Getting into comic books is a daunting task in this day and age. Sure, Marvel and DC have both made concerted efforts over the course of the last decade to make that easier, in renumbering and soft-rebooting a number of books, but the name of the game remains the same. With a century’s worth of stories, that’s bound to happen, as there’s a certain pressure to read everything you can get your hands on, and in a time where services like Marvel Unlimited exist, readers are left with an overabundance of things to choose from. That’s where I’d like to help, because after all, the most enjoyable thing about being a fan of anything is sharing that with other people. This is a list of the comic series and stories that I believe are not only the easiest for new fans to get into, but enjoyable enough to get readers into other, connected ones as well.
This is a book I can’t possibly recommend enough. It was the first comic I ever owned and it’s deliberately ultra-accessible. It’s an alternate, more modern retelling of Peter Parker’s origin as Spider-Man and his continuing adventures from there on. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley get to put their own spin on classic Spidey characters like Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy and tell their own fun stories with the cast, creating a lot of the characterization that fans of the Spider-Man films are very familiar with along the way. The series also features the introduction of new fan favorite Miles Morales, and all of his adventures prior to
Readers can find all of Ultimate Spider-Man and it’s continuations, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man digitally on Marvel Unlimited.
What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?
Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, culture began to shy away from and outright defy the seemingly “goody-two-shoes” characters and stories that were so popular in the ’50s and ’60s. This cultural shift affected everything from cartoons to professional wrestling and of course, comics, and nobody in history has embodied the ideal that fell away in that time period more than Superman. In Action Comics #775, writer Joe Kelly put together a story dealing with just that; the 2001 story features the emergence of a new group of ultra-violent superpowered vigilantes calling themselves ‘The Elite’. The Elite’s brand of grit and grime appeals to people in a way Superman doesn’t and causes the original superhero to doubt himself and grapple with his place in the world, all the while trying to wrangle this group of upstart metahumans.
What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way, while having one of the longest titles of any superhero story I’ve ever seen, is one of the best, and the quintessential Superman story, firmly asserting that Ma and Pa Kent’s baby boy has a place in a modern society that might think heroes like him are outdated.
Brian K. Vaughn is the mind behind such comics as Saga and Y: The Last Man, and of course, 2003’s Runaways. With the series set to be adapted for Hulu in 2018, there’s no time like the present to take a look at one of Marvel’s best, and that’s not a term I use loosely here. Runaways is the story of five teenagers and a grade-schooler who stumble upon their parents’ involvement as supervillains and decide to, you guessed it, run away. The series is a masterclass in representation, as the team is predominately women through the entirety of the series, and is composed of characters of different races and sexualities and makes a point to give them personalities that aren’t just one thing or another, giving each character their day in the sun time after time.
Between it’s original three runs, Runaways lasted a combined sixty-two issues, remaining largely self-contained the whole way through; although there is a brief crossover with the Young Avengers during Marvel’s 2005 event Civil War and another during 2008’s Secret Invasion. Fair warning, the series does leave off on a bit of a cliffhanger after its untimely cancellation, but the team has officially returned in a brand new series by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka.
Batman: A Death In The Family/A Lonely Place of Dying
This is technically cheating, but the two stories go hand in hand. A Death in the Family is one of the most important stories, not just in the Batman mythos, but to DC’s history as a whole. Centering around Batman’s second partner, Jason Todd and his quest to find his missing mother, it put Robin #2’s fate in the hands of readers, with DC setting up a hotline to determine whether Todd would live or die, and advertising it in Batman #427. Unfortunately for Jason, the call to kill the Boy Wonder was much greater and in the next issue, he died at the hands of the Joker.
A Lonely Place of Dying is the follow-up story, starting in Batman #440, and introduces the new Robin, Tim Drake. Tim becoming Robin is an important enough milestone, as he would go on to be Batman’s second longest tenured partner as of the time of this writing, but the story serves to establish important characteristics of Bruce Wayne, primarily that he needs someone by his side, both to watch his back and to balance him out and keep him from slipping further into darkness.
A Death in the Family ran from Batman #426-429 and A Lonely Place of Dying took up issues 440-442, alternating chapters with The New Teen Titans #60-61, and both stories were collected in one trade in 2009.
On the subject of Tim Drake, his 1993 solo series was among the first series I devoted all my time to when I got back into comics in 2012. From Chuck Dixon’s long, establishing run on the title to Jon Lewis and Pete Woods’ stellar time grounding Tim and his supporting cast and making them feel like real people instead of just ink on a page this book feels good all the way through. Good times, bad times and teenage hijinks aside, this is a book I recommend to anyone who likes Batman stories but could do without the usual Gotham grime. Robin also features the introduction and fleshing out of Stephanie Brown, who would eventually take over the yellow cape from Tim very briefly in 2004, and later take up the mantle of Batgirl in 2009.
Robin lasted from 1993 to 2009, longer than any of it’s contemporaries, namely Superboy and Impulse. Tim’s continued adventures can be found in the 2003 and 2012 versions of Teen Titans as well as the current incarnation of Detective Comics.