Our “Where to Start” articles act as a guide, giving you our best suggestions on where to start on a certain character or creators work. Every article lists several books, each in the character’s or creator’s chronological order despite it’s publication date (so the first choice is at the beginning of a characters career, the last is the furthest along). While in order each book was specifically picked as a good individual starting point; so feel free to start at the beginning, in the middle, or towards the end if you want to get caught up quickly. And if you have any more suggestions or questions just leave a comment.
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Where To Start Reading: The Avengers
There is no question about it… Brian Michael Bendis is in control of the Avengers franchise. His unprecedented run began with this story. When it came time to renumber the series with a history 500th issue, Marvel decided to blow the team up. It’s just another day at Avengers Mansion. That would all change when a believed-to-be dead Jack of Hearts (who heroically sacrificed himself during Geoff John’s run to save Scott Lang’s daughter) shows up at the gates. When the energy that gives Jack his powers overloads, he explodes killing Lang. If things weren’t already bad, Vision crash lands a Quinjet right into the mansion. When he emerges, he apologizes for not being in control of himself and spits out dozens of Ultrons! An enraged She Hulk, no longer in control of her emotions, tears Vision in two. The day ends with an injured Captain America and a comatose Wasp. This is just in the first issue! As the mystery of who could possibly have pulled off such a deadly assault against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Hawkeye sacrifices himself to save the team from a full on Kree invasion fleet. When the mini series ends, one of the greatest Avengers of all time is revealed as the greatest threat, and the team splits up bringing the iconic series to an end, but not without going out as Marvel’s new flagship title.
What to read next | House of M
Ultimates Vol. 1 2003
With Marvel’s Ultimate Universe hot off the success of the re-imagining of Spider-Man and the X-Men, it was only natural to bring a new version of the Avengers. This time the team would be a creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. and is much more mature than the regular Marvel-616 version. Not only that, but also far more cinematic than just about anything else in Marvel’s arsenal. It’s that very reason that this first volume was adapted into a PG13 rated animated movie and serves as the inspiration to Marvel Studios’ march toward Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ 2012 live action film. This spectacular re-imagining came from fan favorite writer Mark Millar and awesome artist Bryan Hitch. In this first volume, the Ultimates find themselves up against an army of Nazis who are actually shapeshifting aliens. The world learns of the super team as they watch the Ultimates stand up to, and battle the evil army toe-to-toe and punch-for-punch. The absolutely coolest thing I’ve ever seen in a comic? In the heat of battle, Bruce Banner is tossed from a helicopter so he could turn into the Hulk to go on a rampage against the baddies. That’s how badass this series was.
What to read next | Ultimates Vol. 2
New Avengers Vol. 1 2006
Thanks to the events of Avengers: Disassembled, the team is gone. The world has had to carry on without Marvel’s mightiest team. When a mysterious figure hires former Spidey villain Electro to create a massive jailbreak at the maximum security prison The Raft, the team comes back together and finds itself in the midst of a conspiracy that goes deep into the heart of the Marvel Universe. While this marked the triumphant return of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, it also heralded a brand new era for the team. Longtime stars of the Marvel U., Wolverine and Spider-Man, join the team. The mood is darker. The tone is more serious. To a certain extent, the change in the mood and tone told longtime fans such as myself that things were never going to be the same. For better or worse, it worked. Today, the Avengers truly are Marvel’s cornerstone franchise. The high in whch Disassembled ended on grew to even higher status with New Avengers. Unfortunately, a rift between Captain America and Iron Man was looming and even more changes to the team was coming.
What to read next | New Avengers Vol. 2
Civil War 2007
Marvel’s first really BIG event in nearly ten years, Civil War found the entire Marvel U. thrust into a bloody battle over their civil rights. Tony Stark had already been working with Congress to adopt a Superhuman Registration Act that would have heroes and villains alike reveal their identity to the government and become sanctioned agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This didn’t exactly sit well with several other heroes, but when a tragedy went down killing school children in Stamford, CT, the government had no choice. Now, Iron Man became the leader of the law abiding heroes and villains who took the opportunity to register while Captain America became the leader of vigilantes no longer on the right side of the law. This lone event led to event after event at Marvel culminating in another title I will mention later in this very article. Soon, Marvel readers would start to see threads from previous events stretch into the following event until every major situation could be traced from Avengers: Disassembled onward. By the end of Civil War, Tony Stark found himself in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. and one of the most hated men in the world.
