Archive for countdown

The Worst Comics Of The Last Decade(?)

Posted in comic books, the complete opposite of brilliance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2009 by vagabondsaint

My new favourite website Comics Alliance has posted their list of the 15 worst comics of the past decade.  Me being who I am (a lazy writer), I thought I would weigh in on their choices and give my own opinions of the books they selected.  You might find it helpful to click that link, read their take, and then read mine, because they go into more detail on the comics and I’m too lazy to recap all that.

15.  Marville (2002)

I am a completist; if I start a miniseries, and can tolerably accept the first issue, I’ll give it a fair shot to get better or draw me in further.  After all, Marville was only a six-issue miniseries, so why not give it a chance?

I dropped it after the second issue.

That’s really all I need to say about it.

14.  Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001 – 2002)

I love The Dark Knight Returns.  It stands as one of my absolute favourite graphic novels ever.  It gets even better if one forgets this craptastic sequel ever existed.

Dark Knight Strikes Again is proof that Frank Miller, who wrote The Dark Knight Returns (among other landmark works such as Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again) no longer gives a fuck.  The art was terrible, the dialogue was sub-sub-sub-par, the action was just plain ick, the plot was thinner than the paper it was printed on, I didn’t link to it just to spare you from knowing more about it than you absolutely have to. . .I could go on, but there are space limitations to consider, not to mention sanity considerations.  I don’t know how anyone, from Miller to the colorist to the editor to the mailroom clerks, thought publishing this festival of flying fecal matter was a good idea.  Adam West could have written a better Batman.  Adam West was a better Batman.

13.  Tarot, Witch Of The Black Rose (Entire Decade and counting)

Confession time:  I own a few issues of this title.  When it started, writer/artist Jim Balent was just fresh off his 77-issue Catwoman run, and as an artist, I liked him.  Sure, his women were a little on the physically-improbable side, but his linework was clean and he had good attention to detail.  The first few issues of Tarot were the same art style, and I liked that he’d actually done research into pagan rituals and Wiccan theology and used it in the book.  He also interviewed a “real” witch and put the interview in the issues, along with the Broadsword Girls, fans who sent in pictures of themselves and were published in the issues.  (Hey, some of them were pretty good-looking.)

Then something changed.

Balent went from improbable women to flat-out impossible women.  Tarot and the rest of the cast seemed to wear fewer and fewer clothes with each issue.  I like long-legged, busty women as much as the next six guys combined, but women with legs long enough to serve as emergency runways and breasts bigger than Guinness-listed watermelons are just ridiculous – so much so that I ended up dropping the title for no other reason than that Balent’s drawing hand appeared to have been taken over by his pubescent fantasies.

There was a lot of possibility for good story-telling, education on magic and Wicca, and a strong positive female lead, but – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – the boobs just got in the way.

Just too much boob. . .and I can't believe I wrote that.

12. Chuck Austen’s X-Men Run (2002-2004)

In general, I like Chuck Austen’s writing.  His run on Elektra was a decent segue between Bendis and Robert Rodi (whatever happened to that guy, anyway?), and his black-and-white, weekly U.S. War Machine miniseries (which he also illustrated) was pretty kickass.  However, I have to admit, I didn’t read his X-Men run because I’d given up on the X-Men two years before.  All I knew about it came from a mention in Twisted Toyfare Theatre of She-Hulk sleeping with Juggernaut, and that was enough to kill any curiosity I might have had about it (said mention is the source of the classic line “Once you go Juggernaut, it’s physically impossible to go back”).  Thanks to Comics Alliance, not only do I not have to read the run to know it was absolutely God-awful, but I can sleep easy knowing that Chuck Austen will probably never be allowed to touch major super heroes ever again.  He’s apparently at his best with second-tier characters, so let’s leave him there, eh?

11.  Ultimate Adventures (2002-2004)

Missed it completely.  Pretty happy about that now.

10.  Trouble (2003)

Didn’t read it at all.  If I’d known Mark Millar was writing it, I might have given it a chance, but the cover kept me away from it.  Wondering why?  Here’s the cover:

That’s the cover of Trouble #1.  Here’s what it looked like to me:

To be honest, from looking at the cover, I was scared that this was Marvel’s attempt to enter the Disney-and-Japanese-dominated sexy-schoolgirl-that-really-actually-is-a-schoolgirl market.  And so I gave Trouble a pass.

