This is the fourth and final part of my miniseries, How to Get Into Marvel Comics. If this is the first post in the series that you’re reading, you might want to check out the introduction, where I go into the background of Marvel comics, part 2, where I talk about crossovers, and part 3, where I talk about getting started with individual character storylines. In this final part, I’m going to be talking about getting started by reading the comics themselves. The other two approaches have concerned graphic novels, books which are collections of sequential or similar comics; this one concerns individual issues.
There’s something about the individual issues that I love. It’s something in the feel of them, in the way that they come in their plastic sleeves (if you get them from a good retailer anyway), and there’s undoubtedly a more immediate engagement with character storylines. One of the major benefits of reading individual issues is that you can read stories as they unfold, always looking ahead to the next instalment, whereas with graphic novels, you have to wait months after the initial issues’ release before you can get the book.
Another reason to read the individual issues is that they allow you to be more experimental. If you read issue 1 and decide you don’t like it you’ve lost 15 minutes of your time and £3, whereas if you read a graphic novel and decide you hate it, that’s a couple of hours down the drain and £10. That said, buying comics individually is more expensive per issue than a graphic novel. You can easily find a graphic novel for £10, whereas buying the equivalent comics might cost you closer to £20.
With the comics, you’re paying for the immediacy, and the quality. There aren’t too many differences between the appearances, but one that I do notice is in the binding of the books. Comics are held together with staples, meaning they open out completely flat and you can have two-page splashes that seamlessly go from the left to the right, a favoured technique of some artists when something particularly dramatic is happening. When these pages appear in graphic novels, bound more like normal books, you end up losing the middle of the double page to the binding, which can lead to some oddities visually. This probably affects only one double page per issue, but that’s the kind of difference in medium that you can expect.
Are the individual issues a good place to start? I wouldn’t recommend them above the two options that I’ve already mentioned, simply because, although you would start from issue 1, as with individual character graphic novels, you are limited to the selection in a comic book shop at any given time. Back orders can be a pain for retailers, so the issues they have on the shelf are by far the best ones to buy. This is great if you’ve read some graphic novels beforehand and know what you want, but it can be really hard to break into the world of comics this way.
But if you want the authentic comic experience, this is the way to go. Here’s a list from the website of the local retailer I go to, Page 45, showing you the new titles in the next couple of months:
- A-Force (an all-female Avengers team) – 20/5
- Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars (4 issue limited series linked to the major Secret Wars event) – 20/5
- Inferno (I have no clue what this is) – 27/5
- Infinity Gauntlet (new crossover) – 27/5
- Inhumans: Attilan Rising (Inhumans event) – 27/5
- Master of Kung Fu (4 issue limited series focusing on minor Marvel street hero Shang Chi) – 20/5
- Various other Secret Wars titles – tip, wait for the graphic novels
- Spider-Verse (spin-off from the last Spidey crossover) – 27/5
- Ultimate End (looks like the end of the Ultimates universe) – 20/5
- 1602 Witch Hunter Angela (a minor Asgardian character in a Marvel 1602 spin off) – 3/6
- 1872 (Marvel characters if the world was 1872) – 3/6
- Age of Ultron v Marvel Zombies (no words) – 24/6
- Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (ASM event) – 3/6
- Ant-Man: Large than Life (another Ant-Man reboot) – 24/6
- Armor Wars (sounds like an Iron Man event) – 3/6
- Captain Marvel and Carol Corps (just…why?) – 10/6
- E is for Extinction (X-Men title/event) – 24/6
- Future Imperfect (more Secret Wars stuff) – 3/6
- Ghost Racers (Ghost Rider meets Secret Wars) – 10/6
- Groot (Crying a little with happiness) – 3/6
- Guardians of Knowhere (new Guardians stuff) – 17/5
- Korvac Saga (futury spacey thing) – 24/6
- Mrs Deadpool and the Howling Commandos (you don’t wanna know) – 10/6
- Star Lord and Kitty Pryde – 24/6
- Thors (all Thors ever) – 10/6
- Weirdworld (completely new fantasy series) – 10/3
- X-Men 92 (reboot of old stuff) – 24/6
- Years of Our Future Past (more Secret Wars ad X-Men stuff) – 3/6
As you can see, there’s loads coming out in the next few weeks. This is mainly because Marvel is completely shaking up their universes with the Secret Wars events. There will be some issues in here that could work for newcomers, but I get the feeling that a lot won’t be that accessible. I think that A-Force, 1872, Ant-Man, Groot and Star Lord & Kitty Pryde are probably your best bets, but it’d be worth doing a bit of your own reading.
In reality, with all the Secret Wars ridiculousness, it’s hard to tell how things are going to settle down. If you’re looking at getting into Marvel this way, you might be better served waiting a couple of months.
Price-wise, you’re looking at £3-£4 an issue. Per issue, this is the most expensive way of doing it, but how much you spend really depends on how many you want to read.
As a final word on this, I just want to say that if you’re going down this route, please use your local comic book retailer (if you’re in a city you should have one). Supporting local businesses is always good, and if they’re anything like my local retailer, they’ll be friendly, helpful, and far more knowledgeable when it comes to comics. If you go down this route, then setting up a standing order with your local retailer is the best way to make sure you never miss an issue.
That wraps up this miniseries – I hope it’s been helpful for you! Remember, don’t be too ambitious in your reading at the start. Take it slow, build your knowledge, and buy local.