Archive for January, 2011

Worst Comics Publisher Of 2010

Posted in 2010 in review, comic books, rant, the complete opposite of brilliance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by vagabondsaint

So here I am, ready to announce my pick for 2010’s Worst Comics Publisher.

But first, the runner-up!

Runner-Up:  DC Comics

Oh, DC.  You had an excellent year coming and completely blew it to Hell.

The biweekly, six-issue miniseries Batman: The Return Of Bruce Wayne, heralding the time-travel adventures of Batman as he struggled back from the past (more on that in another column) was poised to be a huge hit.  It had a superstar writer in Grant Morrison, the return of a character everybody and their weird uncles loves, and a rotating team of fantastic artists.  How could you possibly blow that?

Oh yeah – it was plagued with delays so badly that a series that should have been out and done in three months instead took seven.  Even for that talent and character, people lost interest.  The delays threw it out of sync with companion books like Batman and Robin, and the release of the completely inconsequential Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shots before the final issue of ROBR just confused whoever was still paying attention.  And then, just to make it worse, you released the Time Masters: Vanishing Point miniseries, about the adventures of Rip Hunter, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and Superman as they searched the timestream for Batman. . .and it too was plagued with delays, which is death for a title that already starred characters no one really cared about.

That would be enough to make a bad year, but oh wait, there is more.

J. Michael Straczynski‘s run on Superman got people talking. . .for all the wrong reasons. It was arrogant, preachy, and heavy-handed to the point that the interludes, necessitated by health issues and Straczynski’s writing the much-better-received Superman: Earth One graphic novel, were liked much better.  While we’re talking about JMS, his changes to Wonder Woman’s costume went over like roadkill for dinner.  Don Kramer’s art couldn’t even save it.  Here’s hoping the next writer either changes it back or gives us a damn good reason for the change.

Other DC blunders?  Delays on The Flash (how does the Fastest Man Alive star in the Slowest Book On The Stands?), James Robinson turning the JLA into Teen Titans: The Grown-Up Years, replacing the all-ages Batman team-up series Batman: The Brave and the Bold with an all-new all-ages Batman team-up series called Batman: The Brave and the Bold (read that line again if you wish; I promise it won’t make any more sense the second time), letting Mark Guggenheim write JSA, and the Jonah Hex movie (which is nearly completely identical to Will Smith’s Wild Wild West movie.  Seriously.  The villains even plot to kill the same President, which makes me wonder what Garfield was up to that so many screenwriters want him dead).  The final nail in the coffin was their 100-page specials, which are just reprints of older comics.  Good for background info on some characters, but useless otherwise and, at $8 each, aren’t selling.  Just stop with the damn specials already, DC.

On the plus side, though, Paul Cornell is doing an excellent run on Action Comics right now.  And Grant Morrison’s Batman work has blown me away.

But, the saving grace for DC?

They listened to the fans.

When faced with rising costs, Marvel and DC both started hiking up prices from $2.99 to $3.99 per issue.  As long it was just a few series and miniseries, it wasn’t so bad.  But in the midst of a recession, fans took notice and starting dropping books.  When the unusually-large price increase started expanding to more regular series and virtually all miniseries in July, fans showed their displeasure by not buying comics.  In fact, industry-wide, there was a stunning 17% across-the-board sales drop in the month of August.  DC responded quickly, and favourably, by issuing a statement that they would drop prices back down to $2.99 in the new year, though, due to rising costs of their own, this would also mean dropping 2 pages per issue.  Hell, at least they listened and responded in a way that showed they understood the situation. (Marvel issued a similar “me too” statement 30 minutes later, but more on that in a minute.)

Despite all the errors and missteps, that single show of understanding kept DC from being the worst publisher of 2010.  No, that honour went to. . .

2010’s Worst Publisher of the Year: Marvel Comics

Oh, it was Marvel’s year, all right. . .Marvel’s year to suck.

Let’s start with over-saturation.  To help build the hype of an upcoming Deadpool movie, Marvel had Deadpool starring in four separate ongoing series this year (five, if you count Deadpool MAX) and at least 2 miniseries a month, plus guest appearances galore.  He appeared more than Spider-Man and Bruce Wayne, although he still came up short for the title of Most Overused Character (that title still belongs to Wolverine).  The once-beloved Merc With A Mouth became the Merc With Too Damn Many Books, and even the most hardcore fans were not willing to spend $20 a month on one non-bat-inspired character.  Sales plummeted, Deadpool lost popularity, and Ryan Reynolds, who was slated to star in the movie, instead signed a contract with DC to do more Green Lantern movies.  As of this writing, 2 of these books have been cancelled, which would have been great news approximately 20,000 dead trees ago, but now it’s too little, too late.

