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Captain America

Best Marvel Comics to start with for new readers

Getting into Marvel comics isn’t easy – there’s decades of backstory, thousands of characters, and millions of issues with reboots, retcons and rewritings alike. Fortunately, we’ve laid out some of the best starter comics to walk you into the Marvel Universe and get you invested in one of the biggest worlds in modern culture. 

Do you have to read back from 1962 to know all you need to know about Spider-Man? Do you need to spend thousands of dollars to understand what’s going on with Captain America right now? No, of course not, though lord knows Marvel doesn’t make it easy to know where to start. 

If you have a favourite character, don’t worry about it! We’ve listed all the most popular characters and laid out their most iconic and accessible stories below. We’ve also listed out some basic tips on how to get into comics, no matter where you’re starting from or who your greatest hero is. Alternatively, check out all our other pages on World Book Day here to find out what else you can enjoy reading this week!

How to Get into Marvel Comics

If you want to get into comics, there are a few basic rules to remember that’ll really help you along the way and make that initial transition a lot more manageable.

  • Find a character you know. It’s always a little easier to get a grip on a character if you have experience with them through films, TV, video games or similar. There’s almost certainly going to be a few things you have to unlearn along the way, but it just makes that initial jump a little more manageable.
  • Don’t get overambitious. No comic book fan reads every comic, no matter how obsessive or wealthy they are. It just isn’t possible. Pick and choose your battles, prioritising the characters and stories you care about.
  • Keep an eye out for first issues. Despite Thor first appearing in the 60s, there have been several “first issues” of him since then. Same with other characters. Why? Because comic companies will often relaunch and reboot books, usually at a place in the story where it’ll be easy for fans to leap on board, so if you see a comic on shelves marked with a #1, it’s probably a good starting point. It probably doesn’t mean all the stuff before that is invalid or didn’t happen, just that things have been reset to an easily-understood status quo.
  • Look for reading lists online. Once you’ve found a character you love, you can look for any number of fan-made lists online to show you all their comic timelines, giving you structure and a sense of ease on where to go from there.
  • Don’t be afraid to Google things! Comics have been around for a long time, and their history is as long as it is convoluted. There’s no shame in checking the Wikis if you’re uncertain about a character, an event or how somebody’s powers work. Ideally, the best comics are written to get you up to speed, but if they fail to do that, a sneaky check online should do just as well.
  • Check publication dates. As small a thing as it sounds, knowing when something was written can do a lot to help you sort it out in your head. Why is Peter Parker married in this comic and single in this one? Well, because there are ten years of events between them. Don’t worry about the details too much, you’ll usually end up just subconsciously building these timelines in your head as you go.

Best Starter Comic for Captain America: Man Out of Time (2011)

Captain America Man Out of Time comic cover

Everybody knows that Steve Rogers was a WWII legend who was frozen and brought to the present era, but Man Out of Time is the best examination of that idea. It breaks it down to the basic emotional core of a man who was displaced and put somewhere alien and new, leaving so much behind, but finding some stability in helping others when the situation calls for it. This particular collection also includes a copy of Avengers #4 from 1963, when Cap was first thawed out and joined the Avengers. It’s a rich, enjoyable piece that puts the ideals and emotional struggle of the character into perspective for a new generation of readers.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle (1979)

Artwork of Marvel's Iron Man

An iconic piece that would help define the character of Iron Man for decades, Demon in a Bottle is one of the Avenger’s most difficult moments, as Tony’s dependence on alcohol begins to reach dangerous levels and put him in greater danger than ever, even as villains begin to amass against him. It’s a moment of real vulnerability for Iron Man, one that speaks a lot to how the character thinks and shows him rise up to improve himself at the end.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for the Hulk: Planet Hulk/World War Hulk (2005)

Artwork from Marvel's Planet Hulk

One of the truly great Hulk storylines, Planet Hulk is the arc recommended by pretty much every Hulk fan you talk to. In it, Banner is tricked into a spacecraft by several other heroes who have grown to mistrust him and is flown against his will to an alien world… whereupon it basically turns into the movie “Gladiator.” Hulk is enslaved and forced to become an arena warrior, battling for freedom under the control of a corrupt and tyrannical emperor before breaking free and starting a revolution. Planet Hulk is a truly epic story that defined the Hulk of the 2000s. Where could the character go from here?

Well, World War Hulk, as a matter of fact. The direct and immediate sequel to Planet Hulk, here the Green Goliath makes it back to Earth and, to put it lightly, has some mixed feelings about what the heroes there did to him. A ferocious battle across New York culminates in the true power of Hulk being unleashed in a way it never had been before – and it’s awesome and frightening in equal measure.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Thor: Walt Simonson’s The Mighty Thor (1983)

Cover art from the Marvel comic Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor

For a long time, Marvel’s Thor had been defined by its creator, the legendary Jack Kirby, at least until Walt Simonson came onto the scene and changed the character forever, creating what many consider to be the most iconic tales of the Thunder God’s storied history. Whether it’s discovering the origins of Asgard itself or seeing poor Thor gets turned into a frog (seriously), Simonson’s work never failed to be entertaining and exciting in equal measure.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Ms. Marvel: No Normal (First Appearance, 2014)

The cover of Ms Marvel

Kamala Khan is the standout Marvel hero of the 2010s, no question, and is probably the easiest hero to get into, considering her relatively young history. With that in mind, you should start at the beginning! Her origin story in 2014 is sweet and enchanting and exciting in equal measure. It builds naturally to the grandiose stories that came afterwards, where Kamala would even end up running her own team: the Champions. Begin the story here, and never look back. 

