Sure, you can see a comic book movie without doing your homework first. But we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s another big year for Marvel movies, with the next (last?) Avengers movie at the chewy center, but also the just-as-anticipated (some would say long overdue) debut of Captain Marvel, the modern MCU’s first film headlined by a woman. Meanwhile, this year’s mutant movies adapt two very different, similarly iconic storylines. And of course, there’s a new Spider-Man sequel, picking up where the surprisingly fun Homecoming left off.
While we don’t know everything about these movies, here are the books that should help you prepare. Or just give you something to read while you’re waiting in line.
Captain Marvel (March 8)
Captain Marvel has a long and twisted history in Marvel comics. Created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan in 1968, the character of Carol Danvers first appeared as an Air Force officer and colleague of the original Captain Marvel, an alien Kree warrior turned hero. Just under a decade later, she starred in her own series as Ms. Marvel, having absorbed Kree DNA in an explosion. Over the decades, she’s been promoted to Captain and joined up with just about every Marvel super-team imaginable and, like any superhero who’s been around more than a few years, built up a history full of twists, turns, and retcons. The movie version will likely iron much of it out.
Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero Vol. 1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Chris Sebela, Dexter Soy, Emma Ríos, and Felipe Andrade
It’s tough to overstate the importance of the 2012 series to the popularity of Carol Danvers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and company took a powerful and popular B-lister and moved her firmly into the top tier of Marvel superheroes through sheer force of fun, in much the same way Marvel Studio’s first Iron Man movie made Tony Stark a household name. She’s been A-List ever since, and this reboot is unquestionably the reason she’s become the first woman to headline a movie in the MCU (which, granted, should have happened years ago). The opening of the series sees Carol finally assuming the “Captain Marvel” name while teaming up with Captain America, Iron Man, and the World War II-era Banshee Squad for a time-travel adventure.
The Life of Captain Marvel, by Margaret Stohl and Carlos Pacheco
As Danvers’ stock has risen over the years, her origin story—she inherited her powers from an older male hero—has grown less and less appealing. A slight tweak was made to her story during Kelly Sue DeConnick’s long run with the Captain, but this latest mini-series fleshes out her backstory during the course of a trip home gone awry. For Carol Danvers noobs, it’s a great way to meet the Captain. For long-time fans, a secret is revealed that puts a new spin on everything that’s come before.
Ms. Marvel Epic Collection: This Woman, This Warrior, by Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin, Jim Shooter, Jim Mooney, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, John Byrne
Go back to the beginning with a chunky collection of stories from Marvel’s Ms. days, starting right from issue #1. A woman circa 1977 could truly have it all: a superhero in one aspect of her life, a NASA security chief in another, and, not least, editor of the magazine Woman (a bit on-the-nose, perhaps) running up against J. Jonah Jameson and other misogynist media pigs.
Marvel’s Captain Marvel Prelude, by Andrea Di Vito, Will Corona Pilgrim, and Laura Villari
This book collects several classic Carol Danvers stories alongside a new prequel that sets up what’s coming on the big screen. Included here are her first appearance from 1968, the first issues of three of her solo books from 1977 to the present, as well as a team-up between Captain Danvers and the (long-deceased) original Captain Mar-Vell.
Avengers: Kree/Skrull War, by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, and John Byrne
Given that the shape-shifting alien Skrulls are the movie’s primary villains, you could also read this galaxy-spanning adventure from the early years of the Avengers. It’s an epic, slightly psychedelic classic in which the empires of the Kree and Skrulls go to war with Earth as the battlefield. Carol Danvers doesn’t appear, but the original Captain Mar-Vell is a key character, and the trailers hint that elements of this story feature in the film.
Avengers: Endgame (April 26)
We’ve asked Marvel to provide us with a full and complete synopsis of Endgame so that we might produce an exhaustive list of sources and inspirations. Weirdly, they haven’t gotten back to us. In the meantime, we feel comfortable in making a few educated guesses about which stories might have an impact on the new movie. If nothing else, these are all essential reads that caused major repercussions within Marvel’s print universe.
Infinity Gauntlet: Deluxe Edition, by Jim Starlin, George Pérez, and Ron Lim
This seminal mini-series was, of course, the primary inspiration for last year’s Avengers movie, but the book and the film don’t end at the same place. The motivations of comic-book Thanos are a bit different, but there may well be clues as to the ultimate fate of the Marvel Universe in the book’s story, particularly with regard to Nebula, one of the few survivors of the previous movie, who has a major role to play in the comic’s conclusion. If nothing else, the book is one of the cornerstones of the Marvel universe on page and screen both, with an all-time great creative team.
Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman, Jim Cheung, Mike Deodato, Stefano Caselli, Jerome Opeña, Lenil Yu, and Dustin Weaver
Like its predecessor, this 2013 follow-up goes fully cosmic with a story that’s fun, but also incredibly dense and filled with wild ideas and characters. While the Avengers are distracted by a threat from an ancient alien race and a universal plague hitting the Earth, Thanos returns for a new attack on life itself. Elements of the last Avengers movie, including Thanos’ Black Order and the invasion of Wakanda, were inspired by Infinity, so there may well be more on offer in Endgame.
Avengers Forever, by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco, and Jesus Saiz
Extra credit time: we have reason to believe that Avengers: Endgame will, in some capacity, involve time travel. It’s possible, even, that the Avengers will somehow revisit their earlier adventures. In a similar vein, Avengers Forever finds the team’s pal Rick Jones pulling different Avengers from various (iconic) moments in comic book history to build a lineup ideally positioned to battle the villain Immortus across time. If the creative team behind Endgame is indeed going the time travel route, it would be hard to imagine them not drawing inspiration from the influential story.
Dark Phoenix (June 7)
There are also two X-Men films coming out this year: a sequel in the same continuity as X-Men: First Class and New Mutants, a presumably largely sandalone semi-horror offshoot. With the Disney/Fox merger looming, it’s entirely possible these are the last films in the long-running series (remember, 2000’s X-Men is widely credited as the first modern superhero movie), at least in its present form.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga, by Chris Claremont, Jo Duffy, John Byrne, Mike Collins, and John Buscema
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most beloved superhero stories ever, representative of both the best in epic superhero storytelling and the juicy soap-opera elements that the X-Men have long reveled in. If you only know the story from how it was bowdlerized in X-Men: The Last Stand, well… that’s not quite it. Hopefully the new film handles it a bit better. In the comic version, Jean Grey has been forced to stretch her abilities to the limit, awakening latent powers within herself that threaten entire worlds. There are a few ways to experience it: the nine-issue main storyline, or in a massive omnibus, perfect for completists, that starts earlier in the run to provide a fuller picture of Jean’s developing abilities. Prose lovers, on the other hand, may enjoy the forthcoming novel adaption of the storyline, penned by Stuart Moore.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5)
Spider-Man goes on a well-earned European vacation and meets Mysterio, a special-effects wiz and master of illusion.
Spider-Man vs. Mysterio, by Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, David Michelinie, Howard Mackie, and Steve Ditko
Though we don’t know a ton about the movie, we do know that Jake Gyllenhaal will play Quentin Beck, the original Mysterio. Mysterio was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee way back in 1964 for Amazing Spider-Man #13 (the series hit #800 last year, so the master of illusion’s big-screen debut is probably overdue). Conveniently, Marvel has a forthcoming collection of Mysterio’s greatest hits, including the first appearance of Beck, as well as of Beck’s sometime replacement Daniel Berkhart, hired by J. Jonah Jameson to torment Spidey by pretending to be Mysterio’s ghost. There are stories here from the ’60s run to the present, all with one thing in common: when Mysterio’s around, stuff gets weird.
Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Kraven’s Last Hunt, by Peter David, David Michelinie, J.M. DeMatteis, Ken McDonald, and Alan Kupperberg
Extra credit: this one’s definitely a bit of a stretch, but you could do worse than to check out the Kraven’s Last Hunt Epic Collection. Not only is the title story one of the best, and most disturbing, Spidey arcs of all time, the volume also includes Peter’s marriage to MJ and their subsequent honeymoon in Europe (you know: far from home). It probably won’t have much to do with the film (or will it?), but it’s a varied and incredibly consequential run all the same.
New Mutants (August 2)
New Mutants Epic Collection: The Demon Bear Saga, by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz
The original New Mutants series that began in 1982 became a fan favorite by amping up the drama and tragedy elements of the X-Men via the addition of healthy doses of teen angst. Rather than doing cute young mutants, the creative team went deeper and darker. That style reached its height with the “Demon Bear” saga, in which indigenous mutant Dani Moonstar sets out to confront the entity that murdered her parents years earlier. It doesn’t go well, and she winds up in a hospital during a snowstorm as her teammates join her to battle the beast. The groundbreaking work of artist Bill Sienkiewicz pushes the story into full-on horror, as the team is forced to come together or die. This story has been mentioned a primary influence on the film’s plot and tone.
New Mutants Epic Collection: Renewal, by Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo, Bob McLeod, Sal Buscema, and Paul Smith
If that’s not enough, there’s also this earlier collection, which follows the New Mutant team from the very beginning of their tenure at Xavier’s school. Most of the film’s characters have their origins here, and this book ends right where the Demon Bear storyline begins. Together, the two provide a whole lot of mutant action for your comic-buying dollar.
What are you reading while you wait for this year’s Marvel movies?
The post Your Essential Marvel Cinematic Universe Reading List, 2019 Edition appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.