My final “best of the year” list was going to be the worst comics of the year, but there are so many books (and so many bad ones) that that would be impossible. So, instead, I’ve compiled a list of let-downs. This award is given to comics that were blessed with great creators or great casts, but still failed to offer adequate return on that investment. Because with great potential comes great possibility.
When I published my list of the year’s best, I noted that there was virtually no DC representation. Well, that’s true here, too. Partially because there’s very little on the DC slab that I thought “should have been better.” After the horrid New 52 relaunch, my expectations for DC Comics are extremely low. But it’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t even bother to read most DC Comics these days. For three bucks an issue, I can only be fooled so many times….
TEN 2014 COMICS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH, MUCH BETTER
10. Avengers, New Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Avengers AI, Avengers Undercover, Avengers World, etc. (Marvel). A confusing tapestry of time travel and super-serious storylines. If everything’s a threat that can destroy the world, you lose some of your dramatic heft. Hickman’s books did get much better in the last quarter of the year, but Holy Christ did they take their time getting to good. Note: Secret Avengers isn’t a part of this mess because damn that book was fine. Second Note: Avengers and New Avengers are still worth reading, they just should have been much better. But just about every other Avengers title was terrible. And I’m including Mighty (aka “Black”) Avengers, which started strong but ended in a mish-mash story about Blade and Luke-Cage-When-He-Was-Power-Man that was contrived, unoriginal, and boring.
9. The Death of Wolverine (Marvel). Issue #1: Great. Issue #2: Slower, not as good, but enjoyable. Issue #3: Where the Hell are they going? Issue #4: Wait…That’s how they’re gonna kill him? Ugh.
8. Silver Surfer (Marvel). Yes, I’ve read most of the issues, but every time I do I find myself mildly entertained but mostly baffled because two of the best creators (Dan Slott and Mike Allred) ever have turned in mediocre work.
7. Dream Thief: Escape (Dark Horse). The first Dream Thief miniseries ranked #18 of my top 20 books of 2013, but this year’s entry was…Tired.
6. The Walking Dead (Image). I’ve read every single issue of this book, often twice, and I admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Robert Kirkman’s dialog. But the “War” arc hit a new low: Excessive profanity in place of characterization. It should take more than a lot of cursing to show that someone’s a creep. Add that to a post-war storyline that was very heavy on words and very slow on any meaningful progression, and you get the idea: A series that has always had a breakneck pace appears to be slowing down.
5. Brian Michael Bendis’ X-books (Marvel). The worst sin a superhero comic can commit is to be dull. The second worst is to not “matter.” The third is to take a hallowed storyline like the death of Jean Grey and create a rushed follow up. The “Trial of Jean Grey” storyline managed a trifecta.
4. Five Weapons (Image). I was a huge, huge fan of the first volume of Jimmie Robinson’s young adult book about kids at a school for assassins—so much so that I ranked it as the 13th best series of 2013. But the second volume was clunky, sloppy, and felt rushed and forced. Just because someone offers you the chance for a sequel, doesn’t mean you should take it if you have nothing to say (Thor: The Dark World, anyone?).
3. Stumptown Vol. 3 (Oni). I love Greg Rucka. I loved Stumptown Volume One. I was luke warm on volume two. And this third edition is even worse. It’s not a bad comic, but it’s not a good one, either. The stakes are way too low . It’s hard to understand why a single homicide based on a sporting event should matter to us as readers. And even worse, about half of the first issue was just a lot of cheering and yelling at a soccer game. Literally. Ponderous. And I was so looking forward to this.
2. Wonder Woman (DC). I was huge (HUGE!) fan of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s vision of the first woman superhero when this book debuted as part of the original new 52 launch, but somewhere around issue #25 it lost its way. This year is the team’s last one with the character, and its ending with a whimper, not a bang. What started as a complex book about birthright and destiny has become just another “beat up the really, really bad guy” book. And you can tell he’s really bad because he’s all black and red and says mean stuff and wants to kill everyone he sees. I don’t know how you go through a three-year story cycle without putting sizzle in the endgame. And, maybe worst of all, it leaves a bored aftertaste for the next creator to pick up and try to run with. We the readers who stuck with the title for all 35 issues, and, more importantly, the world’s most famous super-female, deserved much better. And it’s so obvious that Azzarello and Chiang could have done much better, which makes me wonder if DC editorial was to blame.
1. AXIS (Marvel). What if they made an event just because there was a month in 2014 that didn’t have events scheduled? You might get this weird hodge-podge of people fighting and the whole planet being threatened, yodda yodda yodda. Not only is this event bad, but it doesn’t make sense and, worse still, doesn’t seem to matter. We know Jonathan Hickman’s “Time Runs Out” story is the one that will reshape the Marvel Universe in mid-2015, so this event is just filler.
BONUS: BEST DEADPOOL BOOK OF THE YEAR
Deadpool: Art of War #1 (Marvel).
Deadpool is still ubiquitous, and most of his appearances are still lame. The Deadpool/Hawkeye book was fairly good, but the first issue in this miniseries, scripted by Peter David with art by Scott Koblish, was hilarious. The concept is typical Deadpool: Wade wants to write a book, so he starts a war to prove how he can write a good book about war. The gags and the dialog are vintage Peter David—this is what he does best—and the art is terrific and different. The second issue, which is all I’ve read as of this writing, wasn’t nearly as good—but it was still so much better than the other Deadpool books that came out in print or digital exclusive this year.