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A Chronological Critique Of Modern Marvel: Introduction

From Antman to ZZZXX

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Over the next few months (possibly years), I intend to work my way through the modern Marvel universe in (mostly) chronological order. Below, I explain the how and the why.

I wanted to be Batman when I was a kid. When I realised that was an impossible dream because I hadn’t been born into a life of extraordinary wealth, I decided that I might as well be Superman instead. The whole alien origin story seemed slightly more probable than the playboy billionaire orphan origin story.

Growing up with an attic full of old DC comics was tough. If I’d been introduced to Marvel at an early stage, I could have taken the sensible step and aspired to be Spidey. Severe arachnophobia might have made the necessary eight-legged encounter extremely distressing but a bite from a radioactive spider seems like an easy ride compared to being orphaned as a baby. That said, Peter Parker isn’t doing all that well on the parents and guardians front either.

Here’s the thing – I know enough about Marvel comics to have a decent understanding of Spiderman’s origin story. I’ve seen the Raimi films, I’ve absorbed enough of comic culture to know that the Vulture is an old man with fake wings and that Mysterio should feature in a Marvel-themed reboot of eighties movie F/X.

The recent rise of Marvel as a cinematic power – in both the Avengers focused connected universe, and the X-Men and Spiderman films – encouraged me to seek out some actual Marvel comics. I’ve read an issue or trade paperback here and there over the years, but I’ve never followed a character or storyline through the years. I’m not exactly a fan of superhero comics, you see, having left even my beloved DC behind in my early teens. When the New 52 launched, I thought a reboot might be a perfect time to jump back in but I found the majority of the stories tedious (Night of Owls was superb though) and gave up after the second round of trade paperbacks.

I might have stuck around a while longer if DC had their own equivalent of Marvel Unlimited though. It’s the WWE Network of Marvel comics and (for those who don’t know) the WWE Network is the Netflix of wrestling. Just the one brand is included, unlike Netflix, but almost every comic published by Marvel is available to read, either online or off. It’s an absolute treasure trove of popular culture.

When I asked friends and followers to suggest a good point to start with Marvel comics, I received all kinds of suggestions. Many recommended that I start with Marvel Now, the semi-relaunch that swept across the main titles recently, while others said it’d be a shame to miss the early versions of famous characters, and the Lee/Kirby Silver Age of the sixties. The most common suggestion was to start around the ‘Age of Events’, when cross-overs and continuity-shaking events became common. I’d always been intrigued by the Civil War storyline and the upcoming Captain America film helped me to settle on that as a rough starting area.

Jumping straight in to Civil War seemed risky though – if the characters are all interacting with one another, there might be no time to establish who they were before everything changed. So I kept digging and found this guide on Comic Herald. I’ll be starting here, but I’m not following the guide exactly.

Next week, as part of Boxing Day’s Saturday Supplement, you’ll be able to read part one of my reviews, which will cover Inhumans, Kevin Smith’s Daredevil run and Greg Rucka’s two Black Widow miniseries. Whether you’re a seasoned Marvel reader looking for a newcomer’s thoughts on the modern history of these characters and stories, or a novice wondering which books to read, hopefully we’ll have some fun exploring the good, the bad and the ugly over the coming months.

Back to the Saturday Supplement.

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