There’s only one surefire way to be prepared for Marvel’s The Avengers come May 4th – and that’s by reading as many top-notch Avengers comic books as is physically possible in less than two weeks’ time.

But where, pray tell, does one start? After all, The Avengers (created by Stan Lee and Jack “The King of Comics” Kirby) is one of the oldest Marvel team books in existence, having been published for nearly half a century. Furthermore, the book has gone through several title changes, hundreds of different creative teams, and even more fictional members. It has been, on occasion, both brilliant and horrifically bad. So where does an interested reader begin his/her journey with five decades’ worth of comics to sift through?

Lucky for you, dear readers, we’re here to narrow down just some of the greatest Avengers stories that have ever been printed. Indeed, we’ve crafted a list of five books that A) have heavily influenced Marvel’s movie universe and, in particular, the forthcoming Avengers film, and B) are just plain excellent.

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