Cosmic Marvel reading guide – Gauntlets, Guardians and Gargantuan Crossovers

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So you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy. Or maybe you plan to, but are still aware of this whole “infinity stones” sub plot that’s tying all the Marvel movies together. BUT you have no idea why these things are so important, or missed these stories as a kid, or heard people saying “how great the modern cosmic Marvel stuff has been!”

WELL if you fit several of those highly specific criteria, then I’ve got an article for you! Here I’ll try to lay out multiple reading options for the Comic Reader On The Go. Hey, I get it. You’ve got a hot date tonight. Or that big function at that popular place. You ain’t got time to read children’s stories all day. Maybe a little, but pfffft all weekend? C’mon there’s so much Hannibal to catch up on.

THE CURRENT GO-TO GUIDE

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This image has made the rounds and is quite good at outlining literally everything you should read from the mid-2000s onward if you want to be super-duper thorough and get the most out of Marvel’s The Avengers 3: Finally, The Infinity Gauntlet.

If all this is too much (and it probably is), my quick-path suggestion would be the books listed below. Note the CX and MU tags; that means they’re also on Comixology or Marvel Unlimited!

Annihilation 1~6 (sets the tone for everything today, no Guardians but is quite important + Nova) [CX] [MU]

Annihilation Conquest 1~6 (Integrates GotG, + Ultron, + leads directly into…) [CX] [MU]

Guardians of the Galaxy 1~25 (The run that inspired the movie. Abnett / Lanning writing duo define this team) [CX] [MU]

If you want to dig a tad deeper but still don’t want that whole list, add:

Drax 1~4 (on sale now on Comixology, super cheap, sets up Drax and explains a bit about him) [CX] [MU]

Nova 1~?? (Starts strong, but I bet you could stop after #25) [CX] [MU}

Thanos Imperative Ignition, 1~6, Devastation (Big confrontation with Thanos, Adam Warlock, GotG etc. Really good) [CX] [MU]

However, this list assumes you’ve already digested the 80s-90s stuff that really kicked it all off, and will almost certainly inform the future films. Specifically, I’m talking about Infinity Gauntlet and its various lead-up issues.

THANOS’ 3 ATTEMPTS TO KILL EVERYONE

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Thanos’ greatest claim to fame is undoubtedly the classic Infinity Gauntlet series. This was just heating up as I discovered comics, so in a way, Thanos and the gems were my initial exposure to the Marvel universe (outside of the vague awareness of Spider-Man). So yeah, I have a soft spot for all this stuff. However, I feel it’s pretty important to read if you’re digging the movies and the wider Thanos plot.

So the image above contains “Avengers vs Thanos,” “Rebirth of Thanos” and “The Infinity Gauntlet.” That’s the reading order for those who really want to dig in. A quick recap:

AvT: Collects Thanos’ first appearance in (of all places) Iron Man #55 and then runs into his first cosmic scuffle via the Cosmic Cube. You may know the cube as the Tesseract seen in Captain America: TFA and The Avengers. It also contains Thanos’ first brush with the Infinity Gems (called Soul Gems here) and Adam Warlock. They briefly team up to stop an even crazier villain; not the last time this would occur. [CX as each item, not listed as AvT] [MU same]

Rebirth of Thanos: Mistress Death resurrects Thanos and amplifies his powers to right a cosmic wrong – there are more beings living today than have ever died. She wants to see balance restored and brings Thanos back to life; he then sets out to once again obtain the gems and use them correctly. This specific story is “The Thanos Quest,” which was a specialty book and something I never read until this very collection. However, it actually explains how Thanos obtains the gems and how he slowly learns their true powers. You also get some good Silver Surfer stories that relate directly to all this stuff. [CX] [MU]

The Infinity Gauntlet: This is the book to read. Far as I’m concerned, skip everything else and just read this. You barely need to know anything going in – I know this because I was goddamn 11 when I read the first few issues and didn’t know who 50% of the cast were. If you can read words and follow stories, then you can understand this book with the knowledge you currently have. [CX] [MU]

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But why is IG the book? Well, you get a great slow burn from the lead-in Silver Surfer stuff (found in Rebirth) but more importantly, IG 1~3 is a well paced buildup to the main event – a colossal battle between Thanos and the remaining forces of the universe. They have no chance, know they have no chance, but still have to try. IG #4 is one of the meanest, coolest and most readable comics I’ve ever read.

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Thanos is never as ruthless, maniacal or boastful as he is in this miniseries. He achieves his goal of removing 50% of the population, but then keeps going. All our heroes fall, which prompts Galactus, Eternity and the rest of the cosmic beings to step in… and even they fall. This outcome is a little commonplace today, but back then, it wasn’t as played out as it is today.

Infinity Gauntlet led to an ongoing “Infinity” sub-series for Marvel, including Crusade, War, Abyss and so on. None are on the same level as IG, which itself would define Thanos forever. His appearance in numerous games (Marvel Super Heroes, MvC etc) pulls from his IG appearance despite coming around years later. It’s “the” thing Thanos did, and if you want to know what’s up with him without reading more than six comics, this is your book.

OMNIBUSES

And what the hell, if you’ve got cash to drop and want to get a lotta shit without buying a dozen comics, you can go this route:

Annihilation Omnibus

Infinity Gauntlet Omnibus

14 thoughts on “Cosmic Marvel reading guide – Gauntlets, Guardians and Gargantuan Crossovers

  1. I’ll add that you should probably avoid Bendis’ current Marvel Now Guardians of the Galaxy if you like the DnA stuff.

  2. Fantastic! And it looks like(if I understood it all correctly) that all of your direct recommendations are on Marvel Unlimited, too! Looks to me like you just sold me a subscription. Marvel, take note!

    1. She’s pretty flirty with everyone but during Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest and the start of Guardians of the Galaxy she’s mainly hooking up with Richard Rider.

  3. You could also add xmen: the rise and fall of the shiar empire to that jpeg guide to understand how Vulcan became emperor. Great article Brett.

  4. Great job with the comprehensive list and explanation Brett! I have read most of this shit but it;’s great to have it all in one place.

  5. Infinity Gauntlet paperback was surprisingly hard to find in Toronto, but the awesome clerk at the shop went into the backroom and found one for me. pretty psyched to read through this on a cottage trip coming up.

    Thanks again Brett

  6. Heyo, Brett! Just wanted to say that this article is great. I was looking for a way into not just the cosmic stuff, but back into comics in general. I was never a huge fan of the Marvel stuff before reading through the stuff on this list (specifically GotA, and Infinity Gauntlet), but now I’m neck deep in it. Right now, I’m up the the beginning of the Thanos Imperative, then moving on to more recent cosmic stuff. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for writing up the guide. Between the books suggested and the convenience of digital comics, my interest in the entire medium has been reawakened. Guess all that cape crisis listening finally paid off.

  7. Great image with the chronology although I do have to disagree with you about just reading the infinity gauntlet. Why? Thanos fought the avengers before hand, Warlock demise, Thanos finding the gems duing the quest, you MUST read a few things before jumping into the IG IF you ask me.

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