With Marvel teasing its fans for the numerous new upcoming shows, now is the best time to start exploring the comics—where it all began. Marvel Comics has been publishing comics since 1963, and it’s understandably intimidating to get into them in 2020 as a beginner. Each series has multiple issues, and there isn’t any chronological pattern in the publication of the comics. There are no “read this specific comic to understand the Marvel Universe!” things here. Instead, here’s a list of comics that are fun and interesting for beginners who have watched the movies from the Avengers and X-Men series—after reading these, feel free to explore different issues and discover which specific characters you would like to read more about.
1. The Ultimates Vol. 1 and 2 (2002):
Mark Millar has given us a version of the Avengers that is more mature and ‘realistic’, located in a post-9/11 world. The Avengers team you will see here is the one you will find portrayed in ‘The Avengers’ movie, right down to the casting of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury: the former’s likeness was the inspiration for this specific Fury. With amazing artwork, more modern aesthetics, and relevant topics and political commentary (some of which may seem outdated now), The Ultimates made superheroes relevant again. It’s an easy opportunity for casual fans to get into the Marvel Universe without having to know all their history.
2. The New Avengers (2005):
Brian Michael Bendis presented to us an updated version of the Avengers’ team— along with old and familiar faces like Captain America and Iron Man, we have Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, The Sentry, and The Wolverine. The first issue starts with a prison riot at a maximum-security prison which they escape from; thus begin the adventures of this new group. It’s beginner-friendly as well; because this is the group’s first appearance.
3. Civil War (2006):
Another work by Mark Millar, which is perhaps one of the most influential and well-known stories in the Marvel Universe. The “Captain America: Civil War” movie was loosely based on this. But the movie couldn’t accurately capture the large scale of the fight between two superhero teams, and the wonder in first seeing a beloved team of superheroes splitting off and battling each other. The full-scale war we’re treated to in the comics cannot be compared to the movie’s airport fight. Millar treats us to an in-depth explanation of the character motivations and showing us how both sides have valid arguments. If you’ve watched the movie, you have to read this.
4. Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 and 2 (2000):
A perfect reboot by Brian Michael Bendis and a look into the humble beginnings of Spider-Man—and so, perfect for the uninitiated. The first in the line of ‘The Ultimate’ line of comics which sought to present a more modern and fresh outlook into our favorite superheroes. The Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the longest-running series by Bendis and artist Mark Bagley, spanning over 100 issues. It’s also responsible for the fresh, relatable image that the current Spider-Man embodies.
5. The Mighty Thor (2015):
In this series, it’s Jane Foster who wields the mystical hammer, Mjolnir. She becomes the Goddess of Thunder even as her mortal form battles cancer. Jason Aaron’s completely new storyline is perfect for beginners, as it is a modern new take on a familiar superhero Thor. Read it before “Thor: Love and Thunder”, starring Natalie Portman who also wields the hammer, is released in 2021.
6. Planet Hulk (2006):
One of the most classic and well-known storylines based on Hulk. A team of superheroes—including Captain America and Iron Man, ship Hulk into a different planet as a precaution. But his ship is forced to go off-course and he lands on an unfamiliar planet. From there starts Hulk’s journey from being an outsider to its conqueror. It’s the same planet—Sakaar—that he and Thor land on in the movie “Thor: Ragnarok”. With 14 issues, this is one of the most memorable and epic Marvel storylines.
7. The Infinity Gauntlet (1991):
You definitely must’ve watched the Avengers movies Infinity War and Endgame. This comic is the basis for those movies—an epic storyline, with perhaps the most memorable moment in Marvel Comic Universe, and an ambitious crossover. Jim Starlin’s villain, Thanos, collects all the Infinity Stones and poses an incredible threat to the fate of the universe as he takes it upon himself to shape the universe according to how he sees fit. It takes all the superheroes coming together in an epic coalition to finally be able to defeat Thanos.
8. House of X and Powers of X (2019):
The X-Men series and character must not be forgotten in talking about the Marvel Universe. These two relatively new comic books by Jonathan Hickman provide us with a clear insight into the world of mutants for beginners, as well as the happenings in the current world of mutants. There are a total of six issues, which are a part of a crossover within the Marvel Universe. The writers essentially rewrite X-Men history—so the more you know about this mutant universe, the less you’ll understand about the House/Powers of X. It starts off on a completely new slate, with underappreciated X-Men characters coming back into the fray; and it also revitalized the previously ongoing trend of disappointing X-Men comics.
9. Astonishing X-men (2004):
Joss Whedon was essentially tasked by Marvel to create an X-Men series, and he absolutely delivered on his part. This re-imagination of the X-Men as the costumed heroes that Whedon was familiar with from his childhood would be a good introduction as any to beginners. This was a golden run for X-Men readers, as this was a fan-favorite series with strong female characters and new characterizations. He also laid the foundations for further character development in future series. Whedon balances the wit and humor along with a strong character cast and storyline perfectly.
10. Avengers vs. X-Men (2012):
Rounding off this list is the work of several known writers—Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, and Ed Brubaker. It is a ground-breaking crossover between two of the most popular superhero teams of all time Although we begin with the Avengers and The X-Men battling it out against each other, by the end we get the two teams coming together like never before. For the movie-watching casual fans who want to delve into the comics, and want to read a comic with a very new premise, AvX is a perfect choice.
Here’s just ten of the countless number of comic series that Marvel Comics has produced. While these may provide you with a good base of what you should look for and expect in reading comics, you should also take the chance to explore and discover among the many titles that are there before the new wave of upcoming Marvel movies.