Top 10 Disappointing Comics of 2009

Posted by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz on December 29th, 2009

Fantastic Four

1. Fantastic Four (Marvel)
by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch

What happened?  Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch came out of the gate with guns blazing and threw everything but the kitchen sink at this title.  Fresh off his fantastic second run on Ultimate Fantastic Four that produced Marvel Zombies, a kick ass young punk-rock Namor, an exceptionally tragic Thing and made FF relevant again, Mark Millar set about working his mojo on the main Fantastic Four title (as a side note his first run with Brian Michael Bendis might have been one of the most god-awful things I’ve ever read and almost killed the title dead until Warren Ellis came along and saved it).  Along for the ride was Millar’s Ultimates partner in crime Bryan Hitch.  They started off well enough with “World’s Greatest” and rolled on strong with the high point of their run culminating in “The Death of the Invisible Woman” storyline.  Had they ended there, their run on the title would have been quite well received, but they decided to keep going and it was a all downhill from there…

First they went to the UK for a much needed Christmas vacation. National Lampoon’s it was not. Then, after much build up, the final storyline came in the form of the “Masters of Doom”.   A much hyped storyline by Millar, “Masters of Doom” was set to reveal how Victor Von Doom became Doom and from whom Doom learned all his evil tricks, revealing that Doom had a master once and was a Padawan learner to this guy. It sounds cool, except it wasn’t. It turns out that Doom’s Master was a anorexic burn victim who used to be a mental patient. Wow! This turkey was so bad that Bryan Hitch left with two issues to go to start work on Reborn (see number 3 on this list) and Mark Millar, sensing the steaming pile that he created, left the script on the final issue to someone else. Honestly, how bad does something have to be that after talking it up for months and months as the epic Fantastic Four story that everyone has been waiting for, the creators just abandon it by choice? To my recollection, this is a first and it is why this baby is at the top of my list.


2. Secret Invasion/Dark Reign (Marvel)
by Brian Michael Bendis and Various

The premise of Secret Invasion was pretty amazing.  Finally the Skrulls, a shape-shifting race of aliens on the brink of annihilation of their species, found a way to get their act together and implemented a plan so devious that no one saw it coming.  Infiltrating all aspects of the Marvel universe, the Skrulls sleeper cells reached all levels of power in governments throughout the planet.  The set up was great… then came the actual miniseries. Essentially the 8 issue miniseries amounted to a slugfest that could have been handled in 3 issues and then it ends with Norman Osborn taking over SHIELD and most of the government, which leads to another all encompassing year long crossover called Dark Reign. And if that wasn’t enough to turn you off of the series, the big reveal features the leader of the Skrulls unveiling her plan to Tony Stark in her valley girl…like totally…speech. WTF? The secret is out, this epic event is a dud.


3. Reborn (Marvel)
by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice

Brubaker’s run on Captain America has been unprecedented and has turned Captain America into one of the best comics series of the decade.  Not only did Brubaker kill off the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, but he had Cap replaced with his old partner Bucky Barnes, who had been believed to be dead but was secretly brainwashed and turned into the Winter Soldier by the Russians.  With the original Cap gone, Bucky set about uncovering the Red Skull’s nefarious plans and solving Steve’s murder. The lineup for this title it out of the park. Just about everything that Brubaker touches is fantastic and a must read (except for his run on the X-Men). Bryan Hitch is one of the best artists in the business and even though his run on Fantastic Four ended poorly, his art was always top notch. And finally, Butch Guice, whose work is severely underrated, has delivered time and time again on everything that he has done. So what went wrong?

Listen, it was a given that Steve Rogers was coming back in time for the Avengers movie of 2011, but the way they did it was garbage. The Slaughterhouse Five, Steve Rogers is a Man frozen in time premise was a little too contrived and convenient. Plus, for as great an artist as Hitch is, deadlines aren’t his cup of tea. So having Guice work with Hitch on the book in tandem is a good idea on paper, but in execution their artwork never seemed that cohesive or in step with one another. That, along with the blown deadlines caused the the revelation of this miniseries to appear in many other titles a good month to two months before the last issue ships. That’s just poor editorial oversight and just compounds the disappointment in this title.


4. Avengers – Dark/Mighty/New (Marvel)
by Brian Michael Bendis and Various

Brian Michael Bendis is one of the best and biggest writers working in comics today. His run on Daredevil ranks 1a behind Frank Miller’s trans-formative work on the series. Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spiderman also ranks up there with Stan’s work on the character. Hell, he even took The Avengers lagging franchise and made them into one of the best selling books around. That’s pretty amazing. So why are all of the Avengers books on here now? For that exact reason– there are 3 Avengers books these days, not only diluting the brand but also spreading the consumer’s dollar mightily thin with their $3.99 price tag.

