It’s easy to forget, but the Marvel Universe covers just that – an entire fictional (wait, what?) universe with cosmic entities like Eternity (personified), Lord Chaos & Master Order (super into 50 Shades of Grey), and the all-time coolest, Galactus (hungry).
So while the vast majority of Marvel Comics are spent protecting, destroying, reconstructing, and generally gallivanting about New York City, Marvel has carefully, and sometimes quietly, built up one of the most entertaining space sagas this side of Star Wars and Star Trek. And more often than not, these events revolve around a cast of characters not named Spider-Man, Captain America, or Iron Man (aww, wait, what?!).
Below you’ll find a guide so you can get to know the Marvel Cosmic Universe, and all-time greats like Nova, the human rocket, the Guardians of the Galaxy (of silver screen fame!), and Ronan the Accuser. In many ways, the modern Marvel cosmic structure starts with Annihilation, a mega-event that occurs right around the time of Marvel’s Civil War.
If you want an all-inclusive list of Marvel cosmic stories from before this time, I recommend Comic Book Herald’s completely insane Marvel Cosmic Comics from 1963 to Present. Otherwise the comics below will flow from Annihilation Day Plus 0.
If you have any questions/comments, let me hear about it. Enjoy!
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Modern Marvel Cosmic Reading Order
Annihilation Classic is a bit of a hodge-podge throwback offering the origin issues of the key players in the coming Marvel Cosmic lineup. Collects Bug #1, Tales to Astonish #13, Nova #1, Quasar #1, Rocket Raccoon #1-4, Marvel Spotlight #6, Logan’s Run #6, and Marvel Premiere #1. A good guide to Marvel Unlimited older issues to prep for Marvel Cosmic.
After several years away from the character, creator Jim Starlin returns for a Thanos solo series. This follows hot on the heels of Marvel Universe: The End, so be prepared for that backstory. Also, I’ve got you covered if you’re looking for the full Thanos reading order.
Drax The Destroyer: Earthfall (#1 – #4)
The book that rewrites the character of Drax the Destroyer. An immense improvement for his role in the coming events. Worth noting that these issues also come packaged in the Annihilation Book One trade.
You can find the backstory for Drax in Comic Book Herald’s Drax the Destroyer reading order.
Intriguingly this one actually registers as an Avengers Disassembled tie-in, although it’s pretty explicitly only tied-in to the events of Thor (#81 – #85) which occur during, yet separate, from the earth-bound Disassembled story arc. You’re going to want to read the Beta Ray Bill saga after the events of Thor: Disassembled.
Annihilation: Conquest Reading Order
It’s around this time that you can also consider checking out Comic Book Hearld’s Guardians of the Galaxy reading order.
If you’re reading on Marvel Unlimited, the order is Ignition, Thanos Imperative (#1 – #6), Devastation.
The Marvel Cosmic Saga continues in Marvel NOW! , All-New All-Different Marvel, and Comic Book Herald’s mega guide to every Marvel cosmic story from 1963 to present!
Related Cosmic Reading Orders
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Justin Young says
Are these lists (Specifically Guardians of the Galaxy) going to be updated soon?
Thanks for all you do!! =)
Is there an issue by issue reading order instead of a trade reading order?
Also, how far back can you go?
Is there another reading order for earlier Marvel instead of modern?
Here’s the classic cosmic link: https://www.comicbookherald.com/marvel-cosmic-comics-1963-to-present/
Jason Clayton says
Whoa! What a resource you’ve created. I’ve been a casual fan of the Marvel movies for years but they were more of a guilty pleasure. I was really at heart a Star Wars fan, and those are the only comics I really read in the past. That all changed when I recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy several months back. I was floored at how good it was, which is crazy because when I saw the commercials for it a couple years back I thought it looked silly. Anyway, I have since revisited all the Marvel movies and I wanted more so I figured I’d read the comics and start with Guardians. Luckily there is Marvel Unlimited and thanks to that and your list(s) I’ve now plowed through most of the Cosmic list (up to Thanos Imperative). I always assumed comics were all superheroes fighting crime but this cosmic stuff is right up my alley. I’m looking forward to doing the Thanos list next. Thanks a bunch for putting this together, a much deserved donation is on its way!
