“For while there exists good, there must also be evil.” Or in this case, the really bad.
2013 had its fair share of comics that were pretty bad or just fell short of their goal. As such, I present to you my list of the top 5 worst comics I read in 2013. I would have done a top 10, but there wasn’t enough to do one. (Lucky us.)
Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and if you like any of the comics I said that were subpar, that is perfectly fine: we just disagree. Also take note that I placed a lot of value for my rankings on the plot, the characters, the creativity (to a certain degree), and a lot on the emotional value (as in, do you feel connected to the characters and the story?).
Batman: The Dark Knight: While the title boasted some decent artists, its arcs were just the same thing over and over again. The bad guys were planning doing some dastardly that Batman has to stop; we see into their crappy pasts and see how they became who they are; and after several uneventful issues, the arc is just over. It also didn’t help that it had some bad dialogue. Also, Joker’s Daughter. But I’ll get to that later.
Sex Criminals: While still very much in its infancy and featuring some great character work, this comic just failed at being funny for me. The first issue had humor that tried to be too uncomfortable and inappropriate in the vein of That’s My Boy and Scary Movie 5 rather than 40 Year Old Virgin. Then the third issue just had every single joke fall completely flat (second issue had a few jokes, but not enough). While not as bad as the other mention and everything else on the list — when a comedy is not funny, the material really suffers.
I apologize in advance for reminding you of this.
And now onto the worst of the worst:
5. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
This is a comic that I was hoping, no, wanted to be good. I love the artist Becky Cloonan’s previous work on Swamp Thing and Batman (haven’t seen her Conan comics) and I have heard good things about the writer, Gerard Way. I was looking forward to this immensely but it just fell flat.
The main character isn’t interesting in the slightest and she has contributed or effected nothing in the story (her cat is what gets the story set into motion), so having to follow her around for the duration of the story is tedious.
The villains are forgettable, generic, and clichés of villains you’ve seen in almost every other work of fiction around; wanting to rule and wipe out emotion because they consider it to be weak. The comic is overambitious and is trying to constantly add new things to the mythos of the world in the story. The problem is that it is constantly throwing new concepts at us with no lead in and no purpose to the story (a lot of them are brought up and dropped) other than the writer wanting to show off his creativity.
What sinks the comic the most is that is emotionally hollow. Outside of two characters (which I’ll get to), there is no reason to care about anyone. They are not well developed or compelling, going back to the main heroine and villains; on the contrary they often act as unlikeable jerks or oblivious idiots who don’t seem to develop at all and that we are told to like anyways (though if the writer’s intention with Val is to show a character devolving from a regular anti-hero into a psychotic paranoid, then points there for a different kind of character progression); the relationships between everyone seem to happen off screen or have very little build up (Korse and his lover for instance); and any emotional moment is sabotaged because it wasn’t written or shown well. For instance, two characters that are important to the main girl die and she gets upset about it. However, we never seen the girl interact with either one of them so we don’t derive any emotional impact from it and the other death happens so abruptly and with such little focus that it suggests that comic didn’t even give a crap about him.
One positive I will give The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is that the storyline with the sex robots is fantastic. There is genuine emotion felt watching these two character interact and care for one another. You see the desperation and sacrifice that Blue puts into trying to save her lover, Red, from death. You see them console each other, even at the darkest times and as you watch how society beats them down. When they try to make their escape from their hardships, you care about them and want to see them get away, because the emotions there feel real and everything was so well built up to that point. The quality of this subplot is amazing and it is a true shame that the rest of the comic could not even come close to living up to it. It is ambitious and tired. It failed, but it at least tried.
You poor girl, you lost your… ah… um… huh. What was he to you again?
4. Miss Fury
The only comic I gave up on reading (read to issue three, but came back for the digital issue I reviewed), Miss Fury is something else. If the comic has miraculously turned around since then, feel free to let me know so that I can look into it; I don’t have nearly as much to say about this comic as the previous one, but it doesn’t make it any less of a bad comic.
The titular character is unlikeable, with her cruel and mean-spirited attitude towards others; though her personality can shift on a dime if the Digital comic is to be believed (going from causal jokes about killing someone to caring about another she barely knows at all). The stories make absolutely no sense and are paper-thin in believability (yes, let’s hire the woman with no background information anywhere into becoming a Nazi hunter), leaving me scratching my head in utter confusion on how it is supposed to work at all. Don’t forget the fact that it’s also incredibly dull and forgettable, chock full of bad dialogue and odd pacing. The artwork also ranges from unintentionally creepy looking to flat out awful.