Speaking of cancellations, there were plenty of those, too. . .just on the wrong titles.  The well-liked series Atlas was cancelled for low sales after only five issues; the same for Thor: The Mighty Avenger.  Both books might have stood a chance had it not been for a sudden glut of comics titles on the shelf – a glut largely put there by. . .wait for it. . .Marvel Comics.

One can accept that when a company does a crossover, there are going to be extraneous tie-ins and such.  Marvel took this waaaaaaaaay too far in 2010.  It would have been acceptable if there had been a company-wide crossover, but, in addition to that crossover (Siege, which was terrible), there were also line-specific crossovers, like X-Men: Second Coming (which was actually good), X-Men: Curse of the Mutants (vampires are overdone, kids, let it go already), Shadowland (about Daredevil becoming master of the Hand ninja clan and taking over NYC; also, it sucked), and all of the 4 new Avengers-themed books, released to replace the previous 4 Avengers books that ended with Siege.  Each crossover had its own spin-offs and miniseries, very very few of which were readable and very few of which had any effect on the crossover story or the characters in them.  In addition to all that, of course, Marvel was also releasing the “Women of Marvel” one-shots, a new Strange Tales miniseries (which was worth reading), a slew of miniseries starring minor or new characters, and other useless pablum.

In short, in a time of belt-tightening and stretched dollars, Marvel Comics threw books at you like they’d forgotten that comics are a luxury item.

And Marvel appeared to recognize this mistake when they announced, 30 minutes after DC’s price-drop announcement, that they too would be dropping prices for 2011.

But, see, what they meant to say, and clarified in a later press release, was that they wouldn’t be putting out any new ongoing titles for $3.99.  They wouldn’t be dropping prices so much as they would be keeping them stable.  Same difference, right?  Well, not really, but okay. . .fair enough. . .oh, except that miniseries and specials are exempt from that rule, so those will be priced at $3.99.  And there will be a metric shitload more of them.  Hell, right now, Captain America, who’s barely interesting enough for one book, has two miniseries going. Thor, whose second ongoing was cancelled, has at least three going.  Spider-Man just ended one and I think has more on the way, in addition to the miniseries starring his nemesis Norman Osborn.  Basically, Marvel’s made it clear that there will be fewer ongoing series and more specials and miniseries coming your way in 2011 – an end-run around looking like they give a fuck about the stressed wallets of the fans.

 

A special message to you, the fans, from Marvel Comics.

Marvel, too, was plagued with delays this year; the final issue of Siege came out after series and specials that chronicled events that happened in that final issue.  Of course, said events were nearly immediately forgotten about, but whatever.  It’s not like Siege was worth remembering.

On top of all that, Iron Man and Reed Richards still have not been arrested and tried for the negligent homicide of Black Goliath.  This still pisses me off.

Oh, and Siege.

And Shadowland, which made me quit reading Daredevil.

Plus, The Sentry: Fallen Sun.

And the X-Men fighting vampires at the same time as the Ultimate Avengers.

And Marc Guggenheim writing, well, anything.

So there you have it, folks:  Marvel Comics, the Worst Comics Publisher of 2010.  Take a bow, Marvel!

 

Or, you know, don't. Just keep giving us the finger. Jerk.

VS – 1.9.10

Advertisements

Worst Comics of 2010

Posted in 2010 in review, comic books, the complete opposite of brilliance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by vagabondsaint

So once again, because I am horribly lazy, I’m taking ComicsAlliance’s list of the worst comics of 2010 and added my comments on them.  Luckily, I read most of them this year, so I can comment on them.

5.  VAGINAPOCALYPSE TIE — Titans: Villains for Hire and Nemesis #3

I read Titans: VfH and hated it.  The needless death of Ryan Choi, who was breathing new life into the tired costume of The Atom, really pissed me off.  Worse than that, though, was the death-by-burning-vagina of a child molester.  I’m thinking he had it coming, but still, a character who burns people to death with her vagina?  Come on DC, I know it’s a comic book, but really?  I would love to have been at that meeting.

WRITER: Okay, I got it, it’ll make the book dark and edgy for not for kids.

EDITOR: Hang on, I gotta finish this bottle of Mad Dog first.  Alright, Whatcha got?

WRITER: It’s a woman named Cinder, who has flame powers, but get this: she burns a guy to death with her vagina.

EDITOR:  Love it!

WRITER:  Really?

EDITOR:  I meant the Mad Dog, but your idea is good too, all three of you.

This is the only way I can imagine this idea being approved.

Having given up on Mark Millar some time ago, I didn’t read Nemesis.  That choice has now been validated.

4. JLA: Cry for Justice

This JLA-spinoff miniseries was just terrible.  James Robinson had a stellar run on Starman (ha!), but following it with this dreck made me wonder about his sanity. This did not bode well for his JLA run either, which goes down in history as the first book to make me miss Dwayne McDuffie’s writing.  At least the art was good.

