The Marvel Knights Era Begins
The whole point of Comic Book Herald is to help you decipher which comics and collected trade paperbacks are worth your time and in what order to read them. More often than not, when a newcomer to the comic book scene asks for guidance on where to begin with Marvel Comics, they’ll hear “Start with Avengers Disassembled.”
This is not necessarily terrible advice, as Avengers Disassembled begins the Event-centric modern era of Marvel that continues to this day. Nonetheless, I’m avoiding this approach for one very big reason: the immediate material leading up to Avengers Disassembled is absolutely crucial in developing an understanding of the Marvel Universe that is to come. Plus, there are some of the best Daredevil, Punisher, and Fantastic Four stories of all time within this timeframe (just to name a few).
As a result, what you’ll find below is a spoiler-free reading order guide to the Marvel graphic novels originally published in the early part of the new millennium. A handful will even date back to the late 90’s, but for the most part, this is the Marvel Knights era of my favorite comic publisher, capturing exactly how Marvel built their way to Avengers Disassembled.
I hope that you’ll find the below guide useful. There’s a ton of great material here from a decade ago, as well as a ton of laughable material that nonetheless helps paint a complete picture.
Without further ado, this is the Marvel Universe up until the Era of Events. Devour as you so choose.
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Previously: X-Men Onslaught
Marvel Comics Reading Timeline
Marvel Knights Debut
Enjoying Inhumans? Check out Comic Book Herald’s Inhumans reading order.
Collects: Deadpool #2 to #8, #-1, Daredevil/Deadpool Annual 1997
Collects: Deadpool (1997) #9-17 and Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #47
Collects: Deadpool (1997) #18-25 & #0, Deadpool & Death Annual 1998
Collects: Deadpool #26 to #33
Adding Deadpool to the guide by popular demand! If you’re enjoying Deadpool, check out Comic Book Herald’s Deadpool reading order.
Black Panther by Christopher Priest Vol. 1
Collects: Black Panther (1998) #1 to #17
Enjoying Black Panther? Check out Comic Book Herald’s Black Panther reading order.
Black Panther by Christopher Priest Vol. 2
Collects: Black Panther #18 to #35, Deadpool #44 (read alongside Black Panther #23)
Note that Black Panther #25 is a Maximum Security tie-in. I’d recommend skipping until the full event is listed with Avengers Assemble Vol. 4.
Deadpool Classic Vol. 6 (#34 to #45, Black Panther #23)
Black Panther by Christopher Priest Vol. 3
Collects: Black Panther #36 to #49
This is as good a time as any to mention that if you truly want “just the essentials” for Marvel continuity, I have a fast track guide you’ll love.
Black Panther by Christopher Priest Vol. 4
Collects: Black Panther #50 to #62
Enjoying Daredevil? Check out Comic Book Herald’s Daredevil reading order.
Black Widow (Collects 2 different 3 issue mini-series)
Collects: Black Widow (1999) #1 to #3, Black Widow (2001) #1 to #3
Enjoying Black Widow? Check out Comic Book Herald’s Black Widow reading order.
Note that Marvel Knights #6 is a Maximum Security tie-in. I don’t list the full event reading order until a little later in the guide, so you can either skip that issue and save it for the full event, or just plow ahead with the series here.
Collects: Sentry #1-5; Sentry: Fantastic Four, X-men, Spider-man, Hulk; and Sentry vs. The Void
From the CBH readers in regards to these issues: “Those 3 comics nearly made me pop out my eyeballs with a spoon, burn my iPad and cancel my MU subscription.” Reader beware!
Enjoying Punisher? Check out Comic Book Herald’s Punisher reading order.
Deadpool Classic Vol. 7 (#46 to #56)
Elektra: Marvel Knights (1-22)
Enjoying Elektra? Check out Comic Book Herald’s Elektra reading order.
Avengers Assemble, Vol. 1 (Avengers (98 – 04))
Collects: Avengers (1998 to 2004) #1 to #6, Annual ’98, Iron Man #7, Captain America #8, Quicksilver #10, Avengers #7 to #11
Although I’m placing Kurt Busiek’s Avengers Forever very high in the reading order, I recommend skipping this volume if you’re very new to the Marvel Universe. This story is very reliant on the reader’s knowledge of previous Avengers’ history. If you’re sitting there like “Avengers, who?” I recommend making it through Avengers Disassembled and then returning to this volume.
Collects: Avengers #12 to #15, Avengers Annual (1999) #1, Avengers #16 to #18, Avengers #0, Avengers #19 to #23
The above section of the Busiek and Perez Avengers contains one of my all-time favorite Ultron stories in Avengers #19 to #22 (the Avengers #0 special is a prelude)!
