Comic Book Summer Reading List (Part 1: Marvel)

With the end of spring quarter coming up, and summer just a few weeks away, it’s time to talk about some summer traditions: baseball, the beach, and of course the horrid three months of sauna like humidity that makes all Chicagoans think, “Hey maybe winter wasn’t that bad.” But, for us lovers of the written word, the most important element of summer is the summer reading list. And as writers, it’s always fun to go on a book-buying spree, and spend all of our warmest days of the year inside lost in some book.

As a huge comic book fan, and with the superhero genre dominating the box office right now, I thought it would be fun to present a comic book reading list for the summer. My main criteria for this list was simply to 1) make sure the books on this list are accessible (meaning you can just jump in without knowing a lot about previous continuity) and 2) present comics that are readily available to buy at local comic book stores and book stores. Also, finally (and most importantly), to give suggestions for really fun comics to read.

Let’s start off with everyone’s favorite superhero film studio: Marvel. These are ten great marvel comics to read over the summer!

MS. MARVEL (Vol 1. No Normal and Vol 2. Generation Why )

Ms. Marvel just came out a little over a year ago, but it has skyrocketed in popularity. The story of teenage, fan-girl Kamala Khan getting superpowers is a lot of fun, and very entertaining to read as we see her adventures dealing with her new shape shifting abilities and balancing her family life. It takes an interesting perspective, as the titular character is a Muslim and that allows for more drama and conflict to emerge. The writing is very witty and sharp, and the art is dynamic and colorful. This is a great book for new readers; it has a very casual “slice of life” feel to it while still being a fun superhero story. You can collect the first two trades, No Normal, and Generation Why pretty much anywhere. Definitely a great read for the summer days.

HAWKEYE (Vol 1. My Life As A Weapon and Vol. 2 Little Hits)

So with the new Avengers movie out, there were a lot of critics happy that the purple-clad archer, Hawkeye, finally got some more character development than in the first film, where he was hypnotized most of the damn time. However, during the last Avengers film, Hawkeye arguably had one of the best comic series on the stands. His two trades were full of self contained stories about Clint Barton and his mishaps dealing with the slum lords in his building. The great thing about this series is that it’s so easy to dive in. Like I said earlier, all the stories are self contained, and a lot of fun. They’ve got a lot of action and character development, but they never take themselves too seriously. The series does take a very strange turn after the second volume and dipped in quality. But, the first two are still fantastic, and available at most comic book stores and online.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Vol 1. Cosmic Avengers)

I honestly think it would be easier to have a conversation with Rush Limbaugh than find someone who disliked the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. It was a fun, hilarious, space adventure everyone could enjoy, and luckily the comics are just as entertaining. Especially the first volume, which includes an appearance from Iron Man himself, and a classic invasion of Earth. It’s bizarre, it has a wisecracking raccoon, it’s a joy to read; it’s Guardians of The Galaxy. You’re welcome.

NEXTWAVE

Now, this next comic I’m suggesting is as bizarre as it gets. The roster includes five superheroes who have faded into obscurity so many times it’s hard to keep track. These five work for a secretive, ineffective government agency that frequently make deals with evil corporations. Our fourth-rate heroes have to fight off broccoli men, giant robots, and an angry T-Rex. The writing is hilarious, strange, and imaginative with some of the funniest jokes ever. While there are some jokes that may require a quick Wikipedia search, the comic is very accessible, and easy to read. I would go into further detail, but I’m worried too much about ruining some of the humor.

YOUNG AVENGERS (Vol 1.  Sidekicks)

Fun fact about superhero teams: There will be a time when a superhero team disbands. And the Avengers are no exception. But, of course after they break up a new threat arises, and a new team of superheroes have to rise in order to save the world. Bring in the Young Avengers! Counterparts to the original Avengers, these newer, younger Avengers have to fight a world conquering lunatic named Kang, crazed kidnappers, and even other Avengers, including Captain America, and Iron Man. The story has a perfect level of drama, and tension that makes it a great. Though be warned, it does have a bit of a downer for an ending, but it’s still a great read.

SHE-HULK (Vol 1 Law and Disorder)

Jennifer Walters (Bruce Banner’s cousin) has had a few of her own series, but her most recent one was probably her best. After getting fired from her high paying corporate lawyer job, she starts her own law practice as a defense attorney. While there is a lot of action, there’s surprisingly a stronger focus on the law aspect of the character. Most of the comic is about each case She-Hulk deals with, but don’t worry, it never goes full Law and Order. Unfortunately the book got canceled, but there are reprints of the first volume, and the character isn’t dead, so she’ll probably make a comeback in a book soon.

ALL NEW GHOST RIDER (Vol 1. Engines of Vengeance)

Comic book superhero stories can be very confusing, and sadly it can get more confusing when more than one character takes on the mantle of a superhero. For example: there are at least four different “Spider-Mans” running around. However, All New Ghost Rider chooses to ignore any history with the character of Ghost Rider and start fresh with a new character, Robbie Reyes. This comic thankfully has nothing to do with the Nicholas Cage movies, but it’s rather about a down-on-his-luck teenager who makes a deal with a demon to fight crime in Los Angeles. While that might sound like a comic apt for dark and gritty artwork, the art is surprisingly colorful and bright. And the story features very likeable characters that are endearing to read about. Plus there’s a lot of great action and adventure.

WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER?

Marvel keeps producing fantastic movies, and the one I am most excited to see is Black Panther. Leader of a hidden African nation that is more technologically advanced than the rest of the world, T’Challa has to defend his country from an invading force as the legendary Black Panther. This is a great story that gives readers a very broad look at the character, and his history. But, everything in the book is self contained, and it’s art is all done by my favorite comic book artist, John Romita Jr., who will be mentioned again on this list in just a bit.

THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR

The Netflix series Daredevil has gotten a lot of well deserved praise for it’s noir visual style, haunting acting, and gritty storyline. The series is a great ride, but it’s main inspiration, The Man Without Fear, is also a fantastic retelling of the origin story. Like Who Is The Black Panther? the story is completely self contained, and is a retelling of the Daredevil origin story. Now, like the TV series, this is a dark story, and has a level of violence that might make readers uncomfortable. That being said, the story is very compelling and wonderfully dramatic, and once again has fantastic art from the John Romita Jr.  It’s probably one of the most perfect beach books this summer.

THE INFINITY GAUNTLET

If you’ve been watching the Marvel movies, then you know that they’re planning something really big with a character named Thanos. He’s a Mad Titan that controls the Infinity Stones that can warp reality itself, and he’s using it mainly to control the world. This is a huge cosmic event story that brings in a lot of superheroes and crazy events that are entertaining and suspenseful. What makes this story particularly interesting is that the story is mostly from the point of view of the villain, and his wants. Which is something that isn’t done very often in the superhero genre. Now this story is confusing at times, but not in a way that will make you want to throw away the book, but rather in a way that will make you want to give it a second reading. An amazing event to get sucked into on those hot summer days.

Well there you go. Ten great Marvel comic books to read over the summer. If you have your own suggestions, please put them in the comment sections below. I would love to know what comics you like to read.

Now all of my links to find the books were through Amazon. That was done mainly for convenience. This way everybody could easily find the books online. However, I would encourage you all to go to one of the dozens of comic book stores in the city. My personal favorites are Graham Crackers, Chicago Comics, Alley Cat Comics, and Challengers.

Stay tuned for my next selection of comic book summer reading when I talk about ten great DC comics to read.