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8 Classic Superhero Comic Arcs to Finally Catch Up On

There’s never been a better time to delve into some of the classic superhero books that you’ve missed. No judgment here, there’s so much to read and so little time. But many of us have just found ourselves with a whole bunch of time on our hands, so what better way to fill it than to catch up on some famed arcs of Big Two comics that you’ve not had the chance to read yet!

Batman holds a dead Robin on A Death in the Family cover

DC Comics

A Death in the Family

Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, John Costanza, and Adrienne Roy

Surely you’ve heard about the DC Comics call-in poll where fans were allowed to decide whether Batman’s sidekick Robin would live or die. The true story became comic book legend when readers voted for Jason Todd to perish at the hands of the Joker.

That shocking moment takes place during the arc known as A Death in the Family, which also explores the actions that led to this horrific moment, and its ramifications for the man behind the cowl. Starlin and Aparo brought a brutality to Batman that had rarely been seen in the pages of mainstream Big Two superhero comics, and the series’ impact is still felt today.

Dark Phoenix crushes the X-Men logo on a comic book cover

Marvel Comics

The (Dark) Phoenix Saga

Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Tom Orzechowski, and Glynis Oliver

You may have seen this story told (badly) in two X-Men movies, or in the classic 1992 cartoon. But if you haven’t read the comics that started it all, then you haven’t truly experienced The (Dark) Phoenix Saga.

It all begins when the X-Men venture into space and Jean Grey comes into contact with a powerful and dangerous solar flare. Jean soon becomes all-powerful, taking on the name Phoenix. But as we all know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Heartbreaking, powerful, and one of the most referenced and homaged comic stories of all time, The (Dark) Phoenix Saga is a must read for fans of comics, pop culture, and superheroes as a whole.

A gigantic Galactus raches for the Fantastic Four, who run away

Marvel Comics

The Coming of Galactus/The Galactus Trilogy

Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Joe Sinnott, Art Simek, and Sam Rosen

Want to get an idea of where the MCU might be headed next whilst also reading one of the greatest three-issue arcs of all time? Then make sure you pick up this astonishing Silver Age story that introduced the world and the Fantastic Four to Galactus and the Silver Surfer. The series was pitched as “Marvel’s first family fights God,” and this is what the marvelous mind of Jack Kirby came up with from there.

The Fantastic Four face off with the monstrous planet-eater and his tortured herald when they come to wreak havoc on the Earth. It’s a cosmic catalyst for a whole new era of the Marvel Universe. Plus, it features some of Kirby’s trademark stunning and experimental collage work.

Wolverine and the X-Men stand at the edge of a cliff on the House of M cover.

Marvel Comics, cover by Esad Ribic

House of M

Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel, Tim Townsend, Frank D’Armata, and Chris Eliopoulos

This gorgeous, controversial, and ultimately satisfying event could come into play in the future of Marvel on screen as it centers around none other than Scarlet Witch. After the events of Avengers: Disassembled, compounding factors in the tragic life of Wanda Maximoff have led to an abuse of her massive hex powers.

It’s hard to talk about the meat of this story without spoiling its secrets, but it’s a heartbreaking reimagining of the Marvel Universe that features all of your favorite characters in ways that you’ve likely never seen them. It’s also a great primer on the relationship between Magneto and his children, Wanda and Pietro; now that Disney owns Fox, this could likely be an easy entry point for the major X-Men character.

Typhoid Mary holds Daredevil's head underwater.

Marvel Comics

Daredevil: Typhoid Mary

Annie Nocenti, John Romita Jr., Al Williamson, Joe Rosen, and Max Scheele

One of the most underrated yet groundbreaking Daredevil runs of all time, Typhoid Mary is a dark, grim, and spectacular story that pits Matt Murdock against one of comics’ most interesting antiheroes. This ’80s arc centers on Daredevil once again falling in love with a dangerous woman who turns out to be far more powerful than he is.

Mary is a sex worker with multiple personalities, each of which manifests with different powers. She’s a radical representation of a totally different kind of womanhood, and in this original introduction she’s written in a nuanced, thoughtful way by Nocenti. Romita Jr. is at his wild and reckless best here with art that jumps off the page with energy and, often, brutality.

A collage of DC Comics heroes in peril on the Crisis on Infinite Earths cover

DC Comics, Cover by Alex Ross

Crisis on Infinite Earths

Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo, and Anthony Tollin

Arguably the defining comics event of the ’80s, Crisis on Infinite Earths started a trend for streamlining the sprawling universes that they created via huge cross company arcs. Pérez and Wolfman are the architects here as they showcase the creative collaboration that launched a thousand comics.

The 12-issue series saw a terrifying new foe appear in the shape of the Anti-Monitor who wanted nothing more than to erase all of existence. It was an inventive way to editorially eradicate seemingly unnecessarily alt-universes, worlds, and characters, whilst pushing forward the stories of their most famous heroes.

Hellboy wields a gun over a statue on the Seeds of Destruction cover

Dark Horse Comics

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction

Mike Mignola, John Byrne, Mark Chiarello, and Matt Hollingsworth

He might not be a superhero in the classical sense, but he’s certainly one of our favorite Nazi-bashing good guys. Hellboy’s reign as one of comics’ biggest stars began in this 1994 series, which introduced readers to the unleashed creative mind of Mike Mignola and his most famous monster. You’ll get to meet all of the most recognizable Hellboy faces here as you learn all about Big Red’s birth and his first foray into being a hero under the banner of the BPRD.

Thanos wields the Infinity gauntlet with each stone in tact.

Marvel Comics

The Infinity Gauntlet

Jim Starlin, George Pérez, Ron Lim, Josef Rubinstein, Jack Morelli, Christie Scheele, and Ian Laughlin

Thanos takes center stage in this legendary six-issue miniseries at the core of this sprawling line-wide Marvel Comics crossover from 1991. It begins with the Mad Titan achieving his objective to kill half of the universe—doesn’t that sound familiar?—only to find himself opposed by the Avengers, X-Men, and more of Earth’s mightiest heroes.

What might surprise fans is the outcome of this cosmic comic, which strays from the story you think you know. Renowned Avengers artist George Pérez begins this terrific tale before handing the reins over to the radical Ron Lim for the second half.

Feature Image: DC Comics/Marvel Comics/Dark Horse Comics