9. Identity Crisis (2004)

I liked Identity Crisis, for some of the same reasons that CA doesn’t like it:  the father-son issues and tragedies, the gender-roles explorations,  the murderer that comes from a completely unexpected (for the heroes) direction – all of these things added up to making it a worthwhile read for me.  What happened to the murderer afterward was a bit of a letdown, but I think overall this book was a good, humanizing look at DC’s main characters, who are too often simply archetypes without enough dimension.  The plot lines left dangling are resolved in other titles, as was most likely intended, and overall you’re left realizing that, even with the best of intentions, sometimes even heroes will do bad things.

8.  Spider-Man: Sins Past (2004-2005)

You know, I liked J. Michael Straczynski.  His Spider-Man run, up to that point, had been excellent, Rising Stars was a brilliant look at how powers affect both the people that have them and those around them that don’t, Midnight Nation was excellent, etc, etc. . .

And then came Sins Past.

And I could only wonder, and scream, why?  Why, Marvel, why, Straczynski, why, why, in the name of all that is good and holy, WHY?

This was the comic book equivalent of Final Fantasy XII‘s battle with Yiazmat, who has 50 million hit points and takes anywhere from 8-12 hours to defeat:  you’re left wondering why the creators of this normally-pleasant entertainment suddenly felt a need to punish you for existing.  Except that in FFXIII, at least you get good equipment and a metric shitload of experience for beating Yiazmat.  Finishing Sins Past just leaves you feeling empty, dejected, and optically violated.

7.  Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do (2002, 2005-2006)

By 2002 I’d already learned to avoid anything written by Kevin Smith (yes, Jay and Silent Bob Kevin Smith).  While his Daredevil and Green Arrow stories were pretty good, the word “deadline” seemed to not exist in his world, making him a bad match for anyone who lacks patience (i.e., me).  Given that this six-issue miniseries took him three years to finish, and sucked horribly to boot, I contend that avoiding Kevin Smith is still a damn good idea.

6. Countdown (2007-2008)

Here are the basic ideas behind Countdown:

1. Take some of DC’s second- and third-tier characters and write stories about their roles in the universe-at-large in a semi-real-time format.

2.  Have these characters explore the deep, dark, unexplored corners of the DC Universe and provide lead-in for the next big crossover.

3.  Do this all in the pages of a year-long, weekly comic, with different teams of writers and artists.

Did it work?

Hell yes it worked, and it was awesome – when it was called 52.

52, for my non-comics-fans out there, was the yearly miniseries that preceded Countdown, and focused on a year in the DC Universe without Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman (lost his powers, killed a guy, and just really needed a frigging break, respectively).  52 was good.  It proved a weekly comic could be done successfully, without having a single issue late or delayed, and could be financially successful.

But if 52 was a platter of delicious burritos stuffed with organic beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and a zesty sauce, Countdown and its tie-ins were the explosive, messy, stinky post-digestion aftermath.

52 was largely self-contained, except for the four-issue spinoff miniseries World War IIICountdown had bits and pieces all over the place, in a host of completely-unnecessary-and-only-tangentially-related spinoffs and “tie-in” miniseries.    That said, Countdown did still have some good parts, enough to make it fairly readable, and enough to draw you in to Final Crisis. . .

. . .except that Final Crisis bore little resemblance to the events of Countdown, and in fact, as CA says, outright contradicted it in some places.  I don’t know what sort of struggles and conflicts were going on between Grant Morrison and the DC editorial board about continuity between the two series, but I know this:  everyone that read Countdown for a leg up on Final Crisis lost.  People who bought the completely extraneous miniseries and one-shots from Countdown lost even worse.

But those battles were nothing compared to the battles over. . .

5.  One More Day (2007-2008)

As the tagline for One More Day asked, “what would you do. . .for one more day?”

If you answered “write a craptacular end to a pretty good 8-year Spider-Man run,” congratulations! You are Joseph Michael Straczynski.

Going into One More Day, we find Peter Parker in the worst situation he’s even been in:  he’s on the run from the government as a result of opposing the Superhuman Registration Act, his secret identity is publicly known because he revealed it while supporting the Superhuman Registration Act, and Aunt May is dying from an assassin’s bullet meant for him.  (Here’s a hint: if you’re septuagenarian with bad reflexes and your nephew is a wanted fugitive with many, many, enemies on both sides of the law, for fuck’s sake don’t stand near any windows with him.)

