The Solo Comic Books of the Avengers
You've watched the Avengers and have decided to look for some comic books about your new favorite characters. But, you don't want the whole team along. You really enjoyed Captain America and want to see what happens when he's away from the team. Or The Hulk finally won you over and you want to check out his solo adventures. Or maybe Nick Fury intrigued you and you wonder what his deal is?
Each character from the Avengers movie has had their own solo comic, but not all of these turns have been the best. Below is a list of the best comics for each of these characters. While the Avengers are great as a team, their adventures away from each other are often as, if not more, exciting.
The Character: For most people, Iron Man is their favorite character in the Marvel movie lineup. While it was really the movies that made the character so popular, Tony Stark has always been an interesting character in his own right. A former arms dealer turned superhero, a billionaire with little secret identity, a recovered alcoholic and a futurist who makes as many mistakes as your average joe.
On The Team: Iron Man is a core member of the Avengers, being one of the founders and often the main financier. He's been there since day one, even before Captain America. Unlike his movie persona, the Iron Man in the comics is often a decent team player (except when it comes to registration). His womanizing and more free life style are sometimes at odds with the others, but you can't have the team without Tony Stark.
Solo: Stark's solo adventures can range from fighting corporate espionage to taking on alien dragons. He's often building and taking care of his own company. The best examples of a good Iron Man story are works like Armor Wars, where Stark is protecting his own technology while hanging out on the fringe of the rest of the Avengers. The best suggestion for those looking for a solo Iron Man read is Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man. Taking the best parts of the movies and comics and meshing them together seamlessly, Fraction writes a Tony Stark who's always moving forward while constantly dealing with the mistakes of his past.
The Character: A skinny patriot turned super soldier, Steve Rogers is the living legend of World War II. After Captain America was awoken in the 21st century, he started his new life as a super hero, battling old and new villains alike. Standing for America and it's people, rather than being a political puppet, the Captain is a man out of time who just happens to be what the world needs.
On The Team: Captain America was discovered and revived by the Avengers. He has never known the 21st century without the team and they are his family in this new life. If Iron Man is the Batman of the Avengers, than Captain America is the Superman. He's the heart and moral compass, drawing lines in the sand when the others have forgotten. And he's often the leader, being one of the few men Thor will take orders from.
Solo: Captain America has played many different roles in his solo adventures. He was the super soldier of WWII, he's a superhero taking on villains like the Red Skull and Baron Zemo, he's an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. and he's been a rebel leader (see Marvel's Civil War).
He's often haunted by his past. His enemies of the war have all seemed to crop up in the present, bringing new problems with them. Or, Rogers is having to deal with failed and renegade attempts at recreating Captain America.
Because of his status as Captain America, Rogers has often found himself in more political fights. He's run for president and taken down conspiracies. The Captain America story suggested here is Winter Solider. It's the beginning of Ed Brubaker's run with the character and is a great place to learn about the character and his solo adversities.
The Character: The son of Odin was arrogant and headstrong until he was banished to Midgard to learn lessons on humility. Upon realizing how much Earth needs heroes and all the good he could do for humanity, Thor decided to spend most of his time working to make this world a better one.
On The Team: Thor is a third of the Big Three when it comes to the Avengers, alongside Iron Man and Captain America. He's a founding member, since it's his brother, Loki, who's threat brought the team together. Thor brings an element of the fantastic to the team, as many of the members are people of science. Outside of the Hulk, Thor is also the teams strongest hero, often bringing down the hammer when needed.
Solo: When Thor is off on his own, he tends to spend a lot of time in Asgard, having cosmic adventures that might prove to big for his fellow Avengers. Thor battles aliens, Asgardian politics and his own brother. The best Thor stories take advantage of Thor being a man of myth and legend.
The best Thor solo story I've read in a long time is J. Michael Straczynski's run on the character. Being brought back to life after Ragnarok, Thor recreates Asgard in the American Midwest. The first two volumes are the best, focusing on the timelessness and magic of the characters as they interact with mortals. The rest of this run is alright, as it culminates in Marvel's Siege, but the first stories stand out above the rest.
The Character: Bruce Banner was trying to create the perfect bomb but when it all goes wrong, he's transformed into the Incredible Hulk, the strongest creature on Earth. Now, Banner's life is split in two as he tries to reign his alter ego under control as well as find to find a possible cure. This is all while the Hulk hates Banner and stays on the run from those who would use him as a weapon.
