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Blue Plate/Cleaning the Plate Year End Extravaganza: Worst of 2008

Written by chap22/Brian Burchette on Wednesday, December 31 2008 and posted in Reviews
Well, last week, as our Christmas gift to you, our loyal readers, starlord and I gave you our list of the Top 5 Gifts DC and Marvel gave to us throughout the past year. This week, in keeping with the holiday theme, we're going with New Year's Resolutions. The five things each company did so badly in 2008 that they MUST resolve to rectify (or at least not repeat) in the new year.


Blue Platesalvationrun.jpg
5. Salvation Run

Holy crap, did this mini stink. Seriously, there should really be no way to make a 7-issue miniseries starring pretty much all DC's villains in a world where they can actually win, with creators like Willingham, Chen, and Joe Bennett, and have it suck. Yet that's EXACTLY what DC did here. Nonsensical plot twists, pointless deaths, a HORRENDOUSLY written "push" for the Joker (probably the one villain at DC who least needs such a push), and a lead-in to my most-hated death at DC in many years. And in the end, it served pretty much no purpose other than those pointless deaths. None of the villains really learned anything or grew in any way...just a pointless exercise. But hey, at least it was pretty to look at.

4. Cancellations
Man, DC cut good books this year like they were holiday turkeys. Catwoman, Manhunter, Blue Beetle, Checkmate (truthfully a mercy kill after replacing Rucka with Jones, though), Shadowpact, All-New Atom (another mercy kill after Gail left), Birds of Prey, Robin, Nightwing, JLA and JSAS Classified...and probably more I'm forgetting. Sure, some of these will actually see their final issues ship in early '09, and most of them sold less than 20K a month, but the decisions to cut them all were made in '08, and just about all of them were really good books showcasing unique niches of the DCU. They'll be missed...

3. The Goddamn Batman
*headdesk* For those of you enjoying Miller's All-Star Batman & Robin, more power to you. Your reasons of "it's satire" or "it's parody" or "it's crazy fun" prove you are the spiritual successors to the master of making up complete b.s., Morrison himself. This book is a lot of things, but "Batman" and "good" it ain't. Another instance of "at least it's pretty", this book is epic fail on every other level.

2. Judd Winick
Oh, let me count the ways this guy has hacked his way through the DCU this year...first, a year-long story in Green Arrow/Black Canary built entirely upon some brand-new uber-badass assassin just happening to go cratitans.jpgzy and shoot the wrong Green Arrow, complete with more ludicrous plot twists and forced cliffhangers than just about any other book on the market, as well as the total and complete assassination of Black Canary's strong characterization as built by Dixon and Simone over the past decade. Second, the utter catastrophe that is Trials of Shazam. I'll give Winick the smallest benefit of the doubt that this was totally editorially driven, but regardless, it's still the height of stupidity and pretty much a ruination of the Marvel Family. Third, the complete retardation that is DC Decisions. I have no words for how stupid this whole idea is conceptually, and the execution was not much better. Lastly, a pile of crap which I DO have words for...the Titans relaunch. Why in God's name does DC push this book as a "family" team, as a book about the relationships between these long-time friends and comrades, and then give it to a writer who has ZERO respect for the characters' actual long-standing established characterization, a writer who has always favored action and "relevant" issues over actual storytelling? Apparently they do it because the inmates are running the asylum, that's why. Between multiple incongruent artists, a first issue that is apparently part two of a story even though part one was never advertised as such, God-awful characterization and dialogue, and completely unoriginal plots with holes you could drive a truck through, this book has been a disaster of monumental proportions from the word "go". When this reviewer drops a book starring Dick Grayson, Donna Try, and Wally West, you know it has to be wretched. And yet, with all this, Winick only comes in at number two, behind...

countdown.jpg1. Countdown (and its semi-tie-in, Death of the New Gods)
Any words I have in my vocabulary cannot do justice to just how bad Countdown was. Bad concept, bad art, bad writing (a large portion of which is utterly and completely ignored and contradicted by Final Crisis), bad plotting, bad choice of characters to follow...the only good thing you can say about this weekly series is that it always came out on time. And DoNG was almost just as bad. I won't bore you with any more specifics as to why Countdown was this year's #1 worst event/book, because you already know them all. EPIC fail.

Honorable mentions
Pa Kent's death -- Serving no purpose other than to appease the guy who directed the first Superman movie over 30 years ago, this was merely one part of the thoroughly underwhelming conclusion to Johns's Brainiac arc in Action

Final Crisis main mini/conclusion of Batman R.I.P. -- I actually came around to liking R.I.P. and by extension Morrison's whole run on Batman, but the "conclusion" (or what we've seen of it so far) and its tie-in to FC...just ludicrous; and as for FC itself, what a nightmare of bad technique. Such a shame that no editor even dares mess with Grant, because it's obvious there's some good ideas in there...problem is they all get about three pages every four issues. So disappointing that all the tie-ins are so much more enjoyable reads than the main mini.

