Introduction to Comic Books: Recommendations and Mini Guide

I’ve had the idea for this post in the back of my mind for a while, and since over the last couple of months I have gotten into comics more again, I thought that I would make a post about how and where to start with them, and give some recommendations. It can be rather confusing at first because there are a lot of them, but it’s actually pretty simple once you become more familiar with them.

In this post, I’m going to be focusing primarily on DC and Marvel, there are other companies that publish comic books, but those two are the most well-known and popular, and they are also the ones that I personally am most familiar with.


Terms

Just to make things clear, I wanted to clarify some terms that often come up when talking about comic books.

Annual: This is a longer issue that’s released along with the comic book series. It’s normally a side story that doesn’t affect the main plot a lot, sometimes it’s a prequel or something else.

Graphic Novel: A graphic novel tells a full-length story, while a comic book tells parts of a story. Basically, comic books collect issues, while graphic novels tell their own story in one volume.

Issue: this is a short comic, typically 20-30-ish pages (though it can vary) that are usually part of a larger story. It’s the ones that are in magazine style, and they are numbered.

Relaunch: Comic books do this all the time, so be prepared to hear about it a lot. It’s basically when all the storylines for all the characters reset and the company launches a new series. For example, in the last ten years, DC has had the New 52 and Rebirth.

Volume: this collects all of the issues, for example, there could be a volume that collects issues #10-15. It’s always stated which issues it’s collecting and it’s often much easier than reading each individual issue.

Variants: This is when a comic book has different artwork on the cover than the standard edition. It’s still the same comic, just with different art.


Where to Start

When I first started reading comics this was most confusing for me because I expected them to be more like books, in the sense that there’s a proper order to follow, but that’s not really true. You can start virtually where ever you want, with whatever comic you want. There’s no prerequisite, though it’s probably better to start from the beginning of each series.

Take the Wonder Woman (2011) Series, it was part of The New 52 relaunch, (and really good if you’re interested in her), there’s no need to have read any other Wonder Woman comic to read it. All you have to do is read the first volume, or if you’re like me, accidentally read it out of order. It’s not hard to figure out what happened in the other ones, so if you want to just read one volume or issue here and there you can.

I would recommend picking a character that you like and looking up some of the series they have. For example, if you like Batman, you might want to read Batman: Year One or Batman Rebirth (both are quite good, Year One is his origin story). That being said you can start virtually wherever you want, and I have some suggestions below.


Recommendations

For this section, I’m going to be giving recommendations for DC and Marvel comics. I’ve read all of these and really enjoyed them, I tried to pick ones that would require less background knowledge and could be read by someone who was less familiar with the characters and stories.


DC

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One: The Complete Collection by Tom Taylor, Jheremy Raapack, Mike S. Miller

Superman is Earth’s greatest hero. But when the Man of Steel can’t protect the thing he holds most dear, he decides to stop trying to save the world-and start ruling it.

Now, the Last Son of Krypton is enforcing peace on Earth by any means necessary. Only one man stands between Superman and absolute power: Batman. And the Dark Knight will use any method at his disposal to stop his former friend from reshaping the world in his shattered image.

This is an alternate reality of if Superman became evil, and it poses some interesting questions about power, and how superheroes limit themselves. It involves most of the main cast of the Justice League and is generally excellent, I would recommend this if you’re looking for an interesting story and want to learn a bit about most of the major DC characters.


Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland

For the first time the Joker’s origin is revealed in this tale of insanity and human perseverance. Looking to prove that any man can be pushed past his breaking point and go mad, the Joker attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane.

After shooting and permanently paralyzing his daughter Barbara (a.k.a. Batgirl), the Joker kidnaps the commissioner and attacks his mind in hopes of breaking the man.

But refusing to give up, Gordon maintains his sanity with the help of Batman in an effort to beset the madman.

This was a comic I had to include on this list, it’s a classic of comic books and, in my opinion, entirely deserves its reputation. It has a well-written and disturbing story, along with great art. This is one of those books that everyone should read at least once, just to experience it.


Wonder Woman, Volume 1: The Lies by Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Jodi Wynne, Matthew Clark, Sean Parsons, Laura Martin, Jeremy Colwell

New York Times best-selling writer Greg Rucka returns to Wonder Woman! After suffering an unimaginable loss, Diana must rebuild her mission as Earth’s ultimate protector and champion. However, in the midst of her grief, her Lasso of Truth stopped working! Start down the rabbit hole as dark secrets from Wonder Woman’s past unravel her present!

This is the Wonder Woman Rebirth comic, and it has excellent art and an intriguing story. If you liked the Wonder Woman movie from 2017 and want to read some of the comics, then I recommend reading this one!


