Fans of the Avengers movie all across the globe want to know what Avengers comics they should buy. We’d like to share with you our favorites from the rich history of the Avengers. Our hyperlinks will assist you in locating anything that interests you for purchase. Keep in mind that we look for not just great stories or great art, but both – and we love comics from all eras!
First, the books most likely to please movie fans are the two Ultimates limited series by Mark “Kick Ass” Millar, Bryan Hitch, and Paul Neary. You get Loki, the Chitauri, the flying aircraft carrier, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Millar’s modern re-imagining of the Avengers as “The Ultimates” will bludgeon you in the skull with awesomeness and adventure! It lies outside the ‘Marvel Universe,’ so you don’t need to know about decades of Avengers history to enjoy it. Just jump in at page one and hold on tight!
You can pick up Ultimates One in trade, single issues, or Ultimate Collection format. You can also get the sequel Ultimates Two in trade, single issues, or Ultimate Collection format. And, if you want to see the Avengers slug it out with the X-Men, skip this summer’s Avengers Vs. X-Men and instead go for Ultimate War.
Although we love the artwork in Ultimates Three, we can’t endorse the story. But, you can check out our preview.
Now let’s take a quick look at the highlights of 50 years of Avengers Awesomeness!
Going back in time to the Silver Age, we recommend the late 1960s run by Roy Thomas and John Buscema from Avengers #41-62. Nothing against Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but these stories easily deliver the very best of the early Avengers. Read an issue in our preview of a Black Panther story.
If you can’t drain your bank account on these beauties, collect the highlights in the reprint series Marvel Super Action #14-23 (circa 1980) or in black and white as Essential Avengers TPB #2 and 3, 2005 edition.
Artistic powerhouse John Buscema returned to the Avengers more than once. We revere his mid-1980s collaboration with author Roger Stern and inker Tom Palmer as one of the greatest sets of Avengers arcs of all time. A journey across space, a trip through time, a war with ancient gods, a battle for Atlantis, and the near-destruction of the mansion await you in Avengers #255-285. We have a preview of their ill-fated trip to the Savage Land you can enjoy.
Author David Michelinie enjoyed a solid Bronze Age run on the Avengers. Michelinie should be a household name by now, but he isn’t. Why? Because his most famous work – on the Amazing Spider-man in the late 1980s – remains overshadowed by the fame of the artist he worked with: Todd McFarlane. Highlights of his Avengers include his work with John Byrne in Avengers #181-191 and George Perez in Avengers #194-202. You can preview our sample of John Byrne’s Avengers. Much of George Perez’s work is collected in the TPB Avengers Visonaries: George Perez.
Additionally, our cyber-friends with Bronze Age comics blogs bring you the lowdown on many more Avengers classics from the 1970s and 1980s: Diversions of the Groovy Kind hosts an Avengers Week. Longbox Graveyard reviews the classic Kree/Skrull War. Issues #93-96 of the Kree/Skrull War appear on Warrior’s Den.
In 2003, fan favorite Geoff Johns (loved for his DC Comics work on Flash, Teen Titans, and Blackest Night) teamed up with artist Olivier Coipel for one of our favorite Avengers storylines: Red Zone. The Avengers uncover a heinous plot to use biological warfare against the United States, masterminded by Senator Dell Rusk. And if you don’t know who Dell Rusk is, you need to! Red Zone is collected in the Red Zone Hardcover and in single issues as Avengers (1997 Series) #64-70.
The 1997 Avengers series closed with a stunning 4-issue story masterminded by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch, in Avengers #500-503. This arc set the stage for their popular first volume of New Avengers. Along with guest superstars Steve McNiven, Mike Deodato, Frank Cho, and Stuart Immomen, Bendis and Finch hit a home run with the first two dozen New Avengers. You can also find this run in trades and hardcover.
Enjoy our preview of our favorite dinosaur-themed New Avengers scene.
Bendis also penned a limited series called Illuminati that ends in a prelude to the Skrull-fest Secret Invasion. And in case you didn’t know, the Chitauri in the movie get their name from Mark Millar’s “Ultimates” re-naming of the Skrulls, a shape-shifting alien menace first cooked up by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the Fantastic Four. Illuminati stars Iron Man and some supporting characters from the Avengers in fast-paced action stories that span time and space. You can rock it in single issues or hardcover.
Civil War featured a lot of Avengers in action – not all of whom enjoyed happy endings! It’s a mega-crossover comics event, but the central story all takes place in the 7 issues of Civil War, also available in trade or hardcover.
Civil War ties into the famous Death of Captain America saga which takes place in the monumental run by crime writer Ed Brubaker. Brubaker continues to write the title now, but we most love his first 50 issues, now collected in omnibus format.
The Avengers play a huge role in the first Secret Wars Limited Series, now collected in paperback and a deluxe omnibus. All the Avengers from the movie are there with the exception of Black Widow. Also, Iron Man is James Rhodes in this epic, not Tony Stark. One of the major Marvel events of the 1980s, the 12-issue Secret Wars also features the first appearance of Spider-man’s black suit which would soon become the fan favorite Venom. Plus, Dr. Doom vs. god!
Horror writer Bruce Jones created our favorite Hulk stories with Mike Deodato and John Romita, Jr. (who recently won a new generation of fans with his art on World War Hulk and Kick Ass). Spanning issues #34-76 of the Incredible Hulk, Jones’ Hulk epic of the early 2000s captured everything awesome about the Greenskin Goliath.
Iron Man has a long, rich history. The modern take by Matt Fraction and Salvador LaRocca remains a fan favorite and makes a great read. It does tie into some other Marvel “events” but you don’t need to be an expert on them to enjoy this stellar run in single issues, trade, or hardcover.
We also strongly recommend Orson Scott Card and Andy Kubert’s Ultimate Iron Man in trade, hardcover, or single issues. Card wrote the must-read science fiction classic Ender’s Game. (Marvel recently produced that as a comic, too!) He brings a deep sci-fi edge to Iron Man that we wish had formed the basis of the recent movies. Preview Tony Stark’s ‘ultimate’ birth scene. Card also gives us a damn good reason why Tony drinks. It isn’t what you think, and it has no relation to David Michelinie’s groundbreaking 1979 look at Stark’s alcoholism, “Demon in a Bottle.” (See also Iron Man #128.)
We haven’t read much modern Thor, but Walter Simonson’s 1980s run is revered as a classic. It was recently released in Omnibus format to rave reviews. We already had the rip-roaring single issues, #337-382. Taste the awesome in our preview of Thor’s battle with a huge nasty dragon.
Finally, if you liked Joss Whedon as director of the Avengers, rock his take on the X-Men in the Astonishing X-Men Omnibus.