It’s pretty well known that Straczynski and Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada argued about not only how to end the run but also about Straczynski’s previous entry on this list.  It’s also known that Straczynski wanted a different ending to One More Day, so Quesada either rewrote the issue himself or had someone else do it.  Whatever the case, let’s play it where it lies.

No one can help Aunt May.  Tony Stark can’t do anything, Doctor Strange is helpless, and Peter’s out of time and options.  Along comes Mephisto, the Devil of the Marvel Universe, and offers a deal:  he’ll save Aunt May’s life and make Peter’s identity a secret again if Peter Parker will kill a virgin and bring the soul to him.  With no other choice to save his aunt’s life, Peter embarks on a desperate quest to find a virgin in New York City, and. . .oh, wait, that’s the way I would have written the story.  By the way, my version is much better than what was actually written.

The Mephisto part was true, but instead of  a virgin’s soul (knowing there’s no way Peter could find one in New York in time), he wants Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane.  In effect, to save the life of one old woman (who’s already died at least once before, been kidnapped by Spidey’s villains several times, and came close to marrying Doctor Octopus), Peter must give up his marriage to super-hottie Mary Jane, thereby erasing her from his life and shoving 20 years of comic book history into a hole, setting it on fire, and burying it with raw sewage.  Mary Jane and Peter both whine about this for an issue and a half and then confront Mephisto, where one of them finds the intestinal fortitude to put an end to this horrific history-molesting storyline.

What’s the decision?

When the next storyline starts, Aunt May is old, alive, and unshot, and Mary Jane and Straczynski were nowhere to be seen. (To be fair, the current ret-conned version of history is that Mary Jane and Peter had been “a couple” but not married.)

4.  Ultimates 3 (2007-2008)

Remember what I said before about Countdown being the messy aftermath of 52‘s delicious burrito-fest?  Well, Ultimates 3 is the same thing to Ultimates 1 & 2. I have no idea what sort of blunt force trauma caused Jeph Loeb, the writer of the wonderful Superman For All Seasons and The Long Halloween to write this dreck, though I do wonder if personal traumas led to him temporarily losing his writing edge.  No joke there; I just hope he recovers soon.

Luckily, Ultimates 3 did not last the full 13 issues that its predecessors did, as it lead directly into an Ultimate-universe-spanning crossover that would. . .oh.  Oh no.  Oh God no.

3.  Ultimatum (2008-2009)

Ultimates 3 was not the end of Jeph Loeb’s determined attempt to destroy the universe that Bendis built.  Here’s the basic plot:  Mutant villain is angry about how mutants are treated, unleashes tidal waves and numerous natural disasters to punish humanity.  Numerous heroes are killed.  Remaining heroes band together to defeat villain.

That should have taken maybe two issues, at best.  It only took four when The Authority did it, and they had to evacuate the entire planet first.

But not Ultimatum. Oh, no.  The destruction of the Ultimate universe apparently deserves much more attention than that.

Instead, we are treated to five issues of the actual miniseries and at least a dozen issues of tie-ins featuring heroes running around trying to figure out what’s going on, heroes getting killed in gruesome ways, heroes getting angry, and heroes generally being useless.  (In what has to have been her worst year ever, the Wasp was eaten by the Blob in the Ultimate universe and then killed by Skrulls in the regular Marvel universe in a three-month span.)  Magneto kills Professor Xavier, Dormammu kills Doctor Strange, a tidal wave kills Captain America (he comes back, though), Thor sacrifices himself to save Valkyrie, and, in the final battle, Magneto appears to kill Wolverine.  Just in case you thought it was finally safe to be a superhero after all that, Cyclops is shot and killed by an unknown assassin in the denouement.

Jeph Loeb went on an unholy rampage through the Ultimate universe, and all we got was a crappy story.

2.  Image United (2009)

Haven’t read it.  Still waiting for Darker Image #2.

1.  Mark Trail (2009)

Who reads newspapers anymore?

That said, I didn’t read this stretch of Mark Trail, but my God. . .this deserves the title that CA has bestowed upon it.

How in the fuck does, in the 21st century, a storyline about a controlling, abusive husband who is so insanely jealous of his wife giving affection to anything else that he shoots her pet deer end with the abuse victim fucking apologizing to the abuser? Seriously, what the fuck?  I know that the writer and artist of Mark Trail was born in 1924, but holy hell, Mark doesn’t tell his wife to take off her shoes and get back in the kitchen, does he?  Or go out and try to keep minorities from voting?  Fuck no.