Collects: Avengers #24 to #28, Avengers Annual (2000) #1, Avengers #29 to #31, Thunderbolts #42, Avengers #32, Thunderbolts #43, Avengers #33, Thunderbolts #44, Avengers #34
If you’re reading via the trades, this volume will begin to weave in Busiek’s concurrent run on Thunderbolts in the crossover titled “The Nefaria Protocols!”. MU readers will find this Thunderbolts selection in the years (1997 to 2003).
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers was actually released in 2010 but can be read here. Far from essential, but a fun read.
Collects: Maximum Security: Dangerous Planet, Maximum Security #1 to #2, Avengers #35, Maximum Security #3, Avengers #36 to #44, Annual 2001,
Note that this volume of Avengers begins by crossing over with the Marvel Universe Maximum Security event. You can find the full crossover guide with Comic Book Herald’s Maximum Security reading order.
Captain Marvel (0-35)
This is the Captain Marvel series beginning in 2000, written by Peter David with art by Chris Cross (awesome artist name). The Captain Marvel and Rick Jones relationship stems straight out of Avengers Forever, and the book is tied heavily to Marvel Cosmic. It’s a fun read, but books like Black Panther or Daredevil above will actually make easier starting places for those not as immersed in Marvel continuity.
This Captain Marvel listing can be pretty confusing in either trade or Marvel Unlimited form. As a result, I explain in a column in much greater detail which issues to read.
The Son of Asgard trade collects material published after The Death of Odin. Regardless, the stories within are of Thor’s youth and do not conflict with any ongoing continuity involving Odin and the state of Asgard.
Collects: Avengers #45 to #56, Avengers: The Ultron Imperative #1
Infinity Abyss is very much reliant on some knowledge of Thanos, and actually fits best within my complete Thanos reading order.
Killraven can be read just about anywhere as it stands outside the Marvel Universe. A fun sci-fi romp that happens to have been published by Marvel in 2002 around these other runs.
Instant Classics – Daredevil, X-Men, Fantastic Four!
Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev Ultimate Collection Vol. 1
Collects: Daredevil #16 to #19, #26 to #40
Despite the collected edition’s strict stance on only the issues created by both Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, I do recommend you read Daredevil #20 to #25 following issue #19 as well.
Alias is the absolutely fantastic story of Jessica Jones, one-time superhero Jewel, and current private eye with a whole lot of issues to work out. There are a handful of references to Bendis’ Daredevil above during this series, so I would recommend reading it after you’re familiar with DD.
Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev Ultimate Collection Vol. 2
Collects: Daredevil #41-50 & #56-65
Again, I recommend also reading Daredevil #51 to #55 following issue #50!
X-Force (116 to 129) and X-Statix (1-26)
X-Men: The Search For Cyclops (1-4)
Note that The Search for Cyclops is a prelude to New X-Men. You can survive without it, but it will fill in some blanks early on.
New X-Men (114 – 116, Annual #1, 117 – 154)
Both New X-Men and the previous Daredevil item span a number of years and trade collections. As a result, some books below will actually have earlier publish dates than the later volumes. This is intentional. Reading each complete work as a whole is preferable to a volume-by-volume approach broken up by trades with no bearing on the storylines. You should not be missing any information if you read these all the way through here.
The Emma Frost collection provides a detailed look into Emma’s past. It’s quality backstory for fans of the character, but provides little to no bearing on the events of New X-Men.
Fantastic Four By Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo: Ultimate Collection – Book One
Collects: Fantastic Four (1997) #60-66, Avengers (1963) #400
Fantastic Four By Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo: Ultimate Collection – Book Two
Collects: Fantastic Four (1997) #67-70, #500-502
Fantastic Four By Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo: Ultimate Collection – Book Three
Collects: Fantastic Four (1997) #503-513
Fantastic Four By Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo: Ultimate Collection – Book Four Vol. 4
Collects: Fantastic Four (1961) #514-524
I recommend only to reading to issue #516 at this point!
Fantastic Four: 1234 technically occurs before the events of Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four. I would recommend reading the 1234 miniseries after, though, as it serves as more of a dystopian alternate reality than anything relating to mainstream continuity.
Mutants and Spiders
Issues: Wolverine #159 to #166
Issues: Deadpool #57 to #60
Note here that there are 5 “The Draft” one-shots including Kane, Marrow, Sauron, Wild Child, and Zero.