On The Team: To say the Hulk has a rocky relationship with the Avengers is to say Ben Grimm has a mild skin condition. While the Hulk was a member of the team in the beginning days, his rage became a problem and the Hulk left for 'greener' pastures. From time to time, Banner is able to bring the Hulk under control and rejoin the team, but he's often battling against, rather than for, the Avengers.
Solo: The Hulk's solo adventures are lonely ones. He has little in the way of allies outside of his friend Rick and wife Betty. He tends to go up against incredible monsters and aliens, often going to different worlds to find real challenges, His villains are creations of gamma gone green, most notably the Abomination and the Leader.
Because the character of the Hulk is one that is often moving and his journey is always changing, he doesn't have as many defining chapters, as the all blend together. However, Jason Aaron's run is one of the best clear runs in the characters history. It's the story of the Hulk finally figuring out how to get rid of Banner and the problems that occur because of his choices. It's an action packed character piece and is the best recommendation for those interested in the Hulk's solo adventures.
The Character: Clint Barton has been on both sides of the law but he's proven that's he's one of the best when it comes to fighting for good. Armed with his bow and trick arrows, Hawkeye is a man with a specific set of skills that he's fine-tuned to an almost superhuman level.
On The Team: Hawkeye may have been at odds with the team in his early days but he's been an important member ever since he joined. Never afraid to speak his mind on what's right, he's even called out Captain America on bad decisions. He's been part of the main team and the West Coast branch, helped the Thunderbolts find their way and inspired others, like Kate Bishop, to follow in his footsteps. He's the guy who's friends with everyone on the team, even when punching them in the jaw for a reality check.
Solo: Hawkeye has had little in the way of full solo comics, often teamed up with someone else in non-Avenger comics. His adventures tend to be down the middle superheroics.
But Matt Fraction has created what is sure to be considered the definitive run on the character. Showing Hawkeye as more of a down on his luck type of hero, the kind that lives in a rundown apartment complex and barbecues on the roof with his neighbors. His stories here tend to be less glamorous and more down to earth, often going places the Avengers would be embarrassed to be seen taking part. With incredibly stylistic art and minimalist dialog, this run is funny and action packed and helps you understand Clint Barton as a person, not just a hero.
The Character: Once Russian spy and super villain, Natasha Romanoff has come a long way. Trained at a young age to be a killing machine, she has deep roots in the Marvel universe, having interacted with many heroes before she joined their ranks. Even today, she's not the most trusted hero in the world.
On The Team: The Black Widow is often working behind the scenes in Avenger stories. More of an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. than a full time member, she's also the hero to call when the others don't want to get their hands dirty. Since her abilities are weapon and skill based, she doesn't always fit into the PC-version of the Avengers, but she's proven herself time and again to be a valuable asset to their ranks.
Solo: The Black Widow hasn't had many solo series, she's more likely to be in a team up book with Daredevil or other street level heroes. When she is on her own, her adventures are darker and morally ambiguous.
The best example is Richard K. Morgan's Black Widow mini-series. Titled Homecoming, this series brings Natasha's past back to haunt her, forcing her to go underground to rediscover truths about her upbringing. This series takes more cues from The Bourne Identity than the Avengers and the Black Widow is brought into a very grey world. The second series that came after this is also good and worth checking out, but the first volume will show you what it means to have 'red' on your ledger.
The Character: Nick Fury has gone from agent to head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he makes the Black Widow's record look white as snow. Fury is a man who has done a lot of dirty deeds to keep the world clean and he's not shy about letting others know how much blood he's spilled. Outside of the cosmic Watcher, Fury knows the most about what is going on, even when he keeps that knowledge to himself.
On The Team: Fury isn't an Avenger. In the regular Marvel universe, he might ask them for assistance or give them help when needed, but he's not a card carrying member by any stretch of the imagination. Still, he has interacted with each member at least once, even though his relationship with most heroes is rocky at best.
Solo: Fury lives in the murky grey of moral choices. His solo comics tend to emphasize that, even though he hasn't had many series of his own since the silver age of comic books.
The suggestions for Nick Fury is different than the others. While all the other members of the Avengers have series in their own respective realms, Fury is best seen when working around others. Since the Fury most people are familiar with is the Ultimate version, as played by Sam Jackson, the best suggestion for the character is the Ultimates by Mark Millar. Here, you see the kind of guy Fury really is, as well as his own ambitions with the world. While he's not alone in this series, he's very much on his own when it comes to what he wants to accomplish.