What to read next | The Death of Captain America Books 1 & 2
With the remnants of Captain America’s Avengers still running round, Tony Stark builds his own team of government sanctioned Avengers to cast more of a criminal hue over Luke Cage’s team. Stacked with powerhouses such as himself, Ms. Marvel, The Sentry, and Ares, this new team of Avengers would be Tony Stark’s shining beacon of the heroes the world now demands. The brighter tones to Brian Michael Bendis’ story and the much sun washed style of art from Frank Cho proved that the Avengers could still be the team most of us old fart fans remembered them as, even if they were made of up of heroes I considered to be misguided government stooges during Civil War. Right off the bat, they have to deal with a brand new Ultron that, as usually goes with Cho’s art, turns out to be quite an attractive villain(ess). I guess if you gotta go, a naked Janet Van Dyne wouldn’t be the worst way.
What to read next | New Avengers Vol. 6
Secret Invasion 2008
The Skrulls, an alien race of shapeshifters long known as major thorns in the sides of Marvel’s heroes, have been among us for years. They’ve infiltrated most every team of heroes and villains and other corners of our world. Their plan stood revealed, though not completely figured out by the confused heroes, when Elektra was apparently killed by Wolverine in the middle of a fight between the New Avengers and The Hand, but morphed into a Skrull. When the Invasion finally hits, Tony is caught off guard and is taken out for most of the series. The heroes on both sides of the law finally put their differences aside to take on a Skrull Queen using Spider-Woman’s appearance. Even with Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor fighting side by side for the first time in over five years, it’s a much more surprising figure that earns the fame and trust of the people as he kills the Skrull Queen on live television. The Marvel Universe is turned upside down, Tony Stark loses everything he’d won with Civil War, and the dawn of a Dark Reign begins.
What to read next | The Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2 – 4, World’s Most Wanted & Start: Dissassembled
Dark Avengers Vol. 1 2009
Meet a new team of Avengers – Iron Patriot, Wolverine, Ares, The Sentry, Ms. Marvel, the Amazing Spider-Man, Hawkeye, and Captain Marvel. However, they are not at all who you think they are. Well, The Sentry and Ares are, but the others are hardened criminals Norman Osborn, Daken, Karla Sofen, Venom, Bullseye, and Noh-Varr (who finds himself no longer trusting those around him). Their mission is to continue to run the world with a fist and their war against the heroes now scrambling after the Secret Invasion. Their first adventure puts them up against Morgan LeFay. As the series continues, though, we learn that The Sentry is starting to give into his alternate personality, The Void to the point of becoming the most powerful, and feared, enemy of all the Marvel U.
What to read next | Dark Avengers Vol. 2 & 3
Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign comes crashing down as his unstable sanity cracks and he takes his H.A.M.M.E.R. goons on an invasion of Asgard. Finally tired of Osborn’s tight grasp on the law and public perception, the heroes unite under the leadership of the recently returned Captain America and join the fight. Osborn uses his ace up his sleeves and commands The Sentry, now completely given into his Void persona, to destroy Asgard. The home of the Nordic Gods comes down in a pile of rubble and it takes a surprising ally to give the heroes enough power to not be killed by the mad Sentry. After all is said and done, Ares, Loki, The Sentry, and untold dozens of Asgardians are dead, but a new Heroic Age begins with three new teams of Avengers leading the way for the heroes.
What to read next | Avengers: Prime
At the command of the President, Steve Rogers is now the world’s top cop as he takes control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and puts together new teams of Avengers. The first is a return to classic form with Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America (Bucky Barnes) in the forefront with Hawkeye. This team’s first day finds them face-to-face with the likes of Kang the Conqueror, Apocalypse, Immortus, Ultron, and future versions of the Hulk and Iron Man. As half the team jumps forward in time to stop Ultron’s impending final push against the remaining heroes, the other half has to deal with chrono inconsistencies in the present. It’s a return to how comics used to be told by having heroes facing massive threats to everything and puts the proper tone into place for the newly anointed Heroic Age.
What to read next | New Avengers (Vol. 2) Vol. 1
Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the new Avengers series was Ed Brubaker’s Secret Avengers. If you thought Steve Rogers wasn’t going to take an active part of an Avengers team, you’re wrong. Taking a page from Nick Fury’s old notebook, Rogers put together a group of Avengers no one else knows about. The team is made up of the Beast, Moon Knight, Black Widow, Nova, and Valkyrie and they act as a group of low profile heroes dealing with the really big problems the other heroes aren’t aware of yet. Their first mission finds the team on Mars dealing with an ancient artifact that has the power to grant the person in possession of it unspeakable abilities and turning others into mindless servants. We also are introduced to the sinister Shadow Council who has their very own Nick Fury!
What to read next | Fear Itself
If you have any questions or suggestions leave a comment and we’ll try to help you out. Until then, happy reading!