So here it is.
The list is meant to be an at-a-glance thing, not an in depth exploration of each series' strengths. It covers everything I've consistently rated four stars (my "I loved this" rating) or higher over the last nine months, plus a handful of 3.5-star things that tie into four star material.
Marvel reuses their series titles on a fairly regular basis, so I've also indicated which year the first issue appeared; however, I've mostly left off the creative teams as these often change throughout a comic's run.
Each of these comics has at least one complete arc on Marvel Unlimited. Since I know many of you use Scribd1 instead, I've updated the list to indicate which titles are available on there.
Okay. Here we go, in alphabetical order (with a few cheats to keep related series together):
ALL-NEW X-MEN (2012) is my favourite. It's packed with time travel shenanigans and moral conundrums and people getting really, really excited about stuff. I basically just want to squee about it all day. Like so.
ASTONISHING X-MEN (2004) didn't wow me when I first read it in 2008, but I loved the first two arcs the second time through. It's Joss Whedon's X-debut and is far more successful than his work on RUNAWAYS.
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (2012) is a lot of fun. The later arcs are by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and she does some great stuff with the characters. I especially enjoyed her Spider-Girl.
BLACK WIDOW (2010) is an excellent sample of what Marjorie Liu can do, if you want to ease into her oeuvre with a familiar character.
CAPTAIN MARVEL (2012) is a must-read. It's Kelly Sue DeConnick's first outing with Carol Danvers, who has become perhaps her most recognizable character. The 2014 series is a direct sequel, and it's even better than this opening act.
CIVIL WAR (2006) is worth reading in its entirety, though of course some parts are better than others. The event demands that you read by issue across multiple series and miniseries, but fear not! Marvel Unlimited comes complete with a guide, which you can also find in the app under the "Discover" tab. FRONT LINE is my favourite part of the event, while I also enjoyed the Spider-Man stuff very much. Some of the associated miniseries are available on Scribd, but the core CIVIL WAR title isn't.
You definitely want to read CAPTAIN MARVEL (2007) afterwards, too. It's a Civil War sequel and a Secret Invasion prequel, and it's awesome. Be aware it's about Mar-Vell, not Carol Danvers.
DEADPOOL (2008) ranges from painfully awesome to painfully embarrassing. Thankfully, it's good more often than it's dodgy.
The first arc of GAMBIT (2004) is really enjoyable (and on Scribd). The second is extremely dodgy.
As a point of interest, GAMBIT (1993) was the miniseries that first got me into superheroes in general and the X-Men in specific. I haven't reread it in ages, but I loved it back in the day.
HAWKEYE (2012) is my favouritest of favourites. It's also the only Marvel comic I've gone back and reread since I started this journey through their catalogue, and the only one I've purchased for my permanent collection (so far; I'm waiting for a few others to go on sale on comiXology). Clint is awesome and Kate is my very favourite comic book character of all time.
INFINITY (2013) loses some of its oomph near the end but is ultimately worthwhile. It, like CIVIL WAR, requires some back-and-forth reading between a few different series and comes complete with a reading guide on Marvel Unlimited. Many of these crossovers are confusing as all hell if you aren't reading the core series alongside them.
INHUMANS (1998) is mostly excellent. It also serves as a great introduction to the Inhumans, who are another of my favourite parts of the Marvel Universe. I got back into AGENTS OF SHIELD specifically because I'd heard the Inhumans were involved, though I haven't seen the super-duper Inhuman bits yet because I'm still waiting for S2 to wrap, come out on DVD, and make it into my library's collection.
LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD (2014) is super fun. It's sort of a sequel to Gillen & McKelvie's YOUNG AVENGERS, but it also stands well alone. I can't wait for another arc to hit Marvel Unlimited.
MS MARVEL (2014) is a must-read, of course. It's culturally relevant and fun.
MYSTIC (2011) is a fabulous secondary world fantasy comic written by G. Willow Wilson.
