As Phase 5 of the MCU gets closer, fans might be looking to prepare for the franchise’s next wave of stories by reading some of the comics that inspire them.
Ahead are some comic recommendations that appear to give some insight into what to expect in Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if these comics don’t end up being what the movies and shows are about, reading them will at least familiarize fans with the characters and worlds of these stories.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Ahead of February’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, check out 2005’s Young Avengers issues 1-6 by Alan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. This storyline sees Cassie Lang and Kang as main characters, with the latter appearing in multiple variant forms, similar to how he will likely appear in future MCU films.
It might not be a coincidence that Kang will be the main villain in Cassie’s debut movie as a superhero, when the team she tends to fight on is one of Kang’s main adversaries. Readers will recognize other characters familiar to MCU fans on the Young Avengers team, but there will be more on stories about those characters later.
This one is a rather obvious recommendation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth highlighting. To prepare for the Secret Invasion show that will be on Disney+ in Spring 2023, give the 2008 Secret Invasion comic series by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu a read.
The comic explores the direct impact from the revelation that many Marvel heroes were secretly replaced by shape-shifting Skrulls.
The show’s trailer indicates that a similar plot will be explored in the Disney+ series, but don’t worry about the comic revealing spoilers for the show. Most of the characters revealed to be Skrulls in the comics are not characters that have been adapted into the MCU in significant roles as of publication.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
With the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 trailer on Dec. 1, fans have a better idea of the plot of the May movie, and therefore an idea of what comics may have inspired it.
For this film, here are two comic recommendations, each focusing on a different aspect of the new film. First, check out 1982’s Incredible Hulk #271 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, which tells the origin story of Rocket Raccoon in the character’s debut appearance. With the movie’s trailer showing elements from Rocket’s backstory, fans can expect to learn more about the fan-favorite Trash Panda’s origins in the new movie — origins that seem to resemble their comics counterparts.
After reading that, give 1977’s Avengers Annual #7 by Jim Starlin and Josef Rubinstein a read. This comic includes Adam Warlock finding Gamora inside the Soul Gem. Even if this is not how Gamora makes her return to the team in the new movie, it’s still worth a read. If nothing else, it will give MCU fans further insight into Gamora’s and Adam Warlock’s characters.
To prepare for Summer 2023’s Echo show on Disney+, MCU fans should check out 1999’s Daredevil issues 9-17 by David Mack, Glenn Herdling, and Gregg Schigiel. Issue #9 gives readers the origins of Maya Lopez as the hero Echo, which play out similarly to how they did in the Hawkeye show on Disney+ from 2021.
Reading these issues will familiarize MCU fans with Echo as a character, getting everyone ready for her standalone show in the summer. After reading these issues, skip down the list to the Daredevil: Born Again recommendations, as they might be applicable to Echo as well.
Loki Season 2
Before picking back up with Season 2 of Loki in Summer 2023, fans of the first season might want a refresher on the Time Variance Authority. What better way to do that than with two comic stories relating to them? First, give 2005’s She-Hulk issues 1-5 by Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo a try. These issues show how the TVA deals with a temporal anomaly in a self-contained story that appeals to new readers and comics veterans alike.
Then, MCU fans should read 2007’s Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #23 by Fred van Lente and Clay Mann. This story is another TVA temporal anomaly instance, but this one includes Kang, who, based on the ending of Loki season one, will play an important role in the series’ second season.
July 2023 sees the release of the Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels. For this entry, it’s tough to recommend a comic that the movie may be based on, as there is not much that jumps out as being a direct point of inspiration. One might be inclined to believe that the 2023 film will take inspiration from the comic series that shares its name, but there appears to be no connection between the movie and the comic.
So, MCU fans excited for The Marvels should read 2019’s Marvel Team-Up, issues 4-6 by Clint McElroy and Ig Guara. This comic shows off the endearing mentor-mentee relationship between Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, a dynamic bound to be important to the Captain Marvel sequel. Furthermore, the comic ties into the legends of the original Mar-Vell, a hero who, like Ms. Marvel in the MCU, uses cosmic bands to enhance and impact his powers.
After falling in love with Riri Williams in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, fans who can’t wait for the Fall 2023 Ironheart Disney+ series may want to read more about the character sooner than the show’s release date. If that’s the case, check out the full 2018 12-issue Ironheart mini-series by Eve Ewing and Kevin Libranda.
Given that fans have already been introduced to the character of Ironheart, it is safe to assume the 2023 Disney+ series will not be an origin. This comic series, much like what the show presumably will be, picks up after Riri has begun her tenure as Ironheart, and follows her as she further develops this superhero identity.
Agatha: Coven of Chaos
Agatha Harkness is one of a few Marvel Comics characters that would be virtually unrecognizable to MCU-only fans. This isn’t a bad thing, per se — the MCU is its own storytelling medium, and as such tells different stories. But because of this, fans looking for comics to prepare for Agatha’s Winter 2023 Disney+ show Agatha: Coven of Chaos might not find comics directly related to the titular character to be the most productive reads ahead of the new show.
