I don’t think I’ve purchased this many current Marvel titles in decades! And since the NOW jumping on point, I can definitely sense the broader coherent universe. Of course I realize that Marvel has been having their books tie into events for years now, but the neat thing is that there is no real big event (yet) as the glue – just a lot of titles that read really well by themselves but are obviously connected together. But how exactly or more appropriately when? It certainly has nothing to do with the shipping schedule! So come along with me on my journey down the logic train as I try to fit (everything I’ve read) together in sequence. It will be an abridged study (not all books and I’m not touching all of those future Hickman-ish preview images) and some of my conclusions could be way off base, but I think it’ll be fun – mainly because one of the major determining factors I’ll be basing my assumptions on are appearance changes.
First, let’s take a look at the shipping schedule of the source books I’ll be referencing. In order of appearance, using the big-endian shipping date (yyyy-MM-dd) I’ll list when the titles premiered (or switched over) and what was the latest issue number:
Week 1: 2012 Oct 10 – Uncanny Avengers #1 (“now” thru issue #003)
Week 2: 2012 Oct 17 – Marvel NOW! Point One #1
Week 3: 2012 Oct 24 – no new titles added
Week 4: 2012 Oct 31 – no new titles added
Week 5: 2012 Nov 07 – Iron Man #001 (“now” thru issue #005) – I actually haven’t read these yet.
Week 6: 2012 Nov 14 – All-New X-Men #001 (“now” thru issue #006)
Fantastic Four #001 (“now” thru issue #003)
Thor: God of Thunder #001 (“now” thru issue #004)
Week 7: 2012 Nov 21 – Captain America #001 (“now” thru issue #003)
Indestructible Hulk #001 (“now” thru issue #003)
Week 8: 2012 Nov 28 – FF #001 (“now” thru issue #003)
Week 9: 2012 Dec 05 – Avengers #001 (“now thru issue #003)
Week 10: 2012 Dec 12 – some titles I don’t read started
Week 11: 2012 Dec 19 – no new titles added
Week 12: 2012 Dec 26 – Amazing Spider-Man #700 – not officially a NOW title, but worth noting
Week 13: 2013 Jan 02 – Morbius: The Living Vampire #001
New Avengers #001 (“now” thru #002)
Week 14: 2013 Jan 09 – Superior Spider-Man #001
Week 15: 2013 Jan 16 – Avenging Spider-Man #016
Savage Wolverine #001
Week 16: 2013 Jan 23 – Wolverine & The X-Men #024 – I haven’t read this book yet either.
Uncanny X-Force #001
Young Avengers #001 – I decided not to get this book.
Whew, that sure is a lot of books that have been published in the last four months!
Next, let’s look at the major costume or event clues in roughly the shipping order. I’ll use letters for the list and then we can use some “loose” logic equations (maybe) to define the relationships (did I mention I was an engineer by profession):
a. Funeral of Professor X (Uncanny X-Men #001)
b. New black and gold Iron Man armor (Iron Man #001)
c. Original X-Men return from the past/Beast dying (All-New X-Men #001)
d. Reed Richards dying (Fantastic Four #001)
e. Captain America enters Dimension Z (Captain America #001)
f. Banner joins SHIELD (Indestructible Hulk #001)
g. Reed Richards invites quirky quartet to be the backup FF (FF #001)
h. The “movie” Avengers go to Mars to fight “Bull-Man”/Cap forms new team (Avengers #001) Note: Spidey is shown on the last page – not sure which one.
i. Potto ® Parker becomes Spider-Man (Amazing Spider-Man #700)
j. Spider-Man gets a superior costume (Avenging Spider-Man #15.1)
k. Fantastic Four leave Space and Time/Old “insane” John Storm comes back (Fantastic Four #002 & FF #002)
l. Morbius escapes the Raft (Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 & Morbius #001) – not sure I care.
m. Black Panther calls together the New Avengers (Illuminati), including Reed Richards (New Avengers #001 & 002)
n. Beast is cured and gets a new form (All-New X-Men #005)
o. Wolverine and the X-Men encounter the Superior Spider-Man (Avenging Spider-Man #016)
p. Wolverine goes to the Savage Land (Savage Wolverine #001) – not sure I care either.
q. Storm gets another Mohawk (Wolverine & The X-Men #024 [I think])
r. X-Force team starting to form/Bishop comes back (Uncanny X-Force #001)
s. Iron Man gets Phoenix armor [I think] (Iron Man #005)
t. Thor fights the God-butcher (Thor: God of Thunder #001, etc.)
u. Storm tells Jean Grey she’s the leader of the team (All-New X-Men #006)
Okay, now let’s look at the relationships. There are some very definitive logical sequences (“<” means “before”). Last summer’s Avengers versus X-men (A vs. X) series was the prelude to Marvel NOW and the incarceration of Scott Summers and the funeral of Professor X seems to mark the beginning (a). New Avengers has to predate the Fantastic Four/FF storyline, because Reed is still in the universe and he doesn’t look sick yet and it also predates Avengers because there is a flashback of the Illuminati (m < d + g + k < h). Iron Man has his black and gold armor in Avengers, but not his newest armor (b < h < s). I believe Hulk probably joins SHIELD prior to his involvement with the Avengers (f < h). The Beast is his old seemingly healthy self when he encounters the Superior Spider-Man, so Potto® shows up before the young X-Men arrive (i + j + o < c). Storm gets her Mohawk after telling Jean Grey she’s now the original X-Men leader (u < q). Punk Rock Storm shows up in X-Force (q < r). The Superior Spider-Man could be in the Avengers team formed by Cap (o < h). The Jason Aaron Thor storyline is a bit of a floater, and Cap’s Dimension Z could be too; however, Rick Remender said in the letter page of issue #003 that “this is the story that sets [him] on the path into the Marvel Now, and believe me, Steve’s not going to come out without a few scars.” I take what he says literally, so I think it could occur before Uncanny Avengers.
That was certainly a jumble, wasn’t it? Finally, we’ll get to the possible reading chronology based on title or arc:
1. Captain America
2. Uncanny Avengers
3. New Avengers (Tony has only been shown in a business suit in the present day)
4. Iron Man (start first arc)
5. Indestructible Hulk (Iron Man appears in issue #002)
6. Amazing Spider-Man, Avenging Spider-Man, Morbius & Superior Spider-Man
7. All-New X-Men
8. Fantastic Four & FF (based on the fact that they don’t answer Cap’s call)
10. Wolverine & The X-Men
11. Uncanny X-Force
12. Iron Man (end first arc)
Some of the later ones are a bit of a toss-up, I know, but that’s the best I can do with what has come out so far. Have a different theory? Feel free to provide your evidence in the comments! Boy that was harder than I thought, but at least I can stop thinking about it NOW (pun intended).