Essential summer comic books for teens

In a summer of comic book movies—The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises—it’s perfectly acceptable to nerd out a little by delving into the works that inspired it all. If you’re new to comics, it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start, so we’re here to help. Take this list with you to the bookstore or library and stock up on some awesome summer reading.

The Ultimates

Getting into the Avengers history is tricky since there are so many characters, each with their own franchises. The Ultimates, released in 2002 by writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch, is a modern reimagining of the original Avengers. While it’s pretty similar to the movie, some major plot points and characters are different, but it serves as an accessible introduction to several of the big characters.

Batman: Year One

Most comic book authorities seem to agree that Batman: Year One is the place to start for new Batman fans. Year One is a four-issue run written by comic book legend Frank Miller and featuring art by David Mazzucchelli. According to popular comic podcast and blog iFanboy, “Both the Christopher Nolan Batman films as well as Scott Snyder’s current run on Detective Comics have their roots in this 1988 four-issue arc, and it touches not only on Batman but also his extended family of Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon and the Wayne family itself.” iFanboy also recommends Batman: Arkham Asylum, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Dave McKean to read next (and the video game of the same name is awesome).

Ultimate Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man film has gotten mixed reviews, but that doesn’t mean much since Spider-Man is still one of the world’s most beloved superheroes. Start with Ultimate Spider-Man: Vol. 1, written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Mark Bagley, to get into Spidey’s universe. Ultimate Spider-Man was released in 2007, and highly respected by the most die-hard Spider-Man fans because of its compelling writing and modern take on the classic story. There are several volumes, which should keep you busy for a while.

All Star Superman

If you’ve just seen The Dark Knight Rises in theaters, you’ve probably also gotten a glimpse of the new Superman movie called Man of Steel, set for a 2013 release. It’s a perfect time to learn about Superman’s origins before the movie comes out, and All Star Superman by Grant Morrison (mentioned above for writing Arkham Asylum) is a great place to start. All Star Superman is 12 issues long, and has a reputation for bringing Superman back to the basics. The Man of Steel by John Byrne makes for a good follow-up.

The Walking Dead

Zombies are a different kind of disaster than those in the other titles mentioned here, but the diseased, brain-eating creatures have long been a presence in pop culture. The Walking Dead television show is a compelling look at how a group of people attempts to survive in the wake of an apocalypse while fighting off hordes of infected corpses. Fans of the comic insist that the books, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Tony Moore, have even more drama and intrigue than the show, so check out The Walking Dead: Compendium One, which consists of the first eight books of the series.