However, two characters likely to appear in the series are Wanda Maximoff’s children, Billy and Tommy, and these two characters have been adapted into the MCU incredibly similar to their comics counterparts. As such, MCU fans should give the 2010 nine-issue mini-series Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, another Young Avengers story by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, one which Billy actor Julian Hilliard wants to see adapted into the MCU someday.
This series follows Billy and Tommy as they try to reconcile with Wanda after the events of House of M, the 2005 mini-series by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Copiel that inspired much of WandaVision. After the ending of that show, and the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a reconciliation with Wanda and her kids feels inevitable.
Daredevil: Born Again
Like with The Marvels, while there is a comic that shares the name with the Spring 2024 Disney+ show Daredevil: Born Again, it seems unlikely that the show will pull much from the comic, as most of the comic’s plot has been covered in the third season of Netflix’s Daredevil, now on Disney+.
However, fans of the original show have been left hanging since the end of the third season, which teased stories surrounding the villain Bullseye, who was introduced in the show’s Born Again comic-inspired storyline. Given that the show’s cast and crew had anticipated a fourth season, perhaps the 2024 Disney+ show will truly pick up where the Netflix series abruptly left off. As such, the first recommendations for Daredevil fans are 1991’s Daredevil issues 288 and 290 by Ann Nocenti and Lee Weeks, two Bullseye-related stories post-Born Again.
Additionally, rumors indicate that the 2024 show will see Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) attempt a mayoral run, a story lifted from 2019’s Daredevil issues 595-600 by Charles Soule and Stefano Landini. MCU fans might want to check this story out before Echo too, as story threads in echo may be related to the Mayor Fisk comics storyline.
Captain America: New World Order
Following the announcement in the comics that Sam Wilson would be taking up the Captain America shield — a storyline later adapted in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+ — there was significant backlash from many fans, some such backlash rooted in racism. A similar response was felt when the comic story was adapted into the MCU.
Despite this, the MCU has not backed down, asserting, in the words of Chris Evans (Steve Rogers) himself, that “Sam Wilson is Captain America.” As such, the 2015 series Captain America: Sam Wilson by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna is still extremely relevant as fans get ready to see Sam once again in the Captain America role in May 2024’s Captain America: New World Order. This comic serves as a meta-commentary, taking much of the language those in the real world opposed to Sam Wilson’s taking up of the mantle as plot elements.
Given all the backlash Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson is still facing today, the conversations this comic has are still both relevant and important. Besides, the comic has fun and comedic moments too that any MCU fan would enjoy. Who wouldn’t agree with Redwing receiving a 93% approval rating?
One might assume that the July 2024 Thunderbolts movie would be based on a story about the Thunderbolts team in the comics, no? Well, as fans of Marvel comics are well aware, the movie’s team bears almost no resemblance to its most famous comics counterpart. In fact, never in the comics as of publication has the exact team of movie Thunderbolts appeared and fought together.
Like with Agatha, this isn’t a bad thing per se, but it makes speculation based on the comics difficult. However, rumors indicate that the movie will see the introduction of a comics team called the Squadron Supreme as its main antagonist. The Squadron Supreme is a team that is almost an exact copy of DC’s Justice League. This is no exaggeration, and to prove it, check out the 1985 Squadron Supreme 12-issue mini-series by Mark Gruenwald and Bob Hall. This mini-series introduces readers to the team — or, reintroduces, in a sense, if readers are fans of DC — and will give MCU fans an idea of who exactly this new Thunderbolts team will be facing off against.
If the Squadron Supreme doesn’t sound interesting, another rumored villain is the mysterious Sentry, whose comics origins are told in 2000’s The Sentry, a five-issue mini-series by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee. Without spoiling too much from the series, the story tells the origins of the Sentry, an all-powerful superbeing who has been completely forgotten by the entire world. This five-issue run will catch MCU fans up to speed on everything they need to know about this potential Thunderbolts villain.
Fans actually know extremely little about the September 2024 Blade reboot, and as such, it is difficult to speculate on anything from featured characters to story elements that might inform what comics to read in preparation for the movie. As such, the first recommendation is based solely on a single casting rumor. Fans know that Milan Ray has been cast in an unknown as of publication but major role in the 2024 film.
Interestingly, February 2023 sees the comics re-introduction of Bloodline, Blade’s daughter. Furthermore, Blade’s daughter was originally supposed to be Fallon Grey, a canceled comics character. Either way, it might be worth keeping up-to-date on the 2023 comics series Bloodline: Daughter of Blade by Danny Lore and Karen S. Darboe.
Until February, fans excited about Blade can check out the 2006 12-issue mini-series Blade by Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin. This series serves as a reboot of the character’s book, meaning it is an easy starting point for fans brand new to the Daywalker and his stories.
Phase 6 and Beyond
As fans look ahead to Phase 6 and beyond of the MCU, they will still find more stories adapted from even more comics. From Fantastic Four to Avengers: Secret Wars, there’s a whole library of comics waiting to be adapted in the near future. And who knows what has yet to be announced? Comics fans should get excited for even more of their favorite stories to be brought to life on the big screen.
Phase 5 of the MCU will begin with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which hits theaters on February 17, 2023.