Bound by the pretty people at Herring & Robinson. This right here is what I’ve been focused on since beginning my single issues reading order.
Not definitive seeing as how it’s only a selected reading order. MARVEL puts out a ridiculous amount of books each month. Imagine, darling, if you will, how wonderful things would be if they’d just focus on a handful of titles and made each of them exceptional; kind of like how the fine folks at VALIANT do things.
But anyway, when I took an interest in custom binding, I had the admittedly insane idea of building a narrative out of the Marvel Universe, one with which someone could begin a journey that would guide them through its complexities as painless as possible. I didn’t want to deal with Silver Age madness, so starting in the Modern Era seemed to be the best idea.
I ended up choosing the year 2001 as a springboard for this project. Around this time MARVEL was going through a bit of a company-wide relaunch. Think of something like MARVEL NOW but without all the publicity and gimmicks. In fact, if you were a MARVEL reader at the time, you probably wouldn’t even notice the changes happening (no endless amounts of all new number ones).
Essentially, there was an editorial change. And even though I can’t confirm this, it’s obvious that focus had been shifted on hiring critically acclaimed writers and letting them have their ways with the MU. So it goes without saying that I really like this time period. There are things that began here that have reverberated through to the current era.
Even so, it’s not all top notch and custom bind worthy, so I devised a set of requirements for the stories I would feature, which are … 1. Is it damn good? … and/or … 2. Is it important to the overall MU? … So if it wasn’t good, but still a big event, I’d include it. If it wasn’t important but just so so rad, I’d stick it in there anyway. Ideally, I suppose, you’d want it to be both: damn good and important.
Because I’m treating the MU as a single narrative, I arrange titles not just chronologically, but thematically, much like I did with my VALIANT reading order. I wouldn’t dare place THE PUNISHER next to THOR. But if you did PUNISHER –> DEADPOOL –> X-MEN –> AVENGERS –> THOR then things flow better, you see? I do feel I should point out that there are some titles included that don’t vibe with the publication date of others. For instance, I included the Paul Jenkins INHUMANS maxi-series even though it came out in 1998. I did this because of its relations to storylines in 2001. I promise you, though, I was very careful with this; the narrative remains solid.
One final note: The adjustment in quality that MARVEL was going through at the time didn’t immediately happen with AVENGERS and the characters’ respected solo series. That did happen about a year later (Mike Grell on IRON MAN and Bruce Jones on HULK were especially nice), but I didn’t feel it necessary to jump right into Avenger stuff. So, for a while, much of my reading order is street level MU and mutant stuff. But fear not, true and beautiful believers, there was some great Avenger stuff that came about around 2002 and will be added in time.
The reading order is actually only a little over 180 issues so far. I wasn’t even going to post it yet but someone on Reddit requested it, so I’ll shut up now AND GET RIGHT TO THE FRIGGIN’ READING ORDER ….
(Let’s assume all titles are 1st series unless noted otherwise.)
So yeah. I’ve taken a serious amount of MARVEL comics and meticulously assorted them into a proper reading order, then paid professionals to make them into customized omnibus editions. Sewn, not glued. Sturdy editions that will last until long after I’m dead.
So what’s the reading order? I’ll put that up sometime soon. But know that the order begins around 2000-2001. There was an editorial change at MARVEL, and instead of relying on popular characters to sell books, MARVEL shelled out the cash for some critically acclaimed writers to put out some critically acclaimed material. And it worked, marvelously well. Because so many great stories began around this time, I’ve picked this era to begin this glorious collection.
I didn’t come to this decision lightly, though. I tortured myself for months researching and skimming various storylines before centering on this point in time. I had to. I was planning on having a hardback volume commissioned with a big 1 on the spine, so I had better be sure it was a damn good jumping on point.
I love shared universes. I particularly love taking notes on continuity and placing it all in proper order. When I started reading Valiant a couple of years ago, I first spent a couple of weeks cataloging each issue in order of publication beginning with May 2012. Then I read everything (seriously, everything) in the order of release. Once I finished an arc, I then placed it in a reading order that made the most sense before going on to the next one. This step-by-step process kept me from being overwhelmed by the material.
This reading order is meant to flow like a single narrative. I don’t take into consideration Valiant’s official acts. I treat titles as chapters, as if the entire saga is in one huge compendium. Because of this, some issues have a strange placement, but I promise that if anyone reads Valiant in this order, the story will read exceptionally clear and, in my opinion, more enjoyably. Common themes are grouped together to improve flow, like a piece of music that gradually builds to a crescendo.
A few notes on placement:
– I don’t move on to the next title until the current one comes to a resting conclusion, otherwise the reader would have a hard time moving on when events were still unresolved. So when X-O Manowar completes its first arc, I go right into the next since the next one takes place immediately after.
– The 25th issue of the ‘Valiant first wave’ featured tons of backup story. Some of these are jokes and are not meant to be seen as in continuity. Others, though, take place at certain moments in previous arcs, and actually serve to enhance the story when read along with them. For instance, a backup feature from HARBINGER #25 takes place during the first five issues of the title. But if read (as a flashback) right before issue six, we see that Kris actually references the moment in the flashback. It flows exceptionally well like this. HOWEVER, I realize that hunting down a future issue just for five or six pages can be frustrating, so the issues marked as (segment:) should be seen as purely optional.
– Everyone seems to agree that X-O MANOWAR #1 is the place to start. After all, this is were the relaunch began. But looking at Valiant, I see that arguably the central figure in all of this is Toyo Harada. Because of this, I feel it best to establish who he is.
– Eternal Warrior. The first series seems a bit out of continuity when compared to his appearances in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG. It works, but only if we use a little imagination. It has to be read before the latter, and we need to assume that after the events in the Sword of the Wild arc, he had a change of heart before showing up in A&A (the Geomancer is the same in both series, so there is a connecting thread).