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt (1987)

Spider-Man comic cover Kraven's Last Hunt

Kraven’s Last Hunt is one of the classic Spider-Man stories, in which the villainous hunter steals Spider-Man’s costume and attempts to take his place – after he buries poor Peter Parker alive. It’s a story of perseverance and of identity, of how Kraven’s attempt to replace the wallcrawler suggests a deeper, darker motivation beneath, and how the truth of Spider-Man goes beyond mere physical strength or ability.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Miles Morales: Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man, (First Appearance, 2011)

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man Marvel comic cover

Miles’ story is crazy enough that we think it’s worth taking it from the top, one more time. The Spider-Man from the next universe over who took up the mantle when Peter Parker died, he defined himself as a worthy successor in every way imaginable, even if he didn’t always realise it himself. Later on, he’d crash through into the main Marvel Universe and earn his place there for good, but right now it’s just a pleasure to take those first steps with him along the way and find his place in the world.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for the Fantastic Four: The Coming of Galactus/ Galactus Trilogy (1966)

Fantastic Four The Coming of Galactus Marvel comic cover

Behold, Galactus! Despite losing a bit of their lustre in recent years, the Fantastic Four are the backbone of the Marvel Universe. Their first appearance in 1961 is considered the true beginning of the Marvel Universe and they’ve managed to stay close to the heart of every major event ever since. And what could be more major than the appearance of the World-Eater himself? It’s a classic tale in which the godly form of Galactus, the planet devourer, appears in the sky, and the four beloved heroes must battle him away for the sake of… well, everything.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (2016)

Black Panther A Nation Under Our Feet comic cover

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the truly great writers for Black Panther, and here we see him at his best as he sculpts a rich and weaving tale of intrigue and upheaval across Wakanda, in which T’Challa must balance his duties as a king and hero while coming to terms with where he’s willing to adapt, and where he’s going to stand firm. It’s a phenomenal comic that effortlessly leads into numerous other Black Panther stories for readers to follow on from.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for the X-Men: Astonishing X-Men (2004)

Astonishing X-Men Marvel comic cover

Joss Whedon is often thought of a nerd’s nerd, and these comics are one of the things that earned him that reputation. At this point the X-Men had been divided and split apart for a long while, but Astonishing X-Men saw them reunite and come together like never before. Told largely through Kitty Pryde’s perspective, it’s nonetheless still a team book, and also brings back a lot of great villains while introducing more of them along the way.

Whedon is famous for his ability to create lovable characters with great camaraderie, and that skill is on full force here. This won’t just introduce you to the X-Men – it’ll show you why you love them.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Deadpool: Posehn and Duggan’s Deadpool (2012)

Posehn and Duggan's Deadpool Marvel comic cover

For a long time before this, Deadpool had been a joke. Intentionally so, admittedly, but the character was played almost entirely for comedy, with not much depth beneath. Then Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan stepped into the arena and changed all that.

Don’t get us wrong, that doesn’t mean all the comedy has gone. Far from it! Wade’s still incredibly funny here (and there’s an amazing subplot about time travelling to different eras with period-appropriate stories and artwork), but Deadpool is portrayed as richer and more nuanced than normal, more than just a one-dimensional joke machine. It also serves as a soft reboot of his origin story, laying out the most recent explanation for his powers and who’s responsible for them. If you want to get into the Merc with the Mouth, there’s no better start than here.

Afterwards, why not try:

Best Starter Comic for Marvel Crossover Events: Secret Wars (1984)

Marvel Secret Wars comic cover

We were going to put The Infinity Gauntlet event here – it’s probably a better story overall – but if you really want a true team-up book, Secret Wars is a classic that introduces dozens of characters in an easily-digestible way. The heroes and villains of Earth are transported to a new world by a mysterious force called the Beyonder, and told that the last team standing will get anything they want. True, there’s a real goofiness to the dialogue that feels like a hangover from the 70s (which is even harder to excuse considering it was 1984), but it’s enjoyable and charming and has several standout moments, including the first-ever appearance of the black Venom suit for Spider-Man and legendary supervillain Doctor Doom manipulating his way to godhood.

Afterwards, why not try:

Phew! That should be enough reading for anybody to get started with, but if you’re craving more we’ve got a guide to the best DC comics to start with as well.

If you’re looking for other things to buy besides comics, we got you handled there too! Check out the Jelly Deals Twitter page for moment-fresh deals and bargains, or if your inner comic nerd is dying to get out, check out our best Spider-Man merch over here!

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