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The Best First Marvel Graphic Novels for MCU Fans

ScreenCritics Misael takes a look at the best of Marvel’s graphic novels – selecting the best for MCU fans eager to read more.

One of the most common excuses people give for not wanting to get into comics  is because they find the decades old continuity of Marvel comics to be a very daunting. I have always found it to be a lazy excuse, as titles like the X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga and the then current ongoing Amazing Spider-Man were the first comics I ever read. I was fine; any details you may miss if you haven’t read any previous comics are generally superficial. Though here are many comics that do rely on readers’ previous knowledge of past stories, those are usually rare.

If you want to avoid those stories at all cost, here is a list of ten comic books that I recommend to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This list is based on my own reading experience, so  I could be forgetting other great examples. Still, my recommendations are all great starting points for any fans of the Marvel movies, like I am. I generally aim at the more recent stuff, with some exceptions, to give newcomers a more contemporary interpretation of their favorite heroes.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man

by Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Cory Walker

This book actually doesn’t star the lovable Scott Lang from the Ant-Man movie, or Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. Instead this title focuses on the least likable Ant-Man ever, Eric O’Grady. A former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, O’Grady takes an Ant-Man suite and proceeds to steal, and use his credible superhero codename for his own benefits. He truly does some despicable stuff in this comic, and he is rarely shown in a positive light. The story is still a fascinating read, and despite the fact it ties in heavily to a Wolverine storyline that was going on at the time, this is really one of the best modern Ant-Man books. Also, side-note, it was written by Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead. That makes it a must read.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Irredeemable-Ant-Man-Robert-Kirkman/dp/0785140867/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492466485&sr=1-1&keywords=irredeemable+ant+man

 

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

by Mark Miller and Brain Hitch

Despite the different team codenames, the first Avengers movie took a lot from the original Ultimates storyline of the early 2000s. The Ultimates were essentially the Avengers of the Ultimate universe, a different universe than the main Marvel Universe. The Ultimate universe reintroduces readers to new interpretations of classic heroes, showing what being a superhero is like in the twenty-first century. It’s grittier than what the Avengers are generally shown as, with some of the reinterpretations of some classic heroes being very unlikable. Captain America is a bully, Tony Stark is a drunk, and Nick Fury is a manipulative SOB. Despite that, it is very action packed read, with some gorgeous art. The writer, Mark Miller, creator of Kick-Ass, knows how to write great action scenes. It’s a tightly paced read, and successfully introduces the Avengers in the modern age.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimates-Ultimate-Collection-Mark-Millar/dp/0785143874/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492466805&sr=1-1&keywords=the+ultimates

 

Captain America: Winter Soldier

by Brian Brubaker and Steve Epting (and others)

The first Captain America movie focused on Cap’s time in World War II; it’s the sequel that truly differentiates the Captain America movies from the rest. The Winter Soldier is one of Marvel’s best films, and it owes a lot to the graphic novel it is named after. The stories of both the movie and the comic Winter Soldier are actually very different, but they have the same soul. They are both spy thrillers that highlights the importance of one man’s purely white morals in world full of grey. In the midst of all this, that man’s own beliefs are questioned when an old comrade comes back to his life, and he has to decide what is more valuable to him. The villains and some other themes of the story are still vastly different, yet they are told the same. The graphic novel of the Winter Soldier is still one of the best Captain America stories ever, and deserves to be read by all those who are fans of the Captain America films.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Captain-America-Soldier-Ed-Brubaker/dp/0785187944/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492467030&sr=1-3&keywords=winter+soldier

 

Civil War

by Mark Miller and Steve McNiven

Both Civil War the comic and Civil War the movie requires viewers to have enough knowledge of the Marvel universe to understand the motivations of the characters better. The comic especially goes into detail about the then current political landscape of the Marvel Universe. Also, the comic had a more concrete, and controversial, victor in the conflict. Despite that though, it is still a very entertaining read. I’m assuming if you watched, and loved the Civil War movie, you already have enough information to get through the graphic novel. There seems to be a recent movement of fans claiming the comic is bad, when originally it was very popular. . To be fair, the politics are not really the stories strong suite, and the moral of the story conflicts with the tie-in comics. However Mark Miller knows how to set up excellent fights in high tense situations, so it remains a very amusing read.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Mark-Millar/dp/078512179X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492467149&sr=1-1&keywords=civil+war+mark+millar

 

Doctor Strange: The Oath

by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin

Doctor Strange actually has one of those timeless superhero origins that I would actually recommend fans of the movie to read. It may have been written in the 60s, but Stan Lee’s and Steve Ditko’s origin tale of Doctor Strange is full of great pathos that it is hard not to point at it as a great starting point for new readers. However if you are looking for something more modern, The Oath is probably the best bet. Written by one of the most critical acclaimed writer in the business, Brian K. Vaughn reintroduces Doctor Strange in the modern era. The story is about Strange looking for a special Elixir that will save his servant, Mr. Wong, who is dying of cancer. With great art by the magnificent Marcos Martin, the story sets up Doctor Strange’s growing role in the Marvel Universe and highlights what makes the character work after all these years.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Strange-Oath-Dr/dp/0785187863/ref=pd_sim_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0785187863&pd_rd_r=QQ88PNNXC4HR98B6D8AQ&pd_rd_w=BEvwT&pd_rd_wg=kSpbg&psc=1&refRID=QQ88PNNXC4HR98B6D8AQ

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1

by Brian Michael Bendis (with lots of different artists)

