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New Reader Guide: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Welcome to the Austin Books & Comics New Reader Guide! We’re here to introduce some of our favorite books that you may not already know about, and maybe even help you find your next favorite comic series!

Marvel Studios

Since 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel Studios has been the leading force in superhero movies. With a combination of excellent characterization, style, and respect for the source material, Marvel Studios films have earned billions at the box office and aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

In this guide you’ll find some of the stories that either inspired or were inspired by the various Marvel Studios films.

All titles are available at the store, and if not we will be happy to special order them for you!

The Avengers

The Avengers/The Avengers: Age of Ultron

The culmination of the first and second phases, respectively, of the Marvel Studios film slates, these movies brought together their biggest names in an unprecedented extravaganza of superhero action.

What to read next:

The Ultimates/The Ultimates 2 (2001)
Written by Mark Millar and gorgeously illustrated by Bryan Hitch, the Ultimates re-imagines the Avengers as a government-sponsored superpowered task force, taking on global and extraterrestrial threats while also dealing with interpersonal conflicts. Much of this series heavily inspired the Avengers films, including the Chitauri invasion of New York City, as well as the depiction of Nick Fury modeled after Samuel L. Jackson. (Note: the violence and mature content of this book would earn it a hard PG-13 rating, recommended for at least age 14).

New Avengers (2005)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, New Avengers was a complete relaunch of the Avengers line that brought the team to a more grounded and accessible level, which still maintaining the original spirit of the title. Notable for being the first Avengers lineup with Luke Cage, Spider-Man, and Wolverine as full-time members.

The Avengers (2012)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, the theme of the 2010 relaunch of the Avengers was “go big.” Featuring Hickman’s signature epic scale and intricate storytelling, a huge team lineup, and loads of twists and turns, this series took both the Avengers franchise and the Marvel Universe to new heights, culminating in 2015’s epic Secret Wars event.

Avengers Assemble (2012)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis then Kelly Sue DeConnick, this run was initially featured as a new-reader friendly series for fans of the movie, including having the same team lineup. Very accessible for new readers.

Iron Man

Iron Man/Iron Man 2/Iron Man 3

The introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the hands-down best depiction of a comic character with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, the Iron Man films have been absolutely essential as the driving force of the Marvel Studios films.

What to read next

Iron Man (2004)
Written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Adi Granov, the mid-2000s relaunch of Iron Man had a massive influence on the film depiction of Iron Man, including the more-functional armor design, updating Tony’s origin to be in Afghanistan, and the focus on being on the absolute bleeding edge of technology development. Also notable in that it introduces Extremis, a key element in Iron Man 3.

Invincible Iron Man (2008)
Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Salvador Larroca, the first issue was released the same week as the first film, and has a similar grounded-yet-advanced feel. The main theme of the series is Tony desperately trying to keep his technology out of the hands of those who would use it for evil.

Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle (1979)
Written by David Michelinie & Bob Layton and illustrated by John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton, & Carmine Infantino, Demon in a Bottle is one of the quintessential Iron Man stories. Famous for Tony Stark nearly succumbing to, and overcoming alcoholism, which has become a major part of the character over the years. Also notable for being one of the first times that Jim Rhodes takes over for Tony as Iron Man, leading to him eventually gaining his own armor and identity as War Machine.

Captain America

Captain America: The First Avenger/Captain America: The Winter Soldier/Captain America: Civil War

Bringing pulpy action, twisty espionage thrills, and political intrigue, the Captain America films have been at the forefront of the Marvel Studios have been among the best in handling heavy themes like illegal government surveillance and corruption without sacrificing that essential sense of fun that Marvel Studios is famous for.

What to read next

Captain America (2005)
Written by Ed Brubaker, this run is easily one of the best of all time. Most famous for bringing former sidekick Bucky Barnes back from the dead as the assassin The Winter Soldier. This series was notable for having a darker, more grounded take on Captain America and SHIELD, with Brubaker applying his signature noir style to weave a modern classic story of espionage and intrigue.

Civil War (2006)
Written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Steve McNiven, this series gained national headlines at the time of its release for including themes such as government regulation of superpowers, as well as a number of major unexpected character reveals and deaths.

Secret Warriors (2009)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, this series featured Nick Fury waging a secret war against the evil organization Hydra, who as it turns out has been inside SHIELD from its inception. This series is Hickman at his intricate, espionage best: juggling multiple plots, having completely unexpected twists and turns, and resolving everything in an absolutely brilliant way.