Batman: Earth One, Volume 1 by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank

Batman is not a hero. He is just a man: fallible, vulnerable, and angry.

In a Gotham City where friend and foe are indistinguishable, Bruce Wayne’s path toward becoming the Dark Knight is riddled with more obstacles than ever before. Focused on punishing his parents’ true killers, and the corrupt police that allowed them to go free, Bruce Wayne’s thirst for vengeance fuels his mad crusade and no one, not even Alfred, can stop him.

This is Batman’s origin story, and it has its own unique take on it. The story is dark and interesting, Batman isn’t as experienced and professional as he is in other comics, and it gives him a very human side. The art is also excellent, and generally, it’s a great comic.


Marvel

The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

In 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave birth to one of the most-enduring icons in American popular media: the one and only Amazing Spider-Man! Turning the concept of a super hero on its head, they imbued the young, guilt-ridden Peter Parker with the fantastic powers of an arachnid and the fantastic pressures of an everyday teenager. The combination was pure magic during the course of 40 issues of web-slinging, wisecracking wonderment Lee and Ditko built the foundation for 45 years of Spidey spectaculars – girl trouble; bill trouble; bully trouble; the Daily Bugle; and a cast friends, family and, of course, supervillains unlike any other!

This is another comic that I would almost consider a classic as its story is so well-known. I think that it is well worth the read, it’s fun and you will likely already be familiar with much of the story.


Loki: The God Who Fell to Earth by Daniel Kibblesmith. Oscar Bazaldua, David Curiel

Loki is…Earth’s Mightiest Hero?! After dying a grisly death in WAR OF THE REALMS, the reborn Trickster learned a valuable lesson in warmongering: Don’t get caught. But now Loki has a whole new set of responsibilities – and his brother Thor isn’t about to let him walk away from them. Restless with his new duties, Loki seeks out the advice of the closest thing Midgard has to a king – Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man! Close enough, right? But it turns out that Shell-head isn’t too happy to see Loki, on account of all that stuff he did in the past. Now the God of Mischief/Stories/Evil/Chaos has to outsmart the cleverest man on Earth – or die (again) trying. Meanwhile, could Thor be hatching a mischievous plot of his own

If you like the character of Loki in the Marvel movies, then this is a great read for you. It’s fun and entertaining, and the character of Loki is very faithful to the one of the movie. It’s a fast-paced read, and I think it’s a great one to start off with.


Scarlet Witch by James Robinson: The Complete Collection by James Robinson, Steven Sanders, Siya Oum, Vanesa R. Del Rey

Witchcraft is broken, and the Scarlet Witch must embark on a globe-trotting journey to fix it! From Manhattan’s back alleys to the Greek Isles to the Irish countryside, Wanda Maximoff faces myths and legends, combats curses and discovers there’s more to her complex family history than she knew. But will the powerful mage called the Emerald Warlock be friend or foe? And even as witchcraft is pieced back together, Wanda must discover who shattered it in the first place! The Scarlet Witch will aid brokenhearted hero Le Peregrine and seek help from young witch the Wu, but things won’t be easy when she encounters her brother, Pietro! The Witches’ Road is long — and full of dangers!

If you like the Scarlet Witch character, then I would recommend this comic. It’s a bit of a longer read for a comic, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable and magical. Scarlet Witch is more magical in the comics than in the movies, so if you prefer fantasy then you will definitely enjoy this!


Black Widow by Waid & Samnee: The Complete Collection by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee

A knockdown, drag-out tale of action and espionage! The award-winning creative team supreme of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee takes Natasha Romanoff to new heights — by forcing her out on the lam! The world’s greatest superspy has a lifetime of secrets — and when some of the darkest ones are made public, nobody is safe. As S.H.I.E.L.D. turns on its once-greatest asset, the Widow seeks out her own answers. But will Natasha’s hunt for the Weeping Lion send her back to the one place she never wanted to go? There’s an all-too-familiar room with a dark new name in the Widow’s future. And there awaits the deadly Recluse — who’s fixated on proving her worth by killing Natasha!

This is a suspenseful and action-filled comic that I would recommend if you like the character of Natasha Romanoff. She’s probably the most down-to-earth of the superheroes, as her story is one of espionage, so if you’re not so interested in the fantastical, this is probably a better choice.


Do you read comics? Have you been looking to get into them? Have you read any of these comics? Let me know in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Introduction to Comic Books: Recommendations and Mini Guide”

  1. I haven’t read many comics, especially because there are so many different stories, so this is helpful! I have probably only read Watchmen, some of Umbrella Academy, and am currently reading The Nice House on the Lake as it releases, which I’m really enjoying.

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