I know, I know. Vssystem.com generally has a required reading list up before a new set. A...uhh...comprehensive one, though I don't always understand their choices. Still, I've gotta give it to 'em, they've got pretty good taste. But, I figure, a second opinion never hurts, right? So, I'm going to try and go set-by-set to pick out one or two good bits of reading for you, so you can become more familiar with those particular characters.
This first segment will be for the JLA Legendary characters of DC Legends.
I'm going to give you a few options for Aquaman. Three, in fact. First off, we have the recent reboot. It's not the Aquaman you grew up with, true, but it's certainly an interesting story, and it may well be worth giving a shot.
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis: Once and Future
Alternatively, you could start with some really old school examples.
Showcase Presents: Aquaman volume 1
Finally, Peter David is a talented writer, and his take on Aquaman was pretty popular for a long time.
Aquaman: Time and Tide
Barry Allen is old-school popular, and he died one of the most famous deaths in comicdom. He's still got an enormous fanbase, and people are constantly begging for his return. Here's a few adventures central to his mythos.
The Life of the Flash by Iris Allen is a good place to start, as it's basically a 'biography' of Barry Allen, written by his wife Iris after his death.
The Life of the Flash by Iris Allen
Just like Aquaman, the Flash has his own Showcase collection.
Showcase Presents: The Flash volume 1
Finally, the moment that rocketed Barry into legend.... It's dense reading, but if you want to see how Barry Allen died, this is where you go.
Crisis on Infinite Earths
You all know who he is. Batman is one of the most famous superheroes of all time, and his story has been told over and over again. Here are a few places you might like to begin.
Widely considered to be among the best tellings of Batman's Origin, this is the story of one of Batman's first adventures.
Batman: Year One
That was Batman at his peak. If you want to see him gone way off the deep-end in the story that turned the Dark Knight into what he is today...
The Dark Knight Returns
Jeph Loeb is a controversial figure for some comic fans. Some of his work is despised. Most people, however, fully admit that his Batman stories with artist Tim Sale are some of the best around. For another early Batman adventure...
Batman: Long Halloween
Hal Jordan is a pilot famous for his lack of fear. He's also famous as a member of the Green Lantern Corps, and one of DC's enduring Silver Age fan-favorites.
With all the reboots going around, how can someone know where to look for a good origin? Well, it's tough, but a friend pointed me towards this collection for a modern retelling of Hal Jordan's origin.
Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn
Most comic fans know, Hal went a little off the deep end for awhile. In another famous story, here we see a hero driven to the edge, and pushed over, and what just a little bit of willpower can do in the wrong hands.
Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight & A New Dawn
Of course, nothing is forever in the world of comics. Hal was both unkilled and un-evilled, and the only shock there is that the story is actually supposed to be very good.
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Martian Manhunter is a funny character. Never quite popular enough to hold his own title for long, he is nonetheless widely considered to be the single most crucial character in the dynamics of the Justice League. Here are a few places to look for him, though to be entirely frank, Grant Morrison's JLA is probably the best for him.
Another Showcase, for his older adventures.
Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter volume 1
Martian Manhunter was one of many characters who, in recent years, has taken on a brand new direction.
Martian Manhunter: Others Among Us
Another of comics' most popular and enduring icons, the Man of Steel has an enormous tally of stories to his name. Here are a few.
Superman has a ton of origin stories. Seems like his origin gets retold every 5-10 years. This is the most recent retelling, so it's the one they'll be going with for the next few years.
Remember what I said about Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale? Well, they also did some work on Superman on this popular book.
Superman for All Seasons
Finally, if you just want an awesome, absolutely epic set of Superman stories, this is a must read. One of two Superman stories that even people who dislike Superman (like myself) love.
Finally, and I'm only doing this because I think this is a book you'll like, Superman gets a 4th book. It isn't in continuity, and it isn't the Superman you recognize, but it's a wonderfully good comic.
Superman: Secret Identity
The last of the JLA Legends on one of DC's Trinity, Wonder Woman is perhaps the most important female character in comic book history. Not necessarily the best, though - she's had something of a spotted run, with some highs and some extreme lows. Here are a few good places to start with her.
This is from the Perez-reboot, a fan-favorite take on the Wonder Woman character.
Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals
This is the beginning of Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman, which managed to consistently be one of the best titles DC was putting out for awhile. Rucka goes to great lengths to get into her character.
Wonder Woman: Down to Earth
Finally, Gail Simone has just recently begun writing Wonder Woman. She's the first female ongoing Wonder Woman writer, and her first arc just concluded. Here's DC's Wonder Woman solicits.
Okay, there's plenty of stuff there to help you get familiar with these iconic characters. I haven't read everything on this list yet, but I'm scouring libraries trying to find the ones I don't already own. Coming soon, I'll work on some of the bad guys of the set. Hope you enjoyed!