Comics begins as a joint project with 2000’s Marvel architect Brian Michael Bendis. As a result of the Bendis and Gabriel Del Otto mini-event Secret War (not to be confused with, you know, the giant Secret Wars), Nick Fury is left cut off from SHIELD and effectively a rogue agent.
The conclusion of Bendis and Leinel Francis Yu’s event Secret Invasion sets the stage for the rise of Norman Osborn as Fury’s successor, and the start of Marvel’s “Dark Reign.” Unwilling to let villains run the show, and trapped with a gut feeling that there’s something more sinister at play in this hostile takeover, Fury assembles a rag tag team of superpowered misfits known as his Secret Warriors.
Collects: Secret Warriors #1-6, And Dark Reign New Nation Story
Hickman writes portions of the intro platter to Dark Reign, not to be confused with his Doctor Doom short story in Dark Reign: The Cabal #1 (one of my favorite issues in the entire era).
Collects: Secret Warriors #7-10, And Dark Reign: The List – Secret Warriors
Here you’ll want to read as follows:
Secret Warriors #1 to #9
Dark Reign: The List – Secret Warriors
Secret Warriors #10
Collects: Secret Warriors #11-16
Collects: Siege: Secret Warriors, Secret Warriors #17 To #19
Read the Siege: Secret Warriors tie-in prior to Secret Warriors issue #17.
Collects: Secret Warriors #20-23
Collects: Secret Warriors 25-28
Collects: Secret Warriors 1-16, Dark Reign: The List – Secret Warriors 1, Material From Dark Reign: New Nation 1
Collected Edition from TFAW: Secret Warriors Complete Collection TPB Vol. 01, Price: $27.99
Collects: Secret Warriors 17-28, Siege: Secret Warriors 1
While it’s not quite DC’s Final Crisis level advanced, I read Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s S.H.I.E.L.D. relatively early in my Marvel Comics reading journey and was left confounded. Instead of the familiar spy organization helmed by Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Tony Stark, etc., this S.H.I.E.L.D. asserts the organization’s roots spanning back near the dawn of man.
In the process, historical Illuminati like Leanardo Da Vinci, Galileo, Isaac Newtown and Nostradamus are roped into the dense world-owning machinations of the SHIELD and the SPEAR.
Collects: S.H.I.E.L.D. #1-6 (2010-2011)
Hickman’s SHIELD expands the peace keeping force like I never dreamed possible.
Collects: S.H.I.E.L.D. Infinity
Not to be confused with the 2013 Hickman event, Infinity, which comes later! Note that in Marvel Unlimited, the library includes the Infinity one-shot as an unnumbered entry in the S.H.I.E.L.D. (2011) series.
Collects: S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 To #4 (2011)
III) Fantastic Four
Hickman’s time writing Fantastic Four is Marvel’s first family for modern readers who could never get into the team, and only know the lame movies.
Importantly, Hickman’s Fantastic Four is particularly focused on the genius of Reed Richards, and the consequences that come along with such natural hubris. More than any other series, the groundwork is laid in these stories for the developments of Avengers through Secret Wars.
Collects: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1-5
Collects: Fantastic Four #570-574
Collects: Fantastic Four #575-578
Collects: Fantastic Four #579-582
Collects: Fantastic Four #583-588
Collects: Ff 1-5
Not written by Hickman, but you could also toss in Amazing Spider-Man #658 to #660 after FF #1.
Collects: Ff 6-11
Collects: Fantastic Four 600-604
Following FF #11, Fantastic Four is relaunched and runs concurrent to issues of FF.
Fantastic Four #600
Fantastic Four #601
Fantastic Four #602
Fantastic Four #603
Fantastic Four #604
Fantastic Four #605 to #606
FF #17 to #18
Fantastic Four #607 to #608
FF #19 to #21
Fantastic Four #609 to #610
Fantastic Four #611
Collects: Ff 12-16
Collects: Fantastic Four 605.1, 605-611
Collects: Ff 17-23
Hickman entered Marvel’s Ultimate Universe in the wake of the devastating and status quo shattering event, Ultimatum.
While the comic destroyed so much of what fans loved about the Ultimate Universe, the rubble left in its wake left an extremely interesting version of Marvel comics for Hickman and Esad Ribic to play with.
As noted in the earlier background reading, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s work on the Ultimate Enemy trilogy is the first effort to successfully rehabilitate the universe. Hickman picks up those pieces and transforms them into elements that will play a major role in his Avengers, Secret Wars, and Marvel Comics being written today.
Collects: Ultimate Comics Thor #1-4
Collects: Ultimate Comics Fallout 1-6
Collects: Ultimate Comics Ultimates 1-6
Collects: Ultimate Hawkeye 1-4
Collects: Ultimate Comics Ultimates 7-12
V) Avengers and New Avengers
Collects: Avengers (2012) 1-23, New Avengers (2013) 1-12, Free Comic Book Day 2013: Infinity 1, Infinity 1-6, Infinity: Against The Tide Infinite Comic 1-2, Astonishing Tales: Mojoworld 1-6, Material From Shang-Chi: Master Of Kung Fu (2009) 1
Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers narrative weaves together at various points, really forming one cohesive epic all together.
New Avengers #1 – #3
Avengers #1 – #6
New Avengers #4 – #6
Avengers #7 – #13
New Avengers #7
Avengers #14 to #17
New Avengers #8
Infinity: Against The Tide #1 to #2
New Avengers #9
New Avengers #10
New Avengers #11
Avengers #22 to #23
New Avengers #12
Avengers #24 (also labeled #24.NOW)
New Avengers #14 – #15
New Avengers Annual #1
Avengers #25 – #28
Avengers #29 to #34
These issues follow Original Sin #1 to #2
New Avengers #16 to #23
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
Collects: New Avengers 1-6
Collects: Avengers 1-6
Collects: Avengers 7-11
Collects: New Avengers 7-12
Collects: Avengers 12-17
Collects: Infinity 1-6, New Avengers 7-12,Avengers 14-23
Collects: Avengers 18-23
Collects: New Avengers 13.Inh, 14-17
Collects: Avengers 24-28
Collects: Avengers 29-34
Collects: New Avengers 18-23
Collects: Avengers 35-44, New Avengers 24-33
VI) Secret Wars
Collects: Free Comic Book Day 2015 Secret Wars 0 (Secret Wars Story), Secret Wars 1-9
VII) The Return: Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men!
Check out Comic Book Herald’s guide to Hickman’s 2019 return to Marvel with his work across X-Men.