Where does ‘GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 1 ROAD TO ANNIHILATION GRAPHIC NOVEL’
fit in with the marvel cosmic reading list?
There is a vol 2, then it’s on to annihilation book 1,2, and 3. After that is annihilation conquest vol 1 and 2. Road to war of kings, war of kings, then realm of kings. Thanos imperative, annihilators, and annihilators earthfall
Please update this with the recent ones that came out =D
I propose you expand this guide to include ALL Marvel Cosmic! There are so many fantastic events and characters:
Silver Surfer’s litany of events from the silver age onward, Kree/Skrull War, Korvac Saga, Captain Marvel, Warlock, Quasar, Kang, The High Evolutionary, The Eternals Saga, Celestial Quest, Celestial Madonna, Operation Galactic Storm, Avengers Infinity Classic, etc., etc.!
People are entitled to know that Marvel Cosmic proper existed long before the present millennium.
I won’t pretend I haven’t thought about it 🙂
The Thanos Reading Order kinda covers some of what you’re looking for, but a good idea to be certain.
Hey Dave ! I come from the “From Avengers Disassembled to House of M” guide and I read the first two parts of the guide before so I remember “Marvel Universe : the end” but don’t recall reading “Anihilation Classic”. That’s why I’m wondering whether you have included all steps of this guide into the global Marvel reading guide excepts Anihilation Classic (that may be because I started with the 00’s comics) or only a few and the others are specific to this guide ? I hope you included all bits of this guide into the global one because I’m very excited to know about the cosmic plots and most particularly knowing what’s going on on planet earth at the same time if she’s not involved !
I would like to read Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four and FF run within this reading order. What is the best way to read it? Before or after Annihilators / Annihilators Earthfall
I want to read these alongside your main reading order but I’m not sure when I should read them. Any hints or are all these already included in your main reading order guide?
Read everything first, then work out the order for future re-readings, I’m currently doing that for the whole marvel continuity.
Bear in mind that the guides on this web are not completely accurate, and some comics will spoil others, so be prepared to read everything first and then enjoy the re-read much more.
I suggest patience
Greg Vazquez says
Ok I have a question that may not have an answer but… I LOVE Jim Starlin and everything he did with thanos, warlock, surfer, etc. Do you know why he left in the middle of thanos 1-12?? I know what came after lead to annihilation which was amazing and I really enjoy it, however that thanos series just loses something when it shifts gears after Starlin’s first 6 issues.
Also, Starlin came back and did some cool thanos stories and even tied in annihilus recently, which even makes me more upset he wasn’t there through that thanos series and annihilation! Why Dave? Why??
Haha I wish I knew!
If you’re jonesing for the most Starlin possible there’s always the Thanos reading order…
Question. I’m more of a fan of Abnett and Lanning. Could I just read Annihilation and Conquest but skip war of kings and go straight to the Thanos Imperative or should i read it all? Seems like a lot of material.
Kind of – you’ll at least need to make sure you read the Nova / Guardians issues that crossover during War of Kings. Stick to those Abnett and Lanning titles, and you’re good to go for Thanos Imperative.
Why is Marvel Unlimited missing Marvel Two – In-One Annual #2 which is the 2nd part of the Thanos story which began in Avengers Annual #7. I can’t seem to find it listed anywhere.
Thank you for this reading order – it’s fab! When should I read Annihilation: Conquest (according to your Marvel reading order)?
Chris Vazquez says
After Annihilation. His Reading Orders are listed in order. Start from the top and go down.
Annihilation, Annihilation Conquest, War of Kings, Realm of Kings, Thanos Imperative.
That set, in that order, is the reason why I read comics now, and I have yet to read anything near as wonderful it was.
I meant in accordance to the Marvel Reading Order Dave has created. In the guide, it shows Annihilation goes before Civil War, but how about the other arcs?
Loving the reading order! I’m wondering the same thing about the cosmic reading order and the complete marvel list you’ve put together.
