THE SHORT VERSION (TL,DR):
For those who have a bus full of nuns to save and are in a hurry, I’ll give you the short version. Here are some Marvel reading recommendations for people who don’t like or read Marvel.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw
IMMORTAL HULK by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett (my favorite Marvel book right now)
SILVER SURFER by Dan Slott and Michael Allred
MOON KNIGHT by Warren Ellis and Declan ShalVey
DAREDEVIL runs by Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid, Charles Soule and Chip Zdarsky
These books stand on their own. No events. No cross-overs. No tie-ins. None of that.
THE NOT-SO-SHORT VERSION:
“World Building” (Appetizer)
Do you prefer Marvel or DC?
I like both. And I’ve liked both for a while. It’s because you don’t really need to pick one over the other. I spent the last two weeks re-reading Tom King’s Batman run (which I love) because “City of Bane” is coming to break all of our backs. Also, Plastic Man and Galactus are chilling with other comic book characters on my bookshelf right now. It’s the same way I don’t need to pick cats over dogs because I like both, too. Some things don’t need to involve a line drawn in the sand.
Your integrity isn’t going to be lost just because you picked up an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Really. Your Batman books and high-brow indie titles will still be there when you get back. The main Spider-Man book is actually very good right now.
My first comics were Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four with some 80s Iron Man comics. I’ve had a soft spot for Marvel for as long as I can remember. The epic sci-fi world of the Fantastic Four and the 80s espionage stories of Iron Man made me a True Believer for life. My love of Marvel hasn’t changed since then. (Except for Avengers vs. X-Men, which is a dumpster fire.)
Really, a lot of my comic reading experience comes from respecting the old guys and gals who kept funny books alive to begin with. Without the grind of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Marie Severin, Roy Thomas and a WAREHOUSE full of creators, so much of what we see in comics wouldn’t be possible today. No Jack Kirby means no Hellboy or Black Hammer. No Steve Ditko means no Spider-Man. No Roy Thomas means X-Men would have died and Claremont wouldn’t have taken them to new heights. Also, I give a lot of credit to X-Men and Spider-Man because a lot of the Image Comics founders worked on those characters before starting the company.
(Side-note: You can give Marie Severin an entire write-up on her importance in comics. Seriously, look her up or read her comics. Hulk, Doctor Strange, Namor and so many others wouldn’t be the same without her. There would be no Spider-Woman without Severin, either.)
Again, I’m sticking to Marvel here. Marvel’s characters have always felt more human to me. (Someone just rolled their eyes so hard that I heard it) I know. You might have heard this before. But it’s true. I appreciate that a lot of early Marvel characters had real world problems. This has been in play from their first appearances in the 60s. Peter Parker has to pay the rent, keep a job or work on his relationship. Matt Murdock is a stubborn man that refuses to go down. Bruce Banner’s traumatic upbringing impacted him in a dark way. The X-Men are societal outcasts while Iron Man is a celebrity. The Fantastic Four are a family that goes on trips…to space and other universes.
Marvel’s books were always connected, too. You’d read an issue of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange would show up. The Fantastic Four would be flooring it in their flying car and zoom past Thor or Spider-Man. Or you would read The Avengers and The X-Men would guest star in an issue. Sometimes appearances were random. This made everything feel like it was part of one world. Those classic books felt more tangible.
THE MEAT! (Main Course)
We’ve derailed a little. Let me bring it back. Along with Marvel, I read the usual suspects like DC, Image and other indies. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me what you read. Just read comics. They’re great. We’re in a new Golden Age of comics right now.
I get a few of the reasons why some people don’t read Marvel. One big issue that even I have is events. Let me level with the non-Marvel people here… Marvel does a lot of events. I get it. Frankly, I think DC has a cleaner continuity overall than Marvel but I still have more Marvel books on my pull.
(Yeah, DC doesn’t do events as much but they make up for it by giving Batman, Harley Quinn and Joker 20 titles each. Shut up and take my money, right? Where’s that Booster Gold and Blue Beetle book, though??)
Now I’ll let you in on a secret. I don't like events. And I’m not going to spend money to buy an entire event in single issues. That’s asking a lot. Maaaaaybe I’ll get it in trade. Maybe. War of the Realms just ended and now we’re getting a Carnage-themed event really soon. Some breather…
I don’t buy events in the same way I don’t buy books just because they’re popular. (There’s that eye-roll sound again…)Doesn’t matter if it’s a superhero title or the next big indie book because I want to give into the hype as little as possible. That hype is probably why first issues sell really well but then a title gets dropped by issue 2 or 3. I read comics because I care about the characters, world and story. Not “Hey, I wonder how much this first issue will sell for on e-Bay” or “I can’t wait to buy this book I couldn’t give less of a shit about just so I can send it off to grade it.”
I don’t care how a comic book will look when it’s stored in a thick plastic box with a number on it. My comics go in long-boxes or bookshelves and that’s about it.
(That said…we all give into this at some point. We know we have. I know I do sometimes. Some do it more than others. But if you’re buying single issues, it just comes with the territory. Still doesn’t excuse that there are people who buy comics for the perceived value rather than… to read comics. If you deny this, you’re lying.)