Collects: Weapon X #1/2, #1 to #28, Weapon X: Days of Future Now #1 to #5, Wolverine #167 to #176 + Wolverine Annual 2000 & 2001
Issues: Deadpool #61 to #69
Note that Deadpool issues #58 to #61 are included in Deadpool Classic, Vol. 8, but can be read here after the Weapon X saga.
Issues: Agent X #1 to #15
Note that Agent X is collected in its entirety across Deadpool Classic Volumes 9 & 10.
Spider-Man: Revenge of the Goblin
After reading this three issue mini-series, read Amazing Spider-Man #25, and then Peter Parker Spider-Man #25.
Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, Vol. 1
Collects: Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #1 to #6
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1: Coming Home
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #30-35
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2: Revelations
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #36-39
Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Return of the Green Goblin
Collects: Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1999) #44-47
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: Until The Stars Turn Cold
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #40-45
Collects: Spider-Man: Blue #1 To #6
Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1: The Hunger
Collects: Spectacular Spider-Man (2003) #1-5
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 4: Life & Death of Spiders
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #46-50
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 5: Unintended Consequences
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #51-56
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 6: Happy Birthday
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #57-58, 500-502
Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2: Countdown
Collects: Spectacular Spider-Man (2003) #6-10
Check out the full Spidey guide, for a more specific breakdown and continuation of the Spider-Man reading order.
Expanded Marvel Universe
Doctor Octopus: Negative Exposure (1-5)
Kingpin (2003 to 2004) #1 to #7
Human Torch by Karl Kesel & Skottie Young: The Complete Collection
Short-lived 2003 run on the character. All 12 issues in Marvel Unlimited can be read here.
The Crew (2003) #1 to #7
Sentinel Vol. 1 & 2 (1-12)
Captain Marvel (2002 – 2004)
Volume 1: Nothing to Lose – issues #1 – #6
Volume 2: Coven – issues #7 – #12
Volume 3: Crazy like a Fox – issues #13 – #18
Volume 4: Odyssey – issues #19 – #25
Marvel Universe: The End (1-6)
Iron Man: The Best Defense — Iron Man #73 to #83
Hawkeye (2003-2004) #1 to #8
She-Hulk (1-10) — Yes, this series goes to 12 issues. Read issue #11 and #12 AFTER Avengers Disassembled!
Mystique (1-13) by Brian K. Vaughn
Mystique (14-24) by Sean McKeever
Captain America & The Falcon (1-4)
Hulk & Thing: Hard Knocks (1 -4)
I’d make a note here that the Comic Book Herald faithful have labeled this series “so bad it hurts.” I’m still leaving it for reference and mostly because that makes me laugh. You’ve been warned.
Marvel Knights: Fantastic 4 (1-12) Volumes 1 and 2
Note here that this series is included as “4” in Marvel Unlimited.
Road to Disassembled
Marvel Knights: Spider-Man (1-12)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 7: The Book of Ezekiel
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #503-508
Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 3: Here There Be Monsters
Collects: Spectacular Spider-Man (2003) #11-14
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 8: Sins Past
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #509-514
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 9: Skin Deep
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #515-518
Avengers: The Complete Collection by Geoff Johns – Volume 1
Collects: Avengers (1998) 57-63, Vision (2002) 1-4, Thor (1998) 58, Iron Man (1998) 64
The Avengers: The Complete Collection by Geoff Johns Volume 2
Collects: Avengers (1998) 64-76
NEXT: Avengers Disassembled & Tie-Ins
If you like what you see on Comic Book Herald, or want more of a personal guide to the Marvel Universe, I recommend checking out the Comic Book Herald reading club. Join hundreds of new, returning, and faithful comic book readers as we navigate hand-picked selection from the Marvel comics library!
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Why is stand-off part 3 (avengers 63) listed before 1 and 2?
Why leave out Truth: Red, White & Black? I’d put it right before The Crew.
I started this reading list in 2015 and I highly recommend it. Shout out to CBH!
1998 is a great year to start reading Marvel comics from if you want to follow the ‘Earth 616’ timeline, the main continuity without going too far back. It’ll take you through major events in the Marvel universe like Avengers Disassembled, House of M, Civil War, Avengers vs X-Men etc as well as some of the best individual/team comic runs like Avengers, Deadpool, X-Men, Spider-Man. Daredevil etc.
Many of the best Marvel comics are pre-1998 and alternate universe ones like the original Stan Lee Spider Man ones, Age of Apocalypse, Secret Wars, Punisher kills the Marvel Universe etc but don’t a have a simple reading order because Marvel started making comics in 1961 and that’s waaay to far back to start from not to mention all the comics made since then. I’d just read some of them on the side unless those are your preference. Eventually I will read more of those classic stories myself.