Black Panther (2016)
Written by famed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the current run on Black Panther has had a heavy focus on developing T’Challa’s homeland of Wakanda as a living, breathing place, as well as asking the question “if Wakanda is the most advanced nation on Earth, why does it still have a king?” Political intrigue, revolution, and Black Panther struggling to keep it all from collapse make this one of the best new titles, and a fantastic, new reader friendly take on the character.

Thor

Thor/Thor: The Dark World

Bringing a fantasy/Shakespearean element to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Thor films blend action, court intrigue, fantasy, and humor into a truly unique blend that has stood apart from the other MCU offerings.

What to read next

Thor (2007)
Bringing back Thor and Asgard after being dead in the comics for several years, J.M. Stracynzski’s Thor was unique in that it brought Asgard back in the middle of the empty plains of Oklahoma, leading to some excellent character and plot moments of the Asgardians interacting with the average townsfolk of Broxton. The balance of high fantasy with grounded, relateable characters makes this one of the best Thor runs in recent memory.

The Mighty Thor (2015)
Written by Jason Aaron, this run gained a lot of attention for introducing a new female Thor after the Odinson was deemed unworthy following the events of Original Sin. This series combines Aaron’s bombastic action, characterization, and sense of humor to make a consistently fun, thrilling book.

Journey Into Mystery (2011)
Written by Kieron Gillen, this particular run of Journey Into Mystery focused on a young, reincarnated version of Loki as the protagonist. Incorporating themes such as the importance of mythology and the nature of storytelling, this series blended a smart self-awareness with Gillen’s signature wit and style. A must read for fans of the Asgardian part of the Marvel canon.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Studios biggest gamble to date paid off in spades with this amazing sci-fi/action/comedy about a mostly-unknown team of misfits banding together to save the galaxy against a massive threat. The combination of thrilling sci-fi action, hilarious moments, and genuine pathos set this apart as a completely unique entry to the Marvel Studios slate.

What to read next

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008)
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, this run influenced the film so much that “Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning” is included in the end credits. Starring the same team lineup from the movie as well as some new faces, this run combined sci-fi action, humor, and characterization into a grand space opera that is incredibly thrilling from start to finish, and one of the absolute best Marvel cosmic books.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2013)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Steve McNiven & Sara Pichelli, this series took inspiration from the movie, with a similar team lineup and dynamic, as well as a grand space opera feel not unlike the Star Wars classic trilogy.

Nova (2013)
Starring teenager Sam Alexander, this series introduces a new generation of Nova. Blending classic Marvel teen superhero tropes with high-flying sci-fi action, Nova provides a unique perspective on cosmic adventures.

Ant-Man

Ant-Man

Another big gamble (and payoff) for Marvel Studios, Ant-Man is basically a mashup of heist films, comedies, and superhero movies. Adding to the broader history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe while still telling a very personal story, Ant-Man brings classic characters and concepts to the big screen.

What to read next

The Astonishing Ant-Man (2014)
Written by Nick Spencer, the style, characterization, and themes are very similar to the movie (comedy/heist elements, Scott Lang as Ant-Man with Hank Pym’s legacy overhead, Scott trying to provide for his daughter). This series combines characterization and comedy with great storytelling that is perfect for fans of the film.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man (2013)
Also written by Nick Spencer, this series is effectively the spiritual predecessor to Astonishing Ant-Man. Featuring a similar combination of wit and pathos, it features a group of D-List Spider-Man villains teaming up for a big score. It’s just a shame they’re too busy trying to stab each other in the back to effectively get ahead. If you never thought you’d be rooting for a group of loser supervillains, read this book and be pleasantly surprised.

The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk

An often-overlooked entry into the MCU, The Incredible Hulk still brought explosive action, style, and strong characterization, in addition to a lot of world-building.

What to read next

Planet Hulk (2006)
The ultimate “Hulk vs. everybody” story, Planet Hulk finds the jade giant shot off into space after the Illuminati determine him to be too big of a threat to global security. Hulk lands on an alien world and is cast into gladiator combat, where in a parallel to the classic film Spartacus, gathers a group of allies to fight their way to the top and overthrow their oppressors.

Hulk Visionaries: Peter David
Widely regarded as one of the greatest Hulk writers, Peter David’s run combined massive action with deeply introspective character moments, with large doses of humor throughout. Notable for introducing different versions of the Hulk, including the reintroduction of the Gray Hulk and the iconic Mr. Fixit.

