So, Marvel just announced its 'Phase 3' line-up - the films that will come out after 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron - and your mind is blown. You stare at the list, eagerly making plans for... wait, 2018? I'm an optimist, and even I'm not totally sure I'll still be alive in 2018.
Whether you're planning for the imminent demise of planet Earth or you're just impatient to see what's coming, here's a reading list offering some great suggestions to help get you ready to dig into Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without all that pesky waiting.
Captain America: Civil War
Civil War is a very interesting story fairly poorly told. Though the event was a mega-success for Marvel and remains both popular and influential, at the time, delays, poor planning, and awful characterization marred the series for many. Still the core of the story - which finds Iron Man pushing for more accountability for superheroes after a national tragedy and hunting down a rogue Captain America who is fighting for individual rights of the heroes - is interesting, and the more simplified (read: no tie-ins) narrative may end up cutting right to the heart of what makes Civil War tick.
Okay, this one is tough. First: The collection itself isn't titled Fallen Son; I just didn't post its real title to avoid spoilers. So, obvious second: There are huge spoilers for the storyline in the title of the collection. I have no idea if the series will follow the same arc the comics did, but if it does, Ed Brubaker's still-influential run on the title remains essential reading.
Captain America: Fallen Son
While we still don't know who will be playing the good Doctor - though we have our suspicions - the movie is coming regardless. Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister), Doctor Strange will almost certainly have the hardest time finding acceptance among fans of any title on this list, because Doctor Strange is, for lack of a better phrase, weird as shit. Still, there have been a few instances where they've attempted to make him a little easier for modern audiences, and that'd be where I would suggest starting. Even better? The Oath is written by fan-favorite Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Saga).
Doctor Strange: The Oath
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
It's difficult to say what direction Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will go in. While there has been rampant fan-spectulation that it would become a stealth-remake of Greg Pak's groundbreaking Planet Hulk, writer/director James Gunn has suggested that Hulk won't be anywhere near the sequel. That mostly leaves Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's run to recommend... though I suppose I can't ignore Brian Michael Bendis' current run in making suggestions. The only major story arc they could feasibly be doing is Annihilation... but I'm going to hedge my bets and guess that they'll wait for a third Guardians movie before they really bring out their big guns.
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Complete Collection, Vol 1
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers
All things must end, even gods. Ragnarok, the fabled apocalypse of Norse mythology, was long the boogeyman of Thor comics. In the early 2000s, Marvel did Thor Disassembled as a part of their Avengers Disassembled event, and had Thor and the Norse gods wage full on war against the end of the world.
While Thor Disassembled brought about the end of one iteration of Thor and Asgard, J. Michael Straczynski brought about the beginning of the next. I have no idea if Marvel will hew close to JMS' Thor (and Kieron Gillen's fantastic Journey Into Mystery, which followed), but this is still the iconic modern Thor run... though I have a feeling Jason Aaron's current run will supplant that in the minds of many readers once it concludes.
Black Panther, like Captain Marvel, is a long-running character who only semi-recently regained the spotlight. While Black Panther has been a major player in the Avengers for some time, particularly in Jonathan Hickman's New Avengers, his most definitive run is almost certainly Reginald Hudlin's mid-2000s time with the character. Sadly, the print editions aren't currently available - you've only got a couple years to rectify that, Marvel! - but you can check out the beginning of Hudlin's run on Kindle, Comixology, and Marvel Unlimited.
While I can't be sure that this is the run that the Captain Marvel film will be based off, I'd be surprised it it wasn't - though Carol Danvers has been around for a long time, it is only recently that she became a fan- and critical-favorite under the pen of Kelly Sue DeConnick, so that is where I'd suggest diving in, personally. That said, the first volume of DeConnick's run, "In Pursuit of Flight," is currently out-of-print. Which is fine! Personally, "Down" was where she won me over, and "The Enemy Within" was where she made me a genuine fan.
No better place to start than Paul Jenkins' and Jae Lee's definitive late-90's mini-series. The Inhumans introduces you to all the major players of the Inhuman Royal Family and gives you a great idea as to what an Inhumans film would look and feel like. Bonus? It's a rock-solid bit of science fantasy that deals heavily with politics, betrayal, classism, and more, and it should appeal to those of you missing Game of Thrones.
While I'd be surprised to find Inhumans delving into Infinity and Inhumanity, its placement - right between the two Avengers: Infinity War films - does make me wonder. Infinity is the story that really finds the Inhumans meeting the Avengers and combatting Thanos. And if the rumblings are true, that Marvel wants to use the similarly-themed Inhumans to replace the mutant characters they lost to Fox, I could see them setting up Inhumanity in their first film. Particularly if Marvel's Agents of SHIELD reveals, as I suspect they will, that Skye is an Inhuman.
Avengers: Infinity War
There are probably three books I'd suggest for this one, if it follows roughly the pattern I suspect it will. The first is background material - utterly inessential, but fun and fascinating and hey maybe it will even make you give a crap about Thanos. A tall order, I know, but we here at Geek Rex are up for the challenge.
As I said: Inessential. And yet, at the same time, if you want to understand why people give a shit about Thanos in the comics, this really is the place to start. Jim Starlin created the character and has defined his voice for decades now, writing almost every major appearance the character has had. Indeed, I can't think of a Thanos story scripted by anyone OTHER than Starlin that was worth the paper it was printed on.
If I were a betting man, I'd guess that the two Avengers movies planned for phase three will break up the two major Thanos/Infinity Gems stories, the first of which is The Infinity Gauntlet. For a long time, this was the definitive Marvel Cosmic event, and to many fans, it still is. Thanos, possessing all the Infinity Gems, wields almost complete control over reality itself, and in an instant, he destroys half of all life in the universe. But how can the heroes overcome an enemy that sees - and controls - all?
The events of The Infinity Gauntlet have brought back one of the few beings that can genuinely challenge Thanos - the Magus. There have been a lot of assumptions that Adam Warlock would be introduced in Guardians 2, and if so, they could be setting the stage for the Magus to throw down against Thanos, a sentence I never thought I would find myself typing with regards to upcoming films.