Putting together a rec list made me realize how subjective an experience that can be. Like, I love teenaged superheroes, but maybe you don’t! In which case, having someone tell you for the millionth time to read Runaways is really not too helpful. (You should still read it, though).
Instead, I thought it might be more useful to put together a list of tips and tricks for reading superhero comics in general, and Avengers stuff in particular.
✏ Read the recap page. All the books I can think of have an intro page that catches you up on any story that you have to know to understand the plot. They also tend to have a character or team recap that is more general, so you can get an idea about the overarching themes going on within each book. Read the recap pages! They’re your friend.
Here is the top of a recap page from a recent Avengers Academy issue. The general team stuff is at the top, character breakdowns along the sides, and specific arc plot info in the middle. Everything you need to jump in at any point!
✏ Wikipedia is your best friend. If you don’t understand a reference, I guarantee Wikipedia has a page that can explain it to you!
✏ But don’t get too bogged down in research. I know the millions of years of comics continuity can feel really daunting, but it doesn’t have to! If you can get into a groove balancing Wikipedia research with just going with the flow, you can pick up a lot of references and stay afloat while reading, so to speak. It’s not necessary, or even really possible, to understand every single reference and continuity point ever. You just need enough to understand the story you have in your hands.
The bonus to this approach is that you will eventually amass a large amount of continuity knowledge, and pretty soon you will be an expert!
✏ You don’t have to start at the beginning, but start at a beginning. I frequently pick up new series by going back and starting from issue 1—a tactic that works really well with the Avengers stuff, because the books have rebooted a few times in the past decade. Again, check Wikipedia for the breakdowns and to see where crossovers fall within the ongoing books’ runs. For instance, the Dark Reign crossover ended with a line-wide theme called the Heroic Age, at which point the whole Avengers line rebooted. So Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, and Avengers Academy all began just over 2 years ago, which is not a lot of issues to catch up on.
✏ Understand issue numbering. Some titles get renumbered frequently, while others never do. This can make things really confusing. When titles renumber, they are differentiated by volume as well as by publication year. So New Avengers volume 1 started in 2005: an issue from its run might be called NA vol. 1 #1 OR NA #1 (2005). As always, Wikipedia can help.
Wikipedia usually has this kind of helpful sidebar that breaks down the volumes and their years, for easy reference.
✏ Pick a character and go from there. If you have one specific character you’re interested in, this can be a good way to pick a starting point. Do you love Hawkeye? Try tracking down a variety of things he’s appeared in. This character guide is a great place to find lists of character appearances. Wikipedia is a huge help here as well. Want to know more about Maria Hill? Wikipedia tells me she showed up for the first time in New Avengers vol. 1 #4, so start there and continue on.
✏ Or pick a writer or artist. Alternately, you can always try out one writer or artist you like or think you will like. I love Warren Ellis, so I tried and loved his run on Secret Avengers. I also loved Ed Brubaker’s, but I did not love Rick Remender’s, so I stopped reading when he came onboard. Or you might try Spider-Woman because of Alex Maleev’s art. Pretty soon, you’ll get a feel for who you like and who you don’t, which makes it that much easier to discern what to read and what to avoid.
I guess that’s all for now! Feel free to drop me an ask for further suggestions or straight-up recs.