The Best Stories For New Comic Readers (DC/Marvel)

Last year I posted an article on the old blog on the best places to start reading comics for new readers. I think I did a solid job establishing the ideal entry points on that edition but with a new site, I’m stopping to do a special edition on the entry. Most of the entry points haven’t changed but several have as I’ve either read more or new editions have been released. I’m also editing, rewriting and trimming it down. I’m also linking to the Kindle editions because I’m a hard digital comics convert. So let’s get to it.

DC

Batman
Start with: The Court of Owls. I previously had Hush on this list but that’s one that does have a bit of continuity to snarl it a bit in places. Jump in with this first rate tale of Batman fighting a secret society in Gotham. It gives you the perfect dose of darkness and also the humanity of Bruce Wayne. Snyder’s run is not only great but highly accessible.

Superman
Start with: The Man of Steel. It’s funny, Superman’s origin is the most familiar of all but when cornered to name a great Superman story, I have to go to this one. The hard truth is aside from the Death of Superman, most of his truly great books are variants of his origin. (All Star Superman is its own fascinating thing to be clear. I don’t suggest it for first timers.) John Byrne’s The Man of Steel is a perfect origin. Just epic action and art with profound humanity at its core. This nails Clark Kent/Kal-El the person. Start with vol. 1 and keep going on Byrne’s run.

Wonder Woman
Start with: Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka vol. 1. Previously I had The Hiketeia here but it’s been reprinted in a volume along with the first 11 issues of Greg Rucka’s genius first run. Grab this trade and you’ll get the perfect entry point. Rucka is a serious contender for the greatest male writer of women in comics ever. This is why.

Justice League
Start with: JLA vol. 1. I really don’t like Grant Morrison as much as some but I don’t hate him either. There are places he’s perfect. This is one. This is the Justice League at fullest strength. Every character gets a bit to do. The first arc is a blast of a story with a great twist. Read this and you’ll get your money’s worth.

The Flash
Start with: The Flash by Mark Waid vol. 1. I get frustrated trying to point to good Barry Allen material. Wally West has had far, far better stories. So you know what, that’s what I’m suggesting. Go with Mark Waid’s run. You’ll fall in love with Wally West and the concept of The Flash based on it. No, he’s not Barry, but if we’re honest the TV show version is an amalgam of Barry and Wally.

Green Lantern
Start with: No Fear. I love Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern and this entry gives you a great jumping on point for the character. Yeah, there’s a ton of back story you don’t know but this flings you into the character in a way that lets you understand why the character rules. It’s a ton of fun and it grabs you.

Batgirl
Start with: Batgirl: Year One. I’m trying to go origin light but wow does this one rock. Barbara Gordon has one of the all time golden origins and it’s told beautifully here. The character’s wit and intelligence shine. After this, definitely read the New 52 run. There’s nothing bad there.

Aquaman
Start with: Rebirth vol. 1. Big one that wouldn’t have been on last year’s list. Rebirth has done a wonder at simplifying a lot of characters’ stories. Aquaman is one. Even though this picks up from the new 52, it feels like a far easier entry point than that ever was.

Harley Quinn
Start with: Preludes and Knock Knock Jokes. I don’t actually have anything against the New 52 stories to be clear. I don’t like the look but they’re well written and funny. But I’m recommending the best entry points here. You can’t do better than this. Karl Kesel writes a solid script but pick this up for Terry and Rachel Dodson’s breathlessly kinetic art. Everything looks amazing under their hands. More than anything else, this captures why she’s broken out. Read this and you see the character as the livewire she is at her best.

Teen Titans
Start with: The New Teen Titans vol. 1. This is the Teen Titans fans of the tv show grew up on and love. The classic lineup. Marv Wolfman and George Perez wrote one of the greatest team books ever here. Stay with this one through the all time great arc The Judas Contract.

Green Arrow
Start with: The Longbow Hunters. Arrow lifted so much from Mike Grell’s run. This is a darkrer, edgier (for the time) take on the character. It’s definitely not for kids but they’d better not be watching Arrow anyway! This is really solid, unsettling stuff. Grell was one of the few truly good writers of the harder work that became so popular in the 1980s.

Supergirl
Start with: Supergirl Vol. 1 by Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill. Loeb opened this. He closes it. I love his stuff at DC and this is no exception. This continues his Superman/Batman story where he introduced the character but I’ll just suggest you watch Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which adapted the story into animation and nailed it. Her solo stories begin here and they’re great, capturing a real sense of alienation and confusion. The character isn’t sure what her place is and slowly finds it.