Arc Elnex says
Hey thanks for these awesome guides. I started following them with Civil War, then went back to get filled on everything else prior to that. My question is this. I just finished reading Annihilation. I’m about to start reading the Planet Hulk Storyline. I see that some parts of Annihilation Conquest and Secret War tie in together and may have overlapping stories. What’s the best way to weave in between reading Marvel Cosmic along with what’s happening on Earth. Luckily since I had already finished Civil War when Nova showed up after Annihilus I wasn’t suddenly surprised by the Registration Act passing but I want to get all the tie in’s and everything.
Just wondering if you have any suggestions on what order there is to reading the current Guardians series and Legendary Star Lord? I’ve become a massive sucker for following shiz like that as correctly as possible (the new Thor starting so early in AXIS, yet based after it, threw me out of whack as you could imagine :P). I’m not asking for a literal issue by issue, but in the case of team + solo series I’m never quite sure how to go, as some are independent (Invincible Iron Man + the numerous Avengers for example) while others tie-in closely.
Should I just alternate with 1 Guardians and then 1 Star Lord, by publishing order or what?
You can read the newer cosmic items by publication date. I think Guardians is something like 15 issues into the run before Star-Lord launches.
You will want to be cognizant of Infinity reading order.
I’m planning to get a little more specific with this in the coming month as well.
Can/should these be read separately/after the Complete guide? Or are they worked into that timeline as well?
With the new Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Alpha releasing this February, what comic series can I read that lead up to this event? I saw in an article that they briefly mentioned these series to read but didn’t specify exactly which ones: Guardians of the Galaxy (I’m assuming the 2013 series), Legendary Star-Lord (2014), Cyclops (?), Captain Marvel (2014 8th Series?), Nova (2013th 5th Series), and Guardians Team (2015). Are these correct and are there any others I can read?
Also is Axis Revolutions tied in with the cosmic characters besides Nova?
Sounds like Infinity will have a role, but otherwise the series you mention are correct.
Nova’s pretty much the cosmic element of Axis. Not too much cosmic overlap there.
Just wondering what you mean by Thor #81-85 regarding beta Ray Bill: stormbreaker. I cant seem to find them on the net.
Those Thor issues are also collected as “Thor: Diassembled”, part of Avengers Disassembled.
Hey, I recently watched the GotG movie and loved it. Not knowing anything about the comics side of Marvel, much less space-Marvel, I decided to take a leap of faith and try this guide. I’m still early in the list, at the Thanos 12-part story following The End, and I’m following events reasonably well, so I want to ask this question before I get to the Guardians themselves.
In this list, you have Abnett and Lanning’s Guardians, but there’s a more recent run by Bendis that I’d like to read as well without losing too much of the greater picture. I guess my question is similar to Josh’s, but will you update this list further as the cosmic universe expands?
Thanks for the list. You’ve successfully dragged me into the comics world!
Glad you’re enjoying!
This should help: Marvel Cosmic after Thanos Imperative.
Wow, thanks! I guess this counts as another question, but I’m not digging Beta Ray Bill too much. Am I losing a major part of the Annihilation and WoK stories if I decide to skip Stormbreaker and Godhunter?
You aren’t losing anything. He shows up in Annihilators which is after Realm of Kings. I think Annihilators was terrible but even if you decide to read it you just need to know who Bill is.
Great! I looked him up in the Marvel Characters Database and I know his origins, so I’m set. Thanks for the tip.
I’ve really enjoyed your reading guides so far. After watching Guardians this past summer, I decided to check out Marvel cosmic with a subscription to Marvel Unlimited.
I just finished reading Thanos Imperative, and loved it.
But now what?
I want to eventually get up to the more recent Guardians releases and the new Captain Marvel stuff. Should I just jump forward to there? Should I read stuff in-between?
I’ve added it to the guide but your next step is Annihilators. I’ll add this in a little more detail shortly, but from there you can basically jump to Marvel NOW! with some combination of:
Guardians of the Galaxy
Infinity & Tie Ins
Captain Marvel All-New Now!
Original Sin & Tie-Ins
I have a question. Ever since Marvel vs Capcom 3 introduced me to Nova I’ve been hooked on the character. As such I dove headlong into Cosmic Marvel and have been using your guide. I started with Thanos 1-12 and have worked my way up through War of Kings, currently on GotG #18, following your reading order to a T. I have been LOVING every minute of it. I have to say though, as I approach Realm of Kings I’m getting a bit shaky as to where continuity goes, in terms of not getting sucked into loads of Earth drama and the extensive reading required to understand it all.
