UPDATE: As you've no doubt also heard, comiXology has decided to suspend the Marvel promotion for the time being, promising to roll it out later on. Oh, well. Bookmark this page if you like, and when the sale comes around again you can refer back to Doug's picks on where to start in each category. Thanks.
ORIGINAL POST: You've no doubt heard by now about Marvel's giveaway of over 700 #1 issues, free on comiXology until Tuesday (though, with comiXology's server crash, one imagines this deadline is going to be extended).
Pause a moment to cheer for the comiXology folks, who are going through a tough day with considerable aplomb. Their Twitter feed, especially, has been a model of customer service, both funny and reassuring; I have no doubt everyone who wants these comics is going to get them.
Once these books do come online, if you're new to the Marvel universe (like me), our resident Marvel guru Doug Glassman has put together this list of nineteen recommendations from each category of Marvel comics that comiXology is offering for free. That still leaves you over 650 comics to sort through, but maybe this list will help you (and me!) know where to start reading. Take it away, Doug!
• Marvel NOW: Avengers Vol. 5 #1. I’ll be reviewing this in trade form soon enough, but Jonathan Hickman has elevated the Avengers to new heights over the last few months.
• Acclaimed and Noteworthy: Castle: A Calm Before the Storm #1. I know it’s free, but if this can get people to buy more of Peter David’s work and help him get through his medical issues, it’ll be worth promoting it here.
• Avengers: Avengers Vol. 3 #1. The Busiek and Perez Avengers run remains one of the team’s highest points -- possibly the highest until Hickman’s run -- with a great balance of nostalgia and new concepts, plus awesome artwork.
• Avengers Vs. X-Men: A-Babies vs. X-Babies #1. I’ve called this the greatest single issue of 2012, and once again, I stand by that statement.
• Captain America: Captain America Vol. 5 #1. Brubaker and Epting’s run is a modern classic.
• Cosmic Marvel: Thanos: The Final Threat #1. This is the prequel to Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos and Infinity Gauntlet, and short of waiting for an IG Omnibus, this is the best way to get it.
• Deadpool: Deadpool Vol. 2 #1. When people talk about the greatness of Deadpool, they often mean Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness’ brilliant run on the book.
• Fantastic Four: Fantastic Four: 1234 #1 (link to come). I’m only leaving off FF #1 because it’s better read with Hickman’s preceding F4 issues. Grant Morrison and Jae Lee’s foray into Marvel’s First Family is dark and intricate.
• Hulk: Hulk vs. Hercules: When Titans Clash Vol. 1 #1. If you’ve ever been interested in Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s Incredible Hercules, this is a fun way to start on it.
• Iron Man: Iron Man: The Inevitable #1. This is a bit of a precursor to Invincible Iron Man which reinvented a lot of the old, lame Iron Man villains.
• Marvel Events: Secret Invasion: Thor #1. Yes, this is a bit of an odd choice, but it’s a Thor/Beta Ray Bill team-up mini-series. I have to promote it.
• Marvel Heroes: Immortal Iron Fist #1. In retrospect, IIF seems like a dry run for Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, which lost this spot only because I’m reviewing the first trade soon.
• Marvel Zombies: Marvel Zombies Vol. 1 #1. I’m not an MZ fan, but if you’re interested in it, you might as well start at the beginning.
• Punisher: Punisher: War Zone #1. Speaking of characters I’m not a fan of . . . this is only on the list because Greg Rucka wrote it, so it’ll at least be well-written.
• Spider-Man: Venom: Lethal Protector #1. This is more or less a protest vote because Untold Tales of Spider-Man isn’t on comiXology. Plus, it’s the start of the crazy vigilante period of Venom’s life, which is my favorite era.
• Thor: Thor: God-Sized #1. Note: make sure you read Walt Simonson’s Thor before you read this; otherwise the impact will be lost.
• Ultimate Universe: Ultimate X-Men Vol. 1 #1. Out of the “classic" Ultimate titles, this was always the one that I enjoyed most.
• Wolverine: Wolverine Vol. 1 #1. At the end of the day, you just can’t beat the original Claremont and Byrne mini-series, especially since it’s the basis of the new movie.
• X-Men: Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2 #1. Whedon and Cassaday’s AXM is a modern classic.
Doug says that he specifically excluded titles that he's done trade reviews for (save one), since he considers the reviews to be implicit recommendations. Feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments -- after all, the books are free!
(Marvel just gave away 700+ free comics. Paging DC ...)