So you’ve heard about the Marvel NOW! initiative and now you’re curious about the books and want to start reading. We’re a couple of months into the initiative and it has been an overwhelmingly great ride. Unlike DC’s New 52, Marvel hasn’t rebooted their continuity. It’s better described as a shift in the universe. Creative teams have moved around and characters and teams have changed after the events of Avengers vs. X-Men. In short, it’s been a good jumping on point for new readers without tossing years of continuity out the window.
With the relaunch of Marvel and Comixology’s promotion that will offer 700+ #1 digital titles for free, now seems as good of a time as any to sample the comic book world. If you haven’t yet, go sign up for the promotion now as sign ups end April 9th at 11:59 EDT. Over 700 titles is a lot to choose from. In the past, I’ve written about some good jumping on points for the Marvel universe. Many of those books’ #1s will be a part of the promotion and I definitely recommend snagging them along with any one-shots, especially the character focused ones. However, if the current Marvel universe is something that you’d rather dive head first into, the Marvel NOW! movement is definitely perfect for that. Here are some of my personal recommendations about what books you should give a shot.
Avengers and New Avengers [CMX – CMX]
I’m writing about these two titles together because they are the opposite sides of the same coin. To quote the writer himself, Avengers is about life and New Avengers is about death. Jonathan Hickman pens both and has thus far been doing a masterful job of it. Both are books that I’d recommend to someone who is already familiar with the universe especially New Avengers since it features the Illuminati group. Regardless, they’ve been fantastic so far. Hickman is the master of the long game writing style but it always pays off. If you like the Avengers, give these books a try. You’ll get to see some of your favorite characters along side some new ones. It’s all about making the Avengers bigger (and hopefully better) then they’ve ever been before.
Uncanny Avengers [CMX]
Spinning directly out of the Avengers versus X-men event of last summer, the two groups have joined together to create one team. The first arc of the book was a “the team assembles” story, making it ideal for newer readers. It’s also something that readers haven’t really seen before which makes it intriguing. (Captain America taking orders from Havoc? That still has me blinking in surprise some issues.) Some of the characters definitely have some history but it’s nothing that a quick Wikipedia search won’t solve for you. Alternatively, you can think of this as the book to read if you can’t decide between the Avengers of the X-men as your favorite team.
Secret Avengers [CMX]
This is definitely a title that’s a bit off the typical Avengers path but it’s one that could easily be accessible for newer readers especially those only familiar with the film. It features well known badasses like Black Widow and Hawkeye and other SHIELD agents and a black Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. 616 fans might be scratching their heads at those last two but film fans will be just fine. It’s all about SHIELD and its missions and looks like it’s going to be a fun book.
All New X-men [CMX]
Marvel superstar Brian Bendis has shifted from King of the Avengers to King of the X-men. It’s a start of a new era and that’s always a good time to jump on board! The X-men have gone through a lot of changes with the death of Professor Xavier, the schism amongst the X-men, and the re-emergence of new mutants for the first time in years. To top things off, the original X-men team has been pulled forward into the future. In short, there are a lot of changes going on which will keep both new and old readers excited to read more. If you’re going to pick on X-men title to read, it should probably be this one.
Uncanny X-men [CMX]
This book is definitely deals with more of the fallout from Avengers vs X-men than most of the other Marvel NOW! books because it’s about the losers. It stars Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and Magik who are trying to teach new mutants about their powers while staying on the run from the authorities. If you’re a fan of the X-men and haven’t been reading this book then you definitely should be. Bendis has been knocking it out of the park so far and art by Chris Bachalo is always a plus.
Uncanny X-Force [CMX]
This book is crazy. It is crazy in a way that only Sam Humphries can pull off and that’s part of what makes it so brilliant. While it does spin directly out of the previous volume of Uncanny X-Force, Humphries gives new readers enough context clues so they can understand what’s going on. It’s a team with a female majority lead by Psylocke and Storm and has thus far been a pretty exciting ride. The art by Ron Garney has been gorgeous so far and with artist Adrian Alphona coming on board, that’s something that’ll stay consistent. Just sit back and enjoy the crazy ride.