I LOVE Cosmic Marvel, the scale and drama of it all. Annihilation is 100% of the reason why I read comics now (never did before that). That being said, I rather dislike Earthbound Marvel. The quarrels seem petty and trite by comparison. I think it’s best summed up when Nova goes to Earth after Annihilation and is talking with Tony Stark. Richard explains everything he’s been through, all the hardship, the stakes, the billions of lives lost, and Tony blows him off with “yeah, but we have some political BS and some kids died and it’s way more important than what you went through. You should register.” As big and important as the Civil War event was, I just can’t manage to care, at all, about anything the people of Earth had to go through, knowing that the rest of the galaxy was united in actual war for the continued existence of the universe. So I’m a bit fearful, looking down the line, that I’m going to be /forced/ to start caring about New York’s finest just to get back to cosmic storylines.
This is getting really long now, I’m sorry, but here is my question:
After Nova and the Guardians finish their run in Realm of Kings and I read through Thanos Imperative, will I have to slog through Earthbound events to get back into space with the new Nova? Is Infinity worth it? After reading War of Kings Inhumanity sounds interesting because the Inhumans are pretty spiffy but at the end of the day I really just want to stay in the stars.
Help me Dave, I feel like Richard Rider in Nova 1-3, I’m scared.
Great question. So great I may write a longer question of the week post to capture everything. But for now –
If you truly love Marvel Cosmic, you may want to go BACK before you go forward. Moving forward into Marvel Now kind of demands Earth-bound concerns. The Nova of Marvel Now is earth-centric (and doesn’t involve Richard Rider), and even Guardians includes Iron Man and a lot of earth focus to start (they move back into the stars eventually). The Infinity event is cosmic in nature, but really requires you to have read Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers (earthy all over).
So, if you want to stay in the stars, and you haven’t already, I highly recommend going back to Silver Surfer #34 from 1988. Why here? This is the start of the Rebirth of Thanos leading ultimately to Infinity Gauntlet. Your path, should you choose to accept it:
Silver Surfer #34 – #38
Thanos Quest #1 – #2
Infinity Gauntlet #1 – #6
It’s all here (and also in less expensive trade paperbacks). If you like what you read, from there you can start Warlock and the Infinity Watch and Infinity War.
Enjoy the stars!
Canton Ford says
I have to say I am right where you are, literally! The Annihilation series is why I read comics now. Just a week ago I am guilty of saying hiw petty the earthbound heroes quarrels have become (I know I sound weird and creepy). I have scoured the internet to collect nearly all of the comics in this cosmic list, and am coming to the end. Did you go back and read what Dave listed in his answer? If so, are they worth it? Thanks
Chris Vazquez says
So, I have to say that nothing has done for me what the Annihilation/Nova/Guardians series did. That whole set was a wondrous thrill ride where each obstacle was greater than the last. From the intense battles of Annihilation to the daily musings of the Inhumans as royals in War of Kings it was all fabulous. I have yet to stumble upon something that lit that spark, and with Sam Alexander stealing the name of my favorite hero it looks like I won’t for a while yet.
In the end what I did was read Infinity Gauntlet, so, yes, exactly what Dave said. I found a list that included all of the tie-ins too (and am blessed with great local comic shops) so I was able to read the whole big picture. What Dave wrote along with any other Silver Surfer comics you want should be well sufficient for a terrifying romp through the cosmos. It’s also up there in terms of cosmic power and has little in the way of earth-based quarrels, which is nice. If you liked the surfer in the modern series then you’ll enjoy him in the past too. I’m looking to start reading Warlock and Infinity War because I just can’t get enough. Do note that the Infinity Gauntlet series was written in a different time in comics and has a very different style, both in art and story (seeing a basically naked Moondragon fume over Wendell Vaughn’s rejection of her advances was a bit offputting). It’s still very good and is the classic that it is for a reason. We already know Thanos and why he’s great so it shouldn’t take much convincing.