Outside of the weird censorship that I still don’t have a clue about, there is just nothing else to say about this comic. Like I said, I read up to a certain point around issue three (though briefly coming back for the digital issue) so maybe it all turned around since then. As such, that’s why Miss Fury is only ranked at four on this list.
I got some serious flack for my thoughts on this comic on different forums and in the comments section of my review for the first issue, but I stand by my opinion (maybe I shouldn’t have been so harsh on the artwork though).
Drumhellar is just a confusing as hell mess of a comic if there ever was one, even at only two issues in.
Drumhellar makes no sense due to its vagueness and lack of foundation.
Take the opening scene of the first issue, which features the main character getting some sort of vision that is delivered to him by a peacock that squirts out a yellow egg into a puddle, which said character sticks his head into to see his vision. I might have gotten that wrong, but if you have no clue what I’m talking about — imagine what it was like for me reading it. No explanation is given for the egg, peacock, or why exactly the guy is out there in the middle of a rainstorm. No lead in, no backstory given for the guy (to perhaps understand why he is out there), and no real sense of what to expect from the story other than it will be weird. It’s one thing to be mysterious and abstruse and not reveal too much about what is going on in the first issue, but it is another thing to be tossed into the deep end and told to swim when you never swam before!
Scenes do not flow well into one another, coming up as abrupt or random (first issue was especially guilty of this), leading ultimately a very poorly structured and put together book. The characters are not memorable, interesting, or well characterized. We don’t really know anything about the main character other than he kills/hunts supernatural creatures and he does not seem to take care of himself well; while the ex-girlfriend is just there to stand around, comment on the situation, and be in a love-hate relationship with the guy. The dialogue is awful and contributes to the hard-to-understand nature of the book, since characters rarely are specific about any of the things that are happening or make leaps in logic that only make sense to them but not us. It’s like watching the middle of the fourth season for a sci-fi show and being expected to know what everyone is talking about, only, it’s even vaguer than that.
Despite my utter bafflement and frustration with the writing and poorly told story, I may be in a minority when it comes to this comic. People really like it, as I found out the hard way in my discussions, and it gets decent reviews from other reviewers. Heck, one of my fellow Adventures in Poor Taste reviewers, Sam, really likes the series and gave the second issue a high score. Maybe it’s not for me (one of the reasons why it is number three on the list, alongside only two issues currently being out), but it all comes down to perspective and interpretation of the material. I read this comic and I just can’t see the good in it.
So am I. What the hell is going on?!
Speaking of flack I’ve gotten, here’s another for Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers, one of the worst cases of decompression in writing I’ve ever seen and one of the most emotionally hollow superhero books out there.
I’ve been told the writer has something big in store later on as his run goes on, which is why there isn’t much going on at the beginning. I’ve also been told that his other book, New Avengers (and soon, Avengers World), is where the characterization and emotion was going on.
Those are some of the weakest excuses I have ever heard.
Take someone like Grant Morrison, who was able to build to something big on the horizon with his Batman run, yet still made his issues feel eventful and that almost every bit had some sort of importance. In Avengers most arcs could shave off an issue or two by combining what happens in them into another or worst case scenario, the entire events of the comic could easily be summarized better in the recap section at the beginning of the issue.
Which brings us to the hollowness of the story: There are a very little to no scenes of characters interacting with one another and the dialogue is completely dry so the characters feel just as dry. None of the regular Avenger characters are interesting, memorable, or have any form of characterization. Captain America or Captain Marvel? Generic military leader. Spider-Woman or Hawkeye? Generic hero. Wolverine or Falcon? Background character. Then there are the newbies to the Avengers, like Smasher or Sunspot (At least, I think they are newcomers, since I haven’t read an Avengers comic before this one). Some of them get their own character issue for their debut and then they become just like the regular Avengers, flat cardboard cutouts that barely exist or impact the story at all. Look at Smasher for instance! What has she accomplished in the entire comic from her debut back in #5 up until now? Outside of kissing one guy in Avengers #22 (which has been her only form of characterization so far and had no lead in), not a single thing! If you took her out of the comic, the plot would not have changed at all! We should care about these characters and get to know them, or at least see them as somewhat useful, not equate them with simple props that only serve to advance the plot.
Speaking of the plot, there are problems with that as well. The plot pushes and states several times that this is the strongest Avengers team ever or that they are continuing to get stronger. While they certainly have a bit of power behind them with their members, it is actually pretty unbelievable that they are strong as Hickman would have us believe. They constantly get beaten and completely trashed by almost every threat they go against, relying on others to save them (or plot convenience). One of these ways is through the character, Captain Universe, who is just as bland and forgettable (if not for one character quirk) despite apparently being the mother of all. She has insanely immense powers that can stop or solve about any problem out there, which ends up making her a continuous deus ex machina. The Avengers don’t defeat the Builders and are about to lose to them… oh wait, it’s Captain Universe. Captain Universe finishes the first battle with Ex Nihilo and Abyss (by getting them to stop for the moment at least). She is able to find someone from out of nowhere to help locate where the missing children went in #13 and so much more. Maybe this comic should have been called The Avengers… but mostly Captain Universe.