Bendis’ New Avengers came as Marvel’s answer to DC’s JLA (the company’s biggest characters all in one book) to being 3 books of various Avengers on different missions. Then success lead to a Mighty Avengers team, which was convenient when Civil War split up the Avengers into two Avengers Team. There were Secret Avengers, Mighty Avengers and now Dark Avengers, and they all are following one ongoing storyline and event from year to year. Enough already.

I think it speaks volumes that some of my favorite books and writers are now some of the books I’ve become most disappointed with. And the fact that my top disappoints are all Marvel books shows just how Marvel’s Never Ending Events and across the board price increases have led me from “Make Mine Marvel” to “Make My Drop List Marvel.” Here’s hoping things change, but with the upcoming Siege Event I really, really doubt it.

Philip Tan on Batman and Robin

5. Philip Tan on Batman & Robin (DC)

Philip Tan’s artwork on this title was not that terrible, but it wasn’t great either. To be fair, it’s sort of wrong of DC to throw Philip Tan on this title after Frank Quitely, because having Morrison and Quitely on this book as a follow up on their All-Star Superman run raised the bar considerably on this book. Tan may one day become a great comic book artist, but right now he doesn’t have the chops or the story telling capability to keep up with Grant Morrison. His contribution to this title helped to diminish the story, which is never what you want from an artist. Cameron Stewart, who has worked with Morrison before on the great Seaguy miniseries, has shown that he has the skill and talent to partner with Morrison and will surely help make Batman and Robin great again. I, for one, can’t wait to see Morrison and Stewart on this book.

War Heroes

6. War Heroes (Image Comics)
by Mark Millar and Tony Harris

Mark Millar said War Heroes was based on an idea he had if he were going to make an Ultimates 3. Well Jeph Loeb really took the Ultimates 3 and turned one of Marvel’s best books into one of Marvel’s worst. As as side note, how can a decent writer like Loeb and a great artist like Joe Mad completely botch a book like that? Well take comfort, Jeph Loeb, in the fact that Mark Millar and Tony Harris’ War Heroes is as bad as Ultimates 3. Well, maybe Ultimates 3 is worse, but not by much. Oh, and it’s been about a year and a half and only 3 or 4 issues have bothered to come out. I forget how many issues because I stopped caring after issue 2.

Young Liars

7. Young Liars (DC/Vertigo)
by David Lapham

What the f–k just happened?  I was amped to see Lapham back and this book was one of my favorites or 2008, but it’s strong start soon diminished and the story took a dramatic left turn that it seemed to never recover from in my mind. The art was strong but the problem with having an reliable narrator who constantly lies is that you can’t trust him. Lapham does a great job in writing these unreliable, lying, morally bankrupt, degenerate characters, but with Young Liars I think he did too good of a job because by the time the series was canceled and the last issue came out, I hated every one of the characters. I’m not sure why, but I still miss it though…


8. Haunt (Image Comics)
by Todd McFarlane, Robert Kirkman, Greg Capullo and Ryan Ottley

Read that lineup of talent on this book.  Does your mouth salivate with anticipation of greatness?  Mine did too until I actually read the first three issues.  Maybe if it were 1994 and I was in junior high again, I’d be thrilled with this book, but it’s not and I’m not and the only thing that’s haunted is my wallet because I spent money on this book.

Greek Street

9. Greek Street (DC/Vertigo)
by Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice

I love Greek tragedies and myths as well as all the plays of Sophocles and the tales of Oedipus and Antigone.  This series was sold as a modern re-imagining of those Greek tales into modern day London.  The art is nice but I’d stick to the original because Greek Street has so far been a dead end.


10. The Final Issue of Madman Atomic Comics (Image Comics)
by Michael and Laura Allred

Madman is one of my absolute favorite comic books of all time! It really, really pains me to put this one on the list, but the fact of the matter is that this last issue may have been the most disappointing read I had all year long. This series started off really well, and artistically it seemed that Allred was trying out an assortment of new techniques and experimenting with various styles. But as it progressed the series sort of meandered and then fizzled out with this relentlessly self promoting mash up of Madman, The Atomics, Red Rocket 7, The Dandy Warhols, Allred’s band The Gear and all the cool merchandise that is available for purchase from Graffiti Designs.

On the first page they give you an order sheet, then throughout the book all the characters were conveniently dressed in t-shirts and gear that you too can wear if you buy it (and in case you didn’t see the order form on the first page, they put one again on the last page). I’m all for self promotion and cool merchandise, but you can’t bang your audience over the head with it, because then the whole comic comes off as a nothing more than a 24 page infomercial. Besides, anyone knows that you can’t wear the shirt of a band that’s playing to the concert because then you come off as that guy.

I never thought that either Madman, the Atomics or Red Rocket 7 would be those people.

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