Looking to dive into current Marvel comics, but don’t want to try to read everything? This is the guide for you – the fast track to all the essential Marvel Comics since the “Fresh Start” era kicked off in May 2018.
Like previous fast tracks on Comic Book Herald (all linked below!), the Marvel Fresh Start fast track is a blend of major moments in the Marvel Universe, events, and what I consider the best Marvel Comics of 2018, 2019 and beyond. As you’d expect, the fast track does not include everything – for readers interested in consuming it all, check out Comic Book Herald’s complete Marvel Fresh Start reading order.
Finally, this is not a direct transfer of my picks for, say, the best Marvel Comics of 2019. There’s overlap, sure, but there are also some favorites that aren’t as essential to the overall Marvel Comics shared universe as the picks on this fast track. Likewise, the comics below are not listed in order of preference!
Related Reading Orders:
Where to Start With Marvel Comics (Fresh Start Era)
Much like the Scott Snyder era of Justice League at DC, Aaron’s Avengers (with collaborator Ed McGuinness) is full of huge ideas and inconsistent results. From reinventing the Celestials role in forming Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to Agents of Wakanda to the legacy of the Starbrand, Avengers is playing with enormous swaths of the Marvel Universe with no signs of slowing.
I’d note here that if you’re looking to plow through Avengers you will run into the War of the Realms event (also written by Jason Aaron, and listed below!) with issue #18. My recommendation would be to jump to the War of the Realms reading order at that point, and then come on back to Avengers once the event is finished.
My favorite Marvel book of 2018, and the front-runner for 2019’s picks until a certain writer started reinventing the X-Men, Immortal Hulk is an instant classic. No seriously, John and I talked at length about everything that makes it such a gem!
Jason Aaron’s Hall of Hammers: Thor / War of the Realms / Valkyrie / King Thor
Although he’s known for plenty of great comics including Scalped and Wolverine & The X-Men, Jason Aaron’s legacy will likely be defined by his now seven year run on Thor titles at Marvel. Beginning with Thor: God of Thunder, Aaron’s taken the lord of lightning on a journey through time, space, and gender. It’s honestly been excellent, and may well go down as my second favorite Thor run behind the all time G.O.A.T. Walt Simonson.
I have to admit that like a lot of modern readers, I have no ingrained interest in Conan the Barbarian. I’m well aware of the Roy Thomas / Barry Windsor-Smith / Sal Buscema days when 70’s Marvel Comics swam in the blood of the conquered, but the trend has largely passed me by. So it’s with some surprise and reluctance that I find myself caving in to Marvel’s enormous push to restore Conan to prominence in 2018 and beyond.
Nonetheless, Marvel is very committed to Conan, launching a number of series in the Conan-verse, and including Conan in everything from Savage Avengers to Marvel 2099 to a “Serpent King” crossover featuring Moon Knight. Likewise, the fact the core Conan series is written by Avengers architect Jason Aaron is no accident.
For the full list of Conan comics in the Marvel Universe, check out Comic Book Herald’s Conan reading order.
Ta-Nehisi Coates-Verse: Captain America / Black Panther
Coates has been one of my favorite Marvel writers since taking over Black Panther in 2016, and the trend continues into “Fresh Start” with Coates and Leinil Francis Yu salvaging Captain America from the wreckage of 2017’s Secret Empire and Black Panther taking a journey to the stars.
Both series are pleasantly confined to their own corners of creative vision, although intriguingly, the events of Captain America have bled over at times into Immortal Hulk and Absolute Carnage.
Venom / Absolute Carnage by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman
The cosmic symbiote smash hit has been one of the most delightful surprises of Fresh Start, taking the occasionally tired Venom and Eddie Brock relationship and injecting it with new life (and new cosmology!). All of Venom builds to the Absolute Carnage event which has – to date – matched the energy and promise of the set-up pound for gore-soaked pound.
For the full event guide, check out Comic Book Herald’s complete Absolute Carnage reading order.
Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley / Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Tom Taylor & Juann Cabal
Solid. That’s the word I’d use to describe the state of Peter Parker in the “Fresh Start” era. The Nick Spencer written Amazing Spider-Man has been dependable since launch, although as much as I love Ottley’s art, it’s genuinely difficult to get over his Peter and Mary Jane looking exactly like his work on Invincible.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Taylor and Cabal joins the list for excellent humor, and the fact that issue #6 is one of my favorite comics of 2019.
Simultaneously the least essential book in this guide, and the most fun I’ve had reading a Deadpool comic since Cable and Deadpool. This five issue “choose your own adventure” comic is a testament to the medium’s untapped potential, literally requiring you to roll dice to determine the next panel to read as you go. Written by Al Ewing with art by RB Silva, You Are Deadpool is one of my favorite comics of 2018, and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or three.
I won’t pretend to love the series, but Marvel’s relaunch of a new Fantastic Four #1 after a three year hiatus is an automatic inclusion on “Fresh Start’s” essential moments.
It’s become easy to take Runaways for granted since the series has been indefatigable since release, but rejuvenating the series that Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona built in the early 2000s was anything but a done deal. Many have tried, yet it took until Rowell and Anka in 2018 to find the formula anew, and craft some of the best stories in the gang’s history.
While it’s far from my favorite Marvel event – I much prefer the 1992 Infinity War – the culmination of Gerry Duggan’s Guardians of the Galaxy stories in Infinity Wars is one of the biggest events of the “Fresh Start” era, and includes major developments for some major players. For example, a lot of the following item on this list won’t make much sense without the background of Infinity Wars.
For the full guide, check out Comic Book Herald’s Infinity Countdown + Infinity Wars reading order.
Cates Cosmic – Death of Inhumans / Cosmic Ghost Rider / Guardians of the Galaxy / Silver Surfer Black
In addition to his excellent work on Venom – and in connection with the cosmic developments of the God of Symbiotes, Knull – Donny Cates has developed a suite of Marvel cosmic material well worth exploring. Cosmic Ghost Rider spins out of his work on Thanos Wins (technically released during “Marvel Legacy,” otherwise it would be on the list here), but otherwise readers can dive in relatively fresh to explore the current state of the Marvel cosmic landscape.
For the full guide, check out Comic Book Herald’s Donny Cates’ Marvel U reading order.
Zdarsky’s been one of the most interesting creators at Marvel since Howard the Duck, but with “Fresh Start” he’s entered “can’t miss” territory. Both Daredevil and Invaders are among the era’s best comics, exploring Matt Murdock’s inner demons and Namor’s mental health with equal dexterity.
While I am loathe to include this marketing atrocity, I am among the minority who found Al Ewing’s 2020 event teasers genuinely compelling. Since I am such a big fan of Ewing’s work on series like Ultimates and Immortal Hulk, I am fully willing to grant any upcoming event by him full benefit of the doubt and assume it’s worth preparing for.
Technically, there is a follow-up – Marvel Comics #1001 – but it adds only a single page written by Ewing (duplicated forwards and backwards… Ice Cream Man did it better!).
The biggest event in Marvel Comics since Secret Wars (2015) and the most enjoyable moment in X-Men history since I’ve cared about ongoing comics. Every new release in this twelve issue crossover event has been the highlight of the week, and even spawned a CBH Youtube companion series to try and keep up with it all!
For the full guide, check out Comic Book Herald’s House of X reading order.