The dust has begun to settle after the cataclysmic clash in Captain America: Civil War, and if you’re like many fans, you’re probably wondering what you’re going to do with yourself while you wait to see your favorite heroes on the big screen again. Luckily, there are decades of Marvel comic books featuring your favorite supersoldiers, wall crawlers and armored avengers to ease your pain.
Whether you’re looking to learn more about the major players—both old and new—in the movie, or want stories about the Avengers that were not quite as in the spotlight, there’s some great reading ahead of you if you pick up a few of the following books. From classics to recent re-launches, we’ve included stories that will appeal to readers, whether they’re Team Cap, Team Iron Man, or just want to see them fight some more.
Have any other reading recommendations? Let us know what you think we missed in the comments.
IF YOU WANT MORE STEVE VS. TONY…
The original Civil War event—which didn’t make it into this article on account of how obvious it is, but is worth reading if you haven’t already—is certainly the most well-known confrontation between Captain America and Iron Man, but it’s hardly the only one. The two Avengers have a fairly long history of coming into conflict with one another, and often with massive consequences. Two of the largest-scale battles they’ve had have come out fairly recently.
The first took place in the pages of writer Jonathan Hickman’s (East of West) run on Avengers and New Avengers, where the pair worked together to build the biggest and most powerful Avengers team yet, while also acting in secret with the other leaders of the superhuman community known as the Illuminati. Black Panther, Black Bolt, Namor, Beast, and Doctor Strange joined Iron Man and Captain America in taking drastic measures to stop the destruction of universes, and soon found themselves considering the unthinkable. But Captain America would not compromise, and Iron Man and the rest of the Illuminati remove his memories of it ever happening. Over the course of 33 issues of New Avengers and 44 of Avengers, the lies of the Illuminati spin out of control, as Captain America uncovers the truth and tries to hold the Avengers together, while Iron Man is more concerned with doing whatever it takes to solve the biggest problems in the multiverse. This run is extraordinary in its thematic and conceptual complexity, and makes for an thought-provoking exploration of the contrasting philosophies of the two when the fate of literally everything hangs in the balance. Start reading with the New Avengers by Jonathan Hickman Volume 1 hardcover—featuring art by Steve Epting (Velvet) and Mike Deodato, Jr. (Invincible Iron Man)—and Avengers by Jonathan Hickman Volume 1—also with Deodato as well as Dustin Weaver (S.H.I.E.L.D.).
Another high-stakes Steve vs. Tony story took place in a tie-in to 2015’s Secret Wars event (which, incidentally, spins out of the end of the aforementioned Avengers material), collected in paperback as Civil War: Warzones! with writing by Charles Soule (Uncanny Inhumans) and art by Leinil Yu (Star Wars). Though tangentially a tie-in to Secret Wars, this story stands on its own as a tale of an alternate future in the Marvel Universe where the original Superhero Civil War went on far longer. During what in the main universe was the final battle of the war, an unexpected act of sabotage by Black Panther was the first domino to fall in a series of events that led to the country splitting in two. The Tony Stark-led east was known as “The Iron,” while the followers of Steve Rogers established “The Blue” in the west. The leaders and their lieutenants—Peter Parker, now the Falcon accompanies Cap, while She-Hulk joins Iron Man, who she’s romantically involved with—meet to discuss a truce at the giant chasm that separates the two regions, and are cut short by an assassination attempt by a mysterious sniper. Tensions escalate and forces mobilize on either side while both sides race to find out who has been manipulating events from the shadows the whole time. A fun and fast-paced dystopian-twist on the Steve/Tony matchup.
IF YOU WANT MORE ZEMO…
While we had the great misfortune of not seeing the cinematic version of Helmut Zemo don his inimitable combo of “purple head sock and gold crown thing” and on the surface he didn’t have much in common with his comic book counterpart, there are still many of Zemo’s defining traits that the movie got right. Like the Baron of the comics, he’s cold, ruthless, and a master strategist. He plays the long-game with brutally calm efficiency, and is one of the people most capable of tearing Captain America—and the Avengers—apart.
Baron Zemo’s most well-known battle with the Avengers saw Zemo recruit a team of villains and attack the Avengers in their home, and took place in Avengers (1963) #273-277 in a storyline that could only be called “Under Siege.” Along with Moonstone, Mr. Hyde, Absorbing Man, the Wrecking Crew, Blackout, the Fixer, Titania, Yellowjacket, Tiger Shark, Whirlwind, and Goliath, Zemo formed a new version of the Masters of Evil, following in the footsteps of his father Heinrich, who’d put together the first team way back in Avengers (1963) #6. They took Avengers Mansion by force and held Jarvis hostage, mentally tortured Captain America, nearly killed Hercules, and committed a host of other heinous acts against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Written by Roger Stern (Amazing Spider-Man) and drawn by John Buscema (Conan the Barbarian), this 1986 classic is one of the quintessential Avengers stories, and features Zemo at his terrifying best.