NEW AVENGERS (2011) is very strange and very good. All of Jonathan Hickman's Avengers-related stuff is worth checking out, really. I don't always love his work, but he does some interesting things across his vision of the team, and it looks set to explode in a huge way over the course of Secret Wars. NEW AVENGERS seems like the starting point for that event.
NOVA (2007) intersects with GOTG and features one of my favourite Marvel characters. I get ridiculously emotional about Richard Rider. Y'all don't even know.
NOVA (2013) is also a lot of fun, though it features a much younger protagonist and so has a different tone than the earlier series. It also spends a lot more time on Earth since Sam, the new Nova, is a fifteen-year-old kid whose mom insists he still attend school.
REALM OF KINGS (2009) is a Marvel Cosmic crossover event with strong ties to GOTG (2008), NOVA (2007), and the Inhumans. Like most crossovers, it's a tad uneven, but the good parts are very good.
The first RUNAWAYS series (2003) didn't draw me in the way I'd hoped it would, but the second (2005) gets seriously good by the end of Brian K. Vaughan's run. Joss Whedon's contribution is dodgy, and the stuff in the final series gets poor reviews overall. I didn't mind it too much, but the ending is super unsatisfying. It'll be interesting to see what Noelle Stevenson does with the characters when she takes them over during Secret Wars. The whole series is on Scribd.
SILENT WAR (2007) is an Inhumans miniseries that also ties in with CIVIL WAR and HOUSE OF M (which I haven't yet read). You probably want to come to it after you've got a few other Inhumans titles under your belt, including SON OF M (which I didn't love, largely because I hate Quicksilver). It's on Scribd.
SHE-HULK (2014) starts wicked strong. It's far more concerned with Jennifer Walters's activities as a lawyer specializing in superhuman cases than it is with her powers.
STRANGE (2004) is an excellent introduction to Doctor Strange. It's basically his origin story, with a hefty emphasis on magic over superheroics.
THE THANOS IMPERATIVE (2010) serves as a capstone to both NOVA (2007) and GOTG (2008). It messed me up big time. It also leaves the reader with a whole ton of questions that have only just been answered in the latest issues of GOTG (2013) to hit Marvel Unlimited, since Marvel commits to the long game. It's on Scribd, though alas the GOTG and NOVA stuff that leads up to it isn't.
UNCANNY X-MEN (2013) often intersects with ALL-NEW X-MEN and is very nearly as fun, though it's a bit wobbly when it come to the Big Reveals.
WAR OF KINGS is another Marvel Cosmic crossover with its highs and lows. The core series is on Scribd, though they're missing the ongoing titles that intersect with it.
X-23 (2010) is another great title by Marjorie Liu. There's a lot of implied backstory, but it's easy enough to pick it up as you go along. I also really enjoyed the two earlier miniseries about the character. Scribd has both these mini series and the first volume of Liu's run.
YOUNG AVENGERS (2005) is a strong introduction to the superhero team. I recommend it left, right, and centre.
YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS (2008) serves as a Civil War capstone. Each issue follows a different member of the team, and it's excellent.
AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE (2011) is my very favourite Young Avengers storyline. It probably packs the biggest punch if you've followed the team through their earlier adventures.
YOUNG AVENGERS (2013) is another favourite. The first arc didn't hook me on a story level (though the art is fabulous; pay particular attention to McKelvie's panelling), but the second more than made up for it. Mind = blown.
There! I think that covers all the series I loved, though of course there are also plenty I really liked. I keep track of my Marvel Unlimited reading via LibraryThing, and I'd recommend anything with a 3.5-star rating or higher.
- If you don't yet use Scribd, they offer a two-month free trial if you sign up through a member. It's $8.99USD/month after your trial ends; $1 cheaper than Marvel Unlimited. Their comics archive includes a lot of older stuff from Marvel, plus a wide array of titles from other comics publishers. Many of these publishers add their books to Scribd within a month or two of publication, as opposed to Marvel Unlimited's six-month delay. For example, LUMBERJANES #1-10 and the first issue of ORPHAN BLACK are already on there.