How to Catch Up on Marvel Studios' Newest Heroes

Captain Marvel - H 2014
David Lopez/Marvel Entertainment
A recommended reading list for Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Inhumans ahead of their big-screen debuts

So, you want to find out more about Marvel Studios’ latest heroes, but don’t know quite where to start. That’s not surprising; Black Panther, the Inhumans and Captain Marvel have been around for almost half a century at this point, after all, appearing in hundreds of comic books and building labyrinthine mythologies and histories around themselves.

However, it’s possible to track down some key issues to get the basics for each character or concept, if you know where to look. That’s where we’re here to help. Whether you’re looking for the first appearances, the origin stories or simply where to get a good idea of what to expect from each character, here are some suggestions for where to start finding out about Marvel’s heroes of tomorrow.

Black Panther

The Origins: T’Challa debuted in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 Nos. 52-53 (1966), a two-part story that introduced Marvel’s first black superhero as well as his hyper-advanced African nation of Wakanda. It wasn’t until 1971’s Avengers Vol. 1 No. 87 that readers got to read his origin story — short version: He was the son of the ruler of Wakanda who underwent a series of trials to claim the title — and until 1973’s Jungle Action Vol. 2 that the character got the chance to go solo (His series ran in Nos. 5-24 of that series).

The Tone: It’s likely that any Black Panther movie will be modeled after one of two recent periods for the character. The most likely to be used is Black Panther Vol. 4, by Reginald Hudlin and a number of artists, which addressed the character’s place in the wider Marvel Universe and specifically spent time placing him into a clearer context with other heroes. If you’re looking for a good taster, the first storyline — which ran in Nos. 1-6 — is the best place to go.

However, an earlier run by writer Priest and a variety of artists — Black Panther Vol. 3, which launched in 1998 and ran for 62 issues — may also end up feeding into the movie in some way. A series that acted both as workplace comedy and straightforward superhero comic, Priest’s Black Panther was someone who out-thought his fellow superheroes at almost every turn and refused to surrender to any agenda that wasn’t his own. The best place to sample this is probably the “Enemy of the State” storyline, which ran in Vol. 3 Nos. 6-12. Whether or not Marvel Studios is ready for a hero who essentially out Tony Starks Tony Stark remains to be seen, but we can certainly hope.

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Captain Marvel

The Origins: Carol Danvers first appeared in 1967’s Marvel Super-Heroes No. 13 as an Air Force pilot and potential love interest for Marvel’s first Captain Marvel, but was written out of the series in 1969’s Captain Marvel No. 18 after being caught in an explosion — an event that would be revealed, years later, to have given her superpowers and led to her becoming Ms. Marvel. (That all happened in 1977’s Ms. Marvel No. 1.) She didn’t adopt the Captain Marvel title until 2012’s Captain Marvel Vol. 7 No. 1.

The Tone: It’s extremely unlikely that the movie will lift its source material from anywhere other than the two most recent Captain Marvel series (2012’s Vol. 7 and 2014’s Vol. 8), both written by Kelly Sue DeConnick with art by a host of artists including David Lopez and Felipe Andrade. Those two series — essentially one run broken up into two volumes — established Danvers in the role with a light touch, mixing humor, soap opera and an off-kilter take on the superhero genre as a whole. Recommended jumping-on points for both runs are the opening storylines: Vol. 7 Nos. 1-8 and Vol. 8 Nos. 1-6.

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The Origins: The Inhumans appeared piecemeal throughout a period of 1960s Fantastic Four, beginning with No. 36, with the concept and core “family” in place by No. 45 (all 1965, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; the initial Inhumans storyline really runs Nos. 41-48 of the series). At time of creation — and for the majority of their existence — they were a group of humans genetically modified by aliens who have hidden themselves away from the world and built their own society in secret. These days, things are slightly different, but we’ll get to that momentarily.

The Tone: Despite the number of Inhumans stories throughout the years — the concept has featured in Fantastic Four many times, as well as multiple Inhumans series — 1998’s Inhumans Vol. 2 by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee is the best example of the combination of “cosmic” themes and family melodrama that the characters embody: think Game of Thrones with outlandish costumes and teleporting space dogs instead of dragons, and you’re not a million miles away.

In the last year or so, Marvel publishing has started playing with that idea slightly, beginning with 2013’s Inhumanity event and miniseries (the core titles for this are 2013’s Inhumanity Vol. 1 Nos. 1-2 and the follow-up, Inhuman Vol. 1, which launched this year and is currently ongoing). The conceit of the revamped Inhumans is that a certain percentage of humanity possessed genetically modified Inhuman heritage and has, due to events within another series altogether (2013’s Infinity Vol. 1 Nos. 1-6), found their ancestral superpowers “activated.” While the secret society of original Inhumans still exists, the updated concept means that Marvel has effectively created an alternative to its own X-Men concept of mutants born with their powers, one that Marvel Studios happens to own the movie rights to (Fox owning all movie rights for X-Men-related material).

Whether the movie will follow the initial Inhumans concept or the revised one remains to be seen.

Where to get these comics: While hunting down the original back issues is always an option, it might be easier to try and find some collected editions (Last year’s Inhumans: The Origin of the Inhumans paperback collects the early Fantastic Four appearances of those characters, for example) or consider the digital option. The majority of the issues mentioned above are available via ComiXology or on the Marvel Unlimited subscription service. Those that aren’t will likely be added soon, now that movies have been announced.

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