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If I don't want to be lost, but want to be able to pick up a Marvel comic book at the start of a story arc and just enjoy reading that story, without having to look up references in the Wikipedia every page or so, what Marvel comics can a newbie start reading that will be enjoyable without knowing about decades of backstories or dozens of minor characters that have appeared every now and then or for only a few stories?

I'm not asking anyone to tell me which ones are good or bad or which they think I might like. I just want to get an idea of what is available in the Marvel universe that a newbie could read without being overwhelmed by years of backstory.

I know that might change, depending on what has or has not been rebooted, so we can always just talk about what's out there now, from Marvel, that is "newbie accessible" and won't require a degree in comic plot-line history to be able to follow.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Adamant, Jason Baker, Rogue Jedi, phantom42, Valorum Aug 1 '16 at 22:54

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    You're who they made the Ultimate line of comics for. – user1027 Jan 21 '12 at 1:17
  • It's a perfectly legitimate question, especially for someone who wants to pick up and start reading a few comics, so it would certainly help to know why someone is downvoting it. I don't know much of the comic world and am wondering why there's something wrong with asking a question like this. Constructive criticism would help more than just a downvote without a reason. – Tango Jan 21 '12 at 2:12
  • Without knowing what you like reading or don't like reading, even then this will come out as a book recommendation – Eight Days of Malaise Jan 21 '12 at 4:06
  • @EightDaysofMalaise: It doesn't have to. So far there's already one good answer that doesn't come across like that. It's not about what I like, since I'm sure others have similar questions. It's simply about finding out what comic titles are not going to overwhelm a new reader with lots of baggage. – Tango Jan 21 '12 at 4:48
  • Since this question will affect its answers every few months with the reboots and relaunches, just stick with Marvel Kids. Doesn't matter if you don't like superheroes, because that's what they'll write about. Or if you like horror, you don't get that. Or if you're more interested in crime noir, Marvel Kids will still not have that and instead be light on baggage, high on accessibility – Eight Days of Malaise Jan 21 '12 at 4:57
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The overall trend of Marvel for the previous decade has been to break up their storytelling into 4-6 issue chunks of story arcs. So that sorta means that every 4-6 months of a title, you'll get a relatively decent jumping on point. Some titles, like Uncanny X-Force, build from storyline to storyline, forming a massive narrative. Others, like the recent Daredevil series, are comprised of 1-2 issue arcs with very little overarching plot. That being said, looking at the comics coming out in February 2012, I'd say that the following are fairly self-contained and accessible to new readers. Also note, every Marvel Comic has a recap page that gives the ground work of what's gone before as well as headshots of every character, making them identifiable.

  • Secret Avengers #22 - This issue is the beginning of a new storyarc with new writer Rick Remender. This is the black ops Avengers team and, because of that, rarely interacts with the wider Marvel Universe. It does star some of the more oddball heroes of the Marvel Universe.

  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #7 - This is set in the Ultimate Universe and stars Miles Morales, who became Spider-Man after the death of Peter Parker (in the Ultimate Universe). So far the series has been fairly self-contained; Miles Morales is new to being a hero so the series treats this established universe with fresh eyes.

  • Scarlet Spider #2 - I'm going out on a limb here, but I think you can get this knowing the basic premise: Peter Parker has a clone that was raised in a lab and has an understandably less moral outlook on life. He now lives in Houston. The mantle of Scarlet Spider is kind of a continuity nightmare, but this is the second issue of a new iteration of it...so I think it's readable.

  • Amazing Spider-Man #679.1 - This comic has been fairly accessible for the length of Dan Slott's 2 years on the book. He does stand alone stories and smaller two-part arcs in between larger stories, so there are more jumping on points than other Marvel Comics. It's one of the more "classic" feeling Marvel Comics out there.

  • Daredevil #9 - Light-hearted, well written, street-level, swashbuckling action with the strongest art in comics. There are some long running plots, but the writer does a great job of catching readers up and making sure that the long running plots run underneath accessible, shorter main stories.