When an event comes out, it’s like a publisher sends out a really butch dude to twist your arm into buying EVERY issue of said event. The beauty of events is that you don’t have to buy them. An overwhelming comic book problem was just solved! You can avoid events and still know what’s going on in whatever universe you’re reading about. That sounds like utter bullshit but trust me. I haven’t collected an entire event in single issues in a while. I refuse to give them the satisfaction. It’s disappointing when storytelling is sacrificed for hype, spectacle and too many tie-ins. For me it’s a quantity over quality issue. That’s why I tend to stick to titles that stand on their own and don’t tie-in to other books.
Anyway, I get that it’s overwhelming to get into comics or dive into a character you haven’t read before — especially with all of these events, tie-ins, spin-offs and reboots. There’s just so much to read and sometimes a certain title or event doesn’t amount to anything.
To make things easier for people who don’t like (or don’t read) Marvel, I made a list of some Marvel series I love. This is in the hopes that you might get curious enough to check out some Marvel titles. If not, no problem. Thanks for stopping by.
Also, feel free to pick anything on this list if you’re just looking for something to read. Worry not, True Believers, I gotchu.
No indie comic or comic book movie talk here. If I had to choose, I’d pick comic books over the movies anyway. Just Marvel recommendations today. So let’s get into it.
1) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
By Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw
The current GOTG run by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw is a back-to-basics, high octane cosmic superhero story. It’s completely different from the movie version of the team and the Guardians comics that came before. This book finds a way to throw in every cosmic character in Marvel and still make it accessible to new and old readers.
So…Thanos is dead. Gamora is on the run. Groot can talk. Beta Ray Bill (horse-man Thor) is on the team. Also, a lot of characters will die.
The Cates and Shaw Guardians is badass, punk rock and takes risks.
Issue #7 comes out soon and kicks off the death of Rocket Raccoon arc. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a monthly title you can catch up with really quickly.
2) IMMORTAL HULK
By Al Ewing and Joe Bennett
IMMORTAL HULK is Hulk re-imagined as a horror comic. The story is all about Bruce and Hulk. Everyone else just gets in the way. No-one is safe. The book takes risks, things change and people die. It takes the character in a new direction but knows him at his core.
IMMORTAL HULK is a book that gives you a consistent product every time. Each issue gets better and better. Al Ewing brings solid writing to compliment Joe Bennett’s mind melting art.
Hulk is the strongest there is and also one of the strongest superhero books on the shelves.
If you want to read more Marvel or get into the Hulk, this is THE book I recommend.
3) SILVER SURFER
By Dan Slott and Michael Allred
SILVER SURFER is a beautiful, eye-popping road trip through space that’ll make you laugh and bring a tear or two to your eyes. No, I mean you will tear up.
It’s psychedelic, full of interesting characters and just a good time.
Dan Slott and Michael Allred bring their A-game with this one. The whole run is collected in a beautiful omnibus. (It’s crazy, Allred fits SO many characters on the cover)
SILVER SURFER is an epic superhero sci-fi run that I can’t recommend enough.
By Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid, Charles Soule and Chip Zdarsky
Daredevil hasn’t had a bad run in ten years. That’s a fact. (Well, except for Shadowland. We don’t talk about Shadowland.)
Yes, Frank Miller told some of the best Daredevil stories during his run. I definitely recommend that you check his DD (and Elektra) stuff out. Miller made Daredevil what he is today. For now, I’m sticking to the modern runs.
Daredevil has been the most consistent book that Marvel has put out (maaaaybe even the most consistent superhero comic from the big two publishers). For the past ten years, Daredevil has been telling one story of a man who keeps getting knocked down but just doesn’t know when to quit. No retcons, no spin-offs — just a story that keeps on going.
If you want to do a deep dive into the character, just read the runs in order from Bendis, Brubaker, Waid, Soule and Zdarsky.
(Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark did an underrated Daredevil run after Bendis. They use their indie-comic noir magic to tell a solid story about the Man Without Fear.)
If you want to skip all of that, just jump on with the current DD run by Chip Zdarsky. The current Zdarsky run follows in the tradition of putting ‘ol Hornhead through the ringer. It’s a good time…For readers, not for Matt.
5) MOON KNIGHT
By Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire
The Ellis Moon Knight run is six one-shot issues of bat-shit insanity.
It’ll make you a Moon Knight fan.
Each issue starts with:
"Mercenary Marc Spector died in Egypt, under a statue of the ancient deity Khonshu. He returned to life in the shade of the moon god, and wore his aspect to fight crime for his own redemption. He went completely insane, and disappeared.
This is what happened next.”
That’s all you need to know.
(Random fact: The Punisher is scared of Moon Knight.)
Honorable Mentions (Dessert):
X-MEN: GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS (1982) by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson (it’s a self contained graphic novel and my favorite X-Men story)
SHE-HULK by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido (a real lawyer writes a fun comic about a superhero lawyer with green skin)
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (current run) by Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley (and other artists)
THOR THE GOD OF THUNDER (#1-5; The God Butcher arc) by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic
COSMIC GHOST RIDER by Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett (Frank Castle becomes Ghost Rider and goes back in time to kill Baby Thanos)
POWER MAN & IRON FIST by David F. Walker and Sanford Greene (The guys behind Bitter Root from Image successfully tackle one of the best superhero duos)
Most of these are already collected or getting collected soon. You don’t have to read anything else to get into ANY of these recommendations.
What’s a book or series that you’d recommend?