MARVEL

Spider-Man
Start with: Brand New Day vol. 1. Spider-Man is a hard character to whittle down the ideal jumping on point because he has so many. Virtually any graphic novel you get is going to be fairly solid as long as the words Clone Saga, Chapter One, or One More Day aren’t on it. Brand New Day is your best bet though. Modern art, fairly clear, continuity light story telling since the continuity was rewritten, loaded with fun new villains. This is your jumping on point.

Iron Man
Start with: Extremis. Iron Man is a tricky character since he tends to have strange swings of status quo. Pinpointing the ideal start for him becomes hard for that reason since usually things change so dramatically after the first volume. But ultimately I figure you might as well start on a high note. Extremis is the perfect gateway with a great story, great art, and everything that defines a great IM saga.

Captain America
Start with: Winter Soldier. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s run on Captain America was so influential the second movie loosely adapted their first big arc where they dared to revive Cap’s long thought dead partner. This is what you love if you love the movie version. It’s exciting, action packed, and the gold standard for the character.

X-Men
Start with: Epic Collection: Second Genesis. There is no writer more tied to the X-Men than Chris Claremont. The movies and cartoons are deeply indebted to his run. There’s a bit of a dated quality to this era but these are very much the first stories of the characters as you know and love them. I really love Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s run but it occurs to me that arc is extremely continuity heavy. Start with the true beginning of the characters instead. (Disclaimer: yes there were stories before but this is where the X-Men became the X-Men.)

Deadpool
Start with: Deadpool Classic vol. 1. Initially, I went with the Posehn/Duggan run but as I’ve looked back, I really think the best place to start is at the beginning. Deadpool was born in his final form more or less. Starting early gives you the best material anyway before the joke was worn out.

Thor
Start with: Tales of Asgard. There’s not much Lee/Kirby on this list and that’s not a good thing. The sad truth is a lot of their stories feel a bit dated for modern eyes. But these stories have a nice mythical feel to them. They’re supposed to feel distant. These give us Asgard with no unneeded superheroics. Kirby was on his a-game here.

Hulk
Start with: Epic Collection: Man or Monster. OK, so there’s a bit more than planned. Hulk is one of those characters who’s had umpteen status quos that never really worked. The classic version, the man on the run, is the best I say. Go with his early stories.

Daredevil
Start with: The Man Without Fear. It had to be a Frank Miller story in the end. I prefer Born Again but really this is the truest Daredevil story with everything you’d expect from the character. Solid art from John Romita Jr. gives it a sleazy, grimy noir vibe. I have issues with Miller but this is great. work

Fantastic Four
Start with: Waid and Wieringo Ultimate Collection vol. 1. The Fantastic Four have had a number of really great, accessible runs. Mark Waid and the late Mike Wieringo probably did the all time best after the initial Lee/Kirby run though. Their take is a funny, bold story of the FF as a family that works rather than trying to sow unneeded discord. Side note, anything Mark Waid writes is a good starting place. He’s a great writer.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Start with: Cosmic Avengers. This title was pretty blatantly trying to get the movie lineup in place in comics. So what. Brian Michael Bendis is hit and miss but this is a giant hit for him. This is, as intended, a great starting point for cosmic Marvel. Not much more to say.

Wolverine
Start with: Wolverine by Claremont and Miller. Confession: I hate most Wolverine solo stories. Wolverine bores me without foils unless in the movies where Hugh Jackman’s charisma does a lot to make him interesting. But I’ll recommend this one. It’s brief and fun.

The Avengers
Start with: Avengers Assemble by Brian Michael Bendis. There are so many great Avengers stories that like with Spider-Man, I could choose 12 different stories and they’d work. This book was designed for fans of the movies and I think it’s a rock solid jumping on point for it. It hardly hurts that Bendis was the dominant Avengers writer for years. This is a wonderful sample.

Doctor Strange
Start with: The Oath. As much as I love the classic stuff, there’s not a better entry point than this perfect miniseries. Brian K. Vaughan is a genius. Marcos Martin, penciller for Batgirl Year One, is a genius. Together they crafted five brilliant issues. Maybe the greatest character miniseries ever.

Jessica Jones
Start with: Jessica Jones: Alias vol. 1. OK, there’s really no way not to just go with the original stories in order. So yeah, go with those because they’re great and the show is great.

Venom
Start with: Birth of Venom AND Lethal Protector. Why go with two stories? Well, Venom has a great origin with Birth but it doesn’t really set up his solo stories. Both volumes are fun, pulpy tales so I say read both.


So, those are my recommendations. Disagree? Tell me below!

 

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