The theory behind this team splitting off to become more pro-active, more aggressive, and chasing down the villains before they become threats, is fresh and new. . .for 1990.  Since then, there’s been Force Works, Fantastic Force, hell, even Justice League Task Force, and numerous other eminently forgettable books.  It’s been done before, it’s been done terribly before.  Cry For Justice made me cry for a better writer.  Even the “shock ending” of Green Arrow killing the villain (Prometheus, who had blown up most of GA’s hometown, blew off his adopted son’s arm, and killed his granddaughter) has been done before, in Mike Grell’s much-better Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.

The art was good and was the best reason to buy the book.  Other than that, there’s nothing to see here people, please move along.

3. The Sentry: Fallen Sun

I’m just going to say this right now:  the Siege crossover was, by and large, completely f’in terrible.  I hated it.  It didn’t live up to the hype, didn’t even come close, and didn’t resolve all the issues it promised to resolve.  Some of the 83 bajillion spin-offs were good, but not many.

The “shocking spectacle” in issue #1 of thousands of people being killed during a battle between an Asgardian God and super-villains was exposed for a cheap plot device pretty quickly, as once it’s established as the flimsy excuse that Norman Osborn gives to invade Asgard, it’s never referenced again. A huge tragedy is forgotten about so fast that it seems like it never really happened.  In fact, just about all of this series is inconsequential.  The two major changes to the status quo, Norman Osborn’s fall from post-Secret Invasion grace and the death of the Sentry, actually do have some consequences, kind of.

One of those consequences, sadly, was the publication of The Sentry: Fallen Sun.

The Sentry, for those unfamiliar with the character, was created in 2000, following a marketing ploy that labelled the character as a “forgotten” Stan Lee character from the 1960s.  He was basically an overpowered Superman knock-off with crippling mental issues and an evil alternate personality, which explained why he wasn’t just wiping out villains left and right.

Anyway, this complete throwaway character finally died in the “shocking” anti-climax of Siege.  In its aftermath followed this memorial issue, Fallen Sun, which was actually worse than Siege.  The retconning of the Sentry into Marvel history was terribly, as everyone shared poignant moments that never happened.  And he was somehow immune to Rogue’s powers, so she slept with him?  What the fuck, Marvel?  Shouldn’t that have come up a little sooner than a throwaway scene in a throwaway comic about a throwaway character?

To sum it up, this book made me wish I was reading Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose instead.  At least that book is hilarious in its terrible-ness; The Sentry: Fallen Sun is a memorial book that’s sad for all the wrong reasons.

2. Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal

JLA: Cry For Justice was the gift that kept on giving.  Like herpes.  The infection of CFJ gave us the blisters that were Rise of Arsenal.  It’s an attempt to make a B-level character more prominent, and it succeeds. . .just not the way that the editors intended.

Remember when I said the Green Arrow’s adopted son and sidekick Roy Harper got his arm blasted off in CFJ?  This is his adventures dealing with the loss of his natural arm and the gaining of a new prosthetic one, as arms are rather important to someone whose entire gimmick is shooting arrows at people.  To make things even worse, it was Roy’s daughter that Prometheus killed in CFJ, so he’s dealing with that too.

How does he deal?

By returning to the heroin habit that made him and Green Arrow relevant back in the 70s, trying to have sex with the same villainess that was the mother of his daughter and failing because he’s impotent, and hallucinating that a dead cat is his daughter and beating up a bunch of homeless guys that he thought were threatening it, and finally getting his ass kicked by his former teammate Dick Grayson, who used to be Robin but is now a friend-ass-kicking Batman.

You know, there’s a lot of potential for a deeply moving, serious story in the scenario I just described.  Said potential is left completely ignored, however, in favour of shock value, horrible dialogue, and cheap dramatic tricks.  Make no mistake, this is four issues of hilariously awful comics that could have been great, thought-provoking comics.

But hey, it’s like I always said:  if you can’t laugh at an impotent junkie beating up homeless people, then what can you laugh at?

1. Superman: Grounded

Oh, Straczynski.  I had such high hopes for you on Superman.  Superman takes a walking tour of America to get back in touch with the country?  Soooooooooooo much potential in that!

And you blew it.

Instead of learning, Superman seems to be trying to teach.  He spouts overly-worded monologues on simple moral points, he flies people into the stratosphere for asking simple questions, the bad guys he does deign to fight are overly ethnic. . .was this written by Republicans?

