So my Marvel Unlimited account is about six weeks old right now. I’ve already put a lot of mileage on it and looked at a couple hundred comics. Although I am doing this because I’m basically crazy, I’m not quite crazy enough to try and tackle the entire archive from the beginning. I’m currently pursuing three different lines:
1) Straight Chronological Reading
Yes, I’ve read the very first book on MU, the venerable Marvel Comics # 1 from 1939. I proceeded through the Golden Age from there, and at this point I’ve already completed the WWII years. That means no notes on those interminable 66-page anthologies that were all the rage, and no explanation for the curious antipathy I formed for Al Avison while reading 40s Marvel comics. I may look back later to do some retrospectives about this curious era in Marvel history.
On this line, I’m currently reading books from 1954. The early 50s are some tough times for marvel. The Human Torch (not that one), Captain America, and Namor the Sub-Mariner are soldiering through endless Commie bashing in assorted titles while Strange Tales and Journey into Mystery (long before the coming of Thor) cough up an endless stream of six-page “weirdies.”
2) The Silver Age
Possibly the best starting point in the entire collection because it’s very nearly objective. Everybody agrees that Things Changed in November of 1961 with the release of Fantastic Four # 1. This is where the continuity of the modern Marvel universe begins. It’s been a rollicking adventure so far, and I’ve pushed it up to 1966.
Silver Age Marvel comics are surprisingly ripe for chronological reading. The creative community is so tight and intimate that crossovers happen casually and naturally, and events in one book regularly feed into the others. Of course, this close-knit team has its downsides, too. Every narrator’s voice is Stan Lee’s voice, and rare indeed is the art that breaks out of the mold of Mr. Kirby or Mr. Ditko.
I’m deeply indebted to Comic Book Herald for starting me at this point – and in fact for convincing me to shell out for an MU subscription in the first place. I started by trying to follow his My Marvelous Year plan, in which he shares a weekly list of the 10 best comics for each year moving forward, but I soon succumbed to the temptation of “and then what happened?”
3) The Twenty-First Century
My interest in comics isn’t entirely (or even primarily) historical; I want to know what the newest and latest developments are, too. For those who don’t know, Marvel Unlimited tends to run about six months behind print and digital publication, so I’m just now enjoying the wealth of “All New, All Different” titles launched last year. Civil War II is still waaay off in my future.
When reading modern comics I tend to pursue one title, creator, or event at a time rather than attempting to read chronologically. I’ve followed Planet Hulk / World War Hulk through its whole twisted run, re-read the beauty that is Warren Ellis’s Nextwave, and am always keeping my eyes peeled for the next issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to hit MU.