Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Getting Started With Marvel Hardcover Collections - A Buyers Guide

A little off-topic for this one, but most of us are like-minded guys so I'm pretty sure this article will be of interest to a few of you!

First, a preamble: I don't claim to be an expert in comics in any shape or form. I read comics when I was kid but they have only recently (last 5 years or so) regained my interest. It has taken me a good few years to get my head around it all, and this article is me sharing what I've found when I restarted my collection. Hopefully it will help someone else out there to understand where to begin their own!

Updated Shelf Picture June 2014!

My Marvel Hardcover Shelf... in progress (Nov 2013)



Getting Started

So, I decided to start a Marvel graphic novel collection. I found that there are many ways you can do this, the cheapest way would be to go the trade paperback route: these are perfect bound books of about 150 pages (about 5/6 issues). Oversized Hardcovers can vary from 150-500 pages and can collect entire runs of comics - plus they look awesome on the shelf (and can still be fairly cheap from Amazon). Finally, The fairly recent Omnibus range can hit 1500 pages and cost near £100, but are great for collecting single series - especially those of non-modern age.

As I wasn't going to go mad (to start with) I chose to focus on Oversized Hardcovers (OHCs) as these seemed to be the best way of collecting a good looking shelf collection.

Marvel Events

When I first started collected OHCs I focussed on contemporary X-men books. This seemed to be the easiest way to begin as there was a clear-cut reading order. However as I progressed I soon learned that Marvel comics do not have a clear reading order! Their yearly 'events' interweave with the rest of the series', and storylines in those series' become incomprehensible unless you read the event 'mini-series' first...

So in the end I gave up on X-men and read the most recent events in order. According to the web its best to start at around 2004 and work from there, as it was at that point where Marvel events really started to affect continuity. There have been loads of events (including lots of 'cosmic' ones that don't really affect the continuity of the 'earth-based' ones), so I tried to figure out the key ones before planning my purchases:

2004-05: Secret War - OHC Link TBP Link
This is a nice tidy event where Nick Fury rounds up a bunch of heroes and invades Latvaria (Dr Doom's kingdom). Although fairly simple, it actually has the beginnings of story threads that only come to fruition many years later. It also acts as a great introduction to the main Marvel characters (especially if you've just started collecting), as most are present in some way during this event.

2005-06: House of M - OHC Link TPB Link
No More Mutants. Pretty much mandatory if you're thinking of starting an X-men collection as its repercussions reverberate through a decades worth of storylines. It's also a must if you're following the Scarlet Witch storyline.

2006-07: Civil War - OHC Link TPB Link
Civil War is an epic event where the mighty heroes of earth are split down the middle, fighting each other over the Superhuman Registration Act, and ends in a surprising death. Although the main mini-series if quite short, this event plays out more in the Avengers comics, which is why I also recommend getting this book as a companion.

2008: Secret Invasion - OHC Link TPB Link
The Skrull alien race infiltrates earth and imposes as their most loved heroes. The beginnings of this event took place during the Secret War and through the (mostly) Avengers comics since then. Some cool twists and turns in this book. The Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion book ties up loads of lose ends as well.

2009: Dark Reign
As a result of the Secret Invasion Norman Osborn (The Green Goblin) becomes director of SHIELD and replaces the Avengers with his own, less savoury, team. There isn't actually an 'event' book as such for this one, but the best compilation of Dark Reign is the Dark Avengers book which takes place neatly between Secret Invasion and Siege. Speaking of which...

2009-10: Siege - OHC Link TPB Link
Siege is the culmination of the Civil War/Secret Invasion/Dark Reign storyline in an epic finale! To get the most out of this you'll need to grab the Thor (Straczynski) omnibus, as it explains why Asgard is in Oklahoma. The end of Siege then follows straight into...

2010: The Heroic Age - OHC Link
After Siege the 'big three' Iron Man, Cap America and Thor become best buds (well not quite) again after years of fighting. I assume due to the success of The Avengers movie! :-P.

Interlude
There are quite a few 'mini-events' that take place here. Including Chaos War and Children Crusade. Honestly you don't really need them for continuity's sake. The Children Crusade is actually really good though, and explains Scarlet Witch's re-emergence and basically sets up Avengers vs. X-Men. Fear Itself also takes place here (a pretty big event) but isn't available in OHC and apparently wasn't that good.

2012: Avengers vs. X-Men - OHC Link TPB Link
This is actually best read AFTER you've read the X-men books to be honest (see below), as it focusses a lot on Hope's storyline as well as understanding what Utopia is.

And that's you up to date! You can of course also grab the 2013 event Age of Ultron, but it's a pretty standalone event.

Character Series OHC/Omnibus List (2004+)

Now you've got all the recent events out the way, you should be looking at collecting your favourite character series! Honestly it doesn't matter what order you read these in, especially if you've read all the events above.

I'm sticking to the OHC and Omnibus collections that take place during the 2004+ era with my collection (so they coincide with the events I've also collected), so I'll focus on them here and try and explain where each book fits in the Marvel timeline. There are lots more books that cover the earlier years but you'll have to look elsewhere for where to start with them!

Iron Man
Iron Man Extremis (before Civil War - a cool story that defines the modern Iron Man)
Invincible Iron Man vol 1 and vol 2 (during the Dark Reign, Siege and well into the Heroic Age)

Captain America
These take place directly after one another:
Captain America (Brubaker) Omnibus (before Civil War)
The Death Of Captain America Omnibus (spoiler much! after Civil War, during Secret Invasion)
Captain America Lives! Omnibus (during Dark Reign)

Thor
Thor (Straczynski) Omnibus (pretty much sets up the Siege event)

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four (Hickman) Omnibus vol 1 (during the Dark Reign)

New Avengers
This is a tricky one, as the first 3 volumes of the OHC are now collected in an Omnibus but the others are yet to be! I would assume the last 4 OHCs will be in a vol 2 at some point...
New Avengers Omnibus vol 1 (starts before House of M, ends with Secret Invasion)
New Avengers Omnibus vol 2 (between Secret Invasion and Siege - yet to be released)

Mighty Avengers
A new Avengers team created by Iron Man after the events of Civil War, runs parallel and ends at the same point as the New Avengers above).
Mighty Avengers: Assemble
Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion
Mighty Avengers: Dark Reign

Hulk
Hulk doesn't really feature that heavily in Marvel events for some reason, but he did have his own event in 2006 with the amazing Planet Hulk/World War Hulk storyline.
Planet Hulk
World War Hulk

Others
Secret Warriors Omnibus (takes place during Dark Reign, a great 'spy' book)
Dark Avengers (basically the Dark Reign event book)

X-men
The X-men arc between House of M and AvX is epic (with many, many books), so I've just included the important books in the storyline:
New X-Men (Morrison) Omnibus (although older than 2004, this is great starting point to modern X-men)
Astonishing X-Men (Joss Whedon) Omnibus
House of M (the event - see above)
Endangered Species
Messiah Complex
Manifest Destiny
Utopia (takes place during Dark Reign and features the Dark Avengers)
Nation X
Messiah War
Second Coming
Schism
If you grab Children Crusade this will lead you nicely into the Avengers vs. X-Men event.

The End

I know this article has been a bit waffly, but I hope it has helped at least one person out there to make sense of the minefield that is modern Marvel!

Note that there are always new books coming out, so this article will go out of date pretty quickly. The best place I can suggest to visit for your Marvel OHC/Omnibus news and help is this forum.

If I've missed anything or made an error leave a comment below!

Darth Meer