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Comics for Noobs: The Marvel Universe and The Avengers

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The full listing of Comics for Noobs posts can be found here.

The world of Marvel comics has always been an interesting one. Marvel was the first to suggest that their different characters existed in the same world. As such, the stories are more cohesive. Characters and plotlines constantly cross over from one title to another.

Unfortunately, this also means the stories can get more complex. Sixty-plus years of intertwining stories builds up quite a bit of lore that can be very difficult to follow.

The Avengers

While there have been countless titles adding to this spiderweb, one has maintained its status as the Marvel Universe's "core" story: The Avengers.

Back in 1963, Marvel decided to put all their most popular characters into one title.

Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Ant Man and The Wasp joined together to combat Thor's evil brother, Loki.

Proving impossible to control, Hulk was quickly removed from the team, later even having his "Founder" status revoked. However, in Issue #4, The Avengers happened upon the frozen body of the long-thought-dead World War II hero, Captain America. Cap soon became an integral member of the team, even being unanimously granted Founder status.

Though the team would go through MANY lineup changes over the years, recruiting the best of the best of the Marvel U, but one or more of Cap, Iron Man or Thor would always be with the team. This consistency would cause fans to name the group "The Big Three," as they formed the central cast of the central title for all of Marvel Comics.

However, I'm not here to provide the entire 40-plus year history of The Avengers. This is "Comics for Noobs," not "The Complete and Total History of the Marvel Universe." Those wishing to learn about the early years may want to pick up Essential Avengers or one of the many other collections available.

The goal of Comics for Noobs is to give prospective readers tips for where to start off reading.

New Avengers

In 2004, after breaking the team up in their 500th issue, Brian Michael Bendis relaunched The Avengers in New Avengers. With Thor "dead," the new team consisted of Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, Wolverine, Luke Cage (formerly known as Power Man), Spiderwoman and a new character, The Sentry.

While reading through all sixty current issues is unnecessary, New Avengers, Volume 1: Breakout is a great place for readers new to comics to start. It introduces all the major players and the current status for the Marvel U.

Civil War

Crossover Events, bringing multiple characters from multiple titles together for one big story, have become all the rage in the comics industry the past few years, and Marvel has been paving the way with a sequence of world-changing mini-series. The first, and most successful was Civil War, released in 2006.

Without giving too much away, a disaster leads to the government stepping in to regulate costumed heroes. Some agree, some don't. Sides are chosen, lines are drawn. Anyone who played Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 will be familiar with this storyline.

Once the dust settles, the Marvel U is divided, leading to the founding of a second team of Avengers.

Secret Invasion

The two sides would trade blows for two years before uniting to face a larger threat. The Skrulls, a shape-shifting alien race, had been selectively replacing key members of the Marvel U for years. Seeing an opportunity, they attack in an attempt to claim Earth for their own. This was the Secret Invasion. After being at each others' throats for a while, now the heroes did not even know who they could trust. Anyone could be a Skrull. Setting aside their differences, the heroes, and even VILLAINS, of Earth banded together, bringing the "Big Three" together for the first time in years (kinda), to defeat the Skrull threat.

Something went wrong, though. Despite the new Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and even Nick Fury fighting on the front lines, none of them were the hero of the day.

Dark Reign

The man who fired the final shot, finishing off the Skrulls was none other than Norman Osborn. You may recognize that name from the Spiderman movie. He is none other than the villain formerly known as the Green Goblin, one of the most infamous characters in the entire Marvel Universe. A hero in the public eye, Osborn is a master of publicity and quickly rises to the most powerful person on the planet. He creates his own team of Avengers, dressing supervillains up as famous heroes. Osborn is attempting to recreate the Marvel U in his own image.

The villains are heroes, the heroes are fugitives. This is the Dark Reign. There is no better place to jump in to the current Marvel continuity than Dark Avengers, Volume 1: Assemble. Not only is this title immensely important to the current story, it is also FANTASTIC to read, one of the best-written books currently on the shelves.

So, there you go. Four books that will put you on the right track for stepping in to the Marvel Universe:

New Avengers, Volume 1: Breakout
Civil War
Secret Invasion
Dark Avengers, Volume 1: Assemble

Questions? Comics can be very confusing to new readers. Feel free to email me at samodeanhc(at)gmail(dot)com. If I can collect enough questions, I would love to publish them in a Q&A Session post! Please specify if you would like the question answered publicly or privately.


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