Special thanks to writer, content creator, and friend of the site Michael Meade for all his help writing this article.
With all the hype surrounding the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its continued pop culture dominance, it’s sometimes easy to forget where it all started. The world of Marvel comics can be an intimidating place for those who didn’t grow up with them. For those who have enjoyed every moment of the epic feature films and watched the acclaimed shows on Disney+, but have yet to dive between the glossy pages of a Marvel comic book, these are three books that can give you a place to start.
Marvel Comics: House of M
House of M is the story of The Scarlet Witch’s rise and fall from grace. It follows her as she goes from a mutant extremist to an Avenger, to an existential threat. The Scarlet Witch is in hiding after she learns the truth that the Avengers and X-Men are going to have to “put her down” because her powers and sanity have become unstable. Before this could happen, Wanda uses her magic to rewrite reality itself. Causing everyone to have what they truly desired and having Mutant kind to be the dominant species on earth. However, one mutant has the ability to bring back the world that was lost.
Some elements of House of M will be familiar to fans of Marvel’s hit show Wandavision on Disney+, though the comics story is much more expansive. More importantly, starting with House of M gives the reader a solid understanding of how mutants fit in the Marvel comics universe. This is an event that is constantly referenced to this day in Marvel comics. This story shows the Avengers and the X-Men at their worst, and at their best.
Marvel Comics: Civil War
Civil War is about fear and how it can overtake common sense. When the latest incarnation of the New Warriors decides to turn their heroic exploits into a reality show, many people, including children are killed. This causes the US government to implement a registration act for heroes. Each hero in the Marvel comics universe must pick a side. Stand with a government that wants to take away their freedom of choice, or become even more of a criminal for doing the right thing?
Of course, MCU fans will know some of the basic concepts from the very popular MCU film Captain America: Civil War, but the comic plot goes much deeper and gets much darker. Civil War is another story that is consistently referenced throughout the Marvel comics universe. The entire Marvel world is thrown into dramatic turmoil by the simple act of choosing a side. Iconic heroes are pit against each other because of differences in ideology, with sometimes deadly consequences. This is a series that shows every character in the Marvel comics universe and tests whether or not their morals fit their actions.
Marvel Comics: Planet Hulk/World War Hulk
Marvel’s Hulk has always been a problem with no earthly solution. So what else is there to do but send him into space? In Planet Hulk The Marvel comics universe organization known as The Illuminati scheme to send him into the depths of the expanse, never to be seen again. The Hulk eventually lands on a distant planet known as Sakkar where he is forced to fight for that planet’s ruler. Rage, strength, and love drive Hulk to lead a revolt and become the ruler of Sakkar. In World War Hulk, when Hulk’s new planet is destroyed by a bomb accidentally sent by the Avengers, Hulk survives and vows to seek revenge on puny earth.
Small pieces of the Planet Hulk plot can be found in the MCU film Thor: Ragnarok, but those fragments are nothing compared to this epic Hulk-centric story. Planet Hulk and World War Hulk are both books that are referenced a lot in the modern Marvel comics universe. The story of loss and anger are feelings the Hulk was very familiar with, but the Hulk’s focus and resolve in this series is something that readers had never experienced before. The reader could feel his pain after losing the woman he loves and the new family he gained through an exile that he never even choose.
The world of the Marvel comics universe is vast, and the barrier to entry can seem daunting. Even so, should you chose to explore it, the dynamic and beautiful world that you will find is well worth the effort. If you’re a fan of the MCU, or even of you’ve just always been curious, these books will give you a basic understanding of the current canon in the Marvel comics universe.