Barry's return -- Yeah, I admit, this could lead to some really good stories. But there was no real point in it. It disrespects IMHO the greatest comics death ever, makes Wally, one of comics' most fully-developed and well-rounded characters, redundant and shunted aside, and as far as I can tell, had pretty much NOBODY clamoring for it (unlike Hal's return a few years ago). I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but right now I think this is just a badly misguided stunt pulled by Didio to make a name for himself.


Cleaning the Platebeetle.jpg
5. Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater
Three names pop into my head almost instantly when I think this: Nightwing, Blue Beetle, and Manhunter. All were artistically great books that have finally been cancelled because of low sales. Yes, I put Nightwing in that group because the last year or so was great. Somebody finally got it right! So let’s toss it into the trash, shall we. I know why that one was cancelled and I’ll get to HIM in a second. Let’s just hope DC realizes how many fans of these characters are out there, and that we don’t want to see them forgotten about. At least keep Beetle in Teen Titans and Manhunter in Birds of Prey... oh yeah... never mind.

4. The Marvel Familyblackmary.jpg
DC has dropped the ball on this part of their universe in a huge way. I’m sure my colleague will blame it all on one man, but I think there’s a bit of blame to be spread around here. I didn’t mind the mini series at all; not my favorite, but I liked the idea of Freddy taking the mantel from Billy and Billy taking it from the Wizard, but what they have done since is disastrous. Actually, they really haven’t done much, except for Mary Marvel who seems to be this decade’s version of a poor fans Dark Phoenix. Actually I do blame one person for her, but we’ll get to HIM. I do like the Billy Batson comic that is out now; fun for the whole family, but if DC wants to start bandaging some major wounds, this is the second best place to start. First, you ask... hold on, I’m getting there.

3. Titans
Let’s address the main problem with this book, it’s the writer. As much as I try to defend him; because I do like some of his stuff, he doesn’t get this group. The first major arc and the next one with the return of Jericho, has felt like one huge retread of past stories. Not one character has felt right. I’m not even sure why, since this group of heroes has been around longer than most and has one of the richest histories in comics. So why is this such a dud? Winick doesn’t get it; it’s as simple as that. Fans want to see these, once silver aged children, grow; not repeat what they have already done.

2. Batman & Final Crisis
Here we go. The big two, and in my opinion (or poop for you Outhousers), these are the biggest bombs of 2008. They are so big in their complete failure that they are tied for the number two spot. I’m not saying that there aren’t moments that sparkle, because I know there are; but you cannot, I repeat, cannot, do such a large sprawling mainstream epic and have it written by someone that doesn’t even know what the word “linear” means. If you want to have a smug writer on your payroll that loves to show how intelligent he is by creating books of constant non-sequesters; tying it into a nice little package at the end, that’s your call. However, if you are promoting your event as the “Final” Crisis, at least trust it to a writer who is going to sell it to fans of all ages. Same goes for one of your biggest franchises. While the Dark Knight soared in theaters, it was buried six feet under for comic fans. Again, good ideas that you needed to be a rocket scientist to figure out... or on acid... or both. Wake up, DC, you’re failing.

1. Grant Morrison
Huh. I think I’ve already said it all. Oh, but if by some miracle you happen to read this... could you write some more Seaguy. I love him. I love that character. Just stop touching the heroes I grew up with. And for the record, I don’t find the way he writes to be smart... just arrogant.

When all is said and done, I’m a DC guy all the way. This summer I told Dan Didio to his face that DC was the best it had ever been, and I believed that. I still enjoy DC more, but I’m also getting a bit worried, because Marvel is once again making me take a second look.


Blue Plate
Marvel, a.k.a. a funny thing happened on my way to the comic shop...
 As most of you probably know, over the last three years or so, I've grown to pretty much hate Marvel, at least their overall direction anyway. I dislike most of their big-name writers (Bendis, Millar, and Ellis, I'm looking at you), I dislike the whole Ultimate line, I hated what JMS did to Spider-Man, and I've hated pretty much every event from Avengers: Disassembled through Secret Invasion. Due to this overarching malaise, my Marvel pull dropped recently to as few as 3 monthly books. And yet...I had a hard time coming up with five things they really did wrong in 2008. My personal tastes may not have liked the books or the writing style or the results of thefantasticfour.jpg events, but not much was really egregiously bad either. That said, here's my bottom five.

5. Millar's FF
I'll admit, I merely Byrne-steal this book, but it falls into much the same category as Winick's Titans for me...why give a book that thrives on it characters' personal interactions and characterizations to a writer who admittedly doesn't give a crap about how those characters have ever been portrayed? Even Hitch's art just seems lacking to me on this book, too. It's one of those "superstar" creative teams that's putting out a book that's merely mediocre (see more of this later), and doing it slowly, and drawing praise for doing so. It's rare indeed that I'll drop FF, but this run has made me do it.