Thor: God of Thunder [CMX]
This is definitely not your parents’ Thor. The scope of the book is massive as Jason Aaron tells a story about Thor in three different times. It’s ambitious, it’s intriguing, and it’s been darn good so far. There’s not much Marvel mythology that needs knowing; just the Marvel-Asgard. If Thor is the sort of character that appeals to you then this book is definitely for you. On a personal note, I especially recommend reading this through Comixology’s guided view which really adds an entirely new dimension to the art and the story.
Indestructible Hulk [CMX]
If there was an award for the book that was the best surprise in the line up, it would absolutely go to this book. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the Hulk and only picked up the book because Maria Hill was going to have a decent sized role in it. I was very pleasantly surprised. Mark Waid and Leinil Yu have teamed up to present a phenomenal book. Bruce Banner has decided to stop devoting so much of his brain-power to staying on the run and instead devote it to science again. SHIELD sets him up with a lab and in return, SHIELD gets to point the Hulk like a cannon at their biggest problems. This is another title that’s definitely accessible to new readers because you already know everything you need to about the Hulk: he gets angry and smashes things. Really though: give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Superior Spider-Man [CMX]
If you’re a Spider-Man fan, this is the book to be reading right now. The status quo has been changed and the creative team’s been doing a great job on the book. At the end of Amazing Spider-Man, Doc Ock, one of his villains, swapped bodies with Peter Parker. And then Doc Ock’s body died. You can see the problem here. Superior Spider-Man shows the concept of “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”… but what happens when that great power belongs to a former super-villain trying to atone for his past? What happens when an arrogant, violent Otto Octavious has Peter Parker’s life? I abhor spoilers so I shall say no more but trust me when I tell you that the book will have you hooked by the end of issue #1.
Fearless Defenders [CMX]
This book is an all-female team filled with characters who usually don’t get the spot light plus and coolest lady archaeologist I’ve read about in years. The premise is that Valkyrie was instructed to reform the Valkyrior from female heroes on Earth but she has yet to do so and that’s turning out to have some consequences. We’re only a couple of issues in and we don’t know who the entire line up will be but it’s already been a great book. In no other book will you get the chance to see so many great female characters shine and it’s shaping up to be a great ride. For those familiar with the Marvel universe, my pitch for reading this book can be summed up in two words: Dani Moonstar.
Fantastic Four and FF [CMX – CMX]
Matt Fraction takes over the reins of the book about Marvel’s First Family and so far, it’s been a great family field trip story. Don’t you wish that your parents and uncles would take you on a trip through time and space? Fraction does a good job writing the team and the kids. Both books aren’t relaunches but rather new jumping on points for readers especially since the Future Foundation is still around. FF is the book that follows that plot line and features Scott Lang, Medusa, She-Hulk, and Miss Thing as the team while the Richards are away. It’s a nice sequel of Hickman’s previous run and both are fun books for those who love the Fantastic Four.
Guardians of the Galaxy [CMX]
So maybe you’ve heard about how Marvel is making a Guardians of the Galaxy film as a part of Phase 2 but you have no idea what the heck it’s going to involve. I could tell you that all you need to know about it is that it will be a badass team in space that includes a talking raccoon but instead I’m going to suggest you read this book. There’s only been one issue so far so you won’t even be far behind! Seriously though: I’m going to use Rocket Raccoon as my number one reason for you to start reading this book. If that’s not enough, you can also get free digital comics that supplement the book. (Free as in they are always free and aren’t just part of the promotion.)
Young Avengers [CMX]
Been missing your teen superhero book? Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have you covered with the Young Avengers. Actually, I’d recommend that you read this book for McKelvie’s artwork alone. No one does panel layouts and two-page spreads like him. My personal suggestion is that you snag the Young Avengers issues from the original run and then check this out. However, about half the team is comprised of new members so new readers shouldn’t feel too terribly thrown in. If nothing else, you will adore Miss America and Kate Bishop/Hawkeye. Trust me.
Aside from these books, you might also want consider Iron Man or Nova or perhaps one of the other books if they strike your fancy. I haven’t read every book of the Marvel NOW unfortunately and can’t speak about all of them. I’d also recommend books such as Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Avengers Assemble, Winter Soldier, and Wolverine and the X-men which did not relaunch but are current books that have started within the past year or so. All have been good reads and could easily appeal to new readers.
Again, although this article has focused on just the Marvel NOW! books, I strongly encourage everyone to sign up for the Marvel/Comixology promotion and snag themselves some great comics in addition to the ones here! Think of this as a starting point. Happy reading!