Hooray for OP characters! They can get the story out of any corner the writer wrote it into!
Alright, so the Avengers don’t always get their asses handed to them — but when the characters do win, the victory often happens off screen or is confined to montages. This is seen in the Infinity issues of the series, where the comic rushes through these big scenes with a series of panels that insists the heroes are winning. Unfortunately, after getting defeated several times over and the comic overemphasizing those parts, it is a bit unbelievable to fully buy the Avengers actually winning. Plus, we are often told that the heroes are winning or have won instead of being shown it, which is nowhere near as effective. It’s just a problematic book overall.
The main thing I have been told when I have discuss this book with others is that it is more plot driven than character focused, which makes sense. However, it utlimtately doesn’t make it a very engaging story since we haven’t been given a reason to like or care about the characters. With its incredibly slow pace, decompression, poor writing, a rotating cast of mediocre artists (the best artist the series ever gets ends up producing one of the worst looking issues due to being rushed), the mighty Avengers end up as one of the weakest titles out there.
Kill them? Why would we do that? It’s not like they will ever inconvenience us or be any trouble to us if we for some reason lose our legit status somewhere down the line. Nope. Leave them alive! It’s the smart thing to do for us evil doers!
It’s one thing to not live up to expectations, be boring, have an unlikeable main character, be horribly decompressed, or even being emotionally hollow. It’s a completely other thing to be incompetent. That is what Catwoman is: an incompetently written book.
With all of the writer and direction changes that have happened, editorial interference, the outcry from fans all over, and critical panning that Catwoman has gotten (I think I’m one of the last few people who will even review this comic); it astounds me that DC Comics hasn’t stepped in to stop this train wreck. Outside of the artwork, there is nothing right with this comic at all.
The characterization is all sorts of off. The main character’s motivation and likeability shifts constantly; from being a grave robber to causing a war with the Penguin and getting who knows how many killed, to suddenly making out and caring about a gang member she barely knows anything about, and to even not liking cats (some Catwoman you are). However, this is not just exclusive to Catwoman. Everyone is pretty bad: from being out of character, underwritten, being complete idiots, or having bare bones personalities.
The writing in general is atrocious. The plots and stories are weak and have flimsy setup to where if you think about it, the whole situation does not make much sense (the whole underground storyline, Catwoman being tossed into Arkham Asylum, etc.). It’s poorly structured where the main storyline will be shoved out the way for a new one with little care (does anyone even remember the gang war with Penguin at this point) and have no follow up. Its attempts at adding symbolism, depth, and meaning to certain aspects are pretentious (a word I don’t often use), silly, or rather stupid; like with the girl and her milk jug. What takes the cake though is that dialogue and narration is just completely awful. No talks like a normal human being, their dialogue does not make sense, it’s stilted, and characters opinions and emotions can quickly turn on a dime in a second. It’s utterly incredible and probably the best example of that would have been from the annual.
Oh come on now Catwoman. Fudgesicles may not be healthy, but they aren’t poison.
Of course, it must be mentioned: The Joker’s Daughter issue. While part of the Batman: The Dark Knight series due to the Villains Month event, it is pretty much a Catwoman issue regardless and it is a part of this rank. There’s not much else I can add to it that I didn’t already mention when I reviewed it a while back, but it has all of the problems the regular Catwoman issues have, plus the bonus of not knowing how to handle teenage cutting and a terrible origin tale for the new villain. It’s awful and helped secure this comic at number one.
There’s nothing left to add to this comic. Don’t buy it. Don’t read it. Don’t look at it. Don’t acknowledge its existence. You want to read a good Catwoman comic? Go get Judd Winick’s run on the book. It’s not very popular and there are problems, but it has an interesting portrayal of Catwoman, very strong emotional bits, great artwork, and even some very fun issues as well. Or go get Ed Brubaker’s run if you don’t Winick’s. DC is finally collecting all of his run into a few big trades and they are absolutely worth your time.
Unlike milk, this series is not worth getting emotional over.
And that is that. The worst of the worst. Will these titles continue to be like this into the coming year or will they make a turnaround as time goes on? A turnaround is entirely possible for some of them, since some of them haven’t really had enough time to fully bloom. Either way, let us look to the future and hope for the best. Happy 2014 everyone.