Some of the Marvel Comics out right now are in an awkward stage: they're relatively new but have already built up enough continuity to be confusing, and the trade paperback collections of their first few issues won't be out for a few months. Back issues can be bought on Amazon, or digitally at ComiXology if you have a tablet or smartphone.

  • Wolverine & The X-Men - A fantastic series that is rooted in the past 7 years of X-Men continuity, but it's the perfect mix of a fresh take and a familiar setting. It's the best jumping-on point the X-Men have had in a long time, and the recap page should provide enough background.

  • Uncanny X-Men - Similar to Wolverine & The X-Men.

There are also a number of collected editions that can be read that provide nice entry points into the current Marvel Universe.

  • Thunderbolts: Cage - This collects the start of the current run of Thunderbolts by writer Jeff Parker. This series follows a group of super villains as they attempt to rehabilitate as a super hero team in order to gain freedom.

  • Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution - This is the black ops X-Men team. It provides a crash course in X-Men history through a new set-up, roster and mission. Uncanny X-Force has been one of the best Marvel Comics of the past decade, and it's initial 18-issue mega story is self-contained and epic.

  • Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Jonathan Hickman has been weaving an incredibly dense and rewarding sci-fi epic with the Fantastic Four for a few years now, and his run starts here.

  • Avengers Academy: Permanent Record - This is the first collection of Avengers Academy, which is almost exactly what the title suggests. Kids learning how to be Avengers. The students are all new characters.

Reaching back a few years, here are a few trades that feature various other jumping on points and self-contained stories.

  • Astonishing X-Men: Gifted - This is the start of Joss Whedon's run on X-Men. It uses Kitty Pryde's, a former X-Man, return as the entry point for a self-contained story told over four volumes (a.k.a. 25 issues).

  • Captain America: Winter Soldier - Ed Brubaker's Captain America has been critically acclaimed and features probably the best take on the character...ever. This is where it starts. Brubaker took the possibly tired concept of Cap and injected a lot of political intrigue and thriller/crime elements into it.

  • Runaways - This is one of the few 100% original, 100% new comic books Marvel has put out. It features characters that debut for the first time in this comic, who have no previously existing ties to continuity, and they mostly stay independent of the rest of the Marvel Universe. It's an adventure with new characters in the Marvel Universe, but not tied to it.

The Ultimate Universe was created in the early 2000s to provide new comics for readers to jump into without knowing continuity/only knowing stuff from movies and TV. Of course that was 10 years ago and that universe now has continuity. BUT it all started here, and they do exactly what they set out to do...and do it well.

Lastly, the Marvel Masterworks series collects classic Marvel Comics from the 60s-70s. If you really want to start the story here and actually enjoy reading Silver Age comics, you can start here.

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Short answer - read anything.

Long answer - as Keen said in the comments, Ultimates were originally done for people like you. However, the continuity grew and grew until we ended up where we are now.

However, not all hope is lost. Both Marvel and DC are constantly trying to lure in new readers, so they are constantly re-booting and re-starting some of their titles. For example, right now, there is Avenging Spiderman title, that is now only at issue three. Uncanny X-Men were "re-booted" recently.

Plus, despide not sounding like it, the comics book themselves are actually pretty accessible even if you don't know the exact explanations and histories of everything. The only thing you have to watch is not to begin reading in the middle of some story - in that case, you will probably be lost.

I am currently not reading anything Marvel, so there will probably be better answers than mine.

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I would actually recommend picking up a graphic novel or one of the compilations that are available. You might even be able to find them at your local library. For the Marvel Universe, they published the Masterworks series. These are cool because they are the old-school comics written by Stan Lee with artwork by Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and others.

In many cases, at least with DC Characters, the graphic novels are a big influence on the movies in terms of style and tone (See Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Night Returns)

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For the budget-(and space-)conscious, I also recommend the "Essential" editions in place of or addition to the color (and mostly) HC Masterworks. These are b/w trade paperbacks collecting 20-25 issues of continuity. It's a great and cheap way to get caught up or just learn the beginnings of any series/character. You can find many at conventions or on eBay for 40-60% off cover price.

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