The rest of the stories on this list were just bad stories.  This one, though, is a fucking crime against domestic violence victims everywhere.

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Agree?  Disagree?  I have a comments section for a reason. . .

VS – 12.27.09

My Letter To Barack Obama

Posted in politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2009 by vagabondsaint

I have just sent this letter to President Obama, using whitehouse.gov.  This missive was prompted by the news that the Administration may be willing to drop the public option in order to get health care reform passed.

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Dear Mr. President,

I am very very concerned about the health care debate in this country and am planning to attend a MoveOn.org event tomorrow on the topic.  I am extremely alarmed at the notion that you are willing to compromise the public option in order to achieve some sort of reform.

Mr. President, as a citizen of the United States, as a taxpayer, as someone that voted for you, I am begging you: do not relent on the public option.  We want it, we need it, it must be a part of any real reform.

My brother was hospitalized, and nearly died, earlier this year for complications resulting from diabetes.  Four years ago, he was in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and spent a week in the Superdome, where he suffered from many infections, malnutrition, and some trauma, for which he received counseling.  He is unemployed and has no health insurance.  My mother, who has been supporting him, is a schoolteacher and facing rising medical costs of her own due to advancing age.  He was unable to afford the medication for his diabetes and so ended up hospitalized, something else that they cannot afford unless my mother is somehow able to persuade her insurance company to cover him as a dependent.

I myself am currently unemployed and have no health insurance.  I am lucky in that my mother’s daughter has a great job and excellent health insurance, so my daughter is covered.

But we, and millions of people like us across the country, need a public option and the attendant subsidies proposed .

I know it might seem like a losing battle.  Every time one turns on the TV and watches the news, there are people screaming about how this health care reform should not be passed, how it is socialistic, anti-American, will create “Death Panels,” and is evil.  There is so much coverage of the screaming, yelling people and naysaying Congresspeople that I can see how one could easily be swayed into believing that health care reform is not what the majority of Americans want.

But you must remember two things.

The first is something that you yourself said (and I am paraphrasing here): TV loves a good ruckus.  They do.  In its current sad state, our news media, the “fourth estate” that is supposed to bring us truth and counter spin in service to the people is now almost completely in service to the twin masters of their corporate owners and ratings-gathering sensationalism.  The conflicts taking place in town hall meetings make for far better TV for those masters than do the calmer, more rational, more genuine debates, and so they do not get coverage.  It is said that the conflict must be selling because we are watching it, but in fact, we are watching it because, in our desperate search for truth, there is nothing else.  Save for the oases of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and The Rachel Maddow Show, there are almost no places on TV in which one can get glimpses of actual truth and counters to the spins and falsehoods propagated by those who would harm America for their own gain.

The second thing to remember is this:  the people yelling and screaming so loudly are a minority in this country.  By and large, they are ill-informed and betrayed for personal gain by those they want to trust.  They are afraid of changes to the status quo, even if those changes benefit them.  America is changing, it is becoming a better country, and while for some there may be racist undertones to that fear for some, the bottom line remains unchanged: they scream, and rant, and yell because they are afraid.  It’s hard to fight fear with logic and truth, but if we as a country and you as our elected representatives give in to their fear or manipulate for political gain, we will all suffer.  It’s a difficult fight, true, but not only is it a battle that must be fought, it is a battle that must be won.  Here. Now. Lives depend on this and we cannot falter.

While I understand your desire to compromise and achieve bipartisanship and consensus, I must tell you:  it’s time to give it up.  Time and time again you have offered your open hand to your opposition; in response, they have spit upon it and slapped it away.  The Republicans have no interest in bipartisanship, save that of not doing it so as to score political points with people who are afraid of change, with people who would rather put their fingers in their ears and yell into the wind than acknowledge the approaching thunder of change.

Do not give up the public option, Mr. President.

I plan on posting this letter in its entirety on my blog at https://vagabondsaint.wordpress.com .  Please do drop by for a visit, won’t you?

Sincerely,

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See?  I can write a really long letter and not use the “f” word.

Feel free to go to whitehouse.gov and copy and paste this letter for your own use, though I would advise coming up with your own anecdotal evidence first.

VS – 8.16.09