Hey there, friends! People ask me all the time what they should read in the Marvel Universe. I figured this was a question a lot of new comic fans might have, so I’m gonna do my best to put together a little primer.
- Book: Er, depends on the context. Can mean a single comic, can also mean the entirety of a title.
- Trade: a collection of several comic books in one volume, like a graphic novel. Trades usually collect 6 books in a single volume, so Black Widow Volume 1: A Finely Tangled Web is Black Widow #1-6. They’re a way to read and own comics after the weekly (or biweekly or monthly or whatever) paper comics are unavailable.
- Event: An event in comics is a major storyline that involves multiple, usually separate, titles. Events are big and have lasting repercussions on the entirety of a comic universe. Examples of events are Civil War and the upcoming Secret Wars/”Battleworld” books.
- Crossover: A crossover in comics is just like a crossover in fanfic; it’s when two separate titles have the same storyline or appear in each other’s books.
Okay, got that down? Awesome! Here’s some suggestions on what you should read based on your favorite character. Well, er, the six main characters, because this got MAD LONG and I can’t even imagine doing everybody else who’s relevant in Ultron. Jesus.
ANYWAY. If your favorite character is…
- and you also love Bucky: The Heroic Age will be fun for you, featuring Commander Rogers and Captain Barnes. Try the Avengers run from this era, written by Brian Michael Bendis. The Super Solider run is kinda weird but fun, too, like virtually everything Brubaker wrote. The art in Super Soldier and Secret Avengers during the Heroic Age is significantly better than the art in Brubaker’s previous runs imo.
- and you want to know why people ship Steve/Tony: friend, read literally any Avengers run where Iron Man and Captain America are on the same team. But if you’re specifically wondering this, it’s time. It’s time for you to read Civil War and cry.
- You can probably skip: I’m gonna get murdered for this, but Brubaker’s Captain America and Winter Soldier runs are fun to read for understanding the MCU and if you want a more comprehensive understanding of each character’s backstory, and some weird AF arcs like Bucky fighting a bear with pecs in a gulag while shirtless. BUT. The art is so aggressively Jean Claude Van Damme 90s it’s hard to look at (for me). If you hate that style, you’re probably fine Wiki-ing.
- and you just want to read about Natasha: As much as I want Black Widow’s title to be written by a woman, honestly, her current run – written by Nathan Edmonson, with art by Phil Noto – is one of my favorites. The art is stunning and it’s chock full of fun cameos. Highly recommend. Two trades are available pretty much anywhere you can buy graphic novels, because she’s so popular.
- and you want to understand why people ship Nat/Bucky: Welcome to the world of Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier, but be aware that the art is (sometimes) the kind of art where even if you can’t see Natasha’s face, you know exactly where both of her nipples are at all times. Also she spends a lot of this run being kind of a fighting fucktoy and advancing Bucky’s character development. Comics historically have not been written with ladies in mind, y’all. And yet there are a lot of good reasons to adore this comic, and there’s a reason it’s a classic.
You can probably skip: Literally anything Greg Rucka worked on. Ugh.
- Update! Someone has informed me that Greg Rucka did not just work on this pornified nonsense (which admittedly is a different Black Widow, but new fans might not know that) but also worked on a title with Devin Grayson and J.G. Jones that I’ve never read that is apparently amazing. So now I’m gonna read it, and maybe you’d like to also. (Also, a bunch of you have asked why I don’t like Greg Rucka. I really like Greg Rucka! I just don’t like the shit in that first link.)
- and you want to know what all the fuss is about because Renner’s Clint is kinda eh and you don’t really get why people are so into Clint: All the fuss is about Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run with art by David Aja, which starts with a trade volume called My Life As A Weapon and also is an excellent introduction to Kate Bishop, who is also Hawkeye. People ADORE Clint largely because of Fraction’s run, honestly; there’s some other good Hawkeye stuff, but this one is the best.
- and you want to see him make some use of himself as an Avenger: The Avengers West Coast run that started in the 80′s is pretty fun, tbh. There are two volumes of an omnibus of all West Coast Avengers stuff, and also some trade volumes. Plus you get a bunch of Wanda Maximoff!
- Bonus: If you want something shorter and fun, try Widowmaker. It’s got Clint, Mockingbird, and Black Widow, and the art is pretty. (David Lopez, one of the pencillers, is currently working on Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel title.)
- and you’re into something people have very divided opinions about: Planet Hulk is the kind of thing people love or hate, but it’s been rumored that the movies are going in this direction, so it might be worth checking out.
- and you wanna see the Hulk destroy some stuff/are really into weird storylines: Yo, World War Hulk is a continuation of Planet Hulk and involves the Illuminati. It’s a crossover event as well, so there’s some fun extra X-Men stuff.
- and you just want to get your Avengers fix: Avengers Assemble is great for anybody who wants the familiarity of the film characters, but in comic form. It’s funny, fun, and you get an intro to some other characters but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
- and you suspect he has a drinking problem: You’re right, and the arc where he confronts it is pretty damn good. It’s called Demon in a Bottle and it ran in 1979.
- and you want to know more about Good Guy Tony: I hate to break it to you, but as Tony is one of my fave characters I can tell you this for sure: Tony Stark is a complicated, fucked up, deeply flawed person; he’s an enormous asshole; he’s selfish and egocentric and narcissistic. But also he has a bunch of Good Guy Tony moments. They are most notable, imo, in the Heroic Age immediately following Civil War, when he beats himself up constantly for being a dick. The Stark Resilient arc, written by Matt Fraction, is super duper good, collected in Invincible Iron Man volumes 5 and 6.
- and the thing he was trying to do with his suit in IM3 was interesting to you, like what even was that: Totally read Extremis. It’s the arc that establishes Iron Man’s modern image.
- but you also would like to support a book about a female character: The current Thor title has lady Thor. Dude-Thor makes several appearances. Also, it’s super good.
- and you want to read more about Thor’s face-off with Thanos: That you can find in Jurgens’ Thor run, starting in Volume 1 and ending just before the events of Civil War.
- and you want to know how this character came to be: Read Journey Into Mystery, which started as a horror comic and is just as delightful and pulpy as could be expected.
- and you’re even reading this section: READ HOUSE OF M, IT WILL CHANGE YOU, feel free to Google for context everyone does it
- and you want to see her as an Avenger: Wanda was part of the West Coast Avengers for most of her time as an Avenger; start there. If you’ve already got that down because I also suggested it under Hawkeye, please feel free to read Uncanny Avengers.
- A-Force is an upcoming title that will be written by G. Willow Wilson and Maguerite Bennet with art by Jorge Molina, and will feature an all-female Avengers team.
- Captain America and the Mighty Avengers is fun as HECK and has Sam Wilson as Captain America, so go revel in that.
- Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue Deconnick; Carol Danvers is a BAMF and there’s a GOTG cameo; several trade volumes are available
- Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson; yo I love this comic so much words can’t even do it justice; two trades are available with the third coming 6/23
- Young Avengers by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillan; this is for you if you’re constantly asking yourself who Kate Bishop is, or want more teen superheroes in your life; there’s an omnibus available and several trades
- She-Hulk by Charles Soule; MY QUEEEEEEN; a few trade volumes are available, and to the best of my knowledge this arc is coming to a close very soon and will be available in total in trades
That’s it! That’s all I got! Remember that there is absolutely no shame in Googling the characters you like to figure out what you want to read, and wiki-ing the rest. Anybody who tells you that you can’t is a dick. Don’t listen to them!!