4. Astonishing X-Men
Seriously, you put these "superstar" creators on this book, you set it apart from all other X-happenings, you make it this late every issue, and this is the best you can do? Utter mediocrity? Boo. BOO, I say. Kitty deserved better.

zemo.jpg3. Total lack of Zemo
After all the work done by guys like Dematteis, Gru, Stern, Busiek, and Nicieza to turn Helmut Zemo into one of Marvel's most intriguing characters (even if only about 20-30,000 or so of us knew it), and he's been completely AWOL for pretty much two years. Secret Invasion is exactly the kind of story he would've worked great in...a guy who nobody really knows if he's good or bad, mixed in with the Skrull invasion...that writes itself. Instead, we get the ridiculously ludicrous current head of the Thunderbolts getting pushed to an even more ridiculously ludicrous position. Zemo needs to make a comeback, and damn soon, as either hero or villain under Norman's new regime, I don't care. He just needs to come back.

2. Jeph Loeb
Ultimates 3. Rulk. Do I really need to elaborate any further?

1. Brand New Day
Another head-scratching case of "all that for THIS?" in pure service to one man's ego (in this case, Joey Q). You couldn't have written these stories with a married Peter? Really? And that's a good thing? I just don't see it. In a company that prides itself on moving forward and being "the House of Ideas", this whole set of shenanigans is basically a rehash of Byrne's reboot filtered through a 2000s lens which somehow makes the book feel like its the 70s again. Mystifying. And pointless. And dumb.

Honorable mentions
the cancellation of Cable/Deadpool, a consistently fun book, to give us the wretchedly awful Lone Cable and Cub.

A bunch of books I avoid like the plague but still KNOW are God-awful -- I'm looking at you Black Panther, New Warriors, and the thoroughly unnecessary Wolverine: Origins, among others.

Cleaning the Plate
5. Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch
Marvel has shown no love for these characters for way over a year now, but this year Wanda was nearly non-existent. Clint fared a bit better, but both of these heroes have been around nearly as long as Cap, Goldilocks or Shellhead, and deserve a lot more respect than they are getting. Clint Barton is also living proof that the “powers that be” do not always give in to what the fans want. Put him in the damn Hawkeye suit already!

4. Wolverine
I’m not saying I don’t like the character; I’m not even saying that he doesn’t deserve the love he gets, but come on already! Hey Marvel, we know you want to make money, but give us a break. We do not need to see Logan in every title running, and I especially don’t need to see him as an Avenger! In fact, if there’s one group he shouldn’t be in, it’s The Avengers. I know people like him, I know he sells books, but even as much as I love sex, if I had it as much as I have to see Wolverine on a weekly basis, I’d be sick of that in a month, too! Hmmm.... I may have to rethink this one.

3. Secret Invasionsecretinvasion.jpg
Yes, I put this on my top 5 list last week, and it rightly deserved to be there, but there were still some pretty big missteps with this event. First, if you’re going to do a ton of mini’s that are suppose to focus on the main event... make something actually happen in them! I can count on one finger how many of these short titles finished with an actual change: The Inhumans. The others just seemed to meander along until the end. I know this is a business and money is the most important issue, but you don’t have to cheat us out of good money with bad tie-ins. Second, stop forcing us to believe in characters actions that just wouldn’t happen. For example: There is no way that this event should have ended with Green Goblin, Doctor Doom, Loki, Namor, and The White Queen teaming up. Talk about a “yeahbuwah?” moment... and not in a good way. Doom needs no one, and Loki’s reasoning for being there was just ridiculous. Finally: Could we have a big event actually end? There’s no shame in that. A beginning, middle, and ending. It’s a novel approach, I know, but I’ve seen it done before. Trust me on that one.

2. Young Avengers
This will probably be on my list next year as well. Why? Because they still won’t be around next year, that’s why. What started out as one of the best books Marvel has put out in the last ten... no... Twenty years, has been horribly stalled for the last couple. The fact that we are seeing bits and pieces of this team all around the Marvel Universe has just made it worse. These were characters that were well thought out, and all had ties to Marvel’s Legacy Heroes. Why pull the rug out from under a lot of fans that were praising this book? If you’re waiting for the creative team to come back... STOP! We don’t care anymore. Find two others that want to write it, and give it to them. The original team doesn’t deserve it after this long of an absence. And that, my friends, is my Marvel rant.

1. One More Day/Brand New Day
bnd.jpgI’m still saying... no way! I’m just not buying it. From the moment they agreed to Mephisto’s terms to this moment right now, the whole thing has seemed like one large mess. Yes, there have been some pretty decent stories along the way, I won’t argue with that, but the blackness that those brief moments of light appear from, is still looming rather largely over the entire thing. Add to that the fact that I’m not sure what Peter really knows or doesn’t know at this point, nor do some of the writers I’m gathering, and it makes it the second biggest mess in comic book history. Did you ask what the first was... check out my worse of DC for that. Now I’m not blaming any of the writers for this at all; hell, I give JMS kudos for not wanting his name on that final moment. Nope, the blame can fall directly at the feet of one person. One fan boy’s biggest wish comes true. And that comment that was made from Joe Q that Spidey needed to go back to the adventures before he was married? That so many were clamoring for a pre-married Spidey? Here’s a little something to keep in mind, in case you people weren’t actually reading those books back then – MJ was always there. Always! And Spider-Man will never be as glorious as it once was until you start bringing those two together again. Nuff said!

And one huge honorable mention SENTRY! Enough already.



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