Totally Awesome Hulk (2016)
A twist on the standard Hulk story, Totally Awesome Hulk features longtime Hulk ally and 7th smartest person in the world Amadeus Cho as the new Hulk. This series has huge, thrilling monster fights and Cho’s teenage goofiness, along with the struggles of keeping a rampaging beast contained.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

The first introduction of magic and mysticism in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange follows the story of Dr. Stephen Strange, brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon, as he goes from the top of his field to the lowest of lows after a car crash destroys the use of his hands. Desperate to fix himself, Strange spends his fortune and travels the globe looking for a solution, only to discover the mystical forces just outside of our normal view, and becomes Sorcerer Supreme, guardian of Earth against magical and extradimensional invaders.

What to read next

Doctor Strange (2015)
Written by Jason Aaron, this series introduces the reader to the everyday weirdness faced by Doctor Strange and his magical allies that’s always hiding just out of view. Featuring Aaron’s signature combination of excellent storytelling and characterization, Doctor Strange is portrayed as world-weary, yet still confident and a little cocky. Very accessible for new readers.

Doctor Strange: The Oath (2006)
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, The Oath focuses on Doctor Strange desperately trying to fulfill his oath as a doctor, Sorcerer Supreme, and friend when his loyal servant Wong is given a terminal diagnosis, as well as uncovering the identity of the person who attempted to kill him.

Strange (2004)
Written by J.M. Straczynski, Strange is a modern retelling of Doctor Strange’s origin. From his beginnings as an arrogant surgeon to his harrowing journey to find the Ancient One and learn the ways of the mystic, Strange is an excellent introduction to the Sorcerer Supreme.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

Smart, witty, dark, and unabashedly feminist, Jessica Jones introduced the flawed-yet-likable title character to the MCU with an intensely personal story of overcoming the horrors of your past and living up to your fullest potential.

What to read next

Alias: AKA Jessica Jones (2001)
As equally witty and dark as the show it inspired, Alias provided a unique view into the seedy underbelly of the Marvel Universe while developing Jessica as a strong but deeply flawed character. (Note: This series was published under Marvel’s MAX mature readers line, so parental discretion is strongly advised).

The Pulse (2004)
The successor to Alias, The Pulse featured Jessica Jones working at The Pulse, a subsection of the Daily Bugle focused on the superhero goings-on in New York. Notable for further developing the relationship between Jessica and Luke Cage, including the birth of their daughter.

New Avengers (2010)
The 2010 relaunch of New Avengers featured Luke Cage as the new team leader, with him, Jessica, and their daughter moving into the rebuilt Avengers mansion. This series saw even more development of Jessica and Luke’s relationship, with her struggling with balancing motherhood and superheroics.

Jessica Jones (2016)
Her first solo series in a decade, this new ongoing takes Jessica back to her PI roots of the gritty underworld of the Marvel Universe.

Daredevil

Daredevil

Marvel’s first foray into the Netflix prestige series format, Daredevil introduced MCU fans to the gritty underworld not previously seen onscreen. The series hints at the larger universe while taking place in a world all of its own. Combining thrilling martial arts action and hints of mysticism, Daredevil on Netflix is one of the strongest onscreen depictions of a Marvel property to date.

What to read next

Daredevil (2001)
Widely regarded as one of the best Daredevil runs of all time, Brian Michael Bendis consistently put Matt Murdock through the wringer in this incredibly gritty run that returned Daredevil to the crime noir roots planted by Frank Miller in the early 1980s. This series delves deep into Matt’s mental state as he is pushed to the absolute limits, but shows the resiliency and heart that he’s famous for.

Daredevil (2011)
A huge contrast to so many other Daredevil runs, Mark Waid’s Daredevil much more swashbuckling action-adventure than gritty, self-loathing. This run combines a unique visual style by artists such as Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin (including an incredibly cool depiction of Daredevil’s radar sense) with Mark Waid’s wonderful balance of action, drama, humor, and heart to provide a consistently great experience from start to finish.

Daredevil (1979)
The defining Daredevil run, Frank Miller took Daredevil’s Silver Age goofiness and injected it with a ton of crime drama grit with a heavy dose of noir. This series introduced numerous character-defining elements such as Matt’s Catholicism, the incorporation of ninja mysticism, and rebuilding Daredevil’s villains as more nuanced and dangerous, while still maintaining a grounded, noir feel.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage

First introduced to the MCU in 2015’s Jessica Jones, Luke Cage takes the bulletproof hero uptown to Harlem where he tangles with crime lords, arms dealers, shady politicians, and more, while exploring topical subjects like African American identity and masculinity, corrupt authorities, and family secrets. Stylish with a distinct sense of 70s cool, with the most overt references to the greater MCU, this series brings a slick hip-hop sensibility to the Netflix corner of the Marvel Universe.

