Comic book tie-ins are a weird beast. At the right time and with the right creative team, they can provide a fascinating or desperately-needed window into your favorite movies or television shows, bringing to life moments that live-action or animation might not have been able to pull off. That isn't always an easy feat, as a large number of tie-in or licensed comics have been middling or unremarkable. But every so often, a tie-in comic proves to be something delightful and truly stellar, helping elevate the original franchise that it is a part of.
With that in mind, here are eight tie-in comics that we think fall into that category, and that serve as delightful or surprisingly essential extensions of the media that came before it. Your tried-and-true favorite might not necessarily be on this list, but there might be a series on here that you want to explore.
Avengers: Infinity War Prelude
The Marvel Cinematic Universe's tie-in comics have fluctuated wildly in quality, with a lot of them largely qualifying as storyboarded recaps of previous entries in the franchise. There are elements of the two-part Avengers: Infinity War prelude that definitely fall into that category -- but they're balanced out by a lot of pivotal moments and style.
The two one-shots retell some of the events of films like Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Doctor Strange, before spanning some previously-uncovered events, like Captain America, Falcon, and Black Widow's journey as undercover vigilantes, and Red Skull's final moments with the Tesseract. For those who had lingering questions surrounding Infinity War, there was a surprising amount to glean from the narrative -- plus the art from Tigh Walker and Jorge Fornes makes even the most iconic live-action MCU moments feel fresh.prevnext
If you've been in the realm of nerd culture at all over the past twenty years, you've probably seen - or been part of - the fervor surrounding Firefly. After the series' iconic one-season run and the big-screen Serenity film, there was still a lot of ground left to cover -- and the world of comics has not been afraid to pick up the slack. The Firefly comics, which were published by Dark Horse from 2005 to 2017, and BOOM! Studios since 2018, have provided a canonical continuation to the series.
There are a lot of standouts, from the initial "Those Left Behind" arc at the beginning of Dark Horse's run, to the majority of the Greg Pak-written BOOM! run. The Firefly comics are the perfect salve for fans who know the original series and the Serenity movie by heart, but who don't quite want to say goodbye to the characters yet.prevnext
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Similarly to Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been another Whedonverse property that has found a second life in comics. The Buffy comics first found their home at Dark Horse in 1998, with a reboot of the comic debuting courtesy of BOOM! beginning in 2019.
A twenty-plus year run on any licensed comic is a feat in and of itself, but Buffy has consistently found ways to stay inventive, while also reflecting the state of comics in each era. The most recent BOOM! reboot has especially been a standout, imagining the characters firmly in the modern-day, in a way that feels like an AU fanfic in the best possible way.prevnext
While we're on the topic of '90s nostalgia, we have to acknowledge the Clueless comics, which have been published as two graphic novels courtesy of BOOM! Box. Across Clueless: One Last Summer and Clueless: Senior Year, fans got a timeless and incredibly timely extension of the franchise, following Cher and her friends into an array of new stylish adventures.
With a stellar creative team that includes Sarah Kuhn, Amber Benson, and Siobhan Keenan, the series is a joy to look at and a delightful extension to read. It's the kind of self-contained, feminist, practically-perfect extension of the franchise that fans didn't know they needed.prevnext
The John Wick franchise isn't slowing down anytime soon, with two new movies already announced and a TV spinoff in the works. This makes Dynamite's John Wick comic miniseries, which comes courtesy of Greg Pak and Matt Gaudio, all the more welcome of a tie-in. The five-issue prequel series capitalized on the hype of the John Wick fandom while also answering some major questions, and helping chronicle exactly how John Wick became the Baba Yaga.
This self-contained but additive story - combined with the neon-colored visuals of the five-issue run - make the John Wick comic a fun journey to go on, even for the most casual fans of the overall franchise.prevnext
Avatar: The Last Airbender
A whole separate slideshow could be devoted to the comics for Avatar: The Last Airbender, which have been continuing the lore of the beloved Nickelodeon series since 2005. Through a series of standalone issues and graphic novels - which continued with The Legend of Korra spinoff series as well - Dark Horse gave fans a peek inside Team Avatar's world that they didn't know they needed.
While some of the Avatar comics definitely stand out more than others, they all accomplish a rare feat -- capturing the unique visual and narrative energy of the original series while also paving their own ground.prevnext
You really can't go wrong with any comics tied to the Blade Runner franchise -- even the Marvel comics adaptation of the original film in the 1980s has something to glean from it. But in the years following the release of Blade Runner 2049, Titan's Blade Runner comics have hit a zenith, shedding a light on some previously unseen corners of the sci-fi saga's history.
From Blade Runner 2019 and its sequel, Blade Runner 2029, to the upcoming Blade Runner Origins, the tie-in comics have shown some of the connective tissue tied to the Tyrell Corporation and other organizations in the book, and have introduced an awesome and dynamic female character into the franchise in the form of Aahna Ashina.prevnext
Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren0comments
One of the biggest licensed comic franchises over the past few decades has undeniably been Star Wars, with countless new series told both in the Legends canon and in the current canon. While there are so many good entries in the comics to pick, the recent Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren is absolutely a standout. The four-part miniseries, which hails from Charles Soule, Will Sliney, and Guru-eFX, chronicles the origin story of Ben Solo, just as he begins to make his way to the Dark Side.
The end result is both tragic and illuminating, with a take on the overall canon and Easter eggs that only strengthens with each new installment of the franchise. Regardless of however you felt about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there's definitely something here for you.prev