The Avengers are a crack team of superheroes that appear in the Avenger comic books published by Marvel Comics. They've risen to international fame outside of the comic community in the 2012 live-action film Marvel's The Avengers and its upcoming sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron. While you can read the main storyline published by Marvel simply titled Avengers and enjoy the team fighting villains like Loki, Korvac, Ultron, and Thanos there is much more to this particular comic book universe. With any superhero team comes a bunch of spin-off series, alternate timelines, and side stories. For the comic book fan young or old with an attachment to the Avengers, here are some great reads within the same universe.

civil war

Civil War

There is nothing better than seeing superheroes beat the holy heck out of each other. Marvel's Civil War does just that. This side story was built up to in several Marvel comic books including The Amazing Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and The Avengers and culminated in a battle royale of fists and words in this 7 issue series.

The story follows two opposing sides on the implementation and consequences of the Superhuman Registration Act. This legislative bill is one that would require the mandatory registration of any superhero in the United States and requires them to submit to specialized training. This comes after devastating events that resulted in loss of human life from superheroes fighting villains and the collateral damage that was caused by it. It is a piece of legislation that split the superhero community down the middle.  Tony Stark, otherwise known as Iron Man, becomes the figurehead in favor of the bill while Captain America leads the group that opposes it, arguing that superheroes need to remain secretive to protect their normal lives including spouses and children.

The ensuing battles throughout the series leads to major changes within the Avengers and the Marvel universe itself.

Civil War
Amazon Price: $24.99 $11.48 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 21, 2016)
The complete collection of issues #1-#7 + extras.
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers

There have been quite a few superheroes who were aided in their noble duty to save the world by their trusty animal companions. However, writer Chris Eliopoulos asked the question that no one really ever thought to ask before, "What if these pets banded together to form a superhero team?"

Thus the Pet Avengers were formed.

The four-issue story follows the oversized dog Lockjaw who lives in Attilan, city of inhumans, and pet to the Inhuman Royal Court. Attilan is visited by Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four who is looking for artifacts of power, the Infinity Gems. Lockjaw, however, finds one of the gems—the mind gem—which gives him increased intelligence among other abilities. Using the mind gem to read Mr. Fantastic's mind, Lockjaw is determined to find the remaining gems. However, first he recruits a crack team of other animals to help.

These other pets include Redwing the Falcon, Throg the Thor frog, Speedball's cat Hairball, Lockheed the diminutive dragon, and Aunt May's puppy Ms. Lion.

After collecting several of the gems, the team even manages to hold their own against Thanos, the gem's previous owner. Defeating him only after using the gems to send him to an alternate dimension. This side story received mixed reviews, perhaps because fans just couldn't get over the overt silliness of the whole idea. However, it is more than refreshing to see a comic book premise like this because it makes fans of the series smile without even meaning to.

Lockjaw And The Pet Avengers GN (Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers)
Amazon Price: $14.99 $12.99 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 21, 2016)
Contains the complete collection issues #1 -#4
Dark Avengers

Dark Avengers

The Dark Avengers is a sixteen-issue series created by Warren Ellis. It's plot is difficult to explain, but the gist is that it follows Norman Osborne, the reformed villain from Spiderman as he dons the new superhero guise of the Iron Patriot (complete in a red, white and blue themed Iron Man suit). He assembles a team of Avengers (and later X-Men) made up of supposedly reformed super villains.

As one can assume, the mixture is a time bomb poised and ready to explode.

The Avengers team is composed of  Sentry, Ares, Noh-Varr (now Captain Marvel) as well as disguised super-villains Moonstone (portraying Ms. Marvel), Venom (Mac Gargan, portraying Spider-Man after being given a formula that resets the symbiote to the size it was when it possessed Spider-Man), Bullseye (portraying Hawkeye) and Wolverine's disgruntled son Daken taking on the Wolverine mantle. These Dark Avengers work to clean up after the events of the Civil War, which leads them to San Francisco to quell anti-mutant riots.

This is where Norman sets up his own team of X-Men consisting of Cloak and Dagger, Mimic, Emma Frost, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Daken, Weapon Omega and Mystique (posing as Professor X) upsetting his Avengers. However, the X-Men ultimately betray him and he vows to hunt them all down.

Ultimately, Norman and his team of reformed super villains do crack, it is only a matter of when and how.

Dark Avengers, Vol. 1: Assemble
Amazon Price: $54.68 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 21, 2016)
The first volume contains issues #1 - #6
the ultimates by milar

The Ultimates

For those who are trying to track down The Ultimates series, it can be tricky. There is the older 13 issue series by Mark Milar and the newer ongoing series  (also called The Ultimates) by Jon Hickman. They are both good, but I prefer the older Milar version of The Ulimates, purely because I prefer the artwork of Bryan Hitch.

For fans of the Avengers movies and those that are perhaps newer to the comics, there is a familiar feel about Milar's The Ulimates. It is, in every way, a cinematic affair. Filled with action-packed heroic widescreens, which is perhaps why it is so popular. A superhero comic should feel epic and well…Heroic. The Ultimates succeeds in that. The Ultimates series is a reimagining of the Avengers,so the story line may seem similar yet different to the primary plotline.

The Ultimates are a team put together by the United States government and S.H.I.E.L.D. to combat the growing threat of super villains attacking the United States. The team consists of Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor, Hank and Janet Pym (Giant-Man and Wasp), Bruce Banner (Hulk), and Betty Ross. Later Captain America joins after various circumstances.

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection
Amazon Price: $34.99 $19.98 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 21, 2016)
Contains the complete collection of issues #1 - #13
Avengers Arena and battle royale

Avengers Arena

Avengers Arena is an ongoing series that takes 16 young heroes from the Marvel universe and pits them against each other in a realty television setting in which you kill or will be killed. One look at the cover and some will get what this is all about. There is a cult favorite Japanese movies called Battle Royale in which a class of students are taken to an arena and forced to kill each other until there is one survivor. The above cover of the comic is almost an exact replica of the movie cover, as shown in the above.

I happen to be a big fan of that movie so this immediately tickled my interest.

As the story goes sixteen teenage superheroes consisting of Cammi, Darkhawk, Hazmat, Mettle, Nico Minoru, Reptil, Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel, Chase Stein, X-23, Apex, Nara, Kid Briton, Red Raven III, Death Locket, Cullen Bloodstone, and Anachronism are abducted by super villain Arcade, brought to his latest version of Murderworld, and forced to fight to the death for Arcade's enjoyment.

Yes, I know, fans are disappointed that there is no Hulk or Thor to mix things up. The young superheroes come from a variety of Marvel comics like X-men and Runaways, some were created specifically for this series, and others are children of other super heroes.

Avengers Arena, Vol. 1: Kill or Die
Amazon Price: $22.80 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 21, 2016)
Volume 1 contains issues #1 - #6