Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Summer Reading List: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Let’s start with the obvious.  I’m not writing about Army Football this week.  Army sucked last Saturday against North Texas, losing a game in which they gained nearly a hundred more yards and dominated time-of-possession by almost fifteen minutes.  
How do you lose like that?
You by letting your quarterback go 7-21 passing with no TDs and 4 interceptions, and add 3 more fumbles-lost.  
I have therefore had it with Army this week.  Until they play a little better, I am on strike.
The Summer Reading List project started last spring.  We’ve had three installments to date through which I:
 -- introduced my Summer Reading List,
 -- and gave feedback on my initial selections.
In anticipation of Dr. Strange’s release next, it’s time to turn the page.  The following works are my essential Summer Reading List guide to what’s happened up to now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Your mileage may vary, so if you additions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Summer Reading List: The Marvel Cinematic Universe
1. The Ultimates (Vol. 1).  The Ultimates were the amongst the first comics introduced as part of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe experiment, and more than any other work, this first volume sets the tone for what Marvel eventually set out to do with its movies.  This volume in particular introduces the stunt-casting of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and then goes through the building of a super-team in a world that wasn’t quite ready for one.  I don’t love some of the future volumes of this book, but Volume One is a terrific read.
2. Ultimate Spider-Man (Vol. 1).  This is the book that made Brian Michael Bendis a household name in comics.  It took its cues from the first Spider-Man movie and re-established teenaged Peter Parker as a going concern.  It is a great read, especially if you’re not super-familiar with Spider-Man’s adventures in comics.
3.  Captain America: Winter Soldier & The Death of Captain America.  Ed Brubaker is perhaps my favorite comic writer, and his story about the Winter Soldier inspired the best entry into the MCU canon.  Death of Captain America then follows our heroes as they try to get by in the wake of their leader’s assassination.  Both stories are incredibly, surprisingly scary and moving.

It seemed like a cheap stunt when Marvel decided to
kill Captain America, but this book is fantastic.
4.  Guardians of the Galaxy (Abnett & Lanning).  These are the books that hew closest to the Guardians movie(s), and they are amongst my favorite comics of all time.
5.  Immortal Iron Fist.  He’s next up on Netflix, and this is my favorite iteration of his comic adventures.
6.  Punisher MAX: Mother Russia & Barracuda.  Another must-read before it hits Netflix.  I’m rarely a fan of writer Garth Ennis, and the Punisher is not one of my favorite heroes, but it all really works here.  These books made me like the Punisher, a feat I’d previously thought impossible.
7.  Dr. Strange: The Oath.  Written by Brian K. Vaughn (Lost), this is my favorite Dr. Strange adventure by quite a bit.
8.  Daredevil: Underboss.  My favorite comic of all time.  This is Bendis at his best, and yes, it really is that good.
9.  Alias (Vol. 1).  Another Bendis classic.  My God, this is such a great book.
10.  Iron Man #200.  Good luck finding this one on the stands.  It’s my all-time favorite Iron Man adventure, wrapping up the long-running plotline that stood at the heart of the first Iron Man movie.
Iron Man #200.
11.  New Avengers: Volume 1 & The Search for the Sorcerer Supreme.  Volume One explains how and why Spider-Man is now considered a key member of the Avengers, a thing which struck me as absurd at the time but which really worked in the pages of the book itself.  The Search for the Sorcerer Supreme is on-theme with the coming movie release.
12.  Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk.  This is basically Conan, starring the Hulk.  I’ve heard it’s also the basis for Thor: Ragnarok, which is a pretty good idea if you ask me.  The problem with the Hulk is that you never get to see him SMASH! as much as he wants to SMASH!  So Marvel shipped him to a whole other planet, and then they let him do his thing.  That really worked.
Notable omissions from this list include Ant-Man & the WaspBlack Panther, and Captain Marvel.
 -- My favorite hero-turn for the Wasp is either Marvel Superheroes: Secret Wars or Avengers Forever.  Ant-Man is also in Avengers Forever, but he’s the crazy, wife-beating version of the character that was Hank Pym/Yellowjacket.  Both of those are great books, but they won’t tell you much about the coming movie.  For obvious reasons, Marvel has gone another way with the MCU incarnations of these characters.
 -- I loved the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, but I can’t say that I’m reading his current adventures.  Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates supposedly has a good version running right now, but I’ve cut my Pull List significantly in the last year or so.
 -- Captain Marvel is tougher.  Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick put together the version Marvel seems intent to use in the movie a few years ago, and I’ll admit that it’s much better than most of what’s gone before.  Nevertheless, it’s not in the same league as anything else on this list, which is why I can’t recommend it in the strongest possible terms.  Volume One of Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson is outstanding, but that’s a totally different character, albeit one I expect to see on the small screen sooner or later, perhaps on Freeform.

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