My advice: I highly recommend getting the Marvel Unlimited app on your phablet or tablet. It has most of the comics on this reading order all in one app! Follow the issue orders on CBH. If there isn’t an issue number then you can click on the Amazon link and find the issue numbers on Amazon’s description or a different website.
You can skip comics you find uninteresting instead of forcing yourself to read them. The experience is much more enjoyable that way. You can even look up the comic on wiki and it will give you a basic summary of what happens.
It took me about 1-2 years to read the best Marvel runs released from 1998 to 2012. Now I am focusing on DC Comics but I plan to return to Marvel eventually. If you like Marvel movies, Marvel video games, Marvel animated series and need more Marvel in your life then definitely start reading the comics. This is what I started with and it’s excellent. Again, thank you CBH for the reading orders.
Hello getting started with comic book reading and collecting, I don’t see my other comment that I just posted… to re-iterate, I’m looking to see and understand the Avengers Assembled vol 1. Am I literally looking for this title or can I purchase the collect individually. If so not sure how to interpret the comic. I purchase Captain America June ’97 issue 8 which it appears from research is in vol 2. Not sure if I was suppoed to by the 98′ published year?? A little confused on finding the right titles.
(Avengers (98 – 04))
Collects: Avengers (1998 to 2004) #1 to #6, Annual ’98, Iron Man #7, Captain America #8, Quicksilver #10, Avengers #7 to #11
The year after the comic title is the year that particular run started. The Captain America issue you found is Captain America (1996) #8. It’s a different issue than Captain America (1998) #8, which was published on August 1st 1998.
The Sonic Runner says
Hi Everyone rather then going straight down the list from in-humans I decided to start with:
(Avengers (98 – 04))
Collects: Avengers (1998 to 2004) #1 to #6, Annual ’98, Iron Man #7, Captain America #8, Quicksilver #10, Avengers #7 to #11 …………..
My only question and concerns is that it only says Captain America #8. It looks like I might have picked up Captain America #8 form vol 2 but there is no indication that it is vol 2 on the cover. It is printed June 97′ 8. I’m guessing the print date has to follow between 98-04 for it to be the correct issue #8?
– A new comic collector and reader! Cheers!
Ian Anderson says
Looking through this, where does Iron Man from 1998-2004 belong in this reading order? I am only seeing a few issues here and there. Am I to read it whenever and however I want?
There’s a slight error in the reading order. Deadpool & Death annual ’98 should be placed before Collects: Deadpool (1997) #18 – 25
I don’t get that huge disclaimer on the Doom Emperor Returns section. There nothing particularly graphic about it. Seemed pretty standard fare
Solid list overall, I tried to follow it to a tee but ended up starting by year because I have to follow chronological order or it bugs the hell out of me. I mostly started with the avengers in 98, along with iron man, cap, thor, and ff. I usually read a few issues at a time of each, and its definitely a lot to take in at once but helps me get a better understanding and follow it better.
I’m keeping tabs on this guide so that I fit in the essentials. I’m heading into the marvel knights comics soon with DD, BP, and Punisher, but I may wait on those for a bit until they fold into the avengers side of things more. I also thought about picking up amazing spiderman 99 at issue 1, but I feel like I should just wait to tackle spiderman in its whole at another time.
Thanks for the help, I’ve never been a comic fan as starting out is intimidating. But I have found myself hooked on them now.
Yeah I need to read it chronologically as well or I wouldn’t understand it any tips on where to REALLY start?
5 years ago I had never read a single comic book but was interested in trying and desperately needed an escape from what was happening in my life. I had no idea where to start and found my way to this list. I just finally finished this reading list today (yes, I know, I’m a slow reader, I’ve had a lot going on) and I’m ready to tackle the rest of the reading lists here. I have a pull list at my local comic book shop and reading and collecting comics have become one of my favorite hobbies. Anyway, thanks to Comic Book Herald for this list and for helping me finally feel comfortable enough to dive into comics.
Truth: Red, White & Black is a serious omission.
Do the various Spiderman comics in The Road to Disassembled need to be read in the order listed? Just feels strange jumping from Marvel Knights, to Amazing, to Spectacular, back to Amazing… I’m halfway down that section so will probably carry on reading them as listed anyway, but wondering what the reasoning for that order is?
Thanks for the whole guide! I’ve been working down just this first part for 5yrs now so excited to be moving onto Part 2 soon!
So can I just check, if I’m to follow this correctly then I start by reading Inhumans and then read them all in the order on this list finishing with The Avengers: The Complete Collection by Geoff Johns Volume 2?
