Comic king turned multiplex overlord Marvel has announced a slew of new big-screen big-hitters recently as part of the rather terrifyingly titled "Phase 3" of its world-cinema takeover. And while the nine-strong film roster gives a host of characters their own standalone adventures, this being Marvel, they're all likely to pop up in each other's when you least expect it.
So, we thought a handy graphic-novel guide was in order. Here are the classic and likely-to-be-influential titles we reckon you should gen-up on rather soonish, be it in print or your tablet's Marvel app. We've filed them under their appropriate upcoming film, so you can stay ahead of Hollywood's merging plot lines – and, of course, your mates' insider knowledge – between now and 2019.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The third Cap flick will formally kick off the Marvel Universe-wide crossover skirmish with a cameo from Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. So it’s a bit of a no-brainer that if you get your hands on Civil War by Mark Millar and Morry Hollowell, you’ll be in fairly good shape.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Marvel’s mystical mage will no doubt owe a lot to Sixties powerhouse artist Steve Ditko, so Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange Vol 1 should offer quite a few pointers (non-collectors may want to wait for the budget reissue next spring). It’s also likely that the filmmakers will turn to writer Roger Stern and artist Marshall Rogers for inspiration, with villain Dormammu expected to make an appearance, so Doctor Strange Vol. 4 (Marvel Essentials) should also get a look in.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Just like its filmic predecessor Thor: The Dark World, the next hammer time we get is likely to take its lead from writer and artist Walt Simonson’s acclaimed run on the God of Thunder from 1983 to 1987. The big baddie is set to be Surtur, a demon from Muspelheim, so you should check out Thor Visionaries: Volume Two, which reprints Simonson’s Surtur epic in full.
Black Panther (2017)
The first black superhero in modern mainstream comics throws up the most interesting dilemma, as African prince T’Challa first appeared in Marvel’s Fantastic Four. But that's now owned by Fox, see, entirely separate from the Marvel Studios deals, so the filmmakers will likely need to reinvent his origin story. We'd pick up Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Vol 6 by the classic team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for a few clues of what they might do, though.
Captain Marvel (2018)
Marvel’s first female superhero, Carol Danvers, is also set to be the studio’s first female protagonist to front her own film (beating Black Widow to the punch). Ms Marvel made her first appearance back in the Sixties and was a regular character in The Avengers throughout the Seventies. With so many reinventions, though, try both Kelly Sue DeConnick's recent take as well as G Willow Wilson's Ms Marvel Volume 1: No Normal for a more modern grounding.
This royal family of powered aliens is closely connected with this summer’s mega-hit Guardians of The Galaxy, with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s gang of freaks being positioned as Marvel’s next big super team. It's highly likely that the film will stick closely to Lee and Kirby’s depiction of the characters in Fantastic Four, but it will probably use Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s masterful reimagining for inspiration, too. So have a read of both Inhumans: The Origin of The Inhumans and 2013's The Inhumans collection.
Avengers Infinity War Parts One (2018) and Two (2019)
Ah, the big one – and what this stream of superhero celluloid is really leading to. So many character arcs they needed a gatefold cover and now two films to contain them. Based on Jim Starlin and Ron Lim’s Nineties epic of the same name, it will give Thanos, last seen looking menacing from afar in Guardians of The Galaxy, a suitably beefier role. Get through this one and you're covered.