Not too long ago, hardly anyone knew who the Guardians of the Galaxy were; even comic fans barely knew who they were. Now everyone knows them, but would you believe me if I said that the team roster shown in the film was actually a very recent version of the team? Yes, Star Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and the rest only became part of the Guardians of the Galaxy under writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning in 2008. Abnett’s and Lanning’s run with the team would become the quintessential run of the Guardians, with all stories about them stemming from the original 2008 series. There is a collection of Abnett’s and Lanning’s Guardians of the Galaxy stories; nonetheless I feel like Brian Michael Bendis’ recent run is more reader friendly. It is less grandiose than the 2008 series, yet they are more digestible to read than those as well. Bendis has always been great with creating easy to access comics and making them simple to read. The first collection of his series even has a retelling of Star-Lord’s origin, which is completely different than the one in the comics, making the first volume a perfect jumping on point.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Galaxy-Brian-Michael-Bendis/dp/0785194002/ref=pd_sim_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0785194002&pd_rd_r=3RYFW4DX1P4HDPJD2RA8&pd_rd_w=CP0Wc&pd_rd_wg=X9CeP&psc=1&refRID=3RYFW4DX1P4HDPJD2RA8

 

Planet Hulk

by Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti, and others

Planet Hulk is the quintessential Hulk story of the twenty-first century; it breathed new life into the Hulk after years of stagnation. Basis of the narrative revolves around Hulk being blasted into space by a committee of other Marvel superheroes. He will land on a strange planet, where he becomes a slave and a then space gladiator. The story almost acts as a biblical epic, following Hulk’s path from slave to king in a grand adventure. A new supporting cast was made; other aliens fighting against the planet’s dictator, the Red King. The world is fully fleshed out, with the myths and legends of the world matching the setting very well. The tragic ending of the book leads into one of my favorite Marvel stories of all time, World War Hulk, where Hulk returns to Earth to get revenge on the committee that send him to space in the first place. The novel may require readers to have some knowledge of the Marvel lore; nevertheless the origins of the planet are completely new and are wonderfully introduced in this story. It has great fights, excellent character development for the all the cast and it will make you feel for the Hulk in the very end.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Incredible-Hulk-Planet-Greg-Pak/dp/0785120122/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492467854&sr=1-1&keywords=planet+hulk

 

The Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: The Five Nightmares

by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

Due to the first Iron Man’s film’s success, the Iron Avenger was given a new Invincible Iron Man comic series. The new ongoing owes a lot to the film, and it successfully re-introduces Iron Man as a major player in the Marvel Universe. The Five Nightmares centers on Tony Stark’s conflict with a new type of terrorist group, one that uses new technology to spread terror and mayhem. The main villain of the piece is the son of an old Iron Man villain, giving the antagonist needed pathos to feel more three dimensional. The Five Nightmares is very smart book, with intelligent dialogue and clever plot twists. Stark’s longtime love interest, Pepper Potts, is also given good amount attention in this book; foreshadowing her eventual transformation into her own kind of superhero. This story is the first of story arc of what will become Iron Man’s best run; truly a must read for any fan.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Invincible-Iron-Man-Vol-Nightmares/dp/0785134123/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492467979&sr=1-1&keywords=iron+man+five+nightmares

 

Ultimate Spider-Man: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1

by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero period. The first Spider-Man film was such a revelation to me as a kid, and I adore all three Sam Raimi movies (yes, even Spider-Man 3… for the most part). Spider-Man is one of those characters that have been fortunate to have dozens of incredible runs throughout his fifty year lifespan; I give the edge to Brian Michael Bendis’s amazing run on the Ultimate Spider-Man series of books. The first series in the Ultimate line, Bendis’ first arc is a new telling of the classic origin. It is far slower pace, with Peter Parker not becoming Spider-Man until the fifth issue. The more casual pacing allowed Bendis to give more development to Peter and it also helped add in more dimensions to his many different relationships. Peter and Mary Jane Watson were now childhood friends, and Uncle Ben was actually given a personality before he is tragically killed. It gives more weight on the tragedy, and creates a stronger motivation for Peter to become Spider-Man. The rest of the story is full of fun action, great humor, and sets up the rest of the Ultimate books that were releasing during that time.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Spider-Man-Collection-Vol/dp/0785124926/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492468090&sr=1-1&keywords=ultimate+spiderman

 

Thor

Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1 by Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, and Jaskson Guice

Thor was tricking character to find a story for, as I haven’t really read many Thor stories. I know writer/artist Walter Simonson had a critically acclaimed run in the 80s, sadly though I never read it. So instead I went with the current set of stories, the ones being written by Jason Aaron (the current writer of the Star Wars comics). Aaron has done some crazy stuff with Thor, not least of all is making Thor himself unworthy to hold his own hammer. This eventually leads to Jane Foster, AKA Natalie Portman’s character in the Thor movies, lifting the hammer and becoming the new Thor. It is crazy stuff, but in a good way. The first volume of Aaron’s run with the character has the original Thor facing against a God Slayer in three different points of his life; his past, present, and future. It also contains beautiful art by the always awesome artist, Esad Ribic.

Availability on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Thor-God-Thunder-Jason-Aaron/dp/0785191135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492468220&sr=1-1&keywords=thor+god+of+thunder

 

Honorable Mentions:

Black Panther – Who is the Black Panther by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr.

Ant-Man (One with Scott Lang) – Ant-Man Vol. 1: Second-Chance Man by Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas

More Spider-Man – Kraven’s Last Hunt by J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck

The Superior Spider-Man by Dan Slott and others

Spider-Verse by Dan Slott, Oliver Coipel, and Giuseppe Camuncoli

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