In 1997, Zemo hatched another plan to defeat the Avengers, but this time he would try to beat them at their own game. While many of the heroes of the Marvel Universe were thought dead, Zemo smelled opportunity, and created new heroic identities for many of his former Masters of Evil teammates. Together, they posed as superheroes known as the Thunderbolts, and tried to convince the world that they were actual heroes, and some of them even began convincing themselves. The initial run by writer Kurt Busiek (Astro City) and following writer Fabian Nicieza (Deadpool) was an emotionally poignant tale that changes many of the supervillains—including Zemo himself—forever. This is definitely the greatest long-con Baron Zemo has ever pulled, and arguably one of the best any villain has. The team has enjoyed many incarnations since, but the initial team’s origin, collected as Thunderbolts: Justice Like Lightning, is exactly the sort of morally grey scheming that fans of the cinematic Zemo are sure to enjoy.
IF YOU WANT MORE SPIDER-MAN…
Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker has been a huge hit with fans and critics alike, thanks to his youthful charm and trademark self-depreciating wit.
If you want the best of high school Peter Parker, then there’s nowhere else to start other than the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man by writer Brian Michael Bendis (Powers) and artist Mark Bagley (All-New X-Men). This landmark series began in 2000 and retold and reinvented Spider-Man’s story from the ground up. The series has already been cited as a source of cinematic inspiration for the two Amazing Spider-Man movies, but it seems like it will have an influence on the new version too, as it’s likely where the idea for a (relatively) younger Aunt May came from. Ultimate Spider-Man also keeps a focus on Peter in high school for much longer than the original comics did (he graduated in Amazing Spider-Man #28, as opposed to over a hundred issues of Ultimate Peter Parker in high school), and repeatedly contrasted that youth with the older and more experienced Ultimates (his universe’s Avengers). Completely accessible and a series that should be read by any fan of the menace from Queens.
If you just want a Spidey that’s going to make you laugh, then who better to team him up with than Deadpool? Marvel’s current Spider-Man/Deadpool series is a gut-bustingly good time, thanks to the comedic stylings of writer Joe Kelly and Ed McGuiness, who are reteaming after having launched the very first Deadpool ongoing series together back in 1997. Kelly has also written some fantastic Amazing Spider-Man issues, so he has a firm grasp on their unique wisecracking voices and creates a ridiculous dynamic with Deadpool worrying about whether or not he should kill Peter Parker and Peter getting a taste of his own medicine in the motor-mouth department. Guest appearances by Doctor Strange’s nemesis Dormammu, new Spider-Man Miles Morales, Wade’s team of cartoonishly odd mercenary employees, and his sometimes-monster wife Shiklah makes this a ridiculously enjoyable read. Spider-Man/Deadpool won’t release its first collection until later this summer, but you should still be able to find copies of the first few issues of the series on store shelves.
IF YOU WANT MORE BLACK PANTHER…
Black Panther was definitely the breakout star of Captain America: Civil War, and deservedly so. The character is one of the very first black superheroes, and the first to headline his own series. His air of mystery, noble standing, animalistic fighting style, fascinating country, and the coolest costume in comics have made him an enduring icon for over fifty years.
The first Black Panther series—not including his previous series Jungle Action, which he headlined—premiered in 1977 and was written and drawn by the very person who’d co-created him back in 1966’s Fantastic Four #52: Jack “The King” Kirby. Kirby stayed on for the first twelve issues, which he used to explore all sorts of whacky sci-fi aspects of Wakanda and its lore. Time-travelling frog statues? Check. Black Panther in a standoff with a group of samurai? Check. In a fight with a yeti? Check. This series is packed full of imagination and insane visuals, and features a regal and mysterious T’Challa, all by one of comics’ biggest creative icons.
If you want something more recent, crack open the first volume of former BET President of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin’s run on the title, collected in paperback as Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther? Magnificently drawn by John Romita, Jr. (Superman), this run begins with a history lesson about the numerous failed attempts at conquering Wakanda, as well as the previous Black Pantherswho stopped them. Readers learn about how the mantle is passed down, and then get to see T’Challa fight off the latest attempt to invade his home, this time by Ulysses Klaw, with help from the Rhino, Batroc the Leaper, Radioactive Man, and a handful of Deathloks. This story shows T’Challa in top form—seething with quiet, righteous rage with his back against the wall. This first arc also introduces Everett Ross, who was portrayed by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) in Captain America: Civil War, leading many to speculate on it being the inspiration for Black Panther’s 2018 film. But whether it is or not, anyone wanting to bone up on their Wakandan history and the origins of the character should not skip this series.