What to read next

Power Man and Iron Fist (2016)
Focusing on the now (mostly) straight-laced family man Luke Cage and the still let’s-beat-up-the-bad-guys Iron Fist reuniting the Heroes for Hire to protect the city from gangsters, magic and otherwise. Featuring a heavy hip-hop influence, this is Marvel’s premier buddy-action duo at their goofy best, and that’s no fiddle-faddle.

Mighty Avengers/Captain America and the Mighty Avengers (2013)
Spinning out of the Infinity crossover event, this newest team of Avengers comes together when the main team is off-world, and nobody else is there to defend against Thanos and his crew of villains. Setting up shop in the repurposed Gem Theater in Harlem, Luke Cage leads this new team of street level heroes, with their hotline open to anyone

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire (1972)
Where it all started: wrongfully imprisoned Carl Lucas undergoes a dangerous prison experiment, granting him super strength and unbreakable skin. He heads to Harlem, New York, and sets up shop as a Hero for Hire, busting up gangs and fighting the good fight for the little guy.

Iron Fist

Iron Fist

The final entry in the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the big Defenders team-up event, Iron Fist follows Danny Rand, son of wealth and privilege, as he returns home after being presumed dead for 15 years. In his time away he was raised as a warrior in the mystical city of K’un-Lun, sharpening his body and mind to become the Iron Fist, Living Weapon and sworn protector of K’Un-Lun. Upon his return, he quickly falls into a web of shady deals, family secrets, and secret evil organizations threatening to destroy society as we know it.

What to read next

The Immortal Iron Fist (2006)
Widely regarded as one of the best takes on the character, this run, initially written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker with art by David Aja expanded the origin and background of Iron Fist, making Danny the current in a long line of Immortal Weapons. Blending gritty, street-level action with a strong sense of mysticism (as well as Fraction’s distinct sense of characterization and humor he’d later use in his Hawkeye series), this series brings a thrilling, modern take on the character.

Power Man & Iron Fist (2016)
The boys are back in town as the best friends and former Heroes For Hire Luke Cage and Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, team up to protect Harlem from all threats, including demonically-possessed former employees, revamped gangsters, and the resurrected son of former West Coast crime bosses.

Power Man & Iron Fist: The Comedy of Death (2011)
Despite turning global corporation Rand Enterprises into a non-profit organization designed to help those in need, the battle is never over for the Iron Fist. In addition to having to clear the name of an old friend accused of murder, Danny takes it upon himself to train Victor Alvarez, the new Power Man with explosive power and an explosive temper.

Power Man and Iron Fist: Heroes For Hire (1978)
Marvel’s original buddy action duo teams up the unbreakable Luke Cage, Power Man with the mystical master of Kung Fu, Danny Rand, the Iron Fist. As the Heroes For Hire, they’ll take on any job, no matter how dangerous, as long as the check clears.

Iron Fist (1974)
The original stories of Danny Rand, son of privilege, Kung Fu master, and wielder of the immensely powereful Iron Fist. Returning to his home of New York after years in the mystical city of K’un-Lun following a plane crash that left him orphaned, it’s wall-to-wall King Fu action as Iron Fist faces down ninja assassins, death cults, and more, while teaming up with allies Colleen Wing and Misty Knight aka the Daughters of the Dragon.

Agents of SHIELD

Agents of SHIELD

Tying into the background of the films (including a turning point based around the climax of Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Agents of SHIELD features presumed-dead Agent Phil Coulson and his secret team of spies, soldiers, and scientists as they fight the forces of Hydra and other villainous elements of the MCU.

What to read next

Agents of SHIELD (2016)
Written by Mark Waid, the Agents of SHIELD comic series introduced the characters of the show into the main comics universe, interacting with characters and elements never before seen onscreen (including an early cameo from Howard the Duck!).

Secret Warriors (2009)
It only makes sense that a TV series starring a presumed-dead agent and his covert team of operatives waging a secret war against Hydra would borrow elements from Jonathan Hickman’s espionage thriller Secret Warriors. Much like the show, this series takes place in the background of major events of the greater universe.

Posted July 19, 2016 by Patrick the ABC Web Guy

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