Like many modern superhero movies, last weekend’s big box-office buster The Avengers revealed there’s going to be a sequel. It’s no spoiler that the next round’s villain is introduced mid-credits, except maybe to those people for whom Avengers was their first foray into the genre (people who must exist, given the amount of money the movie took in). Still, anyone left wondering whether a movie that has made more than $600 million so far deserves a second pass can rest assured: Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, confirmed on Tuesday that Avengers 2 is already in the works.
While plenty of Marvel-universe cinema fodder (Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2) will keep fans entertained between now and then, when then is may be a while—there’s no official release date yet. So we asked comic book mavens which ones they’d recommend for Avengers-loving readers to tide them over in the meantime.
If you loved the movie but have never so much as held a comic book: Brandon Zuern of Austin Books & Comics, in Austin, recommends the ongoing Avengers Assemble series by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. The story features the same version of the Avengers team that appears in the movie, so no prior knowledge is necessary. Zuern also touts the slightly older Avengers Disassembled, again by Bendis, as a good place to start if you are new to the Marvel universe but want a little more background. “He’s torn that team down and built them back up again,” Zuern says of Bendis—and because of all that character-building, fans unfamiliar with decades of Avengers back story won’t be confused.
If you have a lot of free time and are driven to read every Avengers from the very beginning: Zuern says the place to start is with Marvel’s conveniently packaged Marvel Masterworks series, which brings together the original stories of their most popular heroes. “It’s a great way to get caught up on the history of the characters,” says Zuern. And movie fans will see something familiar in 1963’s Avengers #1, he adds: “The first villain in the Avengers comic is also Loki.”
If you are now inspired to introduce your young child to comics: Maggie Thompson, senior editor of the Comics Buyer’s Guide, recommends the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willem. “They’re a first step into the world of the format,” she says of the speech-bubbled picture books.
If your favorite part of The Avengers was S.H.I.E.L.D.: Benn Ray of Atomic Books in Baltimore recommends The Boys by Garth Ennis. As in The Avengers, the heroes in this series are concerned with weapons contractors and government watchdogs. “It’s more of a modern take on superheroes,” Ray says. (Warning: Its graphic violence is not suitable for all ages.) Another modern-warfare-centric comic series worth perusing is DC’s Kingdom Come, by William Mark Waid.
If your favorite character is the Hulk or Thor: Austin’s Zuern would point you to the 1970s-era Avengers-Defenders War storyline. “That was a story that I cherished as a kid,” he says of the plot, which pits two Marvel teams against one another in an epic misunderstanding that features some juicy Hulk-versus-Thor action.
If your favorite character is the Black Widow: Don’t look for her in early Avengers books, since she began as a separate villain and was integrated into the team over time. Find her earliest incarnation in 1940’s Mystic Comics #4, Introducing the Black Widow. The Comics Buyer’s Guide’s Thompson says that the Grand Comics Database is the best way to search for individual characters’ appearances.
If you just like to see things blown up or otherwise destroyed: Atomic Books’ Ray suggests the Marvel Zombies series by Robert Kirkman, which is what it sounds like. “It’s fun to see Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk as zombies and the amount of damage they can do,” he says.
If you’re already a superhero-comic fiend: Ray recommends going deeper with Daniel Clowes’ The Death Ray. The graphic novel, from the acclaimed cartoonist and author behind Ghost World, was released in hardcover at the end of last year—and, as those familiar with the writer’s work might guess, the story revolves around an unconventional and weird superhero (and his death ray, natch). “It’s one of the best takes on superhero comics from a guy who doesn’t do a lot of superhero comics,” Ray says.
But if you need several new Avengers stories every single day for the foreseeable future: well, there’s always fan fiction.