“Where Do I Start?” – Superhero Comics For Beginners
by Tito W. James
“Where do I start?”. That’s the one question I get constantly from friends who are new to comics and want to jump in.
DC and Marvel relaunch their comics lines on a near yearly basis to attract new comic readers. New jumping on points are nice. However, “new” doesn’t always mean “good.” Therefore I’ve compiled a list of superhero comics that are solid stories and accessible to a new reader.
I hope you find at least one story on this list that you like.
BATMAN: ZERO YEAR
When Zero Year was first announced my thought was, “Do we really need another Batman origin story?” We already have Batman Begins, so what makes Zero Year worth reading?
It’s a story that weaves the origins of Batman, Joker and the Riddler into one epic narrative. Not only is the story strong, but also the way it’s told. There isn’t a single wasted panel in Zero Year and the two volume saga is the best example of the collaboration between Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. It’s an original take on the Dark Knight’s origin and a stellar introduction to one of the best creative teams to work on Batman.
If you enjoy Zero Year, I would recommend checking out other Batman stories by Snyder and Capullo. The Court of Owls story is told in two volumes and pits Batman against a powerful secret society. Death of the Family and End Game can be read back-to-back and show this creative team’s take on the Joker.
Ok, I’ll be honest. Grant Morrison‘s run on Batman is not easily accessible to new readers. The reason I’m recommending it is because my friends are always asking me, “What’s the weirdest comic you’ve ever read?”
To understand Morrison’s interpretation of Batman, the reader must think of every Batman story as canon– 1940’s vampire-hunting Batman, 1960’s campy Batman, and the 1980’s Dark Knight are all one man who has to repress his memories of supernatural encounters to keep from going insane.
But when villains find a way to unlock Bruce Wayne’s repressed memories, they unleash a primal version of Batman who has elements from every iteration of the character combined! It’s a clever concept even if it’s hard to fully grasp. If you want the abbreviated version of Morrison’s Batman I would recommend starting with Batman And Son then reading Batman RIP and concluding with Batman Inc vol 1 and vol 2
BATMAN & ROBIN: BORN TO KILL
Batman and Robin: Born to kill is an emotional self-contained story about Bruce’s relationship with his son Damian. Born to kill by contains elements that spin off from Morrison’s run but is much more grounded and accessible to new readers. Batman’s relationship with Robin has ranged from comedic to non-existent. If you want to see how Robin could work in a realistic take on Batman, this is it.
Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang remains of my favorite comic runs of all time. This creative team took Diana in bold new directions while shedding the trappings of traditional canon. This Wonder Woman is born of raw, uncensored, mythology. Her journey from warrior to Olympian Goddess is epic and her supporting pantheon steals the show.
Green Arrow is a character who is often overlooked. Despite having his own TV show, he’s often thought of as being “Batman but with arrows.” Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino deliver a surreal take on Oliver Queen that redefines readers’ preconceptions about the character. This is a must-read for lovers of creative paneling and unconventional sequential art storytelling.
Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z pairs SciFi superstar writer, Rick Remender and comics legend, John Romita Jr. Together they create one of the most captivating and controversial interpretations of Steve Rogers. Trapped in an alternate dimension ruled by Arnim Zola, Captain America must navigate the harsh alien terrain while raising a clone of his enemy as his own son. Lone Wolf and Cub in a surreal SciFi pulp world is only the tip of the iceberg. This Cap story is so brutal and bloody that it’s unlikely to ever be adapted into film. If you weren’t a Cap fan before reading this story, you will be by the end.
Moon Knight by breaks traditional comic book chapter-by-chapter narrative and instead creates a series of self-contained stories centered around its title protagonist. This creative team takes readers into a new adventure with every chapter ranging from the intellectual to the action-packed. Each story offers a different perspective on who Moon Knight is and what he represents. Even after reading all the stories, Moon Knight remains an enigma, which is a tricky feat in a world where comic character’s origins and powers are easy to look up on the internet.
Vision by Tom King and has been one of the most talked about books in recent memory and for good reason. King and took a member from the Avengers (who no one cared about) and delivered a thrilling philosophical tale of murder and betrayal. Darkly comedic and often tragic, Vision is the superhero story for readers who don’t like superhero stories.
Black Widow was a break-out character from the Avengers films. The creative duo of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee do her justice in their comic series. The action is clear and well choreographed and even the quiet moments are drawn with a sense of noir realism. If you can’t wait for a Black Widow solo movie, then this is next best thing.