“There are a bunch of comics. Where in the hell am I supposed to start??”
If you’re reading this post, then there is a pretty good chance that you know who Spider-Man is. You may not be sure where to start when it comes to the comics, though. It’s best to keep in mind that comic book Spidey and cinematic Spidey don’t really share continuity and, thus, are not really the same. So, what you may have learned in watching the first Spider-Man trilogy, or even in The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, may not actually apply to the Spider-Man that you would read about in the comics. So, where should someone new to the story arc begin?
Chances are, the answer to that question will vary in regards to who you speak to. The problem is, in my opinion, that there really isn’t a single best starting place for any given run of comics. They are incredibly old and, as a result, you will be seeing callbacks to things that happened some 20-odd years ago. Starting at the beginning would take ages, and can get complicated. (The writing and art also isn’t as good as it is today.)
Right now, getting started with Spider-Man can be a super sticky (haha?) situation because all the cinematic movies and the current reboots. While this is definitely interesting, it’s not really the true Spider-Man experience, and doesn’t have the authentic feel to it. He’s kind of an asshole right now.
So, where you start in the comics has a lot to do with what you hope to get out of it.
If you want to be an expert on Spider-Man, well…that will take a lot of time. If you’re trying to impress that girl at the comic shop, you could always mention how horrible the numbering on Amazing Spider-Man is. It’s SUPER messed up which, for Marvel, is saying something. It goes from Vol. 1 #1 – 441, then Vol. 2 #1 – 58, and then goes back to Vol. 1 #500 – 700. See??? It will give you plenty to talk about.
If you just want to understand what the hell is going on right now, check out Amazing Spider-Man #680, which is a GREAT place to start reading. Read from #680 to #700, and then start in on Superior Spider-Man, where Otto takes over as Spider-Man. This is a great place to start, and would give you a really good crash course in the Spider-Man story arc. Furthermore, you can pick up a back copy of Avenging Spider-Man, which started back in 2012. It ties in both Amazing and Superior, with the former being more focused on interpersonal relationships, rather than killing bad guys. It also tackles Peter Parker through to the Otto Octavius era. Avenging Spider-Man #5 is the best one-shot of 2012…or ages…and is where Peter and Steve struggle with their “I’m not in costume!” identities. It’s damn good.
If you want to know what’s GOING to happen, or if you just want a really comprehensive place to start, take a look at Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Vol. #2. The Ultimate Comics imprint, which started with Peter Parker and transitioned into Miles Morales (RELEVANT NOW), is excellent reading. It’s an alternate version of Spider-Man, so it’s not really great for the whole “I know all the history of Spider-Man, blah blah blah” types of conversations, but it’s still important in the grand scheme of things. This is especially true now that the movies are moving on to the Miles Morales era.
The Ultimate Comics Peter is great stuff. Parker died, and then everyone got SUPER PISSED, and then Miles came along. He’s awesome in his own right, and important, and one of the few plot developments that could have made Peter’s death worth it. (I’m still not really a big fan of this part, as Peter is my favorite), but he’s coming to the Marvel cinematic universe, so you’ll be ahead of the curve if you read this and then watch him show up in the 616 universe.
From there, I recommend:
The Timeline (616, Primary Continuity)
Getting through Marvel’s Civil War is going to definitely give you some historical perspective, and get you ready for where the cinematic storyline is going. There is some great Spidey stuff going on in the Civil War, but it can easily be skipped. You can just choose to start with the Brand New Day, if you wish, and will probably get you to want to read some of the older stuff, anyway.
Back In Black/ One More Day
This picks up where the cliffhanger in Civil War leaves off. Peter Parker faces some of his darkest days, and he ends up making a majorly controversial sacrifice to save someone he deeply loves. I think this should be read along with One More Day, in order to follow up on that Civil War cliffhanger. It’s not necessary, but it’s REALLY good.
SPOILER >>>> Aunt May is alive, and Peter is no longer married to MJ. <<<< END SPOILER
Brand New Day
As mentioned, this is a great jumping-off point for its simplistic, carefree storytelling. It reminds me a lot of the older (60s-70s) type of writing, and gives a great guide to Spider-Man’s status quo after One More Day.
While not really necessary, it’s a great to see Kraven’s Last Hunt, which is a preclude to this story arc. Spider-Man is in conflict with villain after villain, and he finds his personal breaking point. This leads to the Grim Hunt.
The Grim Hunt
Kraven’s widow and daughter begin to hunt down the now-weakened Spidey (and those who are like him) in order to resurrect the fallen Kraven.
This is about how great things are going for Peter Parker now that he’s an Avenger. He lands a great gig, and has a super familiar-looking girlfriend. Some old villains return and some new faces are shown. Another team asks him to join up, and then he realizes that the Big Time also means big responsibility…insert obvious quote here.
This arc has some great tie-ins: Iron Fist, Hercules, Agent Venom, and more. When there is an outbreak of Spider Powers in NY, Spidey and a bunch of others have to respond. This one is intense, and will probably get you to want to catch up on Spidey’s history, and that of others as well.
Ends of Earth
Dr. Octavius holds Earth hostage. Spider-Man and the Avengers face off with the Sinister Six, and things get heated when Sandman takes control of all of the Sahara Desert. There is a pretty big twist that leads to Doc Ock being Earth’s greatest hero, and the Avengers become his new Sinister Six. Oh, and then there’s the cost Spidey must pay. This one features some key faces: Black Widow, Silver Sable, Union Jack, Big Hero Six, and Dr. Doom.
This is the follow-up to the Ends of the Earth story arc. Peter confronts a dying Dr. Octavius, who does some crazy mind-switching stuff. Will Peter be able to regain his own body?
This is where the Superior Spider-Man starts.
There are tons of issues, but I would recommend starting with Amazing Spider-Man #690-700, and then moving on to Superior Spider-Man #1-31. After that, go back and read Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3.
If you just want to read some more fun comics about one of the best heroes ever…check out Scarlet Spider Volume 2. It has a lot of backstory, so you don’t miss a lot, and you don’t need a lot of context to read it since it explains things pretty well. Scarlet Spider concerns the adventures of Peter Parker’s clone, Kaine, a former assassin who turned into the penitent hero who starts to understand that power and responsibility go hand-in-hand. Kaine’s life can be hilariously ridiculous, but can also be REALLY dark and intense.
If all else fails, just grab a comic and jump in.
If you don’t like it, move on and read a different one. Comics are supposed to be fun, so don’t listen if someone insists you have to read them all in order. There are HUNDREDS of comics, and it’s not exactly the cheapest passion in the world. Just have fun with it!