So anyway, I’ll shut up now and GET RIGHT TO THE FRIGGIN’ READING ORDER …
1. Harbinger vol.1 — Omega Rising
2. Bloodshot vol.1 — Setting the World on Fire
3. X-O Manowar vol.1 — By the Sword
4. X-O Manowar vol.2 — Enter Ninjak
5. Eternal Warrior vol.1 — Sword of the Wild
6. Archer & Armstrong vol.1 — The Michelangelo Code
7. Shadowman vol.1 — Birth Rites
8. Shadowman vol.2 — Darque Reckoning
9. Harbinger vol.2 — Renegades
10. Bloodshot vol.2 — The Rise and the Fall
11. Harbinger Wars
12. Harbinger vol.3 — Harbinger Wars
13. Bloodshot vol.3 — Harbinger Wars
14. X-O Manowar vol.3 — Planet Death
15. Archer & Armstrong vol.2 — Wrath of the Eternal Warrior
16. Archer & Armstrong vol.3 — Far, Far Away
17. Quantum & Woody vol.1 — The World’s Worst Superhero Team
18. Shadowman vol.3 — Deadside Blues
19. Shadowman vol.4 — Fear, Blood, and Shadows
20. X-O Manowar vol.4 — Homecoming
21. Bloodshot vol.4 — H.A.R.D. Corps
22. Harbinger vol.4 — Perfect Day
23. Archer & Armstrong vol.4 — Sect Civil War
24. Archer & Armstrong vol.5 — Mission Improbable
25. Quantum & Woody vol.2 — In Security
26. Unity vol.1 — To Kill A King
27. X-O Manowar vol.5 — At War With Unity
28. Harbinger vol.5 — Death of a Renegade
29. Harbinger vol.6 — Omegas
30. Bloodshot vol.5 — Get Some and Other Stories
31. Bloodshot vol.6 — The Glitch and Other Tales
32. Unity vol.2 — Trapped by WebNet
33. X-O Manowar vol.6 — Prelude to Armor Hunters
34. Armor Hunters
35. Unity vol.3 — Armor Hunters
36. Armor Hunters: Bloodshot
37. Armor Hunters: Harbinger
38. X-O Manowar vol.7 — Armor Hunters
39. Archer & Armstrong vol.6 — American Wasteland
40. Quantum & Woody vol.3 — Crooked Pasts, Present Tense
41. Shadowman Endtimes
42. The Death Defying Doctor Mirage vol.1
43. Rai vol.1 — Welcome to New Japan
44. Eternal Warrior vol.2 — Eternal Emperor
45. Archer & Armstrong vol.7 — The One Percent and Other Tales
46. The Delinquents
47. X-O Manowar vol.8 — Enter: Armorines
48. Unity vol.4 — The United
49. Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel
50. The Valiant
51. Ivar, Timewalker vol.1 — Making History
52. Ivar, Timewalker vol.2 — Breaking History
53. Ivar, Timewalker vol.3 — Ending History
54. Quantum & Woody vol.4 — Quantum & Woody Must Die!
55. Dead Drop
56. X-O Manowar vol.9 — Dead Hand
57. Unity vol.5 — Homefront
58. Unity vol.6 — The War Monger
59. Imperium vol.1 — Collecting Monsters
61. Imperium vol.2 — Broken Angels
62. Imperium vol.3 — The Vine Imperative
63. Divinity II
64. Book of Death
65. Bloodshot Reborn vol.1 — Colorado
66. Bloodshot Reborn vol.2 — The Hunt
67. X-O Manowar vol.10 — Exodus
68. Book of Death: Fall of the Valiant Universe
69. Rai vol.2 — Battle for New Japan
70. Ninjak vol.1 — Weaponeer
71. Ninjak vol.2 — The Shadow Wars
72. The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage vol.2 — Second Lives
73. Wrath of the Eternal Warrior vol.1 — Risen
74. Wrath of the Eternal Warrior vol.2 — Labyrinth
75. A+A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong vol.1 — In the Bag
76. Faith vol.1 — Hollywood and Vine
77. Imperium vol.4 — Stormbreak
78. X-O Manowar vol.11 — The Kill List
79. X-O Manowar vol.12 — Long Live the King
80. X-O Manowar vol.13 — Succession and Other Tales
81. Ninjak vol.3 — Operation: Deadside
82. Ninjak vol.4 — The Siege of King’s Castle
83. Rai vol.4 — 4001AD
84. Rai vol.3 — The Orphan
86. 4001AD: Beyond New Japan
87. Bloodshot Reborn vol.3 — The Analog Man
88. Bloodshot Reborn vol.4 — Bloodshot Island
1. Harbinger Deluxe vol.1
2. Bloodshot Deluxe vol.1
3. X-O Manowar Deluxe vol.1
4. Archer & Armstrong Deluxe vol.1
5. Shadowman Deluxe vol.1
6. Harbinger Wars Deluxe
7. Quantum & Woody Deluxe vol.1
8. Bloodshot Deluxe vol.2
9. Harbinger Deluxe vol.2
10. X-O Manowar Deluxe vol.2
11. Unity Deluxe vol.1
12. Archer & Armstrong Deluxe vol.2
13. Armor Hunters Deluxe
14. Shadowman Deluxe vol.2
15. The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage Deluxe vol.1
16. Rai Deluxe vol.1
17. The Valiant Deluxe
18. Ivar, Timewalker Deluxe vol.1
19. X-O Manowar Deluxe vol.3
20. Divinity Deluxe
21. Book of Death Deluxe
22. Bloodshot Reborn Deluxe vol.1
23. X-O Manowar Deluxe vol.4