Regardless of which comic conglomerate you owe your particular allegiance, you can’t deny that Marvel (under the ever-watchful eyes of Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon) has been incredibly successful at bringing their universe to life on the big screen. With the first phase of their box-office domination already complete (including hero-establishing flicks like the Iron Man movies, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers), Marvel is barreling head-first into Phase Two, with no sign of stopping until at least 2022.
While we’ve already caught the first of Marvel’s Phase Two films – Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 – we’ve got four more flicks to look forward to between now and 2015. To make the wait a little less unbearable, why not spend some time getting familiar with the source material?
Here’s what you should read to prepare yourself for the rest of Marvel’s Phase Two films!
Alan Taylor (Mad Men, Game of Thrones) is saddled with the god-like responsibility of directing the Thor sequel, The Dark World. With Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) joining the cast as Malekith the Accursed – ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartálfar, it seems like a safe bet that some plot hints might be found in Thor: Citadel of Spires. Only available in a 2011 one-shot tie-in to the first film called Cap and Thor! Avengers #1, “Citadel of Spires” sees Thor, Loki, Sif, and the Warriors Three, take on the Dark Elves in an attempt to rescue one of their own. But for a real introduction to Malekith (and to read the definitive voice of Thor), be sure to pick up a copy of the beginning of Walt Simsonson’s run from the ‘80s, which finishes off with Thor’s battle to stop Malekith from starting a new ice age on Earth.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – April 4th, 2014
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo (Community and You, Me, and Dupree), The Winter Soldier will be a ‘70s-style spy thriller, based on a 50-issue release of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America comics from 2005. A fan-favourite storyline, the Cap sequel is taking on the tale of Steve’s best friend Bucky (played by Sebastian Stan), who was last seen plunging to his death during in the first flick, and – if the film stays true to the comics – will deal with Bucky’s transformation from all-American do-gooder to bio-engineered assassin. If you want to know Bucky’s deal, you should grab Captain America: Winter Solider Ultimate Collection (collecting Captain America vol. 5 #1-9, 11-14), for the full tale before you catch it on the silver screen.
The Guardians of the Galaxy – a rag-tag band of space cops – have been around since 1969, and their group includes a super hot female alien assassin, a displaced American, and a bipedal racoon with human-level intelligence and a penchant for laser pistols. James Gunn (Slither, Super) has the galactic task of bringing this team to the big screen, and as confusing as it all sounds, don’t you want to up your Guardians game? Start with the 2008 re-launch of the title, then pick-up Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy and if you’re really into it, move on to War of Kings. The third Guardians storyline, “The Thanos Imperative,” sees the Guardians and the Avengers teaming up to destroy Thanos (who we saw ever-so-briefly in the Avengers after-credits scene), so you’re probably safe to leave this until Phase Three. You can also check out the 2013 Marvel NOW! relaunch of the franchise, helmed by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven.
We may not know much about Joss Whedon’s follow-up to the third-highest grossing film of all time, but at the very least, the film’s title has finally been revealed: Age of Ultron. We also know the film will feature Robert Downey Jr. returning as Iron Man, introduce Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and provide Black Widow and Hawkeye with a little extra character development. Though Whedon has said that the film’s storyline will be original, it can’t hurt to give the original a read (just in case). “Age of Ultron” was a 10-issue limited series by Brian Michael Bendis published between March and June of 2013, and featured a complex (and heavily criticized) storyline revolving around Ultron, A.I. super-villain extraordinaire. If you want to check it out, the hardcover Age of Ultron collection will be released on September 17th, 2013.
Which comic are you going to check out first? Let me know in the comments, or tell me on Twitter: @SamMaggs!