IF YOU WANT MORE WINTER SOLDIER…
In comic book circles, there was an old joke that no one ever stayed dead unless they Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy or Bucky. When Ed Brubaker (The Fade Out) and artist Steve Epting brought him back as the Winter Soldier, fans were shocked to find that they’d actually made a good story out of it. But that was only the beginning, as the Eisner Award-winning writer continued to steer the destinies of Steve and Bucky for a number of years after.
The original Civil War storyline ended decidedly more tragically than its movie version. Steve Rogers was assassinated on the steps of the courthouse where he was to stand trial. The story of his death and the hunt for those responsible is collected in Captain America: The Death of Captain America Vol. 1, and sees Bucky join up with the Falcon, Sharon Carter, and Nick Fury to race against the clock and deal with the power vacuum left in the wake of Steve’s death. Bucky leads the charge against a who’s-who of Captain America’s rogue gallery, including AIM, Crossbones, the Serpent Society, Dr. Faustus, the Red Skull and his daughter Sin, in this pulse-pounding espionage thriller. And if that wasn’t enough, the Tony Stark-led S.H.I.E.L.D. is after them as well, leading to a confrontation between the Black Widow and the Winter Soldier that begins to unravel some of their shared past. This book is a great jumping-on point and set up the next several years-worth of Bucky-centric stories in the pages of Captain America, that would see him eventually follow in his mentor’s footsteps.
In 2012, Bucky got his own self-titled series, Winter Soldier, still being written by Brubaker with art by Butch Guice (Bloodshot Reborn), and it delved deep into the character’s dark past as a Soviet assassin. Black Widow is also along for the ride in this tour-de-force through the Marvel Universe’s shadowy underbelly, bringing them up against gun-toting, Russian-speaking apes, Doctor Doom, and their own sordid pasts. Collected as Winter Soldier, Vol. 1: Longest Winter, this is a dark but fun spy-romp that any fan of Bucky or Black Widow should have in their sights.
IF YOU WANT MORE OF EVERYONE ELSE…
There are more Marvel heroes than you can shake a vibranium shield at in Captain America: Civil War, and many fans are dying to read more about the ones that weren’t as central to the plot. Here’s a quick shotgun blast of recommended reading for some of the other Avengers:
War Machine: Rhodey could certainly use some love after the events of the film, so if you’d like to dig in to some great War Machine comics, I suggest picking up War Machine, Vol. 1: Iron Heart, which collects the first five issues of the 2008 series by Greg Pak (Action Comics) and Leonardo Manco (Lobo). This series sees a largely-cybernetic Rhodey dispatched from his personal satellite-base to hotspots across the globe, where he puts a stop to evildoers with lots and lots of increasingly large guns. If you’ve ever wanted to see what happens when War Machine grafts his armor onto a tank and fights Ares, God of War, then you’ve found your next favorite comic book.
Ant-Man: Scott Lang doesn’t tend to make as big of an impression in the comics as he did onscreen, but if you’re wanting some more of his irresistible underdog earnestness, then you can’t go wrong with last year’s Ant-Man Vol. 1: Second-Chance Man by Nick Spencer (The Fix) and Ramon Rosanas (Night of the Living Deadpool). This series perfectly captures the down-on-his-luck family man vibe that works so well in the live action version, as Scott moves to Miami to try and be closer to his daughter, and decides to make a living by starting a security company staffed by ex-supervillains. What could possibly go wrong?
The Vision: The android Avenger made a big impression with a relatively small role in the film, but if you are ready to be blown away by the Vision, head to your comic shop and get Tom King (Grayson) and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s (Magneto) current Vision series, which is scheduled to be collected as Vision, Vol. 1: Little Worse than a Man this July. In this utterly haunting series, the Vision moves to Washington, D.C. for his new job, and decides to make himself a new android family for the occasion. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and compelling, this series asks what it means to be human, and the Vision and his artificial family may not like the answer.
Black Widow: In addition to the aforementioned Winter Soldier series featuring her, you can’t miss Nathan Edmondson (The Activity) and Phil Noto’s (Chewbacca) 2014 run on Black Widow. The real highlight here is Noto’s jaw-droppingly beautiful and surreal artwork, which showcases Natasha’s enigmatic elegance and deadly decisiveness in flawless fashion. Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread shows readers what Black Widow does when she’s not with the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D., as she attempts to right wrongs from her past as a Russian assassin.