Stupid question but just to check, if I’m following this guide correctly I start with Inhumans and then read everything after that in the order on this list ending with The Avengers: The Complete Collection by Geoff Johns Volume 2?
I actually have the same question. Do we just ignore the subheadings (for example Mutants and Spiders) and continue reading down the list? We start with Inhumans right?
Jesse Hillman says
I am a bit confused trying to get a grasp on how to follow this list through marvel unlimited. I found your breakdown on the ultimate universe very helpful but this mentions “collections”. I’m not too familiar with what year these groups of issues came out and am feeling a tad overwhelmed trying to figure it out. Some clarity would be appreciated.
Paul warren says
feel free to ask about it i’ve read most of the things here and own a bunch of them. firstname.lastname@example.org
i need help i want to read all of the marvels comics where do i start
I have been going through this list, and I ended up entering all these issues into my MU App. Is there any reason to not follow release order of the issues? For example a lot of the Avengers (1998) issues come out before the Deadpool and Black panthers runs. Any opinions on how to approach the list ?
Paul Warren says
This list seems to be missing Captain America from this era.
can anyone tell me which items on the list are okay to skip?
as i’m mainly a fan of the avengers, are there any storylines on this list that aren’t as necessary to read?
is all of this available on marvel unlimited? i’m thinking of getting it but wondering if it’s worth paying for it if they don’t have what i want to read. do they have a lot of the older issues?
how many of these are actually crucial to set up before avengers disassembled and how many can i skip? is it necessary to read avengers assemble vol 1?
Kyle Smith says
No, I wouldn’t say so. I would recommend reading the first annual of the avengers assemble though as out explains exactly what happened during onslaught (the big even before this era) other than that you cab really just read what you want from this list. That’s what I’ve been doing, I use this list and pick what I’m interested in (sometimes they’ll make references to other stories ill decide to read) and also use the “best 100 marvel comics from 2000-” list on here to pick what’s best for me.
Does this entire marvel reading guide also cover the origin stories of important heroes and villains?
Kyle Smith says
Only in flashbacks. You’ll have to read vol 1 of all of them for full stories, but I’ve felt the flashbacks have done an efficient job personally
Is Onslaught the first on this list or Inhumans?
Above the Daredevil picture it says: “Previously: Onslaught”
I’m not sure if I should read Inhumans first or Onslaught.
Inhumans is the way to go. This list starts in 1997-98 which happens to be an excellent jumping on point for Marvel as they did a lot of relaunches (that were really good which is something they don’t always achieve). You don’t need to know anything prior for Inhumans, Deadpool or Black Panther (I wasn’t a fan of Deadpool and I would recommend skipping anything you feel is a drag).
Onslaught was an X-Men event where they “killed” off the Avengers and Fantastic Four and relaunched them under the Heroes Reborn banner in a pocket universe (made by Franklin Richards because comics) written by the creators who had left Marvel to form Image Comics and they are everything that is wrong with 90s comics.
That image sums up the Heroes Reborn line quite succinctly. On the plus side when they stopped the line they relaunched Avengers, all their individual titles and the Fantastic Four which serve as good jumping on points.
At this time they also introduced the Marvel Knights imprint which published slightly more mature books aimed at an older audience which were a great success. Within a few years they also relaunched Spider-Man and Hulk with new number ones and made big changes to the X-Men with Grant Morrison’s run.
Most of the comics I mentioned are on this list (and I wrote a massive comment on the previous page going through the others I mentioned and what I recommend). I’m now reading the 2007-2008 stuff and am convinced that this reading list is the best place to start for modern Marvel if you want to fully commit.
TLDR: Start with Inhumans, X-Men Onslaught isn’t that great (from what I’ve heard) and it will throw you in the deep end of the X-Men soap opera.
Alright, thanks a lot!
Kane Petru says
Hi, thanks for this, was always hesitant about reading comics ,because there’s just so many, and it’s overwhelming, but this list has been a huge help so far, I do have one question, when do you recommend jumping back into FF after issue #516 in the overall order of things.
Hey so I just finished “Inhumans” and I wanna follow this website as best as I can to understand the order and timeline… Do i need to continue with the inhumans or do I really just jump to Deadpool Vol 2?
I had the same question. You can simply keep moving down the list. Deadpool isn’t very necessary but it is a good story nonetheless. The Inhumans reading order ins separate from the main order
Soo.. Order in which we read stuff does not matter for this era??
Is is necessary to read the list in order from first to last? Can I read Avengers first rather than Inhumans?
Can anyone point out the essentials of this list, it would be greatly appreciated.