The one part of this I really liked is the last Straczynski issue, in which he states that one doesn’t have to be a superhero to stop child abuse, one only needs “a pair of eyes, a voice, a phone. . .and ten cents worth of compassion.”  While I agree with the anti-child abuse sentiment and that any normal person can and should act to prevent it, Superman’s description means that people with only one eye, mutes, and those too poor to afford phones are completely useless in the fight against child abuse, which is not the case at all.  Way to discount the handicapped and the poor, Superjerk.

The issue after that was one that I really liked, and I thought that maybe the series was finally picking up. . .until I checked the cover and saw that it was written by G. Willow Wilson, who creator-owned book Air bored me to tears, but she did a good job with Superman’s supporting cast.

Anyway, Straczynski’s off the book now, so here’s hoping it picks up in 2011.

Next up: eh, I haven’t really decided yet.

VS – 1.7.10

Best Comics-Related News Story Of 2010

Posted in 2010 in review, brilliance, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by vagabondsaint

The year of 2010 was filled with superhero-related new stories, as more movies, events, and merchandise based on comic books made their way to Hollywood and retail stores.

But the best story, to me, was about a character that had not, until December, appeared in a single comic book.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but in case you haven’t, here’s their deal:  they grant “wishes” for children with life-threatening medical conditions.  These wishes run the gamut from going to the US Open to being a pyrotechnician for Disneyland.  (My personal favourite was the wish for a pirate-ship playhouse; hell, I want one of those.)

Enter 13-year-old Erik Martin of Seattle.  Erik is living with cancer and had one wish:  he wanted to be a superhero.  One Thursday in April 2010, he got his wish.

The day began with a phone call from Spider-Man, who told Erik that the Seattle Sounders (our local soccer team) had been trapped in a locker room by the villainous team of “Dr. Dark” and “Blackout Boy.”  Erik was needed to defeat them in his alter ego of “Electron Boy.”  Taking up his provided costume and lightning rod, Erik was taken by his sidekick Moonshine Maid (who has an entirely different set of powers, several of them inappropriate for children, in the South) to Qwest Field (in a DeLorean, no less), where the Sounders were trapped in a locker room.  After freeing them with the aid of Lightning Lad (whom I hope was not forced to evade lawyers from DC Comics), Electron Boy posed for pictures and received an autographed ball and jerseys.

Good day, right?  And a good story?  Of course it is.  But it’s not even half over yet.

The Jumbotron sparked to life and showed the villains, cackling and taunting Electron Boy with pictures of a utility worker that they’d trapped in the top of his bucket truck.  Again, it was Electron Boy to the rescue, as he, with a 25-vehicle police escort, traveled to Bellevue to rescue the worker.  That job done, there was only one thing left to do: capture Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy!

After getting a tip that the villains were in the Space Needle and had trapped people on the observation deck, Electron boy and his team raced back to Seattle to free the trapped people and have a final showdown with Dr. Dark!

In the end, the villains defeated and Electron Boy stood triumphant, posing for pictures with the vanquished villains.  Electron Boy was presented with a key to the city and had the date of his adventures declared “Electron Boy Day” by the Seattle City Council. Said Erik, “This is the best day of my life.

Before you think, “Well, that was easy; you just get some people to dress up in costume and there you go,” well, you’re wrong.  This took hundreds of volunteers, some of them semi-famous (the Sounders themselves, and Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy were played by two of the stars of The Discovery Channel’s hit Deadliest Catch). The 25-vehicle police escort required off-duty officers to give their time and close I-90 and I-405 for brief periods.  It was a massive effort from local actors, police, politicians, and athletes to give one little boy his greatest wish.

And it was totally worth it.  If you read that story without at least getting a lump in your throat, you have no soul.

But it’s not over yet.

In December, Capstone Comics published a comic book of Erik’s adventures defending Seattle, with all proceeds going to Erik’s family.  As everybody knows, you haven’t made it as a superhero until you have your own comic book, and now Electron Boy has been immortalized in print.

There was definitely bigger news in comics, but nothing so heartwarming, touching, and providing such a positive statement on humanity in general and Seattle in particular as this story.  It should be obvious as to why this was my choice for Best Comics-Related News Story of 2010.

2011’s winner will probably be about the team of real-life superheroes running around the Seattle area, but the year is young, so who knows what will happen.

VS – 1.7.10

2010 In Review Month Begins!

Posted in 2010 in review, comic books with tags , , , , on January 2, 2011 by vagabondsaint

Now that 2010 is over (and not a moment too soon; jeesh, what a rough year) and we’ve escaped it mostly intact (I’ll miss you, left pinky toe – you were my favourite pinky toe!), it’s time to take a look back, scratch our heads, say “that was great,” or “that sucked” or “WTF was that?”.

So, all this week I’ll be doing articles about the best and worst of 2010!

See you soon, with the first article, “The Best Comics-Related News Story of 2010”!

VS -1.2.10