Marvel Thinks Their Comics Are Hard to Read

How to Read Comics the Marvel Way

Marvel has announced a four-issue miniseries called How to Read Comics the Marvel Way. Here’s the description:

“I tried to read it, but I just got lost.”

This HAS happened to you, True Believer! You hand your intelligent friend a comic book, eagerly anticipating future conversation, only to have it returned months later, half read. What went wrong?

Comics can be like a foreign language — if you don’t learn them young, you might need extra help and motivation to catch on. Other clever cartoonists and scribes have shared their theories of the grammar of comics, but it’s never before been done in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

Well, get ready, because Mysterio has trapped your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man in a comic book, and he’s going to help you navigate through the gutters, balloons, panels, pencils, and more so you can follow along while he figures out how to escape and save the day!

How to Read Comics the Marvel Way

From writer Christopher Hastings and artist Scott Koblish, two artists who know the rules well enough to break them, comes your all-purpose guide to reading comics AND understanding how they work, hidden in an in-universe story you won’t want to miss! For the totally green, it’s a welcome mat; for the seasoned reader, a peek under the hood. Can we pull it off?! There’s only one way to find out!

There are so many things that make me shake my head at this, I don’t know where to start.

Maybe with, don’t push things on friends they don’t expect to enjoy. It’s not your job to evangelize for a publisher. Or if you think people need to learn how to read comics when they’re younger, do more comics for kids (instead of farming those titles out to another entire company, as Marvel has done with IDW). Or the idea of “half reading” what’s only a 20-page story these days.

Then there’s the need to combine an “in-universe story” with a non-fiction guide. “I”m trapped in a comic book” isn’t that exciting a premise. I’d rather see Captain America (who at one point in his backstory was a comic artist) sit Peter down and explain page flow to him. And what is specific about the Marvel Way of reading comics? Does it involve bombastic statements about a fake bullpen?

This has a lovely motivation — let’s make things easier for new readers — that has been corrupted by the need to make everything about Marvel all the time. The company still seems to have the attitude of “it doesn’t matter unless we do it”. Perhaps that’s one of the things turning these new readers off? Particularly when they can find many more comics elsewhere that are more welcoming and less octopus-like when it comes to continuity? Drop the clubhouse, boys, and quit calling us True Believers. We’re customers, and we have a lot more choices, many more satisfying as stories, when it comes to spending our comic money.

I’ve said before, it’s not about whether new readers understand what they’re reading. It’s about whether they care enough to continue. And with $4 cover prices for bits and pieces too convoluted with what’s gone before and too much involved with other books and character history, there’s little to bring new readers into Marvel as it currently exists.

I used to read a number of exciting Marvel titles, many starring young women struggling with today’s challenges. They’ve all been cancelled or ended. Want me to read more of your comics? Make them better. And provide more value.


  • Steven R

    So $16 on how to read comics. Sold only in comic shops. Well, there will be a digital version, and maybe a collection. I just don’t see this selling very well – as a $4 one shot reference comic, yes. As an one shot Free Comic Day item, yes. Do I think that there are enough comic fans who worry they don’t know how to read comics? Or would buy for their friends? I’m skeptical.

  • They may be expecting retailers to push this as a starting point, perhaps.

  • Jim Perreault

    “I used to read a number of exciting Marvel titles, many starring young women struggling with today’s challenges. ”

    Have you read Black Cat? It has a surprising amount of character depth in what could have easily been a cheesecake title (which shows up a bit on the covers, but they are not reflective of the interior art).

    It’s not about a young woman, so the challenges she faces are those of an older woman.

  • I think I flipped through the first issue, but wasn’t it a spy thriller? I’m not very interested in those.

  • Jim Perreault

    It’s very much a heist book, with each issue or two a different heist. There’s also an overarching story arc involving a conflict with the thieves’ guild. So not quite a spy thriller, but of the same ilk.

    Issue 8 explores Felicia’s relationship with her mother, and is worth a flip through.

  • Oh, thanks for the pointer, I’ll keep an eye out for that.

    You’re making me miss Mockingbird, though. I don’t know why I was reminded of that just now.

  • Jim Perreault

    It’s funny you mention Mockingbird, as I was thinking of that book as well. The two books have a very similar sensibility in that the both feature strong, competent woman who take control of any situation they are in. The big difference is that Black Cat is more of a straight up action book, lacking the more comedic elements of Mockingbird.

    It does of a sense of humor; it’s just not as pervasive.

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