This is the third part of this miniseries. So far I’ve introduced the series, talking about some of the background to comics and the major events that have shaped 21st century Marvel, and I’ve talked about my first suggested method of getting into Marvel, background reading and crossovers. If you haven’t read those then you might want to have a look at them before going any further with this one!
In this post I want to talk about the method of throwing yourself into individual character stories through trade paperback graphic novels (often titled ‘Character Name: Volume X, specific story subtitle’). For those of you that don’t want to immerse yourself in the entire universe, or who are coming to Marvel because you were drawn by a particular character, say, Iron Man, this is probably a route worth looking at.
Whenever a title is launched or relaunched it is done so with new readers in mind. The first issue is always the one that has to grab attention, and if an issue 1 can attract new readers from outside the world of comics then it’s done a good job. That said, because of the interconnected nature of the Marvel universe, you’re highly unlikely to find a story that doesn’t link to other characters or storylines. Thankfully, the wonders of Google and Wikipedia can help you to find out the essential storylines in a flash, so don’t be afraid to rely on them to help you work out who’s who and what’s going on.
Now is actually a pretty good time to be looking at starting out with a new character. Thanks to the launch of Marvel NOW! a few years ago, many characters received new titles and new stories with the intention of reaching more readers (a cynic might say that this was in response to DC’s New 52). What that means for you guys is that there are loads of cheap, accessible volume 1s floating around at the moment. And, having mentioned DC, I have to say that it’s worth having a look at their New 52 volume 1s as well – I particularly recommend Justice League and The Flash.
So which characters are good to start with? If you already have one in mind then great, go with them! You can be more certain about enjoying a book if you already expect to like the main character. But maybe you’re approaching Marvel with no particular name in mind. Maybe you’ve seen a few films and just want a good place to start. Well in that case, I have a few suggestions.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel launched volume 1, called Cosmic Avengers, not long before the release of the film, and it is one of the best volume 1s I’ve read in terms of introducing you to the characters. You don’t really need any prior knowledge of what’s going on. If you’ve seen the film, that’ll be enough. Volume 1 also features Iron Man, so that’s another link to the films and a nice introduction to his comics character as well.
All New X-Men – If there are any X-Men fans out there, then this is a great place to start. You will need to have Wikipedia at the ready, but the main characters in this story are the five original X-Men, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast, Ice Man and Angel, so you should be more or less familiar with them. The problem with any X-Men book is the sheer number of characters, but if you approach with an open mind, you’ll soon see why the X-Men are some of Marvel’s most popular characters. Both this book and the GotG book are written by Brian Michael Bendis, who is one of Marvel’s biggest names in terms of writers, so they’re also a good introduction to his stuff.
Venom – This is where I’m giving a bit of personal bias, as the series, written by Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn, is the only Marvel character title that I have all extant volumes of and I love it. Venom is a more minor character in the Marvel Universe, which means that he doesn’t tie in to a lot of bigger story lines, and a lot of the other characters in this were formerly C-List Marvel characters like Jack-O-Lantern who were reinvented by Venom’s creative team. The only really big appearance is Spider-Man, who should be familiar to most of you anyway! If you’re looking to invest in a self-contained storyline, this is one of the best.
Deadpool – I couldn’t not mention one of Marvel’s best characters. Deadpool received a NOW! reboot, and that’s where I picked up, having read none of his previous stories. Quite simply, this series is fantastic. If you have the stomach for some gory slapstick violence then there should be nothing stopping you reading this series. It’s funny, unique among comics that I’m aware of, but also deeply affecting and powerful the further into the series you go. If you don’t know where to start, start here.
So where are we in terms of price? Well with this method you basically read as much or as little as you want, so it has the potential to be both the cheapest and the most expensive! A lot of the Marvel NOW! stuff is reasonably cheap to buy and easy to access, so I’ll just list the first volumes of the characters I’ve mentioned with their rrps and a rough internet guide price.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 1, Cosmic Avengers – £12.99/£9
All New X-Men: Volume 1, Yesterday’s X-Men – £13.39/£9
Venom: Volume 1, Venom – £12.99/£8
Deadpool: Volume 1, Dead Presidents – £11.99/£8
As always, feel free to comment with any questions, and don’t forget to look out for part 4, where I’ll look at buying individual comics.