You’re probably pretty familiar with the world of Marvel by now, unless you’ve deliberately avoided cinemas for the past decade, but have you read the best Marvel comics? We’re here to tell you which comic book stories are worth reading, for you superhero fans of a literary leaning.
If you’d like to see how Marvel’s big superhero rival shapes up, check out the best DC comics. Or if you want some graphic novels that aren’t as superhero focused the best Image comics may suit your mood. Now without further ado, these are:
The best Marvel comics
- Infinity Gauntlet – You’ve seen the film, now read the comic
- Marvels – A unique perspective on Marvel’s heroes
- X-Men Dark Phoenix saga – The best X-Men Marvel comic
- Daredevil Born Again – Essential Daredevil reading
- House of M – An action-packed trip to an alternate universe
- Amazing Spiderman: The Death of Gwen Stacy – A crucial Spiderman story
You’ve seen the film, now read the comic
How do you stop a villain who is, for all intents and purposes, unstoppable? The desperate struggle to stop the mad titan Thanos is just as enthralling in paper and ink in Infinity Gauntlet as it was on the silver screen.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may already know that in the comics Thanos wanted to kill everyone because he had the hots for Death, but that makes the whole thing seem quite a bit sillier and one-note than it really is. This six issue limited series Marvel comic is actually a really good character study.
It’s not all thoughtful (if evil) monologues though, Infinity Gauntlet also features plenty of action, including pitched battles with some of the most powerful characters in Marvel. Infinity Gauntlet did a lot to reestablish many of the ‘cosmic beings’ of the Marvel world, with characters like Thanos, Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock, and Galactus all making an appearance. Nebula becomes the big bad in the final act, and Thanos actually ends up zipping away to enjoy the quiet life.
As everyone knows, Infinity Gauntlet lends its story to one of the biggest cinematic events of the 21st century – and the comic did quite nicely out of that too. Infinity War reinvigorated interest in this storyline, to the point that this 1991 book was the best-selling graphic novel in 2018.
A unique perspective on Marvel’s heroes
Marvels by Kurt Busiek has an unusual everyman point of view, taking a look at characters like Captain America and The Human Torch through the eyes and lens of photojournalist Phil Sheldon. This is a great Marvel comic that provides a fresh take on the beginnings of the Marvel Universe.
Full of well-known moments, Marvels is a throwback to the golden age of Marvel comics (but doesn’t feel as dated as some of those books do now) as well as a good story in its own right.
X-Men Dark Phoenix Saga
The best X-Men Marvel comic
Another of the most impactful series in Marvel history, the Dark Phoenix Saga is a tragic tale that explores one of Marvel’s most famous and most powerful characters: Jean Grey, aka Phoenix.
X-Men has always explored the concept of the superhero in unusual ways – using the very concept of mutants as an excuse for social commentary. In the Dark Phoenix Saga, Claremont and Cockrum tell a story of a hero who can’t cope with the immense power they obtain, and ends up becoming corrupted by it. That might seem familiar now, but at the time it was revolutionary. This story spawned an entire comic book trope: talk about lasting impact. It also features the first introduction of fan-favorite character Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat)
Claremont and Cockrum have said in interviews that their intention with Phoenix was to create the first female cosmic superhero, and Dark Phoenix is terrifyingly, cosmically powerful – consuming a star and effectively murdering the inhabitants of a whole planet on her path to full strength. The powers that be at Marvel determined that a crime of this magnitude couldn’t go unpunished, and Jean Grey eventually sacrifices herself in an impactful scene.
Daredevil Born Again
Essential Daredevil reading
Daredevil Born Again is an arc from 1986 by Frank Miller that really puts Matt Murdock through the ringer. Everyone like a tragic hero, and the version of Daredevil in Daredevil Born Again is very tragic indeed. In the plot, Murdoch’s secret identity is unmasked to the Kingpin, who becomes obsessed with destroying this thorn in his side.
Throughout the course of the comic, Daredevil is torn down layer by layer – with Kingpin remaining carefully in the shadows. This leads the protagonist to believe everything is happening by chance, and eventually he becomes paranoid, depressed, and even violent.
But after laying him low, this Marvel comic tells how Murdoch comes back from the brink, rebuilding himself and becoming the hero of Hell’s Kitchen. Daredevil Born Again is a fantastic tale of redemption that dives deep into the psyches of its main characters. Disney is currently adapting the comic into a series.
House of M
An action-packed trip to an alternative universe
Providing an engaging reimagining of the Marvel Universe, and the X-Men in particular, House of M tells the story of a Scarlet Witch-devised alternate reality, where Magneto and his mutants rule the world. It’s basically a complete reversal of the status quo, where regular humans are the ones persecuted, and mutants rule the roost.
House of M is an eight-issue limited series featuring lots of alternative versions of well-known characters. In this reality-warped world, Spiderman is a celebrity married to Gwen Stacy, and Luke Cage and Hawkeye run an underground resistance group of non-mutant humans.
This Marvel comic is the best place to go for Scarlet Witch fans, showcasing the terrifying power of the character. And, with just three words “No More Mutants”, it had massive ramifications for the Marvel comics universe as a whole.
Amazing Spiderman: The Death of Gwen Stacy
A crucial Spiderman story
Telling the story of perhaps the most important event in Spiderman canon, Amazing Spiderman: The Death of Gwen Stacy is a Spiderman classic that still holds up today, despite nowadays harboring none of the shock value it would have had in 1973 (that title is one hell of a spoiler).
Featuring one of the best villains in Spidey’s rogue’s gallery, and exploring the anger and despair that comes with grief, The Death of Gwen Stacy explores a pivotal moment in Spiderman (and comicbook) history.
There are a few quirks that serve as reminders of how old this story is, particularly the heavy-handed anti-drugs message, but this Marvel comic hits its emotional beats perfectly, and both the death scene itself and its aftermath are chilling. Recommended reading after experiencing this story: Spider-man Blue explores a future Spiderman looking back on his time with Gwen Stacy.