While movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are rarely adapted directly from comic book storylines -- because they all have to fit together in a neat chronology -- the filmmakers do draw a lot of inspiration from the comics. Concepts or premises or character dynamics or MacGuffin plot devices will be borrowed from the depths of the Marvel Comics back catalogue and make their way into the movies.
Plus, the comics have the rights to use more characters than the movies. So, for MCU fans looking for some interesting reading, these are the 10 Marvel stories that every MCU fan should have on their bookshelf, or at least in their digital library.
10 Civil War
The movie Captain America: Civil War takes its title and basic plot from this comic book storyline. In the comics, like the movie, a devastating incident involving some superheroes forces the government to step in a propose legislation that will keep superheroes in check.
The superheroes are then divided among those who think it’s a good idea and those who think it’s a bad idea. But while the movie had about 15 characters in it, the comic has dozens, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, who Marvel Studios don’t have the rights to. The comic was written by the great Mark Millar and it’s a sweeping, epic story that won’t disappoint.
9 The Infinity Gauntlet
The plot of Avengers: Infinity War -- and also all the setup leading up to it -- was inspired heavily by the famous "Infinity Gauntlet" story from the comics. Both stories follow the Avengers’ struggle to save humanity from Thanos after he manages to complete his Infinity Stone collection and become the most powerful being in the universe.
However, the comics take things one step further by giving the Avengers an equally powerful ally in the form of Adam Warlock. After the post-credits tease in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Adam Warlock might make his MCU debut in Avengers: Endgame. Only time will tell.
8 Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More
Ahead of the release of Captain Marvel, many MCU fans will want to read up on the character to get some information before Brie Larson immortalizes her on the screen. Carol Danvers is an ace pilot who suddenly finds herself in the position of protecting the world with her new superpowers.
This comic book storyline sees Carol going on an incredible cosmic adventure into the furthest reaches of outer space. It even features an appearance from the Guardians of the Galaxy, although since the movie is set in the '90s and, in the MCU, the Guardians were formed in 2014, that element likely won’t be adapted into the movie (although Ronan will make an appearance).
7 Iron Man: Extremis
The titular Extremis virus from this six-issue story arc was one of the main plot devices in Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. While the movie was controversial among the fan base, there’s no debate that the comic is one of the most iconic and brilliant Iron Man storylines ever published.
Some parts of the storyline were also used in the first Iron Man movie – it’s so iconic that Jon Favreau couldn’t wait to get the franchise going before bringing elements of it to the screen. The comic was written by the great Warren Ellis, who has also written Moon Knight, Hellblazer, and several X-Men stories.
6 Hulk: World War Hulk
Sadly, we’ll probably never get a Hulk solo movie in the MCU. It’s a great shame, because Mark Ruffalo plays the role fantastically and really captures both sides of the character, bringing humanity to both Bruce Banner and the Hulk as separate entities.
But at least Thor: Ragnarok was a nice compromise as the plot focused heavily on the Hulk, who has found a peaceful and happy life as a gladiator on the planet Sakaar. That’s what he gets up to in World War Hulk before returning to Earth and transforming Madison Square Garden into a gladiatorial arena to bring his new life to the homefront.
5 Captain America: Winter Soldier Vol. 1
After Captain America: The First Avenger set up Steve Rogers as a war hero who suddenly finds himself in a very different time, it was the perfect second chapter in his story to have him come across a familiar face – his best friend since childhood – who has been brainwashed into being the perfect assassin.
That storyline was loosely adapted from this comic book, which is widely accepted as one of the best Captain America storylines ever written. The actual events are slightly different in the comic than in the movie, but all of the emotions and character developments are the same.
4 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Legacy
The Guardians of the Galaxy that we see in the movies – Star-Lord, Drax, Rocket, Gamora etc. – are not actually the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics. The original team actually made an appearance in the sequel and decided to get back together in one of the film’s many post-credits scenes.
But of course, thanks to the movies, the new team is the best known one. This comic book storyline introduces us to the new Guardians of the Galaxy, the ones that Marvel Studios decided to build their franchise around, and it has the characters’ signature manic popcorn comic energy. It’s mesmerizing.
This comic book about Thanos and his armies waging war against Earth is one of the stories that was used as the basis for last year’s hit Avengers: Infinity War. Both the comic and the movie have the same premise, as well as the setting of Thanos’ war with Earthlings quickly heading into outer space.
This version of events involves the Galactic Council and the Inhumans’ city of Attilan, which deviates from how it was depicted in the movie, so it’s not like reading the comic form of the movie. This is a completely different telling of the same story, but both introduce us to the deadly Black Order.
2 Avengers: Vision and the Scarlet Witch – A Year In The Life
The romance struck up by Vision and Scarlet Witch in the MCU is actually based on this comic book in which they get married. It took people a long time to get on board with the marriage equality thing in real life, but in comic books, an artificial being and a magical mutant were tying the knot years before the Marriage Equality Act was passed.
Marriage is tough enough as it is without Ultron, Toad, Magneto, and the Grim Reaper trying to kill you. There are appearances from some huge characters in this comic, too, like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.
1 Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon didn’t take much more than the title from this comic book for his 2015 Avengers sequel, but they both share the iconic cybernetic villain. Whedon depicted Ultron as a cold, calculating, nefarious sort of robotic Frankenstein’s monster, and that’s exactly how he appears in the comic book, too – except the comic is set in a nightmarish world where Ultron has actually managed to take over the world.
He didn’t even really get close in the movie. Another difference with the comic is that it brings in a bunch of Marvel characters that the MCU simply doesn’t have the rights or the means to use. Luke Cage and Wolverine both play instrumental roles in the